Friday, July 24, 2015

Import Games for Adults: Prima ☆ Stella

Prima Stella Review

                Well as promised, here’s the third in my unplanned line up of all girls’ school set game reviews and a long overdue return to Atelier Kaguya. Though my last review was of an ultimately second rate game, I can say that I experienced the proper antidote to what I didn’t like about Harukoi Otome in Prima Stella, released by Atelier Kaguya’s branch company Atelier Kaguya Berkshire Yorkshire on June 27, 2008. I hope that bit of hinting from the last review didn’t give too many people the ideas that I’d be reviewing something else

Pros: Story does a pretty good job with its premise, characters are likable, very good artwork, excellent voice acting.
Cons: Yu is unwinnable, the common route has a bit of a writing flub, an event in the latter part of this games can weaken things a bit.
WTF?!: Well that’s an interesting choice for tug of war…

                You play as Kousuke Sakaki, an all-around nice guy and one of the top members of the swim team at his school, enough to be considered for an international tournament. Unfortunately his dreams of competing get cut short after saving a stranger from an oncoming traffic accident, sustaining injuries that put him in a coma and upon awakening learns that his body currently isn’t in any condition to take any real strain. A second chance soon comes however, when a representative of the all girls’ private academy, Etoile visits on behalf of the person Kousuke saved. As the school’s students are mainly from rich and powerful families, it also hosts an advanced program that could help Kousuke rehabilitate and realize his dreams of becoming an international champion swimmer and he’s being offered the opportunity to temporarily transfer to the school to do so. Kousuke accepts and while his arrival is met with much curiosity from the student body as many of the girls have had limited contact with men, Kousuke quickly meets and befriends Shizuka Touhouin and makes more through his childhood friend and cousin Kusumi who also attends Etoile. With this, Kousuke’s road to recovery may also become a road to romance too…

                While the story premise has been done before Prima Stella makes for a good demonstration of how far you can take a concept that’s been done before with an enjoyable cast of characters (click here for profiles). The heroines are introduced well with their personality quirks helping to get us to know and like them quickly while at the same time setting things up so that when we get a more in depth look at them as characters we’ll care what happens during those story events. Of course it helps that these quirks fit well into the many humorous scenes throughout the game such as Shizuka and Kusumi’s rivalry over Kousuke,  Yu as the straight man to Kusumi’s often silly antics or Miyabi’s subtle teasing/flirting with Kousuke. As for our main character, I’d say Kousuke is good enough in terms of writing; he has just enough depth to be interesting when the story needs him to be but at the end his main character trait is that he’s simply a nice guy. While that may sound too basic, I can say the writers for Prima Stella are able to utilize this trait to give us a main character that’s likable and interacts well with the heroines.

                Another writing element of note would be how well the episodic aspect of the game works for it. The story is divided into eight episodes; the first five make up the common route and each heroine’s route consists of three. The first five are constructed so as to give each main character the right amount of focus, the first being to introduce everyone and the remaining four focusing on each of our heroines, each of them getting a plot that at times takes a slightly serious tone, but its resolution usually foreshadows some element of the plot of her route. All in all this setup works because it gives the heroines the right amount of spotlight throughout the common route and helps make the story is easy to follow and remember, even if you should decide to take breaks in between episodes.

                Before we get to the routes though, I feel that the two most significant writing flaws should be discussed. The reason for this is the first one has to do with the common route and the second one concerns a plot element the routes all share. The thing is explaining it will involve some light spoilers so I’ll give you a brief explanation before cordoning the spoilers off behind some appropriate pictures. The first problem is basically during the common route some events happen throughout it that seem a bit contrary to how one of the characters is written and the second problem is when the common route ends an event happens that kind of weakens things a little for the routes, some more than others. Anyway, to those unfamiliar with how I handle spoilers, see the spoiler warning pictures below? If you don’t want to be spoiler about anything in this game, scroll past that first set and the text that follows until you reach the second set which marks the end of the spoiler section. You can read without fear of spoilers from there.

