Thursday, October 17, 2013

Import Games for Adults Halloween: Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori Dai 2 Shou


Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori Dai 2 Shou Review


                In light of how my look at the latest entry into the Kansen series turned out I think that’s enough for zombies for this Halloween. Let’s move on to a genre I sadly neglected last year, that of the good old fashioned murder mystery (the Kara no Shoujo review I wrote and posted to a now dead blog the year before that so it doesn’t count).  For that we return once more to Caligula Soft and the sequel to Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori (which I reviewed previously): Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori Dai 2 Shou, released in Japan on May 1, 2009 and like its predecessor is a remake of a game from Nihon Plantech, Ryouki no Ori Dai 2 Shou, that was released back in January 1997. While I found SRO to be a decent (though kinda disappointing) game, its sequel shows definite signs of the creators doing everything they could to make improvements. Overall, I can say their efforts succeeded as Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori Dai 2 Shou is superior to the first game in almost every way.


Pros:  Good story, the setting and characters are built up well, good artwork, good music and voice acting.

Cons: Playthroughs can get tedious after a while, after three routes there’s nothing new to add to the mystery, some heroines routes are too short, some character portraits could have used variation.

WTF?!: Joji Nakata, are you and Norio Wakamoto having some kind of competition to see who can play the most bizarre characters?
 

                Set many years before the events of the first game, SRO2  has you play as a younger Takeshi Saito, the security guard who helped the MC of the first game (sorry, he’s not voiced by Norio Wakamoto this time).  Takeshi has just taken a job as a security guard at the amusement park, Fantasien. It’s not long until he becomes well acquainted with the many employees of the park, and with so many of them being beautiful women the job seems perfect. However, all that changes with the sudden death of one his coworkers and the incidents that follow make it obvious that there’s a killer at work somewhere in the park who is more than ready to kill again.  Can Takeshi unmask the killer and prevent more deaths? Could the killer’s motives be tied to the suicide of an employee years ago, or could there be more to the park’s past than some of the other employees are letting on?

                Improvements from the first game can be seen soon after you begin the main story of SRO2. For starters, the story pacing is more relaxed so as to get you familiar with the amusement park setting and so you can get acquainted with the large and diverse cast of characters. I know I praised the first game on similar lines, but in this case you interact with the employees of the park a great deal more than you did the employees of Zeroshiki giving them more fleshed out personalities and the interactions Takeshi has with them help in creating a more genuine feeling of these people being his friends and coworkers than with the MC of the first game. This also helps in strengthening the effects of major story events that occur later such as the first murder, with the shock and loss felt by everyone who knew the victim even a little.

                I would also say that I found Fantasien to be a better setting than the Zeroshiki Department Store for three main reasons. The first reason ties in with the characters being so well established because through getting to know them you also remember where they work and since in some cases the characters have an affinity with the theme of the area they’re assigned to or the costumed character that they’re acting as which helps on both fronts memorability and giving insight into the characters. Second the park’s layout is simpler than the store was, not having multiple floors to it and having less locations, but comes off as an improvement because not only are the locations used more in being the settings for plot related scenes but also in giving you a sense of familiarity with the park and through that when the time comes for Takeshi to investigate you feel like you’re in his shoes using his familiarity with the park to look for clues to solve the mystery. Finally, the setting has a more open feel to it being a park rather than a large building and it gives a better feel for the passage of time in the story with its shifts from morning to afternoon to evening to night being visible while in the first game your only real indication was your in game clock.

                Another improvement is that I think the mystery is better written into the plot. While there are some similarities in terms of how they fit into the plot structure, such as the mystery being kept in the background until late in the game, it works better in SRO2 for a couple reasons. To begin with there’s more than one mystery that Takeshi investigates and over the course of the game where you go and who you talk to help to slowly reveal whether they’re connected or not. Also considering Takeshi actually knows the murder victims, there’s more of a sense of personal obligation to solve the mystery, whereas in the first game the MC was only trying to solve the mystery because it was his job. It also helps that there isn’t a true end route so the game’s story doesn’t have to hold very much back in terms of plot reveals, plus there’s an actual presence to the culprit this time. In the first game the culprits didn’t give much of a sense of their involvement until the end when they’re revealed, while in this game a combination of scenes that seem to give glimpses of the culprit and looking into the mystery behind a character who seems to be the most likely suspect give you a sense that Takeshi actually has a suspect to pursue.

