Kyonyuu Majo Review
Everyone who plays video games finds at least one series they become attached to be they great RPGs like the Persona (and the rest of the Shin Megami Tensei series) or Mass Effect series or shooters like the Bioshock series or visual novel series like Infinity, Zero Escape, or Majikoi. Naturally this attachment gets you to want to try out any material connected to the series such as books, comics, and spin off games. This brings us to this review’s subject, Kyonyuu Majo (released by Waffle on September 24, 2010), as I’ve stated before how much I love the Kyonyuu Fantasy series so when I found out there existed a spinoff game I was excited and figured that this would be a good lead up to Gaiden 2 (plus I wanted to get caught up with the series). After playing it…while I can say this game has a lot of the good stuff that the main series has, there’s enough bad that I think I can see why it has a questionable place in the series canon.
Pros: Likable and interesting cast of main characters, decent story, great artwork, good music, good voice acting.
Cons: The individual heroine endings have no real point, the game’s two villains are annoying, Route B…it really is amazing how much one route can sink a game.
WTF?!: Alphabet Assassins, after centuries of failure you might want to find a new profession…
You play as Tomoru Hende, a young man who has begun working at a mansion owned by the wealthy Tenma family as a servant. While working there he makes friends with the two daughters of the family, Cecile and Yuria. One night he’s visited by a succubus who declares she’ll take his soul but will grant him any wish as a last request; a succubus who bears an unmistakable resemblance to Cecile.
Having played all the Kyonyuu Fantasy games I have to say Majo is an odd entry to the series as it’s set in modern day Japan where magic is low key and monsters extremely rare. It also moves along at a slower pace than its predecessors and rather than political intrigue the conflict that occurs in the plot revolves around the workings of the Tenma family and their connection to the succession of the last king of the monster race. This also means the events of the game take place in a pretty small area, the Tenma Mansion and the nearby school, rather than a larger one like the main series. So basically Majo gives off a different feel than its predecessors, which for a spinoff is a good thing, but aside from the inevitable problems that come with the differences, the game’s tie to KF ends up being a burden to the story. The reason for this being that Majo came out before Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden did and after playing it and KF2 before playing Majo it’s pretty obvious that the writer had a different vision for the universe that this series is set in when he wrote Majo than the direction the KF series has gone in presently. This can be seen in how countries are referred to by their real world equivalent names as opposed to what they’re called in the later KF games plus the references to Ryuto as a historical figure in this game’s setting don’t really seem to match up with what was established in Gaiden let alone Gaiden 2. There is also a bit of an issue as to how unique Ryuto would be as a historical figure when you take Ruin into account, but Gaiden 2 kind of offers a reason why. This could indicate that Majo isn’t canon anymore, but a blog post from earlier this year does seem to indicate that Waffle hasn’t abandoned this storyline so who knows. I can say that the connection Majo shares with the main series isn’t wholly bad for it for a couple reasons though: first, Tomoru is a bit more distinct a character from Ryuto than Ruin turned out to be as the writing does portray him as a (somehow) more humble guy than Ryuto, and second there’s some amusing in joke connections such as the aforementioned Alphabet Assassins to a debatable double cameo through reincarnation.
Something I should point out before we get to discussing further details of the game’s plot. The story of this game is a bit difficult for me so if this review feels a bit disjointed then I will apologize in advance. It’s actually been months since I beat KM and I still can’t get over how polarized a view I have of it. Why that is has to do with the game’s story structure as there are two main routes that split from the end of the common route (as labeled by the walkthroughs): Route A and B. Each route has three endings, two of them are brief individual endings for some of the heroines and the third being the (longer) true ending to that route. This is important because with this structure we have a story that is about half good (Route A) and half bad (Route B).
Starting with Route A, I can say right up front that this route by itself does make the game worth playing as it has all the elements that I like about this series. The core cast of characters are well presented, there are some good moments of character development for two characters in particular (and a decent one with another character), we see an early step by the writer in giving the unnamed minor characters actual roles and character moments in the story, and the story moves along at a good pace that leads to a pretty satisfying conclusion. About the only problems I have with the route is I do wish that Toyoe could have had a bigger role in the story, there’s a matter concerning two characters I’ll be getting to later, and the individual endings for Cecile and Yuria are pointless as they’re just a few lines of dialogue and a single ending CG nor are they required to unlock the harem ending which actually has an epilogue to tell.