                The problem regarding the common route is each heroine has at least one ero scene in it. This is a problem mainly because this kind of clashes with Kousuke’s character even if the writing tries to justify this and even though you could write off the heroines not having a problem with this happening as “hentai logic” it still feels a little weird that even rival heroines Shizuka and Kusumi pretty much shrug off. Not to mention there strangely isn’t a harem route in this game, even as an unlockable, which could have made at least a more passable justification. I can at least say thanks to this I may have encountered my first case of the (rightfully) much maligned gaming term “ludonarrative dissonance” in an eroge. Though that does open up another question: do ero scenes count as gameplay?
                Err…anyway, the second problem is basically what starts off the routes: Kousuke’s time at Etoile ends and he goes back home. Now don’t get the wrong idea, this isn’t wholly a bad idea and it makes sense story-wise, but the problem lies in the change of scenery itself. Basically when compared to Etoile the new setting is a bit on the dull side and even ignoring that in some routes it means there’s none of the more entertaining character interactions with the more colorful cast aside from the heroine of the route.  Like the previous case it’s not something that ruins the game, but it’s still a flaw that would have been nice if in some way fixed.

                With that out of the way, let’s get to the route rankings:
1)      Kusumi
2)      Miyabi
3)      Tie between Shizuka and Tomoe
4)      Miyuki

                I have to say I did not expect to like Kusumi’s route as much as I did. The main reason for this is in my years of playing VNs I’ve found it to be a recurring thing where the more comical heroines tend to have pretty underwhelming routes. We have a rare exception with Kusumi partially because it kind of maintains its humor for most of the plot, helped by the fact that Yu also features prominently in the plot and subsequently the routine between her and Kusumi is maintained (which also helps lessen the effect of the second writing problem).  Even when it does take its dramatic turn, and while I admit it does seem a tad forced at first it manages to turn that around by resolving it in an over the top way that I’m not sure was meant to be intentionally funny or not, but it does make for a good way to buck a tired cliché.

                Miyabi’s route comes in at a very close second for a few reasons. First, she and Kousuke have good chemistry as can be seen in quite a few of their interactions in the common route and second, when things get to her route there’s actually writing good enough that you barely notice the aforementioned second writing problem. The third reason would be a really good performance from her VA: Maki Izumi, who many of you would recognize as the voice of Akane in the Da Capo 2 games, Chihiro from ef, and Tatsuko from the Majikoi games. While the other actresses turn in a very good performance too, this case is a bit more notable in that she manages to bring the character to life and do a voice different enough from what you usually hear that it may take you a while to recognize it. What keeps this route from tying with Kusumi’s is the dramatic part of her route is pretty par for the course; you’ll know what’s going to happen the moment the foreshadowing starts.

                What makes Shizuka and Tomoe’s routes tie for third place is they both have the problem of having just okay later parts of their route. In Shizuka’s case it’s basically because while the dramatic portion isn’t really bad from a writing perspective as it has to do with Shizuka’s own insecurities and low self-esteem it has the problem of feeling a little too slow. In Tomoe’s case it’s that while her story is fairly light hearted with the drama part being really short it has the problem of being really cliché, and is in fact very similar to a route I just recently finished playing in Da Capo 2: Plus Communication. I should point out though that neither route is bad as they both have really good things going for them. Shizuka has the advantage of being pretty well built up from the beginning of the story, her interactions with Kousuke are pretty cute and we have some good slice of life scenes before the drama of the route kicks in. For Tomoe we have, as noted before, the advantage of a route that doesn’t let itself be bogged down with drama and she makes for a likable and funny heroine throughout the game. 

                Now as for Miyuki’s route…what’s that? Some of you have taken a look at a walkthrough and seen she doesn’t have a route listed? Well, it turns out she does have a route…of sorts. You see, PS has another extras section where you can view extra ero scenes that aren’t in any of the routes which you unlock through progressing through the game. Among them is a string of scenes that make up what amounts to Miyuki’s route. I have a theory that the creators had a full route planned, but ran out of time and only had time to write her ero scenes and a rough draft of what the route’s plot. So they went ahead and recorded for those scenes, made the CG and wrote summaries of the plot to give context for why these scenes are strung together. While this means we essentially have the bare bones skeleton of route, I can say they’re worth looking at as aside from the (good) ero scenes, it is interesting to read hints of what we could have gotten.

