Saturday, June 13, 2015

Games for Adults: NO, THANK YOU!!!



NO, THANK YOU!!! Review

                If there’s one genre in the area of anime/manga and games I have limited experience with it’s the yaoi genre. Oh I’ve seen plenty of anime/manga geared towards girls with a 99% male cast that certainly have developed their shipping fanbases, but very few gave much if any evidence of the relationship of the characters being any more than platonic and as a result the yaoi anime and manga I’ve experienced I can count on one hand’s worth of fingers. In gaming my only experiences were Bioware games (ahh,  Zevran…) and the rare occasion in eroge where the hero dabbles in bisexuality with a rather effeminate minor male character. Yes, there were a couple yaoi eroge released in English but none of them really appealed to me; I basically wanted my first pure yaoi game to be something special. Fortunately that would arrive on February 27, 2015 when Mangagamer released NO, THANK YOU!!!, originally released in Japan by parade on August 29, 2014.

Pros: Good story, main characters are interesting, excellent artwork, good music, great voice acting, interesting system idea.
Cons: Getting 100% completion, some ero scenes interrupt the flow of the story, Yamato and Tatsuya are unwinnable, you’re left wanting more at the end.
WTF?!: Hiroyuki’s shirt…where can I get one?


                On a warm summer day our protagonist saves a man about to be hit by an out of control car only to get struck by the car instead and upon awakening finds himself with amnesia. The man he saved, sympathetic at his savior’s plight, offers him a job at the bar he owns and a place to live. The bar staff give him the name Haru and as he works there he learns that the bar is actually a front for a private detective agency in which the owner and staff take cases the police and other agencies won’t. As time goes on Haru starts to become an important part of this agency, but the question of Haru’s identity and forgotten memories remain…
                If there’s one word that best fits the story of NO, THANK YOU!!! it’s “surprise”. Well…I suppose there’s an exception in that it’s no surprise that the story is good, but on the other hand it’s surprising how much better it is than you’d expect. From what you’d see in the beginning (and the demo) you’d expect this game to be a simple sex comedy with slightly more serious stories from the Haru and co. take in between all that. The thing is NTY’s story goes in a direction much different from those expectations and while I won’t spoil anything I will say that one of the best things about the story is how it’s able to pull off this change without it seeming unnatural in comparison to the initial tone. This is accomplished not just through good story writing but also good character writing as each character’s reaction to when things go from light hearted to more serious situations come off as believable.
                Concerning the characters, NTY has a sizable cast (click here for profiles) and all the major characters are given the right amount of writing to make them memorable. It’s actually really interesting to see how a side character’s role might change from route to route and often times it reveals (or strongly hints) something about one of the main characters. Speaking of which, you can expect a well-rounded main cast as each winnable hero has the right character elements to back up the stories for their respective routes. Before we get to route rankings though, our main character Haru must be addressed as he is without a doubt the most memorable of the cast (a veritable leap up from the last MC with that name). To put it simply as a character he owns the show with a very charming personality that draws you in and soon gets you invested in the many paths he takes in this game. Part of this comes from his viewpoints which range from being light hearted and perverted to very down to earth but at times strangely innocent, and this helps to make his interactions with the heroes even more interesting .  The other part comes from a combination of good writing and excellent voice acting that brings out the multifaceted nature of Haru that make his taking very different action in each route still seem in character for him.
                Moving on to the routes, my ranking is as follows:
1)      Ryu
2)      Hiroyuki
3)      Kouichi
4)      Maki


                Ryu’s route I like best for a few reasons. First this is as close to a true end route as you can get and it’s done the right way for me. This route is enhanced by the story and character information you get from the other three routes yet it doesn’t in any way invalidate the others, instead letting them stand as they are. Second the story for this route is arguably the best, having a good underlying mystery concerning Ryu that ends up tying in well with the main plot. Also some sub characters are given better plot resolutions than in the other routes. Third, Ryu and Haru have really good character chemistry of two opposites bouncing off each other (especially via roundhouse kicks) that while often times funny also make for good character building which gets you invested in the pair’s ultimate fate at the end.