                Speaking of Takeshi, he definitely makes for an improvement over the MC of the first game in having an actual name that we can hear him be called by and more of a personality.  While he is a bit of a goofball and pervert, the writers were able to pull that personality off (unlike in Kansen Ball Buster) by balancing that out with good interactions and scenes with the other characters and by showing when things get serious storywise so does our hero and it feels both believable and in character.  I should also point out that the decision to tie the two games together by making Takeshi the main character of this game was a good one. While he did feature prominently in the first game there wasn’t much we knew about him personally, which not only gives room for backstory but also making it that pretty much any heroine could be his love interest without any danger of breaking canon. Unfortunately the one downside to this being a prequel is this game seems to take place before the Cthulhu mythos themed section of the park from the first game was built, so those awesome sounding attractions mentioned but never shown in the first game are doomed to remain a mystery.

                Speaking of the heroines, I guess I should list my route preferences, but I should point out one big improvement on the subject of routes: there’s no true ending. As I just mentioned with the tie in on Takeshi’s end having room for any route to take place before the first game, SRO2 takes full advantage of that by allowing each route to be their own story and essentially leave it up to the players to decide for themselves which route they’d prefer and several of the endings drop enough hints towards the first game that you can argue for the possibility of the route leading into it. While some routes have different outcomes to the case depending on your choices, there’s nothing that specifically denies any of the other routes. Having said that, let’s talk about the routes and my preferences for them:

1)      Tie between Kazuko and Hikaru

2)      Makiko

3)      Shizuko

4)      Tie between Kyo and Miyuki

5)      Yukari

6)      Yuko

7)      Tamami

8)      Sakura

9)      Hiromi

(and before anyone asks about Moemi’s route I can’t rank it because I couldn’t unlock it and both walkthroughs I consulted did not help)

                The reason I like Kazuko and Hikaru’s routes the same is for two main reasons, the first being they both have really good chemistry with Takeshi and the second reason is that they both have a personal tie to the main story’s mystery in their own unique way. To better explain the former, in Kazuko’s what really helps is we get to see the relationship between her and Takeshi progress differently in how the two become a couple fairly early in the game and the route does a good job of portraying them as two people who just simply click together well. The first murder and events that follow actually fit well with this route’s story structure by using those story events to interrupt the aforementioned romance plot and using that as a point to explore both the mystery and a certain aspect of Kazuko’s backstory that ties in with it. Concerning Hikaru’s route it follows the more traditional structure of her and Takeshi not getting together till late, but does it well by not only building up their relationship but also giving her a bit of involvement in the main story that ends up leading into a reveal that ties her to a major part of the mystery. It also helps that with the right choices she can help in dealing with the villain in a very satisfying (and karmic) way.

                Makiko’s I rank second because it makes for a good follow up to Kazuko’s in how it reveals something new behind the case (incidentally I recommend first playing Kazuko’s route and then Makiko’s).The interactions that she and Takeshi share are interesting and I wish I could discuss more specifics on that, but then I would potentially spoil the route so all I can say is they’re good. I will say that the route has an interesting look at Dracula to tie into its main story theme (so there's another thing to link this to Halloween). Also the conclusion of the route is satisfying if somewhat bittersweet.

                Shizuko’s route is good mainly because the relationship between her and Takeshi is well written with the two having some very amusing interactions. While you can get her involved with the case at the end, it feels a little tacked on considering its optional and the reason why she gets involved is a tad on the flimsy side. Kyo and Miyuki tie for fourth place because they both develop an interesting relationship with Takeshi, but they also share the same weakness of this occurring a little too late in the game with only the bare minimum of scenes to make the relationship believable. It’s a real shame considering that both routes introduce some interesting ideas about the two heroines such as Kyo’s picking the role of a Valkyrie at the park as a way to put up a front of inner strength in the face of her own personal problems or Miyuki dealing with the aftermath of a murder occurring in the park she was in charge of.

