Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Import Games for Adults: Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori

Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori Review

                Ever since I played Kara no Shoujo I’ve been hungry for another mystery themed eroge. Of course I could always get something from Innocent Grey’s library, but I wanted to see if any other companies had anything to offer. After a bit of looking, I found Caligula Soft’s Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori, a remake of a game from Nihon Plantech that came out in 1995 under the name Ryouki no Ori. I admit what got me to take a look at it was the 90s style anime artwork for the characters, but the story was what got me interested in trying it out. Having completed it, I can say it’s a pretty good game overall, but…

Pros: Story is interesting for the most of the game, core cast is memorable and interesting, really good artwork, excellent voice acting.

Cons: The true ending route, the free roaming game mechanic starts to get annoying after a few playthroughs, the side heroine routes are hit or miss storywise, insultingly short ero scenes.

WTF?!: An amusement park with an attraction area based off the Cthulhu mythos?* If only Astroworld had had that it would still be around... ;_;
*Not joking, Misuzu’s saying that the next attraction they’re going to is “Shoggoth’s Tea Party” in the R’lyeh Area.

                In Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori you play as a detective (who you can name) hired to investigate a series of mysterious disappearances that have occurred in the Zeroshiki Department Store for the past 15 years. Said detective is to go undercover as a new employee in order to conduct the investigation and has nine days to try to solve the mystery.
                When it comes to story, SRO does a pretty good job for the most part. The mystery surrounding the disappearances is intriguing and each revelation you uncover related to it from multiple playthroughs does have you interested in seeing the resolution. Each of the main heroines is tied somehow to the mystery surrounding the disappearances and completing each of their routes gives you a feel as if you’ve obtained another piece to a puzzle that will come together into a big reveal. It also helps that most of the main heroines’ stories are interesting by themselves and the relationships they form with the MC are believable from their interactions with one another to the protagonist’s role in helping them deal with a major problem.
                Ignoring the True Ending route (which I’ll get to soon enough), my route preference is as follows:

1)      Tsukasa

2)      Nobuko

3)      Makoto

4)       Akira

5)      Shizuka

6)      Rebecca

7)      Uzuki

8)      Misuzu

9)      Yori

10)   Kurara
                To be honest, Tsukasa and Nobuko almost tie for first place as I enjoyed both of their stories from how their stories are tied to the main mystery to the role that the MC has in solving their problem and how that leads into a pretty satisfying conclusion to their character arcs. What makes Tsukasa win out over Nobuko though is I think her relationship with the MC is better developed; while over the course of both routes the girls open up to him, Tsukasa’s scenes do a better job at showing how close the two become. Makoto comes in third as her route does a really good job in getting you interested in what the true ending of the main mystery could be thanks to the story revelations in it, plus the chemistry between her and the MC is really nice too. Akira’s route I like for similar reasons, but I feel like it focuses a little too much on the mystery over the relationship development which makes it feel a bit unbalanced compared to the previous three. It’s the opposite with Shizuka’s route, which has some good character development, but the mystery sadly takes a back seat to it. Rebecca and Uzuki’s routes come in next as they both have good stories for side routes that don’t really have anything to do with the main story and the relationship they form with the main character is pretty believable, though between the two I’d say Rebecca’s route has a more satisfying conclusion. As for Misuzu’s route…I’ll talk more about that in a little bit but as a route it’s just okay, but is pretty mediocre as a main story route. Yori and Kurara’s routes are sadly the weakest as both are very short storywise and because of that and the fact that they have no connection to the main plot makes both routes feel out of place. Of the two of them though, I suppose Yori’s is a little better since that route seems to at least have some hints of effort at telling a complete story.
                Having said all that, you can probably guess that one of the things that help to make this an enjoyable read throughout each route is the game’s large cast of characters, and that doesn’t just include the heroines as throughout the game you can have the MC interact with the store’s security guards, different shopkeepers, and even a burglar to name a few. Such a large cast helps in giving the store setting a populated feel with each having their own unique personality to match their looks and the number of different scenes you can get through interacting with these characters at certain times of the day does help to enhance the replay value be they serious scenes that may or may not shed light on the case or lighthearted scenes such as a race through the store on forklifts (and of course…).
                That said, the game has its share of story problems, most of them concerning the true route. Now I’ve mentioned before the general problem I have with a multi-route game with a true ending and how it can end up cheapening, or at worst invalidating, the other routes. Sadly, SRO’s true ending is the kind that completely invalidates the other endings and doesn’t even seem to acknowledge them in any way. This really devalues the playing of the other routes if you played them first as the buildup that they seemed to hint at just falls flat as a result, and if you just play the only route necessary to unlock it, Misuzu’s, then play the route it makes playing the other routes seem pointless because now that you’ve solved the mystery the other routes just come off as fake and pointless in the end.

