Friday, October 31, 2014

Import Games for Adults Halloween: Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden 2

Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden 2 Review

                Bet you weren’t expecting this to be the Halloween review, huh? Seeing as the latest game in the series releases in Japan today and Halloween is about monsters and this series has more than its share of monster heroines and characters I think it fits…plus after playing my fair share of dark themed eroge I need something light to lift my spirits for the upcoming holidays. Anyway, with this we wrap up the story of Ryuto Hende in Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden 2, released in Japan on October 25, 2013. There are lots of cases where game trilogies end on unsatisfying notes such as Xenosaga Episode 3 or Mass Effect 3 (which for the record I consider okay with all story DLC but not satisfying), but thankfully Gaiden 2 spares us this by being a near perfect capstone to this trilogy many of us have come to love.

Pros: Excellent story that leads to a satisfying conclusion, great new characters (the good aligned ones anyway), both returning and new characters get the right amount of spotlight, great artwork, good music, excellent voice acting.
Cons: Side route seems a little pointless, Selveria has a couple character moments that feel a little rushed, an odd glitch late in the game.
WTF?!: To any who still feel this isn’t fitting for Halloween, the zombies have something to say…

                Set 5 years after the events of Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden, the story begins in the Kingdom of Hillsland, now sadly a shadow of its glorious days under the rule of King Ruin Demedium more than a century and a half ago. In the midst of the kingdom’s troubles with the kingdom of Fronce an amnesiac masked man with red hair washes up near a harbor. Unfortunately for him, upon entering town the masked man discovers too late that aside from memories he’s also lacking clothes and is quickly arrested by the authorities. Soon after his incarceration the man, taking the name Mask for lack of anything else , is given a chance at pardon (along with a group of imprisoned mermen pirates) in exchange for defeating a monster that has taken up residence in Boinbara’s castle. Meanwhile in the kingdom of Edellant, King Ryuto Hende has been apparently bedridden for nearly a month with none save the queens and his advisors having seen him since this sudden onset of illness…
                Okay, before I continue let me give a warning to those allergic to even the most minor of spoilers, it is going to be impossible for me to discuss the game’s story without spoiling the “twist” to the previous story summary. I’d like to believe anyone old enough to play these games has developed enough genre savviness to call what it is, but since I am aware no one likes to be spoiled I have to do this. If you want to see everything for yourself then believe me when I say this game is really good and if you have any investment in this series you owe it to yourself to play it. Observe the spoiler warning pictures below and either go to another page or scroll on down and continue reading (please be more of the latter).


               There’s no beating around the bush, yes it’s obvious that “Mask” is Ryuto with amnesia but the game is written with that in mind. The readers are expected to figure this out from the start as the real story at that point in the plot is what’s going to happen to our amnesiac hero in this new setting (for him anyway) with the mystery of how this even happened taking a back seat until later, but still there as can be seen when we switch to the POV of the returning characters from the previous two games. To those of you worried about this part of the story involving Ryuto getting amnesia, I can assure you as someone that generally hates that kind of storyline when applied to established characters that Gaiden 2 manages to do this trope in a good way. Aside from using it as a way to introduce new setting information to the player without a feeling of story contradiction as Ryuto normally would probably know this already, it’s also used as a way to introduce and establish most of the new characters, taking full advantage of Ryuto’s identity being unknown so these characters will treat him normally. More importantly though, the story does not use the missing memories as an excuse to have Ryuto act in any way out of character; at his core he’s still the good natured (if somewhat perverted) guy we’ve come to know and love throughout these three games. Of course this is all helped by the fact that this particular story arc is a good one for a start as it builds up to a surprisingly awesome climax that then leads into a satisfying conclusion…and then we move on to the main story.
                I have to hand it to the writer of this series, he knew this game had to be special and delivered. The story makes good use of its built up alternate Europe setting not only by giving each kingdom its own identity but also in making it somehow scale story elements up in some ways. You get a good feel of Ryuto’s actions having an effect throughout the continent and at several points the fate of countries end up depending on it. It all culminates into a final conflict with an overall satisfying ending with an epilogue that wraps things up nicely. That said, Gaiden 2 also does well in its slower moments in between each major story event, using these periods not just for ero scenes but also to give the characters their moments, a significant improvement from the slow filler-ish moments of Gaiden.