                Yukari’s route I found to be decent as it does a good job setting up the relationship between her and Takeshi, but its problem is that it doesn’t do enough on that front as their interactions while interesting are few and it seems odd that her involvement in the murder case is so limited considering her job at the park. Yuko’s route is similar in that regard, but it also suffers from starting too late to actually give her route much story. Tamami and Sakura’s routes are essentially joke routes, though Tamami’s is better mainly because she and Takeshi interact more. Strangely you can get Tamami involved in the case at the end if you make certain choices, but it feels really out of place as there isn’t really much of a reason given for her involvement whereas at least a somewhat plausible reason was given for Shizuko.

                As for Hiromi’s route…I have to say I’m not even sure if I should even call it a route. Really it’s more of an ending than a route since the only interactions she has with Takeshi are story related and don’t really help to establish any sort of relationship between the two. It also doesn’t help that none of the scenes portray her as a very likable character, especially when it comes to the ending itself. The ending is literally a few sentences explaining that after the mystery is solved she and Takeshi become a couple (simply because), an ero scene, and that’s it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a “route” this lazily put together before but the idea that anyone would let something like that pass in this day and age is perhaps the scariest thing in this game.

                Aside from some of the routes suffering from being too short, the main story problem SRO2 suffers from is that after you’ve cleared 3-4 routes there isn’t anything new to add to the mystery. From there the confrontation with the villain is the same, there aren’t any new revelations, nor can you expect much contribution from the remaining heroines to the main plot.  With that all you’re really playing for are the scenes unique to the remaining heroines for their routes and sadly they aren’t very many in between all the stuff you’ve already read. This sadly makes replays tedious after a while and for a game that features so many interesting characters it’s too bad interactions with them are so limited.

                Concerning the system, SRO2 doesn’t have the same character movement exploration that the first game did and instead uses a standard system of clicking a location on the map to go to it and there you may meet certain characters or find a clue. A certain amount of time passes for each location and some events are only available during a certain time length. The removal of the old system might at first seem like a step backwards, but honestly it helps to make replays less tedious than they were in the first game where not only did you have to repeatedly go to the same places at the right time but also move to and check the right spots in those places. I’ll admit selecting places over and over just to skip through several lines of text gets tedious too after a while, but at least there’s less repeated busy work.

                In the area of presentation, SRO2 does well on almost every front. The music’s good and the voice acting is great all around. Everyone but Takeshi is voiced and their VAs performances all do a good job at bringing the characters to life from Hikaru’s cheerful personality to the wackiness of Tamami and Han (and speaking of which in the case of that pair we get top performances from Miru and Joji Nakata). The artwork is just as good as if not at times better than in the first game, though I should point out there is one hiccup in the art department: some of the character portraits have very limited poses and/or expressions. The character that gets this the worst is (ironically) Hiromi who has only this one single character portrait throughout the entire game, and through most of the game the only emotion she shows is anger.

                As for the ero scenes, they’re certainly a lot better than in the first game with them being longer and some of them having more CG.

Character Profiles:

 

Makiko Kitazawa:
One of the main cast for the Dracul Castle attraction, Makiko is quiet and introverted girl who mainly interacts with Shizuko. Has recently begun dating one of the cast members in the Artemis Land section of the park, Makoto Kajiwara.
 

Shizuko Kanzaki:

Another of the cast for the Dracul Castle and Makiko’s friend, Shizuko is the daughter of a high standing family and graduate from a top notch school. Began working at Fantasien out of a desire to experience more varieties in society.

 

Kyo Sasazuka:
Cast member in charge of the Viking Ship attraction in the Odin Land section of the park, Kyo is a very popular cast member mainly thanks to fitting her Valkyrie costume and role so well. She and Inoue, Takeshi’s main co-worker, appear to be dating.