                Hiroyuki’s route comes in at close second because not only is his route a really good introductory route for the game, but the story is really good too. The writing does a good job in tying Hiroyuki’s backstory into many events of the game and you get really invested in a subplot concerning his friend Yamato late in the game. Also out of all the heroes I’d say Haru and Hiroyuki have the best traditional romantic chemistry from Haru’s teasing of him which comes off as genuinely funny and even cute at times to when we see how ultimately different the two are personality wise becoming apparent as the story goes on and how it affects Haru personally. The only thing that keeps this route from tying with Ryu’s is there are some plot elements in this route that are approached and resolved differently in Ryu’s and in that case they’re obviously supposed to be the better resolution.

                Kouichi’s route is an interesting one as it provides some backstory related info concerning the main plot and Haru. There’s also a nice pace to the plot and some very funny scenes in terms of what ideas Haru comes up with in the ero scenes. Still the most stand out part of the route happens at the end where we get a twist and from there things take a turn that in the hands of a less skilled writer would come off as a cheap shock value move but it’s pulled off thanks to good writing and the performance by Haru’s VA. I won’t spoil it but I will say that at least your eyes will probably widen when it happens. The only thing that keeps this route in third place is its focus is more on story building than relationship building and the ending feels a little too open.

                Maki’s route while at the bottom of the list is still a good one. Maki’s backstory is interesting once the story starts to reveal it and there’s a very nice payoff in the later parts of the route. This is first seen in the culmination of the clash of Haru and Maki’s personalities where we see the former finally voice his frustration at Maki after a certain story event and the voice acting does carry the right emotional weight for the scene. The second is a series of some very thrilling sequences involving the pair that make for a very satisfying resolution of a couple plot points. The main problem that this route has is it’s really slow. I get why that may be since that approach does match with Maki’s character, but the pacing is off putting all the same. Also for a minor nitpick the ending, while good, kind of leaves you wishing you could see more of Haru and Maki now that they reach a better understanding of one another after the route’s events.
                Before I move on I should give a mention to the bad endings. If you ask me they’re very much worth viewing as they can provide some character insight concerning Haru a couple even have some good story elements, those two occurring in Ryu and Hiroyuki’s routes respectively as they have the right feeling of tragedy at the end that feels like a believable “what if?” scenario that leads to a bittersweet closure for Haru.
                Concerning flaws NTY has in the story department, there’s a few, but first let’s get the nitpicks out of the way. First there’s the inevitable “unwinnable” complaint which in this case falls to Hiroyuki’s friend Yamato and his boss Tatsuya as they’re both interesting characters and Haru does express some attraction to the latter character. I admit it would be a bit challenging considering how the story goes for these two, but it could’ve been interesting. The second nitpick is the endings for all four routes end on a bit of an open note, resolving all the necessary plot points, but you can’t help but you can’t but want more afterwards especially concerning Haru. I file this under nitpicks mainly because I understand a sequel would be difficult and could very well contradict a major theme of the game’s story. One can dream though, and this is at the moment is parade’s only release and it only came out in Japan last year so maybe…
                Anyway, onto real flaws, the first major one would be getting 100% completion is unbelievably tedious. While it does give incentive to check out the bad ends plus POVs from some of the characters that are unlocked upon route completion, you also have to go through the game again after completing all four routes so the game can recognize that you have read every…singleword contained within and the reward you unlock is not really worth it. The second one is that occasionally an ero scene can interrupt the flow of the story. A good example would be in Ryu’s route where we find out something about a character but before we can continue on that plot point we have to see an ero scene first. The scene itself I don’t mind, but I don’t really appreciate it being placed where it kind of interrupts the story.