                 Speaking of the characters, Gaiden 2 does nearly everything right with both the new and returning ones. Regarding the former all the new characters are given good introductions so that we can remember them and (all the good ones anyway) are given the right amount of plot significance that they feel like a natural and welcome addition to the cast. The only exception to this would be Rosalyn’s father who proves to be surprisingly forgettable even for a minor character in this series. That aside all the other new characters are properly fleshed out, the best examples being with our new heroines. In Rosalyn and Estoria’s respective story arcs they both center around each of them having to deal with the sudden responsibility of ruling a country and the game does a good job giving these arcs their own distinguishable events and pacing but also in showing how each heroine ends up developing both during and after the arcs. Selveria’s makes for an interesting tie in with the final conflict Ryuto and co. have to deal with and she does have an interesting backstory, though I have to say her arc is weakened a bit by it occurring so late in the game as there are some character moments of hers that feel a bit rushed. Of course continuing what’s now tradition with this series, Gaiden 2 gives personality all the way down to the unnamed characters as we not only get a group of merman pirates who are in their own distinct way as delightful as the gnolls from Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 but a group of almost as entertaining Hillsland soldiers who do double duty as pirates and one of the better subplots in this game is these two pirate groups learning to cooperate.

                Naturally the returning characters are given the appropriate screen time as would be appropriate for the finale in this trilogy. Starting with our heroines, this time none of them feel like they’re stuck on the sidelines. Isis actually has an active role this time and has about as much plot and action contribution as Gladys does. Even our non-combat capable heroines are given opportunities to demonstrate their effectiveness in their respective roles from Neris’ significant improvement in magic since Gaiden to Emeralia, Roxanne and Ruseria’s respective roles in helping the kingdom run. Still the heroine to have it best storywise is, naturally, Shamshel as not only do we get heavy story involvement from her but we also get some really good character moments from her ranging from the comedic to some very believable dramatic ones, especially in the first arc of the game. It also helps that many of these moments work to better tie things in with KF2.

                Of course the rest of the returning cast is handled well. Martel for instance not only has more story involvement than in the last game but also has a very good subplot focusing on the student-mentor relationship he has with Felzen. Even minor returning characters get either a somewhat important role or a fitting nod by the end of the game. Yes, even the Alphabet Assassins…

                For all the praise I have for Gaiden 2, I will admit even it has a couple story related flaws. Aside from the aforementioned bit with Selveria, the most glaring would be in the side route this game has. I wouldn’t say that it’s bad, but it feels kind of pointless and this is the only area I feel the previous Gaiden did better. While there was one canon ending the other endings had interesting story bits and some good character moments too that felt like nice little accompaniments to the true ending. In this case it doesn’t really feel like there’s much to take away from the route as it never takes advantage of potentially interesting plot points. A good example is Ryuto has to deal with a different set of villains this time which ends up leading him into getting on better terms with the main villains of the true route, Enperador and his wizard Istorias. The problem is these two are given nothing to do in their roles in this route as even though they get involved in the story’s conflict; they pretty much just stand aside as Ryuto inevitably saves the day…and that’s it. It also doesn’t help that the villains for this route just come off as rehashes of the villains from Shamshel’s arc in the previous game, except nowhere near as effective. Add in that neither Rosalyn nor Selveria are in this route much and Estoria doesn't even make an appearance only serves to make the route feel even more non-canon. All in all not a bad route but the only justification I can find for its existence are its handful of ero scenes.

                There is one problem Gaiden 2 has concerning its system and that comes in the form of a strange glitch that occurs in the game’s epilogue where after a specific ero scene occurs, the in game screen shakes for a period of time before eventually stopping.
                In the area of presentation Gaiden 2 does as well as its predecessors with its artwork as good as ever, both character and CG. Though there is one kind of exception with the former as Enperador's character portrait holds the same strange pose throughout the entire game even when his expression changes.The music is also good though the best in the area of sound goes to the voice acting as all the VAs turn in great performances, especially Shamshel’s as can be best seen in the aforementioned dramatic scenes we see early in the game.
                As for the ero scenes, they’re as good as ever and this time around have the benefit of being better included into the story unlike in the beginning of the first Gaiden. In an interesting change though, Gaiden 2’s creators don’t seem to have been afraid to give the story some time before getting the players to the ero scenes. Don’t worry, the scenes are there and as plentiful as ever plus this time no heroine gets the short end of scenes, you just have to wait a couple chapters.

