Here it is, Nekoneko’s final game. Scarlett. It’s been about 7 years since the start of NNS, and now it’s come to an end.
From the start, during development, we were told that the game would be something different from the feel of their previous works, and as little bits of hints and eventually the demos released. We learned that it’d be some kind of globe-trotting cool spy-movie like theme.
Of course, this isn’t the first time NNS has written a spy story. On their various fan discs that they’ve released over the years, there’s been very short joke series starring a character “Kensanburo” who is a detective that lives on a yacht and takes cases from silhouettes of varios NNS girls. The names of the girls are variations of the actual names of the girls, like Yuki might be Yukiina. Anyways, the cases solved are always crazy, over the top parodies of the old black and white detective shows of old.
But, back to Scarlett. The game is divided into 4 major chapters, with handful of prologues, interludes, and epilogues. I don’t know why only a few companies bother to do this, but the game is naturally divided into smaller chapters (about 10ish each) that you can come back to revisit at will. Each chapter, when completed, offers a very short synopsis in case you’re replaying the game and you’re looking for a specific part.
The game is definitely a visual novel, in the sense that the story is more or less on rails, and there aren’t that many choices to make which have an effect on the game. Personally, I like the VN style of portrayal more (searching m-trees annoy me somewhat at times). I read fairly slow, so it took me about 2 nights, maybe 8-10 hours to finish the main story all the way through. Not terribly long, maybe even a bit short, though I’m not a good judge at these things.
The story resolves around a pretty large cast of characters, but our two heroes are Betou Izumi Kurou Scarlett, the blond half-japanese super-spy of the Scarlett family, and Akito (he has a surname, it’s just not really important enough to remember), a young japanese relatively talented rich kid who yearns for something more in his dull life. Various events happen, and we find Akito crossing the line between what the game calls the “ordinary world” and the “extraordinary world.”
Heroine-wise there’s Bettou Izumi Shizuka Scarlett… Shizuka’s the tsundere of the bunch, speaks quickly, and loves to fly her little private helicopter. She also really looks up to Kurou.
Then there’s Amelia Weeksite, young, swiss, has mousse green hair according to her dossier, (how, I don’t know) and a computer and mathematics genius. She’s also the “ponkotsu” (the clumsy scatterbrained chara) of the game. During the development of the game, there were a bunch of jokes putting her on a scale of the various Ponkotsu characters, with Magical Hiyorin all the way at the top. She’s about midway up on the scale, not a total disaster, more just sheltered.
Next, Hayama Mitsuki, spends alot of her time as Kurou’s support, she’s usually quite straight laced, until she takes a few sips of alcohol. Then she’s drunk, abuseive, demanding, and generally uncontrollable in an amusing way. Since she’s 28 when you meet her, one of her lines is “Seefu! Giri-seefu!” (Safe! Just barely safe!)
Finally, there’s Irika Heilmann, blond, german, generally sweet and kind girl. Good at housework, and cleaning according to he character description. Yeah.
Finally, to business. How was the game?
Story-wise, some people were sorta disappointed overall. I wasn’t holding any particular expectations, so I was fine with it. Nekoneko’s strength was always in two types of stories, touching, sometimes slightly bittersweet romances, like those in Mizuiro, Ramune, or Sa-na-ra-ra, or full on serious, more tragic tales, like Gin’iro and Aka. (They’re also rather good at totally senseless omake stories, but that’s something else entirely.) Spy thrillers? They’ve never done it before, so who knows how it’d turn out. Overall, I’d say that the scenario writers aren’t practiced at writing political intrigue. Usually it’s not too bad so you don’t mind the occasional plot hole or weirdness. Sometimes it does pop out at you though. Ah well.
All the chapters have a good amount of spy-y stuff in them, but the first two chapters probably had the most. But the first two chapters have more focus on that sort of thing than the last two.
The third chapter is my favorite though. Core competency returns! Love, drama, tragedy, redemption, all those good things that NNS does well return. There’s a bit of politics and spy stuff in the chapter of course, but they take a back seat.