Before we get to talking about the next route, I should point out I will be discussing some slight spoilers for said route. If you do not want to be spoiled (and experience this route’s terrible-ness for yourself) then please observe the spoiler themed pair of images below this paragraph, scroll down to a similar themed image pair to mark the end of the spoilers and continue reading.
Moving on to Route B...there’s no beating around the bush with this: Route B sucks. This route is so bad it burned me out on the series for a while that I couldn’t even bring myself to play Kyonyuu Fantasy Gaiden 2 during that time even though I knew a better game awaited me there. Everything that Route A did right, Route B did horribly wrong. Both the characters and the writing are handled badly in that barely anything is done with any of the major characters until nearly the end of the route and a character given a significant amount of character development in Route A that culminated in a powerful moment of redemption is instead downgraded into being a one dimensional villain without even a hint at any of those story elements from the previous route and who is just so boring you can’t even glean much satisfaction in his defeat, only relief at the ending of that awful story segment. The heroines fair little better being essentially reduced to damsels in distress at the route’s climax, but one heroine in particular gets it worst, Yuria. Basically the route completely forgets about her; even though early events in the game (not to mention the freaking game cover) indicate her importance, Yuria never shows up and is never so much as mentioned. Not only that, but the route practically writes her out of continuity because late in the route the group goes to a location where there would be no avoiding running into her for some very well established story reasons…and she isn’t there and there is never any answer as to why. As much of a jaw dropping case of the writer dropping the ball as that is, it isn’t the biggest writing related problem this route has for me.
My biggest problem with Route B though is not its handling of its characters, at least not directly, but rather the difference in theme when it comes to the route’s climax and aftermath when compared with Route A’s. To better convey why I have a problem with it has to do with why I consider the Kyonyuu Fantasy series to be my favorite visual novel series; yes, I like it more than the Majikoi games (it's slightly more so please lower those torches and pitchforks), the classic Black Cyc shared universe, what I’ve played of the Infinity series, and even the Phoenix Wright series. Now I realize you all can find perfectly good reasons why those series or other VN series (and to anyone who brings up Grisaia I still need to play games 2 and 3) are better and I really wouldn’t argue with you there. The thing is for me…back when I’d finished playing the first Kyonyuu Fantasy I was very much surprised at how much I enjoyed the story for what appeared to be a run of the mill sex romp eroge and that got to try out the other games in the series and was delighted to find they were consistently good (though not perfect). Wondering at what made the series so good in my eyes was kind of a passing thought since I’d just go with the simple answer of “I like the characters”.
What got me to stop and actually think about it was about a month and a half ago when I was watching the much anticipated 300th episode from Linkaraon the infamous Frank Miller comic “Holy Terror”. In that episode (which I highly recommend watching) there’s a small but effective speech he gives on why he holds the movie “Camelot” in such high regard that got me to think because what he described as the film’s theme that made such an impression on him match with the overall theme of this series that makes it so likable. The theme was, to quote Mr. Lovhaug, “Those who have power should use it to do good, that violence is not strength, compassion is not weakness, that revenge is utterly pointless…”. This theme is something that comes natural with the hero of each game and something many of the characters come to learn as they spend more time with him and those close to him. This is helped along by another recurring theme that plays a factor into a number of characters’ arcs in this series: redemption. Many characters in the KF series (and Majo) do or have done things wrong and the consequences do come back around to them. What the series does show is that regardless of the severity of one’s actions it’s never too late to change and do what’s right here on and to face up to one’s misdeeds, regardless of their severity, and try to fix the damages done even if there doesn’t seem to be much hope of accomplishing that. It's this collection of themes that gives the Kyonyuu Fantasy series a heart that's backed up by good writing. I don't think I can go so far as to echo Linkara and says my life was changed by reading this series but I can say it has given me a good assortment of believable enough heroic figures to be even a little inspired by.
Having explained all that the reason I dislike Route B so much is because those aforementioned themes are completely removed from it. In its place is a dull and cliché story with a dull and cliché villain made from a character so better written in the other route and a series of cases where what would or should have led to a meaningful character scene is instead replaced with a joke that falls flat. It’s essentially a hollow route that doesn’t even have the substance to be an antithesis of its counterpart and even if it’s meant to be a joke route it still fails because the jokes don’t have very much to stand on. One example would be how reveal near the end regarding two particular character is meant to lead into an ironic joke considering their role throughout the story, but because the reveal is so out of nowhere and given a brief “just because” kind of explanation the it fails.