                Sadly our Lunamaria Hawke look alike, Yu, does not receive even that and joins the ever growing roster of unwinnable heroines. It’s a shame since she does feature prominently in the game’s story and has good interactions with Kousuke. As indicated above, she does have a couple ero scenes, one of them probably written based on the premise for what her route could be. It is a shame the second one couldn’t have been incorporated into Kusumi’s route though…

                 In the area of presentation, Prima Stella does really well. The artwork is really good, the music is nice and the voice acting is excellent. The aforementioned Maki Izumi aside, we also have great performances from Miru, Shizuka’s VA, Tomoe’s VA Yasura Chatani who some of you may recognize as Yoruko from Comyu or Cat Sidhe Nekoko from Yume Miru Kusuri, and Kaoru Momozono gets to be in a good game this time thanks to her role as Miyuki. Should also mention there’s a couple male VAs in this too and they turn in good performances, one more than the other who manages to do an entertaining over the top performance but considering the gravelly voice he had to do I wonder how many throat lozenges he had to take afterwards… 

                As for the ero scenes, they’re all really good. Atelier Kaguya once again maintains its quality in the H department at least as well as it does in the area of writing.

In Conclusion:
                Prima Stella is an enjoyable game with its charming cast of characters, very good performances from their VAs and good artwork. While it does have some writing flaws, they’re not too big a subtraction from the enjoyment factor. If you want another example of the quality you should expect from good old Atelier Kaguya, then this is certainly worth a look.

Final Score: 7/10 Great
Author Recommendation: Buy it now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Games for Adults: Harukoi Otome ~Greetings from the Maidens’ Gardens~

Harukoi Otome ~Greetings from the Maidens’ Gardens~ Review

                The backburner: that ever growing pile of physical and digital media all of us human beings have that only seems to get bigger no matter what we do to make it smaller. Some of the items that occupy it are things we greatly anticipate experiencing but don’t have the time to yet while others are those things we have unfinished but dropped because better alternatives presented themselves. For normal people abandoning the latter option is perfectly natural but for a reviewer like myself it’s a different matter. We’ll be taking a look at an example of that aforementioned latter category in Harukoi Otome ~Greetings from the Maidens’ Gardens~, released in Japan by Baseson on January 27, 2006 and localized by Mangagamer on August 9, 2013. I’ll admit this review is late, you’ll soon see why it took me so long to get this game off my backburner to review it.

Pros:  Riru and Ayaka’s routes, characters can be interesting and funny when well written, artwork is pretty good, very good voice acting.
Cons: Yuika’s route, characters can be insufferable and lame when badly written, weak plot elements in Umi, Kisaya, and Sonya’s routes.
WTF?!: Sonya’s route.

                Harukoi Otome has you play as Akihito Hayasaka, a sophomore attending St. Francesca Academy, a former all-girls school that still has a noticeably higher female student population compared to the males. Attending with him are his younger sister Umi and childhood friend Yuika and through them Akihito meets other girls and the potential for friendship maybe romance soon presents itself.

                Yeah, as cliché as this story premise sounds I still had good hopes for this game back when it was announced for localization since I’d seen the OVA and liked it, it was not only set in the same universe as Koihime Musou but also was from some of the creators of said game. Sadly at the time I was not aware that some of the creators of the aforementioned also created Harem Party, and I’ve madeit clear how felt about that particular game. That isn’t to say that Harukoi Otome is THAT bad, but it’s a mixed bag where the bad mostly cancels out the good.
                This would be where I’d discuss story elements from the common route or ones shared by the other routes, but to be honest the common route doesn’t really have any stand out moments and the routes are extremely different from each other. Also the game’s strengths and weaknesses are kind of dependent on the routes, so with that let’s move right along to the route rankings.
1)      Riru
2)      Ayaka
3)      Sonya
4)      Kisaya
5)      Umi
6)      Yuika

Riru’s route ranks at the top for a number of reasons, the first of which being it’s the best put together of the routes. There’s a solid arc to both Akihito and Riru in how their relationship starts out as a platonic friendship that feels natural but when the time comes for it to turn romantic it’s believable. This is helped thanks to the writing giving them good chemistry in both stages of their relationship and good use of the side characters who help breathe further life into the plot. A good example being a look at Yuika’s serious side that isn’t very long but manages to be written in well and performed excellently by the aforementioned character’s VA. This route also has the advantage of having not only good comedy, but a transition into drama that feels natural to the story and never goes overboard about it. Finally, this route has one unique advantage over the others in this game: it has an epilogue and I don’t mean just a short scene followed by an ero scene and then that’s the end. This route has a short story to tell and two ero scenes to offer along with them. No lie here, but I actually didn’t know about this until I actually played the end segment last since I figured I might as well save the end ero scene of my favorite route for last since I wanted to end on a good note and I can say thanks to this bonus, Riru’s route is pretty much secured as being not only the best route of this game but also its chief redeeming factor. If I were to nitpick I’d say the closing scene is a little too long, but other than that this route is fine.