                Speaking of Misuzu, this is where I’ll be talking about why her route doesn’t rank very high amongst the others in my book as the true route is essentially a truer version of her normal route.  To put it simply, as a heroine Misuzu is pretty boring for this kind of game. Unlike the other main heroines, Misuzu doesn’t have any personal secret tied to the main mystery, her only connections to said mystery are really through her parents and as a result her involvement in the overall story is next to nil. I get that in the true route the writer was probably trying to portray her as a normal innocent girl suddenly thrust into the events store’s dark and ultimately tragic history by circumstances beyond her control, but it’s Misuzu’s normalcy that ends up foiling that, especially if you’ve played the other routes. In those routes, the heroine’s having some sort of personal connection to the main mystery (in most cases a personal problem) actually helps to create an extra stake in the case other than just solving it as you now want to see things turn out well for said heroine too. Basically you get more invested in the story this way, but with Misuzu not really having that the only thing you have to be invested in is in seeing the mystery itself solved. And sadly, the true route manages to fumble that too…

                The main reason the main mystery doesn’t turn out so well is because a lot of it is dependent on the reveal of another culprit aside from the one revealed in the other main routes. This is supposed to be a big plot twist, but unfortunately it’s not a very effective one for a few reasons. First, while the reveal makes some sense initially it raises several questions concerning how it relates to the overall plot that really make it seem like the only reason the culprit wasn’t revealed in the other routes was a series of really hard to swallow plot conveniences. Second, the secret culprit’s motivations are pretty weak considering who that character is and even weaker when compared to those of the main culprit in the other routes. Third, the reveal only serves to create too many villains, and since the revealed culprit isn’t a very effective one you’re left wondering if this reveal was really necessary.

                Another fumble on the true route’s end is that it tries too hard to play up the tragic elements of the story by trying to make the player feel sorry for the villains. It wouldn’t be a problem if it were done well like in Detective Conan , but SRO’s villains just aren’t that sympathetic. The secret culprit’s motivations don’t really show that character as anything but despicable, one of the villains just comes across as a raving lunatic (and that seems to be his main motivation too) and not very sympathetic, and one villain who’s really just a henchman kind of villain doesn’t get much in the way of personality or story outside of his being a flunky until right before he dies where he does a ridiculously long inner monologue of his life story (and yes, that scene is meant to be taken seriously). Only one villain character comes off as being anything close to sympathetic, and that ends up being undermined by the fact that in the bad endings that character does some pretty nasty things to the MC and the heroines without a moment’s hesitation and even ignoring those endings what sympathy you may have for that character pretty much goes away when you consider how that character’s actions will affect another of the characters.

                Concerning the gameplay element, when you’re in the department store you actually get control the MC from an isometric perspective where you click to where you want him to go and proceed to other rooms and floors by clicking an icon that appears above the MC’s head. This is also how check for clues, talk to people and even find some hidden secrets and characters throughout the building. What you find and who you meet are determined by the time of day, which passes according to where you go to and how much time a scene can take. There’s also a database on the characters you meet in the store that updates as you go along in the game. For the most part this makes for a fun way to explore, but it sadly starts to get tedious after a few playthroughs, especially when you’re trying to get to specific events so you can unlock a route. In fact, the true end route practically demands perfection when it comes to the scenes you have to see and the times you need to make, and even with a walkthrough handy (which belive me you WILL need) it still feels like a chore considering if you miss even one of these scenes you’re going to get a bad end. Also there is a bit of a problem where sometimes the game doesn’t detect your clicking the icon and instead moves the character, but it doesn’t happen that often. The game does give the option of using a map of the store to fast travel to whatever area you want to go to, which does make things a little less tedious.
                I should point out that the game does have a few system problems such as occasionally crashing when saving or loading, plus the skip function skips over any text when selected regardless of whether or not you’ve read it before. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any way to change that in the configuration menu. This makes for a problem during replays as it means you have to commit to memory whether you’ve seen certain scenes before or not and also keep an eye out for any changes to scenes depending on what you’ve done previously. Fortunately there weren’t very many cases of that which I could remember.

