I think the PS Vita version added new scenarios + CGs, voice, glossary, a clock function…? Please keep in mind that this review is for the PC version.
I need to say this in advance – playing this game reminded me why I don’t play historical-setting games. I looked at a dialogue like that screenshot and I just… gave up. So many kanji which I couldn’t understand… so I gave up on trying to read them and just filled in the gaps myself. So beware of wild inaccuracies in my review.
Shunka was raised to be a sorceress (for lack of a better term) by one of the best sorcerer in the country, Eishou. The sorcerer/sorceress in this country was bound by a rule – they could only show their face to the master they served, and the master’s orders were absolute. Traditionally they pledged their loyalty to the emperor as they were tools to be used to serve the emperor and the country, but Eishou decided to do things differently this time: he ordered Shunka and her fellow sorceress-in-training Kyoukou to go out into the world (normally they’re not allowed to go outside their school/residence) and find a master worthy to pledge their loyalty to. In a country beset by unrest, it wasn’t long before Shunka and everyone she knew got involved in the turmoil to decide the future of the country.
…this is probably the first game I played where they gave a proper justification for not showing the heroine’s face in event CGs (until near the ending anyway). At least she had a cowl on, so she didn’t look like an eye-less ghost from your nightmares…
To put this out of the way, I’ll say upfront that I can’t remember anything about the music. It wasn’t memorable to me, but it wasn’t bad either.
- Oumei: Probably the poster boy of this game. Prince and current heir to the throne; polite, gentle and determined to take the throne from the Royal Regent for reasons unknown to “set things right”.
- Rakusen: Basically the head of the country’s equivalent of yakuza – very well respected by his men and in return was fiercely protective of them. A serious man of few words who valued loyalty highly.
- Shoukyou: A jack-of-all-trades who took on various jobs in return for money. Kept his distance from other people and would rather not be involved in anything troublesome. Loathed sorcerers and its kind.
- Kohaku: An up-and-coming soldier with a dislike for spirits. A kind young man who had been caring for his younger sister and who only wanted to make her happy. A formidable fighter.
- Eishou: A great sorcerer who pledged his loyalty to the Royal Regent. A clumsy, soft spoken man who took in a bunch of orphans under his care, training them to be sorcerers. He is also Shunka’s adoptive father.
- Kyoukou: A fellow sorceress-in-training who grew up with Shunka. Her parents were both sorcerer/sorceress and when they failed to return one day Eishou took her in. A hard worker and dependable older sister figure for Shunka.
- Habari (non-capturable): A spirit whom Shunka summoned by mistake, who then proceeded to declare himself(her?) as Shunka’s guardian.
The order that I played was: Kohaku -> Oumei -> Shoukyou -> Eishou -> Kyoukou -> Rakusen. I had intended to get Eishou and Kyoukou first, but to open their routes you needed to finish Shoukyou… and to get Shoukyou you needed to finish Oumei/Rakusen first. Hence the order above.
It was actually a bit strange – all of the routes (except for Kohaku) were kinda linked to each other. One route would reveal more of something mentioned in a different route etc (except for Kohaku), slowly revealing the big picture… and due to the way the plots are revealed, I’d recommend playing the game in this order: Kohaku -> Oumei -> Shoukyou -> Kyoukou -> Eishou -> Rakusen. But not because Rakusen’s story tied up the plot or anything, but because Shoukyou’s and Eishou’s stories answered the biggest questions, I was pleasantly surprised when I reached Rakusen’s story to discover that there’s still surprises to be had.
The story, I thought, was executed well. Each of the story was a complete stand-alone and I didn’t feel like there were major unanswered questions when I finished a route.
The characters were actually pretty good – ie., about the only character I couldn’t get to like was Eishou because I… couldn’t get over how creepy the entire thing was. Like, dude, she’s your adopted daughter, how about not wanting her in that way…? In terms of characters, my liking starting from the most: Rakusen -> Oumei -> Shoukyou -> Kohaku -> Kyoukou ——–> Eishou. Romance was OK – not a lot of raburabu moment but given the turbulent setting I’ll give it a pass.
The game was divided into 2 parts – common route and individual routes. The common route is where you get to decide on whose individual route you’ll enter, as well as what personality you’ll have (more on that in a bit). The individual routes are roughly the same length as the common route (with the exception of Kyoukou and Eishou), and the individual routes are truly unique to the character – no shared event with another character etc. I was pretty happy about this as it meant I could skip through the common route fairly quickly.
Now, the system is where this game gets very interesting. During the common route you’ll have questions with 5 answers to choose from. Each of these answers will increase a particular element, which in turn determines what sort of personality Shunka will have, which in turn will affect the dialogue (but not the flow of the story). The personalities are:
- Fire / passionate: Very spirited, and her dialogues will contain references to “defending justice” and all that. Probably similar to the main characters of shonen manga.
- Water / quiet: Doesn’t say much and always appears disinterested. The closest comparison is probably Rei Ayanami.
- Wind / …airhead: Always says the wrong thing… all the time. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy playing as this personality, but the other characters’ reactions to her responses were hilarious, and it made an otherwise serious game entertaining.
- Light / …standard?: This is your standard shoujo heroine(kind, gentle etc), so there’s nothing much to say.
- Dark / sharp-tongued (ore-sama?): This was pretty interesting – she’s kinda like an ore-sama minus the male possessiveness part. On the downside, you can’t feel much romance from her responses, but I guess you can’t have everything.