Kazuko Shimamoto:
In charge of maintenance in the park, primarily the electrical equipment and the vehicles for the park’s parade events, Kazuko is basically a more behind the scenes member of the park’s cast. Currently single and looking for a boyfriend, she takes an interest in Takeshi early on.

 

Hikaru Hizumi:
Cast member in charge of the Ghost Home attraction and a dancing performer during the park’s parade events, Hikaru is a cheerful and energetic young woman with dreams of performing in on stage musicals. While usually a confidant person, Hikaru is actually plagued by self-doubt in regards to her dancing talents and whether it’s enough to achieve her dream.
 

Tamami Miyashita:
Waitress for Fantasien’s Chinese restaurant and friend of its chef, Han. Tamami is quite skilled in martial arts and usually practices her newly learned techniques on Takeshi.


Sakura Midorikawa:
Saleswoman for the pastry shop Milky House in the World Bazaar section of the park, Sakura’s looks and friendly personality have made her very popular with the guests. Currently single though that may be due to the fact that Sakura is infamous for her terrible cooking that is so bad it’s considered a danger to all living things.

 

Yukari Sakuma:
The main operator for MAOS (Multiple Affairs Operating System), a computer system that monitors and runs the major functions of Fantasien, Yukari is now also in charge of monitoring Takeshi  as he’s new on the job.

 

Miyuki Amano:
Fantasien’s head manager, Miyuki has been an employee of the park since the beginning and achieved her position through years of hard work. While devoted to her work, she has started to question some of her superiors’ decisions especially in the aftermath of the first murder. Outside of work, her main pastime is betting on horse races, with very little success.

 

Yuko Kurumizawa:
A rookie detective working on the murder investigation, Yuko’s casual manner and dress don’t exactly fit the bill for a police officer, which tends to annoy her superiors. Takes a liking to Takeshi soon after meeting him and asks for his assistance in finding the culprit.

 
In Conclusion:
                In Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori Dai 2 Shou we have another example of the original game being surpassed by its successor. It has a more interesting mystery, a better written cast of characters, the setting and exploring it is better, and best of all there’s no true route that invalidates the other routes. It does have its imperfections such as some routes getting more writing attention to it than the others and replays can get tedious after you’ve cleared three or four routes, but certainly not enough to ruin the experience. Even if you didn’t like or play the first game, I’d still say it’s worth picking up considering its aforementioned improvements and its being a prequel doesn’t spoil anything from the first game.


Final Score: 7/10 Great

Author Recommendation:  Try it out.


                As for the anime, it’s a good three episode adaptation, covering most of the key parts of the original game’s story. If you haven’t seen it yet but want to check out the game first then I recommend playing Kazuko and Makiko’s routes first since the OVA is kind of a combination adaptation of both routes and will spoil things revealed in said routes. I’m saying kind of because some things that happen in the anime don’t happen in either route or in the game at all, but fortunately these changes work. I will admit I do find it odd that they give Tamami more involvement in the story than she had in the game whereas Shizuko and Hikaru are barely in it. A difference between the anime and the game that I find interesting has to do with the tone of the ending: the OVA’s tone is one of tragedy at the community formed by the many employees of the park now irreversibly broken by the deaths that occurred while the game’s endings (most of them) end on a more hopeful note, acknowledging the tragedy of the events but showing that Takeshi and the route’s heroine together have the strength to move past it and hopefully to a better life.

                Also, just to mention it, there does exist a manga adaptation entitled “Remains of the Darkness” but I haven’t been able to find any copies of it to say whether it’s good or not. The few pictures I’ve been able to find seem to show that it follows Shizuko’s route, but I can’t really say I’m that interested mainly because if I want an abridged take on the game there’s the aforementioned OVA and the manga’s artwork ranges from okay to bad fanart level.

2 comments:

  1. This game sounds pretty rad. Unfortunately, I lack the ability to read Japanese, and will be forced to await the slim hope of a future translation.

    Thanks for the review anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome though if you're really interested in this game and seeing it localized then please feel free to go to Mangagamer's request thread and join me in asking for them to try for licensing it. If they see there's interest in the game they might just do so. The thread can be found here:

      http://forums.mangagamer.org/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=10

      Delete