Characters (only covering the new major characters):

Princess and sole heir to the kingdom of Hillsland. Friendly and outspoken, Rosalyn’s desire to help her declining country has led to her adopting the guise of a pirate with a crew of loyal soldiers to harass any potentially hostile foreign ships.

Princess and sole heir of the kingdom of Nordlant and a friend of Rosalyn’s. Having grown up praised and admired by many throughout Eurodia for her beauty has given this princess a high opinion of herself that makes things difficult for her father’s royal advisor, let alone any potential suitors. Despite this, she is aware of her own kingdom’s coming troubles as the impending death of her gravely ill father, the king, will mean trouble with the neighboring hostile kingdom of Ostacia.

Queen of the kingdom of Iberia and wife to its ruler Enperador. A full blood nymph, Selveria is also a renowned fighter and commands much of Iberia’s forces in their ongoing campaign against the nation of Sultana.

Enperador the Second:
Ruler of the kingdom of Iberia, Enperador is an ambitious man who intends to rule the entire continent of Eurodia. His ambitions are currently kept in check by his country’s long standing conflict with the kingdom of Sultana, though that doesn’t keep him from making moves to manipulate events in the other countries to his benefit.

Enperador’s most trusted advisor and an accomplished wizard, Istorias acts as his king’s right hand through the many soldiers and spies under his command and magic.

In Conclusion:
                Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden 2 is not only an excellent entry into the series it is a more than worthy send off to the characters who started perhaps the best series to be found in the nukige genre of eroge. Its enjoyable story and equally enjoyable main characters returning and new make this a game anyone who has experienced the previous games and liked them owes themselves to see. My hat goes off to the creators of this series, they’ve made a story with heroes and heroines that gave at least me some positive inspiration and through that they’ve earned the highest score I’ve ever given to a nukige. May whatever new entries in this series continue to do the same.

Final Score: 9/10 Must Own
Author Recommendation: Buy it now.

                Just a quick note, yes I am aware of the side stories for Emeralia and Estoria but unfortunately I haven’t played any of them since those, like a previous side story for Kyonyuu Fantasy 2, are kept completely exclusive to certain buyers of the game.

                Well, that concludes this year’s Halloween reviews. A Happy Halloween to you all and here’s hoping we can do it again next year.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Import Games for Adults Halloween: Dark Blue

Dark Blue Review

                If there’s one thing that’s unavoidable during the month of October it’s the slasher movies. Oh you can go the entire month without seeing one in full, but there’s always going to be one playing as part of some channel’s horror movie marathon and odds are you’ll at least be glimpsing a second or two of it as you flip the channels. I figure let’s be in keeping with the holiday spirit, but since Cartagra’s release isn’t until this year’s Halloween, we’ll instead be taking a look at Dark Blue released November 27, 2009 by LiLiM DARKNESS for this game adheres quite a bit to the tropes of the slasher films…for good and bad.

Pros: Interesting story, decent core characters, decent artwork, good music and voice acting.
Cons: The game’s shortness leads to some story problems, unwinnable heroines, the artwork for some of the minor characters is a little…off.
WTF?!: If you’re going to use some English to promote your game, the use of machine translated text is not a good idea.

                As summer break nears Yukito Aizawa and his sisters, Kotomi and Suzuka, are invited by his friend Reiya to stay at his family’s vacation home for the break along with several of their friends and classmates. As the group begins to enjoy this relaxing trip an evening news report on the radio announces a triple murder in the nearby town with the culprit remaining at large and the next morning one of their own is found brutally murdered. A call to the police from the family butler reveals that a sudden avalanche has blocked the only road to or from the mansion and until the road can be cleared the group appears to be at the mercy of the killer from the news…or perhaps the true culprit may be one of them…