Ayaka’s route comes in at second place as it too has a pretty good story to tell which does culminate in a pretty good arc for our heroine that involves not just Akihito but also a character from one of the other routes and a character we briefly see in the common route but gets a better introduction over the course of the story (including a pretty funny take on how looks can be deceiving). There’s also the benefit of Ayaka and Akihito having some good scenes together from amusing interactions to some decent serious ones. What keeps this route in second place are a couple things: first, there’s a subplot introduced that’s concerning Ayaka’s stepmother that’s only briefly touched upon over the course of the story and second, while I don’t feel the dramatic part of the route is forced in, the event that starts it is extremely obvious. I can guarantee you’ll see it coming the moment it’s introduced. Won’t spoil it but let’s just say it’s a trope we’ve all encountered numerous times since childhood in most forms of media. What makes the transition into the dramatic part of the story not feel particularly forced is because it makes sense for Ayaka’s character and there’s even decent enough foreshadowing for it.

Concerning Sonya’s route…I’m not entirely sure how to start with this one. This route starts out like your typical cutesy romance and it does well at that with a combination of imagery and the voice acting on Sonya’s part. Then things get weird, though admittedly you might not notice that for a while since the middle portion of this route is really boring as many of the scenes don’t feel like they go anywhere aside from the ones concerning a puppet show Sonya and Akihito put together and even that isn’t all that interesting since we don’t see the show when it’s made, just told about it. The reason you wouldn’t notice is because the weirdness concerns the dialogue, which is basically a strange disconnect between all the characters when they’re talking to each other, like they’re talking to each other, but each character is in another dimension. This doesn’t go well with this slow part of the story as it creates a sense that you’re reading gibberish and you’re either bored or annoyed and just want to get this route over with. Fortunately things improve at the point where Akihito and Sonya start their relationship, first by dealing with the foreshadowed dramatic part quickly and then things get noticeably strange when logic essentially departs the story. From there the story events and character actions just start happening with very little (if any) explanation, but things are kept from being boring thanks in large part to more interaction with the character Mai, played by Hokuto Minami who matches this routes weirdness by hamming it up with her performance. All in all while this route has its flaws and is one of the oddest I’ve read in a while there’s enough appeal that I can say it’s something that needs to be seen to be believed.

Moving on to Kisaya’s route, I regret to say that this is where we get to the bad stuff and it’s a long way down from here. The thing with Kisaya’s route is that it doesn’t start out bad at all as she and Akihito have some good scenes, especially the ones dealing with him rediscovering a love for kendo that he had during childhood which ties well with his growing relationship with Kisaya. Honestly this route would have been fine as a pure slice of life route about kendo, but sadly this is where we come to the main element that separates the good routes in this game from the bad: forced drama. In this case that drama centers around bringing in acompletely new character who only exists in this route and this character is so cliché and one note calling him one dimensional seems generous. About the best thing about that part of the story is it’s brought to a close by an okay action scene, but that’s kind of offset by an epilogue that seems pretty contrary to the events of the route. 

Umi’s route is in a bit of a similar situation in that its later part is what hurts it. What ranks it below Kisaya’s is from the beginning it’s just an okay route. Don’t get me wrong, there are good moments like Umi’s love of horror flicks, some of Akihito’s antics are at least chuckle worthy and you can tell that the writer was doing his/her best to sell this pairing. The thing that keeps this route’s good points from standing out more is the fact that the story doesn’t really do anything to distinguish this from any other “imouto heroine” route story, which I admit is partially because HO is a bit on the old side compared to most of what’s been released in English but even then there’s nothing to really grab your attention with this portion of the story. As for the later bad parts, there are two main problems on the writing front. First the drama kind of trips over itself in that a good part of it depends on the idea that people would disapprove of Umi and Akihito’s relationship but we never see this come about at all. I suppose you could argue this is more about the two coming to terms with their relationship and this is just a psychological issue for them, but if that’s the case then it should have been better conveyed. The second problem has to do with how Akihito is written during this portion of the story but that’s something that bears discussing in the next route because as bad as it is in this case, the worst is still to come.

