Published by Will/Propeller
Release date: July 24, 2009
Every year, I come across one or two games where I just know I want it the moment I see it. Right around January/Februrary, word of a new game appeared on the Tynwald Music thread on 2ch. The site had just been put up, and there wasn’t much in the way of information. There was was the opening page flash, and a staff listing. As far as game information goes, it’s not all that much, and more information would slowly be released before the final release date much later in the year. However, those two things were really all it took to decide I was going to buy this one.
Music by Higuchi Hideki (樋口秀樹) of Tynwald music one of my favorite composers from eroge, contributing music to some of my favorite games like Light’s R.U.R.U.R., Dear My Friend, and Tapestry, Palette’s Moshimo Ashita ga Harenaraba, and Sakura Strasse. Overall, if a game company decides to use Tynwald Music, I start paying attention since I’ve loved every one I’ve played.
Next, it’s written, directed, and produced, by Shumon Yuu (朱門 優) who was also the scenario writer to Itsuka todoku, ano sora ni. I had loved Itsusora, and was confident that the story would be as involved as the last time.
On the side, I also noticed that Kio Nachi, designer, and regular scenario writer for Nekonekosoft and Cottonsoft happened to get a credit for designing the logo.
The OP flash movie then sealed the deal. Beautiful music woven with gorgeous graphics of autumn and scenes that remind me strongly of Kyoto. The art was spoken for, the music and scenario were down solid, I knew I was going to preorder this game. All that remained was waiting to see what the tokuten came with.
Later, the casting list came along, and they nailed the cast choices too. With that, the last thing that could have possibly turned me off to the game had cleared without any complaint.
At some point, the OP movie also came out, adding to the high expectations for the game:
The premise of the game starts off simply, as Sasamaru Suu, you come to the Yumemidori-gakuen a famed school of the fine arts set off in a remote mountain area as a student. Waiting for you in the class are 3 girls, Hiyo Kumigami, Araragi Yumeno , and Harutsuge Kashi. As children, the four called themselves the “Shikunshi” (四君子) and were really close, but as when Sasamaru had to move away, they drifted apart.
Coming to the school, Sasamaru holds hopes of rejoining the group, not knowing that everyone had drifted apart in his absence. But upon learning that, he looks ahead, towards rebuilding the bonds that held them together.
Suu Sasamaru (崇笹丸 CV: 木島宇太) – A voiced protagonist, a somewhat rare and surprising move in the world of eroge. Overall I have little complaints about the voice, other than I get flashes of K1 from Higurashi anime in my head. Is the “king” of not noticing the romantic intentions of others in the game, calms himself down by reciting useless bits of trivia to himself. Has many faults, but is absolutely dedicated to protecting and supporting the Shikunshi.
Kumigami Hiyo (与神ひよ CV:青山ゆかり) – Daughter of a famous family of doctors, is extremely polite and always speaks in the very polite desu/masu form. Always calls Sasamaru “dannasama”, and is always thinking about supporting and serving him, essentially being almost like the perfect wife. Occasionally she’ll show her more stern side, primarily to Harutsuge as punishment for jokes going too far.
Yumeno Araragi (夢乃蘭 CV:有栖川みや美) – Bright, cheery, sunny girl with the name that’s an obscure reading of the more common “Ran” for orchid. Generally she’s the moodmaker of the group, often serving as the Tsukkomi to Harutsuge’s Boke, and spraying sunshine everywhere. The only problem is that she has this weird obsession with doing things a certain way, the same way that old men do things… so most people in the game occasionally describe her “ossan”. She hates being called that, but there’s no stopping the truth.
Kashi Harutsuge (樫春告 CV:さくらはづき) – The 1 year older “big sis” type character of the group. But not in the kind Onee-san sort of way, more in a joking kind of way that’s closer to being the “Best friend” character in other games. The one who’s usually male and makes all sorts of off-color jokes.
Waka (若 CV:真中海) – A mysterious girl that works for the student council. She loves milk tea, a lot. She even has a song about it.
Coming from Itsusora, I had a good idea of what to expect coming into Asairo. I knew that there’d be lots of wordplay and bizarre trivia. I knew that the demo was going to be ridiculously long (I took something like 4-6 hours playing that). Also, in the same vein, I knew that many of the things in the story held small hints to the deeper mysteries that would appear later in the game. All of that was true, but it didn’t quite prepare me for everything that unfolded in the story.