                Okay, I know this story sounds cliché as it gets as you’ve probably seen it countless times before in movies and mystery shows (be they live action or anime). The thing is you don’t see it that much in eroge so naturally I was curious to see how this story scenario would play out in a medium where your choices would have some effect on the story. After playing it I’ve found that it does well enough, but there are problems, some related to the story setup some that probably had more to do with external issues instead.
                Starting with what Dark Blue does right is first it does enough to keep its story interesting by giving you some investment in the characters (click here for profiles). While it’s only the major characters that receive any kind of depth the majority of the cast are likable enough that you at least won’t feel annoyed by any of them. The writers do at least give them a quirk or two so you’ll at the very least remember their name. Even the characters who turn out to be…not as nice as they seem at least have the benefit of that being revealed over time. Concerning the core cast, Yukito I admit came off as a bit of a surprise as the game gave him a bit more development than I was expecting in this game. Basically at the start of the game I’ll admit he comes off as a bland character though once the initial murder occurs and you start making more meaningful choices those choices actually end up determining what sort of character Yukito becomes. While at first glance choices to help the main heroines at certain points in the story seem like your conventional scoring good points with them to access their endings, with context of the choices occurring after the murder of a friend and various members of the cast finding ways to deal with the sudden loss gives it another light. Basically that plus the outcome of either choice end up creating the case of whether or not the loss makes or breaks Yukito as a person. I’ll admit this won’t measure up to say Bioware levels of character developing through player choice but for what on the surface looks like an average dark nukige its notable.
                Moving on to the heroines, let’s start with my route/ending preference (though seeing as there’s only three…):
1)      Otoha
2)      Tie between Suzuka and Anise

Otoha being the top pick I admit is a bit unfair seeing as the game’s story is written in her favor, but I will admit the writing does at least seem to be putting effort into presenting her as the main heroine rather than just having the story expect it like other eroge. Otoha basically has more of a story presence than the other two main heroines and she is given good interactions with Yukito in a lot of them so you do believe the two are close. Thankfully while she is given all this focus the writing for the game does enough with the other heroines that picking them doesn’t feel like an unnatural choice. About the only problem I have with the route is its ending seems a bit disconnected from how the murder mystery wraps up. Part of it has to do with the tone, but it’s not because the ending comes across as too happy. It has to do with an overlying problem in this game that I’ll discuss later.

The reason Suzuka and Anise tie is because while they’re good as secondary heroines each of their routes has something they do really well that the other route could have used. In Anise’s case it’s because she has a more noticeable presence in the story than Suzuka has and is subsequently better set up as a potential love interest for Yukito, on the other hand her ending has a similar feeling of disconnect from the main story’s finale that Otoha’s has. On the other hand with Suzuka what her route lacks in story involvement on her end is made up for in the later parts where we get some interesting backstory content concerning Yukito and how it ties in with the murder mystery. Her ending also has the advantage of feeling more in tone with how the main story wraps up though there is a minor discrepancy. 

Basically, Dark Blue’s overlying problem is that it’s too short as much of the latter half comes off as rushed. I’m not sure if this is the result of a lack of time or money or maybe a little too much focus given to the bad end routes (which I admit are an interesting read to at least see the mental toll of being NTRed combined with loss and paranoia inflicted on Yukito), but there are points in the later parts of the game where it feels like something is missing that should be there. The best example would be concerning that feeling of disconnect the heroines’ endings have from how the main story ends. Said main ending is supposed to be bittersweet but it’s brought about in a way that feels cheap and kind of hand wavey (for lack of a better term) as it is a bit difficult to suspend disbelief that the culprit could do all that in such a short time and it doesn’t help that the ending doesn’t give any time to establish the impact of the events of those endings. This is where the disconnect occurs as once the credits are done rolling we get an epilogue that does a good job establishing how well Yukito and the ending’s heroine have been doing since then, but it feels a bit out of place because it’s presented as a bittersweet conclusion but the “bitter” part is missing. Even in Suzuka's route there's a small bit of disconnect as it only seems concerned about only one character's death than any of the others, though it does make sense why it's just it seems odd neither of them would even briefly think about some of the other victims too. There are also some problems concerning the culprit one of them being the identity of killer is a bit easy to figure out and the other being the motives feel kind of weak.

