Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Games for Adults: Harem Party

Harem Party Review

                If you were to ask me what my favorite literary genre is I would immediately answer fantasy. Give me a world full of magic, dragons, elves and a cast of characters who I can get invested in and I’m happy. When it comes to eroge I’ve developed a fondness for games that are willing to go with the harem route and still be able to tell a good character focused story. The game we are looking at today, Harem Party, released in Japan on November 17, 2006 by Tactics and localized by Mangagamer on November 25, 2011 is certainly of the fantasy genre and true to the name it does go the harem route…but it is sadly not a good example for either.

Pros: Decent artwork, mostly good voice acting, a few jokes are funny.
Cons: Sofie, writing that ranges from forgettable at best to curse spewing rage inducing at worst, forgettable music.
WTF?!: I’d say we’re in agreement here, Haru.

                I’d give my own plot summary but quite honestly this game is not worth the mental energy so here’s Mangagamer’s:
“The protagonist of our story, Moriuji Haru, is just about to complete an unnamed RPG, but just as the final boss is in his death throes, the game's heroines appear in his room!
They say they have escaped the game world and come to the real world in pursuit of the Demon Lord himself.
Haru is understandably shocked by this sudden, unbelievable turn of events, but the girls are overjoyed that they can finally meet the 'Hero of Legend' who is so famous in their world.
When the girls reveal that they can't remain in the real world without having sex with him, Haru succumbs to their pleas, and so begins the story as he tries to help in the search for the Demon Lord while educating the ignorant game girls in the ways of lovemaking...”

                As ridiculous as that sounds I was willing to give this game a chance, especially since it was obviously a comedy and the promotions for it sounded good enough. I went in expecting a simple comedy with jokes on the JRPG genre (which I’m a big fan of) in between and maybe even during some of the ero scenes. What I got instead was disappointment at first and rage by the end.
                At its best Harem Party feels like a nukige designed by a robot given a check list of what makes a good sex romp eroge: talented voice actresses, many ero scenes, etc. but being a robot the execution is done with little to no comprehension of emotional appeal. As a result the jokes often times fall flat (though I will admit there are occasional funny ones), the story is slow and boring in how padded the arc for Haru is (if it’s a joke on level grinding I’ve seen funnier), and that’s not helped by how bland the character interactions usually are. That last one is unfortunately a common problem in harem routes: the heroines (click here for profiles) don’t really have much to say to the MC or each other outside of the ero scenes. The thing is a harem route can be forgiven for that since they’re usually short and often times an unlockable extra, but for a game that’s built around this premise is another matter. The best scenes the heroines have are in their routes and even then it’s just concerning that individual heroine and how that relates to her relationship with Haru; the other heroines involvement is minimal at most.  

                This brings us to the routes and normally I’d give a ranking but really only Agnes and Cleo’s routes are the only decent ones and I like them about the same. One of the reasons for this is because when the story gives these heroines some focus there are some interesting moments. In Agnes’ case it’s how her more dutiful and altruistic personality clashes with Haru’s more laidback and less confident one and in Cleo’s case it’s mainly on the comedic end be it in how Haru’s personality grates hers which do make for a decent take on the “tsundere” type route plus she has some funny scenes with side heroine Anzu. Unfortunately the game’s strange unwillingness to look more into these is what keeps these routes from being any more remarkable than the only decent ones in the game. This is especially seen in Cleo’s route where we get a very interesting reveal about her….but it happens near the end of the route and is only given the absolute minimum story focus. The other factor that makes these routes at least somewhat appealing is their voice actresses have the talent to carry the routes to keep them from falling into the pit of terrible. And speaking of which…

                Now we move on to Sofie’s route and oh boy…I don’t really know how to start talking about this route because this one takes the cake in terms of awful. This is where my robot theory gets thrown out the window as I don’t think even the most malevolent artificial intelligence could produce a route this terrible. The fault in this route rests squarely on Sofie herself as she is without a doubt one of the most annoying heroines I have ever encountered in fiction. Basically she’s supposed to be the weakling of the heroine team and her arc is to essentially show that her weakness is actually a strength that no one but Haru can see it, but this is botched spectacularly in the game’s writing. There is so much focus on how useless she is to the group you don’t buy her character development, made worse by the subsequent incessant whining we get from her throughout the route. It’s annoying already in the common route but it’s greatly multiplied in her route and is so bad that even when other characters are antagonistic towards her you’re on their side even though the story wants you to be on Sofie’s. I’d make a comparison to Jar Jar Binks, but quite honestly it feels unfair to Jar Jar if only because he at least did stuff in the stories he was involved in…plus he’s a hilarious character compared to Sofie. The only thing close to a good thing in this route are her sidekicks Urr and Nia as aside from having some funny moments there’s even a reveal about them in this route that has the potential to be interesting but is sadly squandered in favor of focusing on Sofie instead. 
                Unfortunately this game’s problems in the area of writing don’t end with just Sofie’s route. The unlockable harem end which you get upon completing all three routes is perhaps only slightly better than Sofie’s because it’s shorter and has a few funny scenes. The problem with this route lies in its humor premise which is basically writing it as if the writer decided to acknowledge “yeah, if you think about it pretty much all of this game’s characters are assholes”. It’s not the premise itself that’s bad as like I said there are some funny scenes; the problem is this premise quickly devolves into our heroes becoming annoying instead of funny. It also doesn’t help that one of the running jokes toys with making Sofie the game’s main heroine…truly a rewarding unlock.

                In the area of presentation Harem Party does a so-so job. The artwork is decent, but it’s really best when they’re doing the SD style CG for comedic scenes. The music is forgettable but the sound is mostly redeemed by the voice acting. The best examples are the VAs for Agnes and Cleo: Mio Okawa who many of you should recognize as Bachou from Koihime Musou and Iori from Eroge! and Arigatou who some of you may recognize as Zebia from Kyonyuu Fantasy 2 and if. These two are putting in more effort than this game deserves and as a result their characters personalities at least succeed in making some good impression. Sadly this offset by the performance for Sofie played by Nana Hosoda who sadly brings the annoyance to life a little too well. I will say though that I think the blame lies in her lines than anything else as I’ve heard her in other games and she was fine in those.
                As for the ero scenes, they’re just okay. The voice acting is fine, it’s just like much of the game most of them are pretty forgettable.

In Conclusion:
                Harem Party is a game that at its best is largely dull save for some occasional laughs and largely squandered interesting character moments and at its worst a game that will give you headaches followed by Hulk style rage at not being able to strangle Sofie all throughout her route. It’s not helped any by the artwork only being okay except for the SD artwork and the music being completely forgettable. The voice acting for Agnes and Cleo is enough to barely salvage their routes but not enough to save the game itself. If you’re looking for a nukige I recommend passing on this as there are better ones available in English unless you’re a big fan of the voice actresses.

Final Score: 3/10 Terrible
Author Recommendation: Avoid It.

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