Finally we’ve come to Yuika’s route and boy do we hit bottom here Icarus-style. No point in mincing words, this is one of the worst routes I’ve ever played and the chief reason it took me so long to beat this game. It has been a long time since I’ve played a route that enraged me as much as this and over the course of at least 90% of the story. Now some of you may bring up Sofie’s route from Harem Party or Super SecretSexy Spy, but this route is much worse not only because it’s longer than those or even because this is supposed to be a story we’re supposed to take seriously but it’s because it’s a route we unlock (by clearing Umi’s). Unlockable routes are supposed to be special because their stories are supposed to reveal something new and amazing compared to what we’ve played before, something that turns  a previously read plot element on its head and through that gives you a new perspective on the game’s story and characters. Unfortunately what this route has to reveal is the furthest thing from amazing and surprisingly inconsequential to the rest of the game.

One of the best examples of this can be seen in the role they give comic relief side character Oikawa in this route. I won’t spoil what it is, but it’s a role that doesn’t match with him. First of all it’s too big a role for him when compared to his role throughout the other parts of the game, second it makes very little sense considering this isn’t hinted at anywhere else in the game (almost to the point I thought the whole plotline was a ruse), and third it’s kind of out of character too, especially since a major part of the role falls into the trope of “best friend lends a hand by being a total douche”.  This actually leads us into one of the main problems of this route: no major character in this story comes out of it a likable character. And speaking of which…

We now get to Akihito’s role in this story, the amplified version of what was a problem in Umi’s route: the incessant whining. The moment things take a dramatic turn Akihito lapses into a seemingly endless stream of self-pity, even when the drama concerns Umi or Yuika. I understand in stories there needs to be a low point that the hero hits that he needs to overcome, but not in a way that makes the character seem irredeemably weak and selfish like this does. Akihito’s constant bitching and moaning about how pathetic he is when confronted with a problem related to Yuika or Umi makes it seem like he’s more concerned about himself than his intended love interest. In defense of Umi’s route I can say that it thankfully doesn’t last very long in that case, but in Yuika’s route it’s there for the majority of the story. I’d say this makes the romance between the two hard to believe, but believe it or not this isn’t the main cause, which brings us to the heroine of this story.

While the main reason Yuika is unlikable as a character in this route is how emotionally distant she is, that’s really only part of the problem with her in the writing department and while one could argue that’s the point as it’s her main character flaw the overall problem negates that argument. The problem is that even though this is supposed to be her route, Yuika herself is barely involved in it. Since we see things entirely from Akihito’s POV, Yuika’s screen time is dependent on how much they interact, which is very little. I’m almost tempted to say she has more screen time in Riru’s route than she does in her own route but that would require replaying this route for comparison, but I can say that put all the other routes’ scenes with her together and not only would Yuika have more screen time but more interactions between her and Akhito, many of them giving her more character, than in this entire route. A romantic pair kind of needs to talk to each other for the readers to buy the romance and even more so we can experience the trials and drama they deal with in the story. As a result we’re pretty much just “told” the plot instead of “shown”. We’re told how we’re supposed to care about these characters even though none of them have acted in way at all likable in this story, we’re told about Yuika’s problem and at the end we’re told about how she resolves it herself just so we can get a happy ending.
If anyone were to ask me if I had anything positive to say about Yuika’s route the only answer I could give would that it introduced me to a new emotional cycle. That if you hate something enough, such as the main characters of this route, all that anger and frustration will eventually burn itself down to a weary sort of neutrality known as apathy. By the time this route reached what was supposed to be its emotional climax I was surprised at how little I cared. I wasn’t even rooting against the characters at that point; the story could have had a zombie apocalypse occur with them all dying horribly and it wouldn’t have brought me any joy. That was certainly an experience, though one I hope to never experience playing a game ever again (though with my luck…).