Of course another problem to arise from the game being too short is the all too common one of unwinnable heroines. In Dark Blue’s case we have this mainly with the twins Rina and Rio Sendou as there are brief instances that hint both girls are interested in Yukito but it’s never given much focus. I’m hesitant to include Honoka in this because story reasons would make a (non-bad end) route for her difficult to accomplish even if you were to make it a secret route unlocked after completing the others. The thing is there are scenes that hint at wanting to take a deeper look into her character (and to some extent the butler Nigel’s) though whether that was even on the drawing board we’ll probably never know.
In the area of presentation Dark Blue does well enough. The music is pretty good as the tunes all do their jobs in matching their intended scenes and the voice acting is good especially taking into account everyone but Yukito is voiced. About the only problem is I think at times Anise’s VA tries a little too hard at putting on an American accent. Its art is pretty good for the most part, but as often happens in short games like this the minor (and often evil) male characters, are well…take a look:

As for the ero scenes, they’re pretty good both the lighter and darker variety, though I will admit this game has a good deal more of the latter, being a part LiLiM’s “Blue” series. Rest assured though those scenes are avoidable if not your cup of tea.

In Conclusion:
                Dark Blue is an overall decent eroge that tells a good enough story, but leaves you with a feeling that an even better story could have been achieved with more time or money put into its creation. While much better murder mystery eroge (or VNs in general) exist, this one makes for a nice little diversion to tide you over if you’ve played all of them and are waiting for a new one.

Final Score: 6/10 Above Average
Author Recommendation: Try it out.

                As for the anime, it’s decent as an adaptation of the bad end routes even though it does skip over a lot of the introduction just to get to the H content. If NTR and the like is your thing then this is for you, but if you want an adaptation of the good end routes I’m afraid you’re out of luck.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Playable Import Games for Adults Halloween: Coμ - Kuroi Ryuu to Yasashii Oukoku -

Coμ - Kuroi Ryuu to Yasashii Oukoku - Review

                It’s back to PC and 18+ now for our next entry in this year’s Halloween reviews and the game we’ll be looking at is far more fitting for the month as it’s a game about monsters: from towering creatures of destruction…to human beings. Released on October 22, 2009 in Japan by Akatsuki Works with a complete fan translation patch released on July 24, 2014 by Amaterasu Translations, Comyu –Kuroi Ryuu to Yasashii Oukoku/Black Dragon in a Gentle Kingdom – was a game that garnered much attention after its release for a critically acclaimed story from the creators of another well regarded game released by the same company, Rui wa Tomo wo Yobu. Now that it’s more accessible is this game as great as the Japanese VN community made it out to be? Well…

Pros: Good story, memorable and overall likable cast of characters, great artwork, excellent music and voice acting.
Cons: Akihito’s narration, true route has some pacing issues and leaves a few questions, Hisoka’s route is full of problems, unwinnable heroines, some ero scenes have some story problems.
WTF?!: I wonder if anyone would be opposed to an Izawa route if they ever make a fandisk?

                You play as seemingly average student and self-proclaimed feminist Akihito Mizuwa who one day sees a mysterious girl at the top of a building who appears to be singing, an urban legend known as Girl A. Days later Akihito finds himself called to a rooftop by this mysterious girl and finds four others there for the same reason. Suddenly they’re attacked by a large monster fully intent on killing them, but before it can something blocks its attack. A great black dragon appears before them and proves to be their salvation as through controlling it they are able to destroy the attacking monster. However, it may also be their eventual doom as there are many more monsters in the city controlled by those who have no qualms against using them to kill and should their black dragon be destroyed all five of them will die.

                If there’s one thing you can say about Comyu is that it’s without a doubt a very interesting game. The very premise of a group of strangers suddenly given the power to summon and control a monster and learning how to work together whilst getting adjusted to a newly revealed world of other people with the same kind of power is enough to get a reader’s attention and the writers do their best to capitalize on that spark of interest. The explanation of the setting from the monsters called Avatars to the diverse community of connected summoners is integrated with Akihito and the rest of the group getting to know each other. The former is presented in a way that’s easy to understand and remember and the latter character moments are mixed in not only to better introduce the characters but also to keep the setting introductions from feeling like an info dump as their reactions to this information and each other is interesting and funny at times. This brings us to what I feel is the strongest aspect of Comyu, the characters.

                Comyu sports a pretty sizable cast of characters (click here for profiles) and for the most part does a good job utilizing them for each story it wants to tell per route. While the core cast receives the lion’s share of character development and humorous scenes every character with a portrait is given the necessary writing to be at the very least somewhat memorable from Gasai and his dream of attaining a kingdom by his own hand to the troubled Yoshimori. Each character has their own story be it big or small that in some way ends up featuring in the grand scheme of the plot and either way it’s interesting to read about and not too complex for you to either forget or mix up with another character’s.  Of course Akihito and co. are still the stars of the story as aside from developing them the game does take a good look at their varying backstories, ideals and desires and manages to tie all that in with the themes explored in the story.