                Concerning systems, while NTY is your standard VN it does have an interesting little feature called the “NO, THANK YOU!!!” button, which shows up at certain scenes in the game. Clicking it will have Haru take a certain action in the scene that he would not have if you didn’t click the button. Sometimes clicking the button is essential to avoiding a bad ending…sometimes it’s the opposite. It’s an interesting little feature and does make for good save points if you’re going to unlock everything. Another system related aspect is you can make adjustments to some of the ero scene CG by adjusting the heroes' body hair. Not really much to say about that other than turning one character's hair off does make a shaving scene rather funny. Also another interesting extra is along with the standard CG  and ero scene unlocking upon route completion, you also unlock staff commentary that can be accessed in the extras section and they all make for a good listen, particularly from the voice actors and their impressions of the characters they played.


                In the area of presentation NTY goes great all around. To begin with, artwork is fantastic both for the character design and the CG. Interestingly the artwork is done by Shigeo Hamashima, whose work some of you may recognize from another game MG has localized Eroge!~Sex and Games Make Sexy Games~ (review here in case anyone’s interested) as well as the upcoming Euphoria. It’s definitely interesting to see an artist’s approach to a different genre than we’re used to seeing and in fact earlier this year MG put up an interview where she discussed this a little so feel free to check it out. 

                Concerning the sound department this is NTY really shines. For starters the music is excellent with a varied track that fits not just the mood of the scenes they play in but also the bar centric setting. Most of the background music tunes are piano based and are ones you could imagine being played on a bar piano and the aforementioned instrument for this track has an added bonus of having a thematic tie in with one particular character route. Of course there are tunes designed for the scenes with action or suspense that aren’t really of that mold but they’re good too. Finally the opening and ending themes are both great in their own way with the former having an upbeat tune to get you psyched for the coming story and the latter tying in well with the openness of the routes’ endings by having an upbeat and hopeful sound mixed in with some sadder sounding notes to emphasize some of the bittersweet aspects of the ending.

                Lastly there’s the voice acting and it certainly is not least of the sound aspect. This game features full voice acting and every voice actor turns in a great performance. The acting really does a good job in bringing the characters to life from their personalities to how well they can convey how each character feels in the more serious parts of the story, especially in their routes. Still out of all the VAs the one whose performance stands out is Haru’s: Tetsuto Furukawa who some of you may recognize from a number of Liarsoft games such as Gil from Sekien no Inganock. Not only does he make Haru an appealing character but he captures the multifaceted aspect of the character perfectly. Whether it be a scene where Haru’s being playful and silly to outright angry or threatening to nurturing, the voice acting works together harmoniously with the writing to make it all seem in character even in scenes where this comes off as a new side of Haru we haven’t until that point. I don’t know if there are any awards given out in the eroge or VN side of gaming but if there are I really hope Furukawa-san earned one.

                As for the ero scenes, they’re good…as far as I can tell. I’ll admit as a matter of personal preferences only some of the ero scenes, well… “reacted” with me. I can however say I can see the appeal and appreciate the work that went into making them. Some of the scenes have a very funny setup and a few even have an emotional appeal to them (though one in particular won’t be in the way you might expect from that description). I’ll also point out there’s a good number of them so this isn’t quite the game where you can skip through the ero scenes and focus on the story. All in all I’d say these should appeal to you if you’re into yaoi.

In Conclusion:
                NO, THANK YOU!!! is a very good read as eroge go with its appealing characters, interesting story and enjoyable soundtrack and voice acting…provided you don’t mind the yaoi aspect. The game does have some flaws but even the most apparent ones are pretty easy to get around. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who likes yaoi or is willing to try something different in the eroge world. If you’re absolutely sure yaoi isn’t your thing then this is a game you’ll probably have to quote its title to.

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

Should point out that recently Mangagamer announced hard copies for the game which you can order here. Though if you'd rather save money the digital version is cheaper.

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