Additionally, you can check your affection level and buy spells any time – just right-click to open the menu. The one highlighted in the screenshot is for buying spells, and the one right above it is to check your affection level, as well as what element you’re heading for/strongest. It made it very easy and quick to check. Plus whenever you pick an answer the game shows you which element you’ve increased. Additionally the game also shows when you’ve gained affection or spiritual power… kinda made it easy to attempt playing without a guide.
Each character got around 10+ CGs (except for Kyoukou). But even that count is rather… inconsistent. A number of the CGs only had slight variation (ie., eyes or mouth) but each CG took up a slot in the gallery. I said inconsistent because… for example, Oumei has ~13 CGs in the gallery. If the variations aren’t counted, then he has ~12 unique CGs. Kohaku has 11 CGs – if you don’t count the variations, then he has 6 unique CGs… There are some chibi CGs as well, those were pretty cute.
Another part of the system I like – the recollection. Once you’ve finished a route, the game lets you view any of the scene you’ve seen, and lets you pick the element you want to be. Liked a particular scene and wondered what it’d be like if you’re playing as the air-headed Wind element? Yep you can go and do so without having to replay the game from the start. Also the game lets you skip any battle you’ve previously won – made skipping the common route faster. I wish more games would do this…
Throughout the game you’ll also get options that doesn’t affect the guy’s affection or increase your elemental alignment – choosing the right answer for these options would grant you spiritual power (for lack of a better name – I really don’t know what to translate this as). You use spiritual power to buy spells or upgrade your spells. There are 5 elements: fire, water, wind, light and dark. Each of them has 3 different levels, and it doesn’t really matter which one you’re going for. Even though the game said it had the whole water beat fire, fire beat wind thing going on, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. For a particularly troublesome battle I tried saving prior to the battle and buying different elements but I still lost anyway so… Also, when you lose a battle the game would ask if you want to retry, but doing so will decrease your spiritual power so I recommend saving often before battle.
Theoretically, if you never lost any of your battles (except the ones designated by the storyline), you’d have just enough spiritual power to buy all the spells you need (as long as you concentrate on buying just 1 element). The spells cost 300 for Lv1, 500 for Lv2 and 1000 for Lv3. And there’s this one other spell that also costs 500, but I’ll get to that later. Also, the number on the top left shows how much spiritual power you currently have (in the screenshot, I have 0).
The battle system might looked complicated at first, but actually it’s just a standard RPG. Kinda. Near the bottom of the screen you can see the coloured orbs – that’s your health and you’ll lose when that goes down to 0. Below that you have an action bar at the bottom of the screen and you take action the moment that bar is full (100%). Each action/spell will consume a different amount of action bar. If I remember correctly, a Lv1 spell will consume 50% (so you can select Lv1 twice), Lv2 will consume ~70% and Lv3 consumes ~90%. Once you can’t do anything else, you pass the turn (in the screenshot it’s the only button available on the right) and it’s the enemy’s turn to attack you. When the enemy’s finished, both of your action bars will fill up – sometimes at the same speed, sometimes at different speed, depending on the enemy. Whoever fills up his/her action bar first can immediately attack again. For example, if your action bar drops to 30% and your enemy’s drop to 10%, there’s a very good chance your action bar will fill up first, letting you attack the enemy before it can attack you – and sometimes that’s all you need to win. Also, in that screenshot, Fire Lv1 (left-most column) was the only spell I could use as that’s the only one I’ve bought.
Note that the top right button in that screenshot was disabled – there are times in the story where your chosen guy would join you in the fight – in which case the top-right button would be enabled and you could swap who’s fighting. A gimmick since it’s only available when the storyline said so, but one of Shoukyou’s bad ending could only be reached if you swap to Shoukyou immediately the moment the battle starts and finish the battle without Shunka attacking the enemy, ever. But I think that’s the only instance where that tactic was used to get one of the ending…
If you are thinking of playing this game I have one valuable advice for you – let me tell you the story from the start. I finished Kohaku’s and Oumei’s route with no problem – sure some of the battles I had to reload since I lost, but usually I could win the battle by keeping track of the action bar and making sure I always attacked the enemy first. Then I played Shoukyou, and in the middle of the individual route I encountered a battle which I… simply. Could. Not. Win. I tried buying spells of a different element; for half an hour I tried attacking the enemy every which way trying to make sure that I would always be attacking first… and I still couldn’t win. I tried to look for a patch, thinking maybe it was a bug that’s since been patched… no luck. I tried googling because suuuuuuurely someone out there would had the same problem I did… nada. I got so frustrated that I stopped playing this game and played something else instead.
Until I decided to give the game one more go… and noticed a spell I could buy which I never paid attention to before. WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE AN EFFING HEALING SPELL (凸ಠ益ಠ)凸 It uses up 100% of your action bar, but it heals you completely (╬｀益´) …so that’s your valuable advice right there – this game has a healing spell (＃`Д´) And during battle the option to heal is the bottom-right button. …that’s the other spell that costs 500, in case you’re wondering.
Long story short – was a pretty good game despite me not being able to read those kanji. I wasn’t expecting much so I was pretty pleased. If I hadn’t played this I’d probably buy the Vita version – but having played the PC version, new CGs and scenarios (and seiyuu) aren’t really enough to make me drop $$ for the Vita version. Not when I have other games to buy…
EDIT: I just realised that none of the thumbnails linked to the media file… should be fixed now.