                Comyu’s overall theme is “what does a group of people do with the power to summon a monster?” and it answers that by taking into account the differing factors that would determine what each group would do and pretty much turns them into sub-themes such as differing ideals, a want for some extraordinary form of excitement or entertainment, greed, or revenge to name a few. In doing so we get some fairly well written story segments from light hearted jokes on common tropes from anime and movies to the seemingly endless depths people can sink to when given such destructive power that can be used almost at a thought and that latter category features quite a bit in Comyu’s story. Trust me when I say even though there’s a lot of genuinely funny scenes and character moments this game’s story is not afraid to visit some pretty dark places; just playing the common route would be enough to show why I picked this game for a Halloween review. Scenes showing, for example, killings that range from singular to en masse, outright betrayal, and even social commentary on society’s almost inhuman habit to ignore or even hide horrible occurrences for the sake of normalcy contrasted with an almost equally inhuman fascination the masses have for the misfortune and/or death of others if it can be in some way justified do a good job in showing that in Comyu not all the monsters are the summon-able kind. 

                Concerning Comyu’s routes, my preference is as follows:
1)      Mayuki
2)      Kagome
3)      Benio
4)      Ayaya
5)      Hisoka

Not sure if this is going to get me the treatment Frankenstein would expect from any village, but the reason I like Mayuki’s route the best is because I found it to be a more entertaining read than the other routes. Yes, I’ll admit it stands out by being more lighthearted than most of the other routes but it never feels contrary to the game as it does have moments that fit it thematically. What this route does right is its consistently good character moments from some really funny interactions between the core cast to some really good chemistry between Akihito and Mayuki, helped especially by the fact that Mayuki has some of the funniest lines in the game. The route also has a story that’s a bit easier to follow and get invested in and while I admit the finale isn’t as grand as Kagome’s I walked away from this route with more of a feeling of satisfaction in the end.

Now that we’ve reached Kagome’s route let me make something clear: I consider it to be a very good route and worthy enough of being Comyu’s true ending. The story revelations that occur over the course of the route are well implemented and some even manage to be surprising, Kagome and Akihito have really good chemistry that does a great job in enhancing the plot’s establishment of the two as partners willing to do everything in their power to protect the other and to top it off the writers do a good job paying off their initial presentation of her as this interesting, powerful and mysterious character who’s essentially the “magnificent bastard” (for lack of a better term) of the group by making sure the revelations and story focus match with her character and make for an interesting read. It also helps that this route features some of the best action scenes in the entire game. Having said all of that one would wonder why the route is in second place. One reason has to do with the pacing; part of it has to do with the fact that it’s the longest route in the game, but the problem for me is I think the route is a little too unrelenting.
Don’t get the wrong idea, I understand Kagome’s route is the darkest of the routes and being the true route it would have high stakes for Akihito and co. and does. My problem is it doesn’t provide much relief as once the story moves forward it’s pretty much a long hard march to the end with very little in between the battles and struggles for the group to survive. I get why it’s that way as the writers were probably trying to keep things intense and exciting but with how long the story is it gets exhausting after a while. To the route’s credit it does try by putting in a couple short humorous scenes and there is a bit of a calmer scene just before the final battle, but it still feels like it could have used a little more of that. The other problem with Kagome’s route is that while it’s the true route it leaves some unanswered questions such as some regarding the origin of the Avatar summoning along with its history as presented in the game, why no connector group has taken their summoning outside the city, what happens to a minor character who appears briefly in the route but we never see or hear from her again. There is one more problem but I’ll be discussing that later since it’s not confined to Kagome’s route. Suffice to say Kagome’s route it still a really good route despite its problems and is very much worth all of the route reading necessary to unlock and read it.