One of the surprises that spawned a huge (and apparently angry) stream of threads on 2ch is that Asairo is a 1 route game, and I finished in about 15 hours, give or take (I had passed out from exhaustion here or there, so it was hard to keep a count). Within that route, there are a total of 3 ero scenes, which angered even more people. (As a side note, the box of the special LE “Goukaban” version had absolutely 0 ero graphics on the box). Even Shumon’s blog on 5/24 when the demo had been released had said that it was a “Hiyo-game!”
Being a big fan of Aoyama Yukari, I certainly had no objections to playing a game centered around her character, especially if it was well written, but many other people apparently wanted finishable routes with the other girls, Waka in particular. Those Kazan—I mean, milk tea fanboys…
There is a small number of choices in the game, most of which branch the story briefly (maybe 1-10 minutes each) and rejoin the main branch of the story quickly with no appreciable effect. There’s perhaps one that leads to a CG that otherwise wouldn’t appear. Finally there’s a small handfull of choices at the end of one chapter that could lead to a Bad End.
The game itself is divided into 4 chapters. The first being essentially what the demo is, with some minor upgrades/enhancements. It introduces the characters, presents challenges to the characters and also introduces the central mysteries and themes
The second chapter is easily the longest of all the scenarios, providing much of the backstory to many of the characters. It’s a rousing emotional roller coaster, with intense, gripping scenes as well as great comedy.
The third chapter acts something like an “explanation chapter” as all the pieces of the puzzle comes together, while the fourth an epilogue.
Hiyo-game! That’s pretty much the core of it. As an Aoyama Yukari fan, not to mention a Hiyo fan, I have no problems with that whatsoever. I’m sure there are people who will dislike the game because they can’t finish with any of the other girls. During the character popularity voting, Hiyo won, barely craving a tiny lead over Waka.
In either case I’m not sure how the game would have unfolded if it had multiple branches. They could have created one for Araragi probably, considering how the demo turned out. However, the other characters? I can’t see it. The centerpiece themes of the game is “Kindness” and the bonds that tie people together. Love, friendship, kindness, respect, rivalry, family, in many forms, their good sides, and their darker mirror images. To paint that picture, all sorts of characters and relationships were needed.
There were plenty of scenes where I would marvel at how sweet and dedicated Hiyo is, sat on edge or cried while watching the climax of a story arc, took screenshots to bait friends on IRC during comedic bursts like Harutsuge-Araragi manzai routines.
They pretty much nailed the casting. The lead characters all just fit naturally, and even without Aoyama’s stereotypical tsundere role, she makes a wonderful Hiyo. Arisugawa Miyabi’s Araragi is frequently case as loli+genki characters, and does her tsukkomi role perfectly. Harutsuge’s CV has a “new” actress name, but fits nicely with her boyish Onee-san lines. Waka’s voice by a rather popular actress goes from cute, to cold and ドＳ and back again, not to mention singing a bizarre song about milk tea. Kaibara Elena plays a wonderful “Blue Sister” that hits the over-the-top character lines. The younger of the Blue sisters annoys me in that I can’t figure out where I’ve heard that voice before. Even Miru does a short unnamed appearance in some flashback scenes. Even the male cast was great, though I can’t for the life of me remember their names, they’re all recognizable voices.
The music is wonderful, and I’m happy I preordered the Goukaban which included a soundtrack that has about 2/3rds of the music in the game. The full OP, short versions of the insert song and ED songs, then a selection of the BGMs. The music has a very traditional feel to it, with many parts featuring violins and flutes. All the music is used to great effect in the game, highlighting the emotional tone of the scenes. Also, there weren’t any points where I had strongly felt that the music choice was wrong or intrusive. Unless you count incidents like in Moshiraba where there were times when the BGM is so good you wind up idling around listening to it for a few loops.
My only complaint is probably that the game could have been longer at the end. That’s not to say that the pacing was bad, it always kept moving forward, either entertaining you with comedy, or feeding you measured hints to chew on as you tried to puzzle out what was going on. What I would have wanted was more time with the characters in general. Much like Itsusora, it was just fun watching the characters go back and forth. So in the end, it would have been great to have more of the comedy scenes.
Anyways, the demo is free to play! It’s also ridiculously long and gives a very good sense of how the game flows and works. Just reserve yourself a whole night or so and find out for yourself. The only thing you’d miss is the opportunity to get a set of the oversized stick posters that came with all preorders… They’re in a high quality plasticized stock, and on top of that, much of the black ink is that stuff that turns transparent when warmed with your hands.
Too bad they’re too big to fit in my binders, I don’t have any place to put them so they’re back rolled up in their box now…