Saturday, October 27, 2012

Import Games for Adults Halloween:MinDeaD BlooD

MinDeaD BlooD Review

            Welcome to the third in the Games for Adults Halloween 2011 reviews, and this week I’ll introduce you to my second favorite vampire themed eroge, MinDeaD BlooD, considered by many to be the best of Black Cyc’s library. Now before I explain about the game, I should elaborate a bit about the company behind it. Essentially Black Cyc is a company that has garnered quite a fanbase amongst importers such as myself for their games as each one (until recently, but that’s for another review) contained dark storylines that could go quite the distance in terms of dark content, mixing horror, violence (even in some ero scenes), and erotic content with a strong story, complex characters, and even romance. A fanbase so strong that it’s among the top 10 most requested companies for either JAST or MG to make a deal with. MinDeaD BlooD contains all these aforementioned story elements and generated a strong enough fanbase that it was rereleased twice after its initial release on June 6, 2011. The first on July 21, 2006 to add in voice acting for the male characters and second on September 24, 2010 to add in new CG and voices to the characters without character portraits. Since I never played the first version, this review will be based on the latter two.

Pros: Well told story, excellent artwork, great voice acting, interesting system to the game, fun minigames unlocked with route completion.

Cons: Game leaves you with some unanswered questions concerning some story elements, you NEED a walkthrough if you want to figure out how to unlock the true routes and see everything, ero scenes may be a bit much for newcomers, the ero scenes sometimes feel gratuitous depending on your playthrough, not all the heroines are winnable.

WTF?!: How on earth did they manage to include this (admittedly awesome) character without getting sued?

            MinDeaD BlooD puts you in the role of Shizuru Nanase, a newly resurrected vampire accidentally brought back to life by vampire twins Mayu and Mana Sonohara. The twins invite him into their fold with a mixture of curiosity and desire for company, which leads to Shizuru adapting well to life as a vampire fairly quickly despite the fact that he can’t remember anything from his previous life except his name. However, the arrival of a vengeful vampire hunter and the gradual emergence of lost memories will change things drastically for both Shizuru and the twins.

            Okay, I’ll admit that the amnesiac hero is kind of a cliché, but in this case Black Cyc was able to use it correctly. For starters, the subsequent exposition Shizuru receives is presented very well; at the start you get the basic information about vampires from Mayu and Mana and from there on what else you do learn about the game’s setting and characters depends on where you have Shizuru and the twins visit and subsequently who you have them meet and interact with. Next, it also leaves things open for you to decide Shizuru’s alignment, though it does go beyond being a choice of simply being good or evil, and with this I think MDB managed to put together an alignment based on choice system that, if you ask me, is on par with Bioware’s (and in a couple ways can be considered superior). Your choices on what Shizuru does essentially determine whether he chooses to retain what bit of his former human identity that he can remember or embraces his vampiric nature, and let me tell you the vampires of this game are much closer to the traditional variety than today’s, but I’ll get to that later. Now while at first this system does come off as not being so different from the good or evil morality choices, as you play further it gets more complex depending on what events happen as a result of your choices. A good example is with one route in which Shizuru chooses to act more like a vampire, but events later in the route reveal to him so much of his past that he makes a turn around and chooses to be who he used to be. Fortunately, this isn’t portrayed as a sudden and inconsistent heel turn from evil to good as the route does show there are consequences for Shizuru’s previous actions even if he does regret them and wants to amend them. It’s also not just alignment that your choices influence but they can also decide whether a character lives or dies and even change who you end up playing as in a couple points.

            Now when it comes to the portrayal of vampires in MDB, I have to say (and I know this is kind of a cliché now, but hey I held back from any Twilight jokes or comments with Tsukihime) that this game is the perfect antidote to the Twilight series’ influence both in its portrayal of vampires and also because it’s one the best examples of how to take some creative liberties with an established mythos while not spurning it. For some examples of the former, first, MDB’s world basically allows for the existence of both the animal like vampires as seen in Nosferatu and 30 Days of Night and the more deceptively human seeming sort like Dracula by having it that people turn out differently when turned depending on factors such as willpower, personality traits, and action from the sire. A second example would be that either way the typical vampire in this games acts like the traditional vampire in being ravenously hungry for blood with very little, if any, regard for their victims and also sexually deviant. For a good example of the latter, the vampires of MDB don’t need to drink blood to survive and can eat normal food. Now considering what I just mentioned, this would be a bad contradiction but the game basically has it that while it isn’t a requirement for survival the vampires of MDB still have a strong thirst for it and a subsequent feeling of great satisfaction upon consumption making the ravenous hunger more similar to a drug addiction. Of course there’s also the added bonus of blood drinking increasing a vampire’s power (very helpful considering the vampire hunters) and the sire also has an unnaturally aroused new vampire to relieve (kind of a reason why the sire tends to be of the opposite gender of the victim).