Then, there’s the fourth chapter, which IMO does an okay job at pulling the story to a close, nevermind the occasional physical impossibility involved. _
After all is said and done, there’s still the section that just about every NNS fan was excitedly waiting for. The final Omake mode that will be released. NNS Omake modes hold a special place in their games because all of their games are fairly deep love stories of one form or other, so there isn’t a whole lot of room for the staff to let their more bizarre and wacky tendancies show through in the main stories. Because of that, the Omake modes in their games, bonus discs, even drama cds scenarios, lets them have lots of fun with much loved characters. I’m fairly sure everyone was hoping that their favorite characters from previous games would come up one last time.
So, what do we have here? First, everything that was on the 300mb NNS “Puchi-fandisc mitai na no” download that they made available was included, just because. So we from there:
- Sa-na-ra-ra another episode, featuring Higuchi, as well as an H scene for her.
- the “Scarlett” preview promo (but not the actual Scarlett introduction)
- a Sa-na-ra-ra Nozomi H
- a Ramune Nanami H
- a short Ramune piece
- that really strange mini game involving managing a feudal japanese kingdom.. that involves aliens and really old-looking blocky 3d character renders.
Aside from that, we have, in no particular order:
- A new Mizuiro story, where all the girls come together one last time to help out at a crepe shop.
- A story and H of Sakura, the new character added to the PS2 version of Ramune.
- A short story with the 120Yen sisters.
- Another Sa-na-ra-ra short.
- The final chapter of the long side story “Issho ni” featuring a continuation of the (new) Hiyori scenario from the DC version. It had been released in installments very slowly over the years on various Omake.
- one last Yuki H scene
- Some final words from all the voice actresses past and present.
- A very short speech by Hiyori and Yuki
- A H story of Suzuka from Ramune
- The ever present staff room commentary
- And last, hidden away in the ‘boss key’ easter egg in some H? scenes, is my favorite omake: an unvoiced little section featuring a night in Sasai-tei, with Yuuna, a.k.a. Nee-chin, as the owner and absolute mistress of the parallel dimension. At her side, it’s Ginko, heroine of Gin’iro chapter 4, and Fou of Aka chapter 3. She makes totally irrational demands, shouts, abuses, kills. Quite amusing.
And then, finally, after all is done. NNS, on July 20th, uploaded a 200mb patch for Scarlett, containing voice acting for all major male characters! And of course, the voice of Kurou happens to be the same as Kensanburou. Too bad there’s no occasion where he says the classic line from the detective series: “Doshitan dai, konieko-chan?”
The voice patch is rather nice, you need to have the previous small update patch installed already, but otherwise installs in a flash. It breaks previous save files, but collected CGs, and chapter clears aren’t touched, so it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Loading an old save file crashes the game, so just go and delete them. Also, Akito’s voice is off by default, so you’d probably want to turn it on. Thankfully, there’s also a “Turn off all male voices” button, as well as a “Turn off male voices during H scenes” toggle. Nice feature, that.
Finally, there’s one final Omake added to the chapter menu. A short, unvoiced little piece that acts something like one more epilogue to the story. It wasn’t particularly necessary to wrap up the game, the ending was already pretty satisfactory, but it certainly adds a little bit more “well, it’s over” feel. It doesn’t really add anything you didn’t know already, but it lays things out in the open a bit more.
Music-wise, the game is classic Nekoneko. I always like their music direction, with scores from houses like Elements Garden, and for the first time, a KOTOKO song. This time, a lot of the tracks aren’t the usual melodic pretty stuff that was in previous games, but a more bassy, cool rhythmic slightly jazzy sorta feel to it that just fits very nicely.
The art was pretty as expected, everyone’s back to more normal proportions, as opposed to the overly loli designs of Sa-na-ra-ra.
So, all in all, I was happy with Scarlett. It’s got it’s flaws, but since I wasn’t expecting them to do a new thing very well on the first shot, I wasn’t too disappointed. And chapter 3 makes me want to forgive alot of things.