While I do wish I didn’t have to end talking about the story on a negative note there is one story flaw that both routes share: its two villains that we get in Toyoe’s younger brother Yuichi and his flunkey whose name I cannot remember (and none of the sites seem to have a profile for him). I almost want to take back my criticism of Higness and Alhif of KF2 while they were generic and lacked even a hint of dimension they at least weren’t as annoying as Majo’s pair. Part of what makes them annoying has to do with their personalities as two self-righteous twats who see it as the ultimate act of good to kill any personof non-human descent, all the while unaware or uncaring of their own unheroic traits that pretty much render all their justifications hypocrisy. The thing is I only say “part” because what I described could make for a fairly interesting and maybe even complex villain, but the game’s plot doesn’t really do anything to make it so except for very late in Route A with a reveal about Yuichi but because that’s introduced really late and really has no effect on the story I wouldn’t really count it. It also doesn’t help that the writing for these two can’t seem to find the balance between a comedic foil and enemy to take half seriously that we see in some villain characters in the later games. This makes pretty much every scene these two are in a chore, but I will say in Route A’s favor once Yuria enters the picture we get some compensation for those scenes in the two becoming her personal punching bags.
In the area of presentation I can say that KM does as well as its brethren with good artwork, voice acting, and music. About the only nitpick I have is…Yuria’s school uniform is ridiculous and coming from me, someone who enjoys Dead or Alive and generally doesn't mind ridiculous fan servicey costumes (and anyone who says "that's the equivalent of a guy..." I say bring those guy outfits on too) that is saying a lot. See for yourselves…
As for the ero scenes I’d say all but one of them are good and pretty much what you’d come to expect from this series. The one ero scene I’m referring to occurs late in Route B and my main problem with it is it feels forced in and maybe is a little dark for this particular game’s tone. Then again this is Route B we’re talking about so that’s to be expected.
The second daughter of the Tenma household and first year at the local school. Takes a liking to Tomoru and as such he becomes her main servant of choice.
Cecile’s older sister and next in line to become head of the Tenma household.
A nun in charge of the local church that is part of the local school and Yuichi Asagiri’s older sister, Toyoe is also the homeroom teacher for the class Cecile is a part of.
Head maid of the Tenma household.
Kyonyuu Majo is a decent but flawed game with or without its odd place in the Kyonyuu Fantasy universe. I would recommend it for completionists and fans of the series as Route A does make it worth playing, though with Route B I recommend either skipping or playing that first so you won’t be as greatly disappointed as I was in light of finishing Route A. I know it seems like I had a lot of bad to say than good but ultimately I can forgive what this game does wrong since the writer seems to have learned from his mistakes and the main series has maintained its goodness since.
Final Score: 6/10 Above Average
Author Recommendation: For fans only
As for the anime…what’s that? You haven’t seen or heard of any OVA bearing the name Kyonyuu Majo? Well it turns out an anime adaptation does exist…in unofficial form. There exists a low budget two part hentai OVA named Vampire that follows the bare bones plot of Route A (which says something about Route B’s suckiness if even the ripoff doesn’t want to touch it) with some light plot and character design changes. Observe some examples of the latter:
Ignoring the changes as an adaptation this would probably be second rate due to its low budget animation. I’d only recommend checking it out if you’re curious. I am however a bit curious about how this anime’s existence though: is it a blatant ripoff or was whoever it was who made this OVA originally making an adaptation of KM but somewhere along the way lost the license? Also if it’s the former how did they avoid legal trouble? I know Japan’s copyright laws are (thankfully) different from the US but still…
Of course since the site for it opened a week ago I feel I should mention Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 if again.
From the looks of things it’s going to be a retelling of Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 and with the obvious focus on Shahal this is probably going to be the canon version considering who she is in connection with the other games.
At first I thought this might be a continuation of Shahal’s route but some story details concerning Nadine that significantly change her role from the original game show that this is a complete retelling. While I am excited to play this and very curious about what else could be different the above picture can’t help but make me feel a tad disappointed that (as I said in forum about this game) the end bosses are Highness and Alhif...again, we have to put up with Zeminario being a kind of antagonist until his inevitable change of heart...again, we'll have to deal with Elicia's father and evil uncle...again, and we'll probably have to endure Devlin's annoying fat ass...again.