Benio’s route I consider to be good to as it excels at its function as the introductory route (you have to read it first to unlock Hisoka, Mayuki, and Ayaya’s routes). It introduces most of the key characters well, Benio herself is a surprisingly likable character, and while she and Akihito don’t have the strongest chemistry their interactions are still an interesting read. The main problem I have with the route is the ending; it just feels like the route ends because the story runs out of steam than a natural conclusion. Ayaya’s route is basically a joke route, but I admit the jokes it has to tell are genuinely funny. The reason it ranks below Benio’s is because it’s a really short route and it doesn’t really have much to contribute to the overall plot aside from the appearance of a character who’s kind of important in Kagome’s route.

As for Hisoka’s route…I have to say it’s just an okay route to me. It has an interesting premise and the story elements it covers that end up important in Kagome’s route are a good read. One of its major problems concerns Hisoka herself; it’s not that she’s unlikable character it’s just that there isn’t much to her character. While I get she’s of the character type with very limited emotions and the story does have a good reason why she is that way, Hisoka is a good example of how if you aren’t careful that can also result in a character with very little if any personality. I know this sounds contrary to my praise for this game’s characters, but let me explain: Hisoka is still memorable but only for her role in the story rather than anything about her as a character except for her backstory. If this were for a side character I wouldn’t have a problem, but for a main heroine: a character we’re supposed to have some attachment to, this doesn’t help the story. Another problem is there’s kind of a forced aspect of the buildup to the finale of the route. I can’t really say what it is without spoiling anything but let’s just say it something that comes off as a way to make the final battle that occurs harder for Akihito that just comes off as too convenient. One in particular actually creates a gaping plot hole where we have a character pretty much become an enemy of Akihito and co. with a very convincing scene that has you believe this character means business…and after that said character vanishes from the plot never to be seen or heard from again in the route. Sadly I can’t really advise skipping this route because it is pretty important reading for Kagome’s route and you have to clear every heroine’s route to unlock Kagome’s anyway.

Moving on to story flaws not confined to just one route, there’s really just one that I’d call major: Akihito’s narration. What we have is a narration so broody and pretentious it would put an entire school district’s worth of high school creative writing class students to shame. I understand Akihito’s backstory would result in him developing a personality to think in a manner like that, the problem is over the course of playthrough after playthrough it feels like too much, especially with the repeated phrases. These phrases show up with the frequency of an annoying commercial and depending on your tolerance may surpass said commercial annoyance level. I’d make a drinking game joke, but I’m honestly worried someone might take that as a serious challenge and literally drink themselves to death. You will see the phrases “this is a gentle kingdom” and “I remember the red color” more times than you can count; so many times you may end up seeing red yourself. 

The only other story flaw I can give is the all too common one in VNs of unwinnable heroines. There’s a lot of female characters Akihito interacts with frequently that do have grounds for a route if not hints at interesting story possibilities. There’s the smart mouthed student detective Kururi, Gasai’s trusted subordinate Yoruko (and a route for her would mean more focus on Gasai, which would by itself be a good story), the Round Table organization member Nanase, the morally ambiguous avenger Rondo (and there’s possibilities with her friend Iroha), and even the school nurse Hanako (I haven’t listed Haru because it probably wouldn’t fit her character). I’d say maybe we’ll see a fandisk someday but considering Comyu came out in 2009 and the writers have long since moved on to writing other games I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In the area of presentation Comyu does extremely well. The artwork is really good from the character design to the CG that provide such a good drawing of key events you’d wish it were the still shot from an anime. There's also a neat little character effect that's used in either summoning or battle that kind of reminds me the effect the Persona games use when their persona's attack scores a critical hit. Also well designed are the Avatars, admittedly more the unique ones like Akihito and co.’s Red Eyes Black Dragon Babylon than the generic ones that don’t really belong to anyone important. The music is also really good as it does catch the mood for each scene very well and the voice acting is excellent all around.

As for the ero scenes, they’re good as ero scenes. The only problem is some of them fell a little forced into the story, almost like the creators were just trying to fill a quota. Strangely the heroine with the most ero scenes is Benio while true heroine Kagome only gets two.

In Conclusion:
                Comyu is an overall very good but flawed game. Its dark storyline and cast of memorable and likable characters definitely make it a worthwhile read and its great artwork make it equally worthwhile for the eyes. I will admit there are story aspects that leave more to be desired and at times the dialogue of our main character can get annoying, but at the end of the day it’s a game that I’m glad I played and finished.

Final Score: 8/10 Awesome
Author Recommendation: Buy it now.