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:
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.
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.