                In the area of presentation, SRO does a good job for the most part. The artwork for the characters has that 90s anime look about it which really helps in showing how the characters are all drawn in a unique way.  The music is probably the only weak point when it comes to presentation as it’s really just okay and not very memorable (though the opening was pretty good). The only track I wasn’t fond of was the ending theme as it just seems to go on forever much like the credits it accompanies. The voice acting is great all around with everyone but the MC being voiced and the voice actors all do a good job with the roles they’re given. The one voice actor that does stand out though is none other than THE Norio Wakamoto himself as security guard Takeshi Saito, giving a good performance with both the funny and dramatic scenes that his character is in with the voice that many of us otaku have come to love.
                As for the ero scenes, they’re not bad, but most of them are extremely short, consisting of 1-2 CG and some lasting only a few minutes. For a game that came out in the 90s that’s fine, but considering this is an updated remake you’d think they’d extend the ero scenes even a little bit more from that.



Makoto Zeroshiki:

In charge of the department stores owned by the Zeroshiki family, and the one who hires the MC to investigate the disappearances. While her job managing the stores keeps her busy, Makoto makes it her business to know her employees and their concerns.


Tsukasa Takenaka:

In charge of the meat department on the lower level of the store, Tsukasa began working part time at Zeroshiki while a student and became a full time worker after graduating. As a result, she’s a very experienced worker despite her age and hard working to boot. Many of the customers and employees know her for smile and positive attitude.


Akira Kono:

In charge of the women’s clothing department on the ground floor of the store, Akira is considered the “face” of the department store due to her looks and talents which have made her very popular with customers, especially women.  Many who know her describe her talent as being able to approach and handle any situation calmly, like a machine.


Tamaki Ayamoto:

In charge of the men’s clothing department on the second floor, Tamaki is one of the senior members of the staff, having even worked as an assistant to Makoto’s grandfather, the previous owner of the department store.


Misuzu Ayamoto:

A second year student working in the department store part time, Misuzu’s main responsibilities are assisting her mother, Tamaki. A cheerful and upbeat girl, Misuzu gets along well with most of the staff and is good friends with Tsukasa and Akira.


Shizuka Kisaragi:

The head chef for the department store’s Italian restaurant located on the fourth floor, and was hired due to her studying cooking in Italy. Has a fine sense of cuisine, but has a tendency to be blunt about things.


Nobuko Maeda:

In charge of the pet shop “Puni Puni” located on the fifth floor, Nobuko can be described as an animal lover (especially of cats) and is very devoted to her job. Despite her tomboyish personality,  Nobuko is very sociable and gets on well with both customers and colleagues alike.


Kurara Sanada:

Zeroshiki Department Store’s elevator girl, Kurara is very popular with the male customers due to her looks and voice as her duties also include giving information to new cutomers about the store.


Uzuki Bando:

The younger sister of Hayato Bando, one of the employees working in the women’s department store. Hangs around the department store as it’s a convenient place for her to meet her brother who she seems to idolize.


Rebecca do Monpal Nasu:

The daughter of one of the senior employees in the men’s clothing department, Rebecca is considered a protégé for having studied abroad at a prestigious university in the UK. Isn’t very good at socializing with others and is usually seen helping her father.

In Conclusion:

Shinsetsu Ryouki no Ori is overall a good, but very flawed, game. While its true ending is its biggest hiccup and the time management aspect can make things tedious, there is a lot to be appreciated from its interesting cast of characters, its 90s style artwork, and the many extra scenes one can unlock by simply exploring the store. I would say it’s worth getting should you happen across it on an import site, but be sure of both the price and the flaws I’ve mentioned before you get it.

Final Score: 6/10 Above Average

Author Recommendation: For fans only.

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