Published by: Lump of Sugar
Release Date: 1/26/2007
This is a non-spoiler review of the game.
The basic premise of the game is that you’re Tatsumi Saku. Every last son of the Tatsumi family has always done great things, either a great novelist, painter, sculptor, whatever. Except for Saku; unlike his brother and relatives, he never managed to find his calling, and the fact that he’s apparently a failure constantly digs at him. Thankfully the writer doesn’t really grind it in your face all the time, just often enough that you know he’s got issues.
Saku comes to town of Koumeishi, the town that has never seen the stars. Clouds come in every evening, blotting out the sky, and has always done so for centuries. Saku comes at a time when the students of the city are in the middle of an event that occurs every 100 years or so, where 12 girls, each representing one of the western zodiacs, attempt to break the spell that hangs over the town.
The game is divided into two parts, the first part, which is close to a School ADV with foreshadowing, and the second half, which becomes a darker, more serious mystery where everything comes together. The first half holds all the choices in the game, and the second half is a totally unbranched (but quite long) ride on rails for each of the three girls.
The demo covers the first half of the game. More or less. Which is very surprising because I first played the demo expecting maybe 30-minutes to an hour of demo goodness, and lost most of a night because of its sheer length. There are more scenes in the first part of the actual game, and of course the choices determine which girl’s story you enter in the second half.
One thing to really note is that the v2.00 patch that was released recently adds in some new graphics to some of the stories, and in general seems to make things just a little bit nicer. So if you’re going to play, it is highly recommend you patch it before playing since it’d break all your saves (but not global “seen this picture/cleared the game” flags)
As you go through the first part, the mysteries surrounding the town grow, and pieces and hints of puzzles build up. The author seems quite skilled at writing interlocking mysteries, and each of the girls’ stories show yet another side of everything. The writer is also very fond of wordplay, and while it’s amusing and makes the mystery complex, to be honest, because I usually refuse to use a dictionary while playing, the games stretches my vocabulary beyond its limits, and since it’s quite long, I probably only really understand 70% of the story in its entirety if that.
But, onto the girls!
There are three main heroines:
The first girl you meet in town, you find her in your home upon arriving, and she’s cleaning, and she claims to be your wife, she’s also very direct and seems to show no emotion in her expression. Her lack of ability when choosing words is somewhat legendary in school, and she’s always upsetting Non by simply talking normally. She has a thing for calling people strange nicknames, She’ll call Saku “o-shuujin-chan”, Mememe “Mekake”, Tormai “Torimaki” etc. Still, she’s a good girl with good intentions at heart, and was voted #1 (tied with San) in the first character poll. Now she’s #2 =).
She’s the princess of the game, as well as my favorite character since the demo. She speaks in a somewhat archaic-y way, like a princess, is smart, polite, and early on seems to take a dislike to Saku. The most amusing thing is that she’s apparently so refined, she has trouble even saying simple insults to Saku to express her distaste at him. In her scenario, you get to find out what a truly great character she is. In the first character poll, she came in as a distant #3, but is the clear and away #1 in the second popularity poll. I feel vindicated.
Voiced by Hokuto Minami, who seems to be everywhere, she’s the rather mysterious fairy-like heroine of the game. Comes and goes in an eye-blink, trained Futami in her bizarre way of giving people nicknames. Always carries around a japanese umbrella that’s her namesake, and will pull foods (esp. steaming bowls of ramen) out of it like Doraemon’s pocket, and finish eating the food in a second. In general she gives the appearance of the kind sweet onee-san. She tied for #1 in the first vote probably because of her seiyuu, but now was beaten by a very small margin by Mememe, a sub-heroine. It’s not that her character was bad I think, just not particularly well liked.
And also 3 sub-heroines:
She’s in the same class as Saku and Futami, and is probably Futami’s closest friend. She’s very protective of Futami, and calls Saku out and beats the stuffing out of him early on, pretty much just because he’s supposed to be married to her. Most friends call her Meme, and she refers to herself as Ai. I didn’t like her voice all that much, but it sorta grows less grating after awhile. Character-wise, she’s a good one, always remaining faithful to Futami, whatever happens.
She’s follows Konome around and generally acts as Konome’s tame hound, though Konome is too polite to ever make Non go after people. But it’s why Futami calls her Torimaki. Her role in the game isn’t particularly profound, though she explains quite a bit during one scenario. Otherwise, she essentially serves as a place for Midono to hide behind in public.
Konome’s little sister. She’s a quiet and shy one, you barely hear her speak in public, and she’s always hiding behind Non. Until she’s alone that is. Then her much more assertive side comes out. Why that is exactly, gets revealed much later.
All the standard interface toys seem to be included, nothing particularly special that I noticed. The text box takes up the whole screen, and there’s lots of text, so it’s probably a good thing. 100 save slots, with free-commenting (Yay). You probably won’t even need all 100 slots, even if you make saves at major scene changes within all the stories.
The music is somewhat hit or miss. Some tracks are really nice. Some of the scary/creepy tracks, are quite scary and creepy. The vocal tracks are well done overall. But sometimes, the bgm doesn’t seem to fit. While none of the music is really badly done, sometimes it just feels a bit off and not fully unified into one theme I guess.
The mysteries bring in bits of western myth and legend, as well as bits of eastern legend. Magic and mysticism exist, and when things get creepy and messy, fights can break out (which are oddly exciting for just being text) and people can die. And while I suppose you could characterize the storylines as Jun’ai, the road there is sometimes long and twisty. Not School-days “I’m a slut that will sleep with anything that breathes” twisty, but more “Everyone’s in on something but me!” twisty.
Finally, overall, I do like this game quite a bit. Even though the mysteries of each of the stories are related. The order in which you clear them doesn’t matter much, because they’re still far enough apart, and an all-text epilogue after the all-clear cleans up a number of remaining issues. Futami and Konome are wonderful characters, and without spoiling the story, Futami gets lots of credit for her purity, and Konome deserves lots of love for her nobility. San’s story is somewhat weak, which is why she’s fighting with a sub-heroine for popularity. The various supporting characters in addition to the sub heroines are quite good also. Especially Futami’s two guards, a nutty swordsman who runs at the mouth, and a bald spearman who’s a model noble warrior.
So yeah, give the demo a spin, it gives a pretty accurate taste of what the game and writing style feels like. I didn’t really cover it here, but the game has a number of golden comedic moments in the first part, not so much the second, but that’s expected. The replay value on the game is somewhat low, since the story is on rails. But that’s fine for this sort of storytelling, and the story is complex enough that like a book you can come back to it and play it again without being too bored.
Oh, and since Konome won the popularity vote, and the most popular situation is “debating what to wear before a date” we’ll be seeing a pretty wallpaper or something soon! ♪