            Having said all this, I’m certain you must be wondering if there’s more to the story that makes it so good. Well, I can definitely say there is. MinDead Blood tells a dark story filled with surprise twists, great action, and above all diverse and memorable characters. There are several characters that Shizuru and the twins will interact with over the course of this game, and they each have their own unique and interesting personalities from Arisa’s odd loyalty to the twins that hints at a deeper and darker connection, Yuka’s dedication to the destruction of vampires that she may end up calling into question depending on her relationship with Shizuru, to the mysterious bar owner known simply as Master who seems to know a great deal about what’s happening on the game’s island setting. To go along with that, the character relationships formed as a result of the various interactions that can occur are very interesting be it the twin’s fascination with the world outside their mansion or the relationship Shizuru forms with most of the game’s heroines. This brings us to Shizuru himself, and I have to say that out of all the male MCs Black Cyc has made for their games, Shizuru is without a doubt my favorite (even if he does dress a little funny). This is through a combination of good acting on his voice actor’s part and very good character writing. Whether good or evil, Shizuru manages to remain this badass with a certain charisma about him that makes him likable either way. He’s an excellent fighter, but has limits that make fights with powerful foes suspenseful, and while he’s a fairly humorous character in the lighter interactions the game does a good job at exploring dramatic elements on his end.

            That said the story does have a few flaws, the main one being that the game leaves you with some unanswered questions even after you finish the route with the most story reveals. Bear in mind it’s not enough to ruin the story or anything since most of these aren’t that major in the long run, but it does leave you very curious none the less. Many assumed these questions would be answered in a sequel or prequel game but because company management has changed drastically since MDB’s release, the odds of either are very slim. Another flaw is that some of the heroines don’t have routes (but then again this game isn’t structured like your standard eroge with romance as the focus which is why I can’t really give a route ranking in this review even though Yuka, Saki, and Mayu and Mana together have their own endings) and subsequently a few story elements concerning them aren’t explored as much as you might like, but the fandisk (we’ll get to that later) does fix this some.

            Now concerning gameplay, MinDead Blood doesn’t really have any per se, but in the game you do regularly choose what locations on the island setting Shizuru and Mayu and Mana visit by clicking on an icon for both him and the twins as a pair and placing them over the spots for each location. This is an interesting way to explore as it makes for several interesting combinations (you can even place both in the same location so they all visit as a group) and also can lead to the unlocking of new locations to visit. Sadly, this is also where another flaw in the game comes up as if you want to either see everything or go on a specific route, you NEED a walkthrough or you may either miss stuff or even get killed by a certain vampire hunter if you waste too much time. Another area that kinda counts in the gameplay department is clearing the main routes unlocks these little card minigames that can be selected in the start menu. In these games you basically clear a set of poker cards away from a randomly selected game CG, and these minigames can get surprisingly addicting even if you don’t get much except a congratulation of sorts from Mayu (though it doesn’t really translate to a congratulation).

            When it comes to presentation, this game truly shines with well drawn CG that almost looks like what you’d expect a Castlevania anime or manga (color page) would look like. The characters portraits are also well drawn considering each one is unique in appearance, though they are limited in variety considering some of the secondary characters only seem to wear one outfit. The music for this game is truly an excellent mix consisting of music that you would almost expect to hear in Castlevania or Devil May Cry. Each tune fits the scenes it’s used for perfectly be it for a creepy scene, an action packed battle, or a dramatic moment, they all fit. The vocal music is equally well done as seen in both the opening and the closing considering        how well the gothic metal used fits in both the imagery used for it as well as the entire game itself, making it one of those truly memorable themes that the moment you hear it you’ll immediately think of this game. Finally we get to the voice acting and boy do the VAs turn in great performances as each one of them portrays their respective characters excellently. As mentioned before, part of what makes Shizuru so memorable is his voice, and whoever it was that did the voice for him truly succeeded in bringing Shizuru to life be it the scenes in which he’s having a casual conversation, in the process of doing something diabolically evil, facing off against an opponent, carrying a dramatic scene, or just plain joking around. That’s basically the kind of acting quality you can expect in this game.

            Now for the ero scenes and boy is this quite a bit to talk about. To begin with, I can definitely say the ero scenes are very good in terms of both artwork and voice acting, however I should point out that if you’re new to this genre or are more used to the lighter romance eroge, the ero scenes in this may not be to your liking. Only a few of the ero scenes in this game are of the consensual romance type. Like I said, this eroge portrays vampires the traditional way, which will mean most of the ero scenes are going to be rape scenes and there’s also a number of said scenes that cater to some of the weirder fetishes. Let’s just say tentacles and futanari (look that term up yourself) are going to be the least of your worries. Now while I personally didn’t have any problem with the ero scenes, the only flaw I can say is some can cluster together in a playthrough which does make it feel a tad gratuitous, but that can vary according to playthrough so it’s not that big a flaw.

