Saturday, October 17, 2015

Games for Adults Halloween: Armored Warrior Iris

Armored Warrior Iris Review

                Seeing as it’s Halloween, what’s Halloween without some schlock? So for that we’ll be turning to good old Black Lilith for what can also qualify as a sci-fi creature feature of sorts in Armored Warrior Iris, originally released in Japan on March 24, 2006 (digitally with the physical release following a week later) and released in English by Mangagamer July 18, 2014 with a physical release on May 4, 2015. Some of you may remember Space Pirate Sara and the praise I had for it; it had a decent plot in between all its ero scenes and a likable heroine. I bring this up because one of the writers for this game wrote for Sara as well. So with that surely there’s the same level of quality, right? Well, sort of, but…

Pros: Good story concept, the intro’s really good, Iris is a decent heroine, very good art for the characters, mechs and aliens, good voice acting.
Cons: The concept has been done better in another game, a certain important plot element is given minimal addressing, can’t save at the “customer” selection screens.
WTF?!: While “this is no Zaku” it sure goes down about as quick as one.

                In Armored Warrior Iris, you play as the titled character, Iris Rebel, a first class space cop who takes down space criminals throughout the galaxy with her partner, Mei Li Naceri. While on a routine mission the pair’s mechs are shot down and Iris is captured, taken into hostile territory to a city known as Dark Town to be sold into slavery and ends up being forced to work as a prostitute by the city’s leader Bozuk and under the supervision of his top servant Riruru, who bears an uncanny resemblance Mei Li. As she tries to find a way out of this situation, Iris must also figure out the fate of her missing partner…
                I admit that this story doesn’t sound like much, but in all fairness AWI does put in some effort into establishing its main character. The game’s prologue does a good job introducing Iris and is convincing enough in showing that despite the main events of the game she is pretty badass.  In fact the story segments in between all the ero scenes help at giving her some character as depending on some of the choices you make can alter her outlook slightly, which become especially noticeable  as the endings approach. Speaking of which, aside from the many bad endings there are two possible endings where things turn out well for Iris: a good ending and an evil ending, the former being canon though the latter is still worth looking at since it does have a couple minor but still interesting extra bits of info about Iris and Mei Li’s group. Also well done are the interactions between Iris and Mei Li as thanks to those scenes it is easy to believe these two as being partners and from that you are curious to find out what happened to the latter character. If only the revelation were handled better…

                Since we’re starting the flaws I figured I might as well start with the aforementioned (and don’t worry, I won’t spoil it): while what happened to Mei Li is one of the main plot threads, the revelation isn’t handled all that well. We’re given an answer, but it’s not given the appropriate treatment a prevailing mystery should have (even taking account this is a nukige). We’re basically just given a brief explanation and then the plot moves on to the ending. It also leaves a couple plot holes regarding some stuff we’re told that we now have to accept as false too. Sadly can’t give any specifics without spoilers.
                Moving on the root of AWI’s flaws is if you’ve played Space Pirate Sara then that may weaken the experience of the former. Basically AWI is a proto-Sara since while the characters are different, the structure is very similar. Our main heroine is basically trapped in a hostile location at the mercy of its ruler, you’re given the choice of what ero scenes are to occur while she plots her escape, and we have a heroine in a similar position who could be a potential ally. The thing is with Sara being the later game it manages to do it all better: Bozuk is a pretty flat villain compared to the twins as he lacks the writing that made them intimidating, there’s a stronger purpose behind Sara’s enduring the events the twins force her into choosing among while with Iris it’s more like biding time until an opportunity arises, and while Iris and Riruru interact far more than Sara and Sylia do the latter pairing manages to have better chemistry.

                On the technical side I’m afraid there’s another aspect where AWI falls short compared to SPS. While you select what type of ero scene is to occur, you can’t save at the selection point unlike in SPS. This creates a little bit of an inconvenience since in this game scene selection determines what ending you get so when you want to save at a branch point you have to save at some point before the choosing and when you want go a different path you load to that point and then use the skip function to  get to the selection point. I admit this isn’t a big issue, but it is still a bit of an annoyance.
                In the area of presentation Armored Warrior Iris does pretty good. The artwork is really good for the characters, who have a design style somewhat reminiscent of anime from the 80s and 90s, and more especially for the aliens we see in this game. That’s basically the qualifier for why I picked this for Halloween:  a number of the creature designs are based on (and probably tributes to) alien creatures from various scifi movies. This ranges from obvious ones like Bozuk being based off the Hutts from Star Wars or a Martian based off the ones from scifi comedy Mars Attacks to ones that are a bit more obscure like a background alien in a CG being of similar design to a certain alien from one of the Star Trek movies. I admit it may be a flimsy justification, but hey, don’t we all have at least one creature feature in our queue of movies set aside for this month?

                Of course there is one more aspect of the art department that’s worth mentioning: the mech designs. While admittedly we only see them during the prologue, they make for a good window dressing, especially with one action scene we get with them and their obvious Mobile Suit Gundam inspiration. Really makes you wish Black Lilith would make a game in a Gundam-esque setting…
                In the area of sound AWI does good enough. Its only problem is the music is forgettable, but thankfully that’s barely noticeable thanks to the good voice acting for our two heroines.  Of the two I’d say the one who does the best performance is Iris’ VA: An Kasuga, who some of you may recognize as the voice for Mizuki from Kansen 3, Makoto from Kansen 4 or Sigurd from Valkyrie Svia.

                As for the ero scenes they’re all really good, provided you’re into the dark stuff. I’ll say when it comes to the different types of scenes you’ll see AWI is about as diverse as Sara, though in an interesting difference from the latter you won’t get much of an idea as to what kind of ero scene you’re going to get from the selection screen, which only tells you what species the client is. It’s an interesting way to make the player see one thing from Iris’ perspective, being as in the dark as she is as to what’s to come with each choice. What makes this an interesting difference between the two games is how it’s a different but still somewhat similar approach to the ero scene choice:  Sara could only choose by category and what the choice would entail on that front would be for her to find out.

In Conclusion:
                Armored Warrior Iris is an overall decent dark scifi nukige. It has a likable lead and it’s well drawn and acted. Its main problems are its overarching mystery is given a pretty lackluster solution and if you’ve played Space Pirate Sara you may feel like you’ve played a better version of this game already. Still I can say it isn’t bad for what it is, and admittedly it is interesting to see for yourself what aspects of AWI would be better used in Sara. Just don’t go in with high expectations and you probably won’t be disappointed.

Final Score: 6/10 Above Average
Author Recommendation: For Fans Only.

                As for the anime, it’s actually a pretty good adaptation that follows the good ending path. We also get some additional scenes that would have been nice to see in the game like some mech action in the first and last episode and I have to say the anime does the Mei Li mystery reveal a little better. That’s not to say this is a perfect adaptation: there are some animation flubs here and there where the animation doesn’t look as good as the rest and for some reason not only is the prologue skipped over but so is the good ending’s epilogue. Strangely there is a DVD extra scene but it isn’t an adaptation of the epilogue which seems strange since if the point of that extra was additional H content then the epilogue had that and it would have been more memorable than the throwaway scene we got instead. I guess that would be one more win from Iris vs Sara as the latter’s extra scene was an epilogue…even if it wasn’t in the game.

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