In the area of presentation Harukoi Otome does alright. The artwork is pretty good though at times some of the character portraits for some of the characters like Kisaya lack some polish. The music is okay but forgettable, but the best part of the sound department and the presentation overall is the voice acting. This game features some very talented VAs and having already mentioned Hokuto Minami, others you’d recognize include Riru’s actress: Yukari Aoyama who many of you recognize as Kazuko/Wanko from the Majikoi games or Yuika’s: Ran Touno who you’ll probably recognize as Yukie from the Majikoi games, Tonya from Ayakashibito and Kaede from the Shuffle! series. A shame the latter’s character had such a crappy route…

As for the ero scenes, they’re okay. Admittedly the better ones are the post credits scenes.

In Conclusion:
                Harukoi Otome is probably one of the best examples of the term “mixed bag” that I have encountered in a while. Of the six routes we have two good ones, a flawed strange one that’s still worth a look, two routes that are second rate at best due to weak story elements and a one that is absolutely awful. There’s enough good that I can’t completely write this game off as terrible, but at the same time the bad stuff is such I can’t give this much of a recommendation, especially at the current price of about fifty dollars. I advise waiting for a sale or price drop, and for that to compensate for what some may think is my having mercy on this game I’ll be creating a new recommendation not from the days of Blistered Thumbs.

Final Score: 6/10 Above Average
Author Recommendation: Wait For a Sale.

                As for the anime, I like it even though I know it’s an okay adaptation at best. It’s basically an adaptation of Umi’s route with bits of Yuika’s and Riru’s mixed in. I admit some of the stuff in there is weird like Kisaya’s role being pretty out of character compared to her game portrayal and this one scene in the second episode where I think some of the creators may have indulged in some recreational drugs while writing it.

                And speaking of clearing backburners, there’s another game I’m close to finally finishing involving an all girls’ school where the MC ends up transferring there after helping someone in need. Won’t spoil what it is but I can at least say it’s been a better experience than the game I just reviewed…

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Import Games for Adults: Gakuen de Jikan yo Tomare

Gakuen de Jikan yo Tomare Review

                Having covered a good dark nukige, let’s take a look at one that’s not only bad but very disappointing as well. Today we’ll be looking at one of Waffle’s more recent releases, Gakuen de Jikan yo Tomare, released in Japan on March 11, 2014. Having finished some good dark nukige recently and since this both looked and sounded good plus was from Waffle, one of my favorite nukige producers, I figured this would beat least a nice little distraction. I was wrong...

Pros: Good artwork, very good voice acting, good music.
Cons: Time stop gimmick is way overused, bad writing even for a dark nukige, lazy approach to ero scenes.
WTF?!:  I can say one thing that prevents this game from being a 1/10 is this strangely funny scene of our MC using his time stop gadget to steal food.

                In this game you play as a bitter and impoverished man who daily sits outside the esteemed all-girls school known as Excellent Gakuen. The reason for this is the founder of the school is a man with whom he holds a deep and long standing grudge towards and he greatly desires to strike a blow to the man through his two daughters attending that school. Unfortunately the state of the art security for the school prevents this, but that changes when a mysterious cloaked figure gives him a strange pocket watch which can be used to manipulate time, arming him with all he needs to carry out his plan of revenge and debauchery.

                I understand with this kind of genre criticizing the writing may seem unfair, but bear in mind I’m judging this compared to others of its genre, many of which are shorter and have obviously lower budgets. The biggest writing issues this game has concern the ero scenes though so I’ll only be focusing on one major aspect here. That aspect is that the heroines (click here for profiles…I know I had to in order to remember names) aren’t particularly well written into this aside maybe from Kanako and Megumi and the only reason I’m considering that is they have the most screen time. While dark nukige rarely have deep or well explored characters the good ones at least give their heroines enough character writing so the reader has some form of attachment to them. Considering most of those games are short there isn’t really all that much that needs to be done: an introduction to the character and some scenes here and there that reveal some aspects of the heroine that the player can latch onto and through that in some way appreciate her ero scenes better.  In this game all except the aforementioned are given an introduction, usually along with two other heroines and from there it’s straight to the ero scenes. While later on in the game there is a story event that involves all of them, it’s just a setup for the last ero scenes.

