Since this specific title will be in the talks for quite a while, I thought that I'd do a 'review' on it.
Majikoi A-1 is the first of five Majikoi fandisks, released early 2013. It includes routes for Azumi, Benkei and a brand-new character, Yukie's little sister, Sayaka. There really isn't that much to talk about anything else except for the different routes. The music and art are mostly taken straight from S, with including more sprites for the heroines of each fandisk. There's also a new ending songs, with each heroine having a remix of the track. The specs are the same as in S, and the engine is the same all-around. I didn't expect anything new aside from the enhanced amount of sprites for the central heroines, as this is a fandisk. The quality of CGs seems to be better than in S to me, but that might be my imagination completely. There's also some pixelisation when character sprites zoom in, but that's minor and didn't really bother me.
From the looks of it, A seems to take the middle ground between the original and S, occasionally having more H-scenes than in your average fandisk and streaking them together, which isn't really good, but the routes are much better and focus on character interactions and development, as it should be in Majikoi. I honestly wouldn't want to repeat the borderline nukige that was Majikoi S, that had 48 H-scenes, so it's going in a new, more generalized direction. Let's start with the routes, shall we?
I'll start with the route I played first, being Sayaka.
Sayaka's route is the complete package for a standard feel-good route, and Sayaka's fun personality further enhances that. Sayaka's personality is, well, Mayuzumi. What I mean by that is she feels like Yukie's sister, being a closet pervert and all, but she also feels like her own character and not a cheap cop-out. She also reminds of Yamato in some aspects. In some aspects she's the polar-opposite of Yukie and she's genuinely worried about her sister never having that much friends and talking to a horse-ornament. She's just what a mature little sister should be, and I very much like that.
The basic premise of the route being that Sayaka came to Kawakami City in the summer vacation for two things: checking up on Yukie and getting her father to stop attempts at getting her married by finding either a stable relationship or by fake-dating someone. As he spends time with the Kazama family and after she drops the bombshell of having to find a 'boyfriend', Yamato helps her by becoming her fake-boyfriend.
The premise is, well, cliched. This trope is almost never done well and as it usually blooms into true love, it just feels like an excuse for getting character A and B closer. That happens here too, but in a lesser scale. The interactions before this lay a nice groundwork beforehand. When the eventual 'actual' relationship starts, it's nice and the 'problem' in the route doesn't feel like a problem, but still manages to bring tension in the route and Taisei is a great father-character. It's a shame that the route's rather short, or else it would've been much, much better. It had all it needed for a route-type I adore but fell flat because of the length.
Moving on to Benkei.
Benkei is amazing. The route's good, but Benkei is the star. Benkei's a fan-favorite from S, and we finally got what we wanted. As I adore Benkei, I might be a tad bit biased. Anyways, Benkei and her route could be summed up with two word: laid back. The route as a whole is much more laid back than majority of other routes in the franchise as a whole. There's no urgency, there's no huge 'problem', there's just a lot of romantic mush and of course, Benkei.
The story of the route is that Yamato became a 'member' of this Lazy Club, which basically is just Benkei, Yamato and Usami-sensei lazing around, eating snacks and occasionally playing shogi. That's it. Looking how the route progresses, we seew a new character, Musahi Bunta, a relative to Kosugi, or Premium Girl. He's nothing special and basically just acts as an obstacle to shorten the distance between Benkei and Yamato. Benkei also shows some signs of jealousy and this could be seen as out-of-character, but she's still a girl, so not really. The confession is sort of indirect and incospicuous, but considering Benkei's personality, that's for the best. The dating part is nice, nothing special except for super-moe Benkei. The route also shows a good grasp of Benkei's true strength, which was a little hidden in S. The ending shows how Benkei grows from being dependant of Yoshitune to becoming more mature, which is the best ending for Benkei's route I could've asked for.
From what I've heard, most think this as the definitive best route of A-1. Me, well, it's okay but definitely the worst of the three. Azumi's antics never really change, but shows more how Kukis' corporation really works, as well as giving Azumi's backstory more light, which I can appreciate.
The route starts off from when Yamato became Mon-sama's personal aide and helped them get closer. In other words, it continues from the 'Future with the Kuki Maids'. Yamato helps Azumi try and get closer to Hideo while he's still in love with Kazuko. Aided by Stacy and Lee, Yamato thinks of different ways of making Hideo fall for Azumi, but falls for Azumi himself. After Azumi fails to make Hideo fall in love with her, Yamato confesses to Azumi, gets rejected, and intiates a circle of confessions for years to come.
There is almost zero romantic development until the very end. The route also has three time-skips, which I can't really say is a good thing, as it breaks the flow somewhat, but the flow is rather chopped-up onwards from the first timeskip, so this really doesn't become a problem, sadly. Honestly, the route was really good all the way to the second time-skip and then it became a chopped mess. But on the other hand, we see Yamato finally becoming a competent fighter and rising in the ranks of Kuki servants. We also see a new character that Azumi has talked in some occasions, the chief of Fuuma village. He's basically a perverted old man and comical relief and nothing more, but that's fine. After when they do get together, there's no icha icha, just sex scenes, followed by more sex scenes. In my opinion, this route's charm is half about the Azumi/Yamato interactions and the other half about the side-characters, which are enjoyable and the time skips allow you to see some characters when they grow up and even Yamato getting subordinates. But even so, this route was pretty much a disappointment in my eyes. If it had continued from the way it left off at the Fuuma village, it might've the change of being much better, but continuous confessions, no romantic developments, chopped-up segments and no actual icha icha after the realtionship is established doesn't equal a good route. The only merit this route has is the side-cast and the novelty of being different.
My final score for the first installment is 7.4, or 7 if you want even numbers. Overall, A-1 is a solid start to this series of fandisks that gets dragged down by the slight quirks in the engine that remained unfixed and Azumi's route. If they smooth the rough corners the game now has, it could be one of the better fandisks around.