Character Profiles (note: these profiles are from another review for the game located here ; have permission to use them but I just want to give proper credit):

Shizuru Nanase:
Reborn into undeath as an incredible vampire with phenomenal fighting prowess, Shizuru suffers from amnesia due to the trauma of his unnatural rebirth. Fortunately he finds himself in the company of vampiric twin sisters who immediately take a liking to his personality and physical stamina, promising to provide shelter and friendship in return for protection and sexual gratification.

Yuka Sakaki:
Yuka is a highly skilled vampire hunter, training from the day she learned her parents were murdered by the supernatural creatures. Ordinarily a calm and composed individual, Yuka becomes a furious engine of destruction when facing creatures of the night. Few vampires would dare challenge her; none have so far survived.

Saki Katagiri:
Among the most promising next generation vampire hunters, Saki holds on to the memory of a man who was stolen from her by one of the legendary vampire kings. Lacking supernatural powers or athletic talent, she wages a personal war through pure conviction. Saki simply never gives up hope that one day she will have karmic justice.

Mayu Sonohara:
Elder half of the Sonohara twins, Mayu is best described as a sadistic, spoiled, murdering bitch. There are few individuals Mayu truly cares for, but among those rarities she treasures, her twin sister is valued above all. Mayu also takes a strong liking to Shizuru, finding his presence and physical qualities genuinely excite her.

Mana Sonohara:
Younger half of the Sonohara twins, Mana is a difficult individual to read, possessing an eerie trait of expressing little emotion. She obediently follows her identical sister without fail, never refusing or challenging what Mayu seeks to do, though some often wonder what thoughts wander through Mana’s head

Arisa Saeki:
Arisa is the rightful owner of the mansion that Mayu and Mana have taken as their own, reduced to little more than a mistreated servant and helpless sex toy by the twins. Why she hasn’t ran away or already murdered is almost as much a mystery as how much she truly knows about the dark events that are rampaging across the island.

Hitomi Orihara:
The only daughter of middle class parents who spend a significant sum of their income to support her tuition, Hitomi is a recent transfer to student to Chisakura Girls Academy. While devoted to academic excellence, Hitomi harbors unrequited feelings for her math teacher and selfishly hopes that exceptional performance might capture his attention.

Kyoko Kasai:
Kyoko is a student of the Chisakura Girls Academy, oftentimes perceived as arrogant and antisocial by fellow classmates due to her strong independence. While she excels at sporting events and her performance has earned a great deal of athletic achievements, she has little enjoyment of the attention and media spotlight.

Marika Ichinose:
Self-appointed moral booster of her graduating class, Marika is a student of the Chisakura Girls Academy who annoys the living hell out of anyone she believes lacks school spirit. Marika is an obsessive fan of strange anime series and has a wide number of unusual otaku habits others find unsettling.

Natsumi Saito:
Natsumi is a newlywed wife without a husband, his recent promotion causing long distance separation and hardships. Despite her longing urges and growing loneliness, Natsumi is ever devoted to her spouse, hoping that each night which passes is the night he finally returns home to her.

Annabella Keaton:
Annabella is Research Director of Chisakura Metropolitan Hospital. Her rude and gruff nature have earned more enemies than friends, but the results of Annabella’s work are unquestionably efficient and effective. As of late she has devoted long hours into the nights and weekends on a quarantined medical patient restricted from public exposure.

Yoshie Shinohara:
Yoshie is an energetic head nurse of Chisakura Metropolitan Hospital. She is dearly loved by patients and the medical staff, as Yoshie’s sincerity and cheerfulness are a medicine no one can prescribe. In addition to her normal duties, she serves as a personal assistant to the hospital’s research director.

Eri Kotofuki:
Eri is lead singer of the band Cerberus Guard 69, a popular group that exclusively performs at the PAIN & KILL nightclub while in Chisakura. The private establishment is a cesspit of questionable activities, and rumors of missing persons, rapes, and murders surround the nightspot. Regardless of these tales, Eri’s popularity and talent draws massive crowds to the location.

In Conclusion:

            If you want a vampire game with a very good story and characters and also want it to be as dark as the more traditional vampire stories, then MinDead Blood is the game for you. With very high replay value considering all the possibilities with the area visiting that can unlock different character interactions and scenes, you’ll be playing for quite a bit (~30 hours), especially if you want to unlock everything, and those unlocked mini games will probably keep you busy too. I’ll admit a good number of the ero scenes may turn some people off and after finishing the game you’ll likely have questions about a few story elements, but otherwise this game makes for an enjoyable play if you want a good and dark vampire story as opposed to what’s coming out November this year.

Final Score: 8/10 Awesome

Recommendation: Buy it now.

No comments:

Post a Comment