                In the area of presentation GJT does everything right. The artwork is really good be it the character artwork and CG along with the background, and there’s even some nice little effects when the time stop watch is used and in the choice segments the options float around a little. Concerning the sound department the voice acting is excellent and done by some well-known VAs like Kaoru Momozono who many of you would recognize as Haru from Comyu, Kakouton/Shunran from the Koihimu Musou series and Emeralia from the Kyonyuu Fantasy series. The music also bears mention since the tracks do a good job in setting the right atmosphere for their intended scenes from several degrees of dark and menacing, to a surprisingly strong action beat to a genuinely peaceful seeming tune. If only this track could have been used for a better game…

                Finally we get to the ero scenes and this is where the game fails on so many fronts and for a nukige that is never a good thing. Even games of this genre with bad or little to no stories can be redeemed by having good ero scenes and with good artwork and voice acting this game would appear to be capable of at least that. Sadly this game can’t even manage that and one of the most apparent failings lies in how the badly game’s very premise (time stopping) is written into the scenes. Basically the protagonist uses this (and no, you don’t control its use) as an enhanced foreplay during which the heroine is essentially frozen in place and unaware of the protagonist’s actions and it is used an obnoxiously numerous amount of times. The reason this is a problem is because ero scenes, especially good ones, need to have a flow that the viewer should be able to get into and the time stopping’s frequent use makes that impossible. Aside from breaking any form of immersion the frequency of the time stopping will get annoying by the time you finish the first ero scene, it also limits the VAs performances and it unnecessarily pads the scenes. Put all those together and soon you get ero scenes that are just plain boring to sit through and that is never a good thing with a nukige. 

                Now I know what some of you may be thinking: maybe this style just isn’t for me. To that I could grudgingly agree with, but that doesn’t excuse the second glaring flaw that you don’t come across until after playing for a bit. That flaw would be the shameless laziness concerning the ero scenes which the creators do their best to conceal. Taking a look into the extras section and you’ll see that the main heroines have six to eight scenes with the side heroines having three to four, but what you don’t know is all but one of those scene buttons are all part of one long ero scene, some of the heroines’ galleries even have the same scene buttons. Basically the setup is that the heroines are each grouped together with the characters they’re written to hang out with which gives us three groups and subsequently three long group ero scenes. The only exception to that is Megumi and even though she gets her own scene like the others it’s really long and takes up all but one spot in her scene gallery. 

Additionally there’s an odd placement of the extra ero scenes with very minor characters that have no effect on the story and are unlocked depending on where you choose to have the protagonist go at two points in the game. These choices only determine if you get a premature ending where the protagonist just gets bored and leaves the school or the true ending which unlocks a few more scenes and then reveals the reason behind our protagonist’s motivations. What’s strange is during the true ending there’s instances where you’d think one of those extra scenes would occur but instead the game opts to skip over that and this isn’t done just once or twice but five times, that’s right FIVE times and in a row to boot. While I’m not sure of the circumstances of this, you’d think it would be more efficient to just keep the plot completely linear since it practically is already and save those extra scenes for the later point instead as otherwise those aforementioned instances just stand out as needless filler.

In Conclusion:
                Gakuen de Jikan yo Tomare is a truly disappointing game in the fact that it has everything it needs to be a good dark nukige. It has a talented vocal cast, a surprisingly good soundtrack and good artwork, yet all of that is wasted thanks to its writing that overuses its story gimmick and its approach to its ero scenes that come off as just plain lazy and deceitful. There’s so much better available in Waffle’s library that I’d advise skipping this and you can probably find a better take on the time stop concept if you look a bit .

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

                As for the anime, to be honest it’s actually good compared to its source material. Why? With only twenty minutes run time per episode that means the ero scenes have to be cut down length wise and this proves to be good example of the saying “less is more”, especially with the time stop use reduced considerably. About the only thing the game does better is the reveal in the true end is more effective from a writing stand point happening at the end while in the anime it’s flat out stated at the start, but really it’s not that big a twist. There’s currently two episodes with at least one more on the way and quite honestly I recommend just watching those if the game’s premise interests you.

                And yes, I am aware a sequel to this is in the works. Since I could only get one safe for work screenshot of Katie’s engrish, this will have to do as my reaction: