If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. ~Pearl Buck
Foreword: The culmination of the series and the biggest jewel Four-Nine ever produced. I'm late with the review since I wanted to finish recording video playthrough first.
Title: Canaan ~Yakusoku no Chi~
Synopsis: The fourth entry in the GaoGao series is set in the same post-apocalyptic world as the two previous games. In the future, a failed biological experiment caused widespread mutations, leading to a total separation of human civilization and the mutated tribes of "animal people". The events of the game begin shortly after the end of the previous installment. Human civilization is nearly destroyed; the remaining humans live in shelters, dreaming of the "promised land" Canaan, somewhere "near the end of the world", where there is enough food for everyone and where mutants can't enter. The game has two protagonists: a human boy who has lost his parents and who swears to himself to find Canaan, and Wolf, the mutant hero of the previous game, with his colorful female companions. Eventually their paths cross - but will they able to understand each other and bring peace to the troublesome world?..
Structure: 29 parts overall varying in length from 3 minutes to 2 hours.
Length: 15 hours
Game type: Command selection adventure
Difficulty: Easy and even easier than in before. No need to bruteforce all the commands to advance, dialogues are enough to proceed usually.
Character Design rating: 10/10
Protagonist rating: 10/10
Story rating: 10/10
Game quality: 9/10
Overall rating: 10/10
Rating comments: All the shortcomings of Gao Gao 3 are eliminated here: no more command bruteforcing, optional (and less painful gameplay-wise) H-events, story is not bounded to a strict structure, but feels as a natural adventure. I can't put 10 for quality since it's PC-98 game with no voicing, but besides that just perfect.
Protagonist: Same Wolfy boy (we're given official English spelling in the credits like that), but now also with a human boy Kite moving elsewhere in parallel with paths joining only by the end. Wolfy is same cool and optimistic person, but what's nice - there was a chapter of total despair even for him - that was a welcome character development to see. Kite is pretty much allusion to Gao Gao 2nd part protagonist - human boy who wishes to protect those he loves but fails to do that due to lack of power. "I want to become stronger" is his motto, but unlike part 2 here Kite actually becomes strong and at some point even assaults enemies on par with Wolfy - that was also a satisfactory character development.
Characters: I've counted 25 humanoid characters in the game, aside of definite side-characters. Only four of them are males: Wolfy, Kite, Blue, Pr.Kayne. All the allies migrated from Gao Gao 3rd safely with some new ones and old acquaintances. It's enough to mention that there are as many as 12 people in our party at the time of the final battle. Just as in Gao Gao 3rd whenever you meet some new person, a long quee of questions to him follows, so every character is very well depicted as we get to know their past, their status and their wishes. This way is much better than having lots of mystery characters and getting to know them bit by bit by their actions.
Enemies: are very cool. There are more guys with advanced tech and guns, there are robots, new war modified mutants. Just as before, human enemies are possible to negotiate with.
Story: Kite is a boy who lives in one of the sealed shelters and one day sneaks out from there to try to find Canaan - the best place for people to live - he read about in the books. Wolfy party gets out of the Underground this time and walks the picturesque landscapes. At some point they find Kite's shelter, read his diary and burn up to find this land of prosperity Canaan as well. Kite saves a girl Angela from the crashed helicopter and they go seeking her "Fur", someone very close to her but unable to remember because of amnesia. Wolfy party finds the angel/bird girl Fur in a different crash place and she needs to find Angela. Soon Fur gets kidnapped and the story slowly, but surely unwinds. The biggest part of the story takes mutual alienation of mutants and humans. And only little by little, one encounter after another both species stop thinking in black and white terms.
CG: There were much more CG compared to 3rd part. They are of better quality and overall make up for the rich story feeling. A lot of backgrounds are reused from 3rd part, but that seems natural as it's the same underground everywhere.
HCG: I'm pretty sure there are less H-events than in 3rd part and all the female characters excluding only some enemies get their own HCG. But what I really liked is that there are only two compulsory events with Rabby in the beginning of the game and in the end of it and one compulsory event of Kite with mutant girl Mira. Mira is by the way one of the main characters this time, party of Kite consists of three persons usually: Kite, Angela, Mira. Optional H-events helped me to concentrate on the story and build up more empathy for the main characters rather than struggle through all the side-character pretty random and not important H-events.
Sound: Only couple of old bgms migrated from Gao Gao 3rd and those are generic battle ones. All of the important battles, events and just actions have new much more elaborate midi melodies, which is really nice.
Themes: Most evident theme is definitely of Canaan. We tend to ask about Canaan every passer-by with both protagonist. What's Canaan? Will we be able to find it? See it for yourself, but the answer is very satisfying. Another interesting Canaan side-story is that of Prof. Kayne - but I won't spoil it here.
Another theme is that of coexistence. In Gao Gao 3rd there was not a single living human - only one human spirit Saison, but that was snobbish pc room maintenance specialist and he openly declared that mutants is the lower life form and has to be annihilated. By the start of Canaan both parties are ready to kill the other species enemies on spot and it takes a lot of effort to overcome that feeling. It starts from simple - "They can also be sad and cry" and goes all way through.
The third important theme is that of creators and creations. Are we responsible for life of those who we created? Should we treat them as luggage and just make another clone instead? This theme is covered mostly by Pr.Kayne sideline.
Another one is that of the reason of life. There are some suicides in the game and the gravest events happen because characters lose the reasons of their lives. Is it worth it to live on without the reason of life or is it possible to find another reason? Those are the questions raised.
Originality: Since it's direct continuation of Gao Gao 3rd there's not much originality here. But double protagonist story lines is a fresh move which really helps with the information overdose in the beginning.
Humor: I absolutely love the humor here. The old jokes don't have a strong presence, but occasionally show up and those moments are cherishable indeed. When a party of peddlers is asked whether they know about Ningen, they first take out a carrot, then green beans and then admit that they don't have any more vegetables reminding Ningen. Hit android with the pie joke is played out pretty cool too and the whole party was shocked that android did not stop functioning after that. The inventor of new meanings is only Iria now and she is hit frequently by Rabby, Leona and Dola because of that. Wolfy thoughts and comments are stingy as ever and the spirits in the party is always high.
Overall comments: This is a very rare beast. A serious grown-up story in postapocalyptic world with the best possible humor, dozens of well-developed characters and many important themes raised. What else can one possibly want? It feels like an epic RPG story on par with Legend of Heroes - Trails in the Sky, but with zero RPG elements. There are other games with interesting stories, but this unique party atmosphere is not to be rivaled in any pure visual novels to come further.
Foreword: I've noted the series quite long ago, but only when approached 4th final work decided to play the prequel that's directly connected with 4th part. Review of Canaan is coming a bit later.
Title: Gao Gao! 3rd ~Wild Force~
Synopsis: Wild Force is set in the same post-apocalyptic world as the previous entry in the GaoGao series. A virus turned most of the Earth's population into mutants, and human beings continued living in artificial cities, separated from the rest of the world. This time, the story is seen from the point of view of the mutants themselves (the previous GaoGao games had human protagonists). These look more like fairy tale creatures (half-cats, winged people, etc.), and continue living on the wild, dangerous Earth, keeping close to their respective animal tribes. The protagonist of the game is a young boy named Wolf, who belongs - you've guessed it - to the wolf tribe. One day, exploring the wilderness, he stumbles upon a strange cave with lurking monsters. Together with a girl from the rabbit tribe and other fantasy creatures, Wolf discovers an advanced civilization, learn of the existence of human beings, and eventually becomes a hero who saves the new world from a grave danger.
Structure: One route with 8 chapters.
Length: 15 hours
Game type: Command selection adventure
Difficulty: Easy. Scene advances after brute-forcing all the commands in all available locations.
Character Design rating: 8/10
Protagonist rating: 9/10
Story rating: 9/10
Game quality: 9/10
Overall rating: 9/10
Rating comments: I'd give it a perfect score, personally. But what keeps me from it is painful command selection brute forcing. Game is really long itself and did not need such extra longevity layer. Another minus is interactive H-scenes that can't be skipped and that take really much time with that painful scrolling up and down. Characters are cute and memorable, but in H-events they often have distorted faces, that's a bit unpleasant. Oh well, and since the game is for pc-98 only, it has only midi for sound. Otherwise, a perfect game with a perfect story.
Protagonist: Wolf boy Urfy. He admits that he's given the name just after his tribe name, so if English version existed, he'd probably be called Wolfy instead. He has face. He is rational, skillful in sword art, supportive, tries to cheer up companions even in difficult situations. And he tolerated that Rabby tsundere bunny girl (she's named Rabby after the rabbit tribe...) the whole game absorbing all her hysteria. He never imposed himself with women (with one small exception during interrogation). He's the perfect guy. He is really unusual and he leads the story without being pushed by circumstances.
Characters: There are really many characters in this game, so let's just present our most frequently met party members and enemies. First enemies.
Enemies are rather cool. You would not believe it, but there was just one enemy that was bitter alienated and the others had their own reasons and could be debated with words, not swords.
Allies are even more developed, of course. First we have baka twins Leona and Dora. They move usually as a separate unit and we constantly stumble upon them wherever we go.
In the right upper corner is our acquaintance throughout the whole game - Rabby. She is total tsundere, blushing and shouting all the time. She is also a spiritual medium and she's the first to hear sounds or perceive traps. She's not of battle sort and on this CG she only fights because she has spirit of Ilia controlling her.
Ilia is the warrior in the right lower corner. We first find her spirit that occupies Rabby body, but then occasionally get her old body. She's strong-willed, but reasonable. She's also breaking everything she touches.
In the left lower corner is Nise. She's a gluttony-obsessed coward who can not even fly. We find her in the second chapter and she has little utility serving as a cute girls who's often crying and is afraid of everything. But she finds her use in one of the last chapters.
Story: I'll give chapter titles with brief description of contents:
1) - Underground - Urfi stumbles upon Raby in a dangerous forest where people disappear and together they fall through the ground.
2) - Legend - The chapter takes takes place outside on the way to the capital city. In this chapter we save Nise as the only survivor of beast assault on the road. Then beasts attack and we fall underground and occasionally find Ilia spirit that embodies Raby.
3) - Resurrection - Capital city inhabitants takes us for saviors from legend and send us on a mission to recover the body of Ilia. After some adventures we succeed in that.
4) - Trap - Ilia is resurrected and we go to the village that was assaulted by the beasts. On the way back from it we get to the trap of one of the enemies. Next Ilia gets deadly wound by mysterious enemy.
5) - Ephemora - In order to save Ilia, Urfi with baka twins go to the witch Ephemora for ambrosia and after some adventures get it.
6) - Key - Time to get on a mission to save the world. The key to all mysteries lies under the temple where Ilia body was found. And underneath it is a high technology human ghost city where the answers to all the questions are found during next two chapters.
7) - Dark eater - no spoilers
- Blue - no spoilers
CG: Game was quite greedy for non-HCG throughout the game but under the credits roll it presented so many cool new CG that I'm ready to forget about that. I found great pleasure in graphics and non-HCG in this game. The game has its cruel and even guro parts with the whole villages massacred, heads thrown away from the bodies etc and I liked those a lot.
HCG: I've counted it and there are 19 H-events in the game. That's it! 19! And all of them are interactive that you need to constantly choose different commands. So each such event usually takes several minutes of your time. And I'd say that 60% of HCG weren't pleasant due to distorted face features. Girls in this game are very proactive. They sneak into Urfi's room the same day they get acquainted. I was so happy to note that there were as many as three girl characters who never took interest in Urfi... but by the last chapter there was only one minor girl character left without H-event and that was a boarding house host girl without a sprite who had a husband she run business together. All the other female characters sooner or later had H-event. There were two more girls free from his charms, but one was a zombie-android creature and another one was heavily wounded on meeting her and died withing two minutes. So I wish there were much fewer H-events.
Sound: There was only midi bgm. Quite nice bgm to not annoy during 15 hours.
Themes: This work is a concluding one for all the series (since there was no 4th part in plans in 1994). It has big involving story and gives all the answers to all the questions of this part and previous ones. What happened to the humanity? Who are mutants? Who are demon children? Who are Dark eaters? Who are Light Eaters? Everything is explained in last two chapters, so it's a very satisfying work designed to be a grand finale
Originality: This work is the origin of a new game genre - heartwarming party adventure. It is basically an epic party RPG that was stripped of absolutely all RPG elements and given command selection instead. There are a lot of battles in the game, definitely more than H-events, so over 20. And each battle is played individually, not through fixed commands. Commands vary for each battle and you can't move on till you brute-forced the needed commands. That makes realistic involving battles where most of the time you talk with your party members and the enemy and read in text as you advance or try to defend or invent some cunning strategy or even flee from battle. And this adventure is heartwarming because a lot of time is spend walking or attending city buildings where you mostly chat with your party members. That allows to develop really deep personalities and get to know everything of each other. Add here a very good text - it's very easy to read, it's involving and it has a lot of funny face animations and emotions.
Humor: Apart of jokingly inter-character interactions there are actually a lot of very funny humor moments that are events-based or repeats-based. Here's an example of an event joke: the party flees from an overpowered opponent and uses consequently all the secret items acquited from the city - first makibishi spikes but enemy only jumps over them (one of party members actually gets into them which adds the fun), then a smoke bomb, but it does not help much. Then we search the bags and throw a pie into an enemy and enemy leaves us alone for the rest of the day!
I adored the repeats-based humor moments as well. It's mutants world and when we first here word "ningen" (humans) party members give their variants. The coolest one was from Ilia that she ate it in salad - it's the red vegetable from the garden, a carrot (ninjin)! Then at the human secret facility we find a pc with an interactive chat program. The girl there calls herself Crazy-chan and to most questions answers "Don't know". To the question what is "ningen" she answers... a red vegetable from the garden! Ilia joyfully jumps up shouting I told you, I told you! Then Crazy-chan adds "That's a lie, actually" -Arr you little!!!
The story with repeats goes long much further. At one moment the party starts to guess meanings even of known words they stumbled upon in secret human facility. Security door asked a number and the party is already discussing. It said Nampa! How shall we get it with the door?! No, it said Member!
At one of the rooms we find the box of this developer's another game - Waku Waku Mahjong Panic! - we read the whole advertisement on the back of the box and get to discuss what Mahjong is. One of the variants is that it's the benefit that you gain after load is returned to you (margin). There are also cereals called Gao-Gao with a girl on it. I really liked these real world references without breaking the 4th wall completely.
Overall comments: I liked this game a lot. It has everything a masterpiece game should have - thrilling big volume story, great cute characters including enemies, absolutely fabulous text, humor just to my taste and the unexpected and most welcome shift from fantasy to post-apocalyptic sci-fi like early Might and Magic and Wizardry series. The important note about this game that its pc-98 rom is very easy to find and it runs with any anex86 emulator version. This emulator does not require to tune it in any way and game text is easily acquired by default ITH hook. Google translate with Translation Aggregator gives a very good translation after its upgrade in the end of 2016. So no need to be afraid of scary PC-98 emulation. Good stories know no aging and should not be forgotten.
Ruriiro no Yuki is the only masterpiece of March 1997.
The best year so far, actually. I really hope that I'll be able to say the same about every forthcoming year. 84 works during the year amounts for an average of 7 works each month - a very saturated year.
Let's prolong the chart.
There's roughly the same number of visual novels in 1996 as in 1995. Romance games are everywhere this year, especially in the second half of it where Windows games preside. First half of 1996 is quite traditional mixed pc-98 representation familiar by previous years.
Let's see what year 1996 brought:
Let's count the masterpiece level games of 1996:
Sixteen it is! Just note that some of the games are included for sheer concept originality or impact they made on further works. But the game of the year can't be just an important game. It should be the best from the best and definitely not a dating sim. Nothing stands close to a girl who chants love at the bound of this world, YU-NO. I played it some five years ago. Both the real world maze and the fantasy world beautiful ending are still vivid in my memory. It's a great adventure with most memorable characters and a huge impact. Hands off, the best work of Elf and it's probably the last time Elf hosts the game of the year. Windows era shall have its own champions.
Foreword: I hate bakage. And yet I'm reviewing yet another bakage. Why? Mostly because together with YU-NO, these are the last two works of the Great Elf/Silky's team, after that Elf is going to loose too many staff members and is going to rerelease old works for Windows, stamp eroge works alongside with slice of life works. No more crazy adventure spirit afterwards. It's a historical moment to visual novels industry. Oh and I liked the two hentai OVAs of it immensely back then. I'll assume everyone seen them since I'm going to compare these works.
Title: Be-Yond ~Kurodaishou ni Mirareteru~
Synopsis: When I woke up from the darkness, I learned that I was the legendary Devil of Darkness, that was said to have the power to destroy the universe.
The beautiful girls approach me one after another. My shout roars in space. When I pat a villain gently, he is discomposed into molecules... It seems that I have the power... But... am I really the Devil?
Structure: There are 10 chapters and the branching at 5 good and two bad endings happens only in the last chapter.
Length: 9 hours
Game type: ADV with small command selection parts and couple minigames
Difficulty: Moderate, actually. Without the guide I had no idea where the branching really happened and only achieved a bad end.
Character Design rating: 9/10
Protagonist rating: 9/10
Story rating: 6/10
Game quality: 9/10
Overall rating: 7/10
Rating comments: It's my firm belief that I can only overall 8+ if I can recommend the game to anyone. The point is that I can't. This is one of the best bakage ever with a good story, great protagonist and memorable characters. It's just that I can't get satisfaction from bakage, even if it's the best bakage ever produced. And this game can easily rival this status.
Protagonist: We don't get to know much of his past. He just woke up in the black demon form already. He remembers his name as Miyamouto Koujiro and he's definitely not a student. His actions are well-weighted. He's not aggressive since no weapon can pierce the armor of his body and most of aggressive actions he does unwillingly, just because someone else presses the joystick button - the joystick that manages his actions, even walking...
Characters: All the characters share the same route with the only branching in last 10th chapter, so there is little emphasis on individual relations. But each of those characters are your adventure buddies and they are quite memorable so are worth taking a glance on.
Ren holds a special place in the story. She's some kind of guardian and servant of the dark lord. She's the only female character that is not human. Her ending can be considered the true one since the dark lord keeps on going the old way, with only his servant on his side. She values the safety of her master the most and she lacks human traits for the most part.
Eva probably has the leading female role. From the start she gives a "battle" to the black demon ship and looses not only 90% of her fleet, but also demon's missile hits the planet and then another planet damaging the other 5 planets of the seven start solar system which whithin a month also explode... triggering the solar system to explode... damaging the nearby systems... and Eva has to pay for the caused damage for the number of years close to eternity. Within her little powers she does her best to pursue the dark lord and actually manages to catch up to him three times! First time she's getting close with him due to overdose of a medicament, but gradually starts dreaming of him. What makes her special is the amount of hardships she suffers in her quest, majority of baka events happen to her.
Fey is the third heroine we meet. She's a very poor bounty hunter without knowledge that the gun needs bullets or that there is a safety check. The crew saves her from one of the wild west style bounty hunter duels and she begs the dark lord to accept her as apprentice. She's a pilot of a huge mecha built by her uncle and sometimes is of use as such. Fey provides all the leftover baka events for the game.
Amelia is the princess of one planet, but she runs away from the wedding with unloved groom and seeks refuge at our ship. She's the boldest one and has the biggest number of H-events.
Chime is actually Amelia's mother (might be wrong on that) and the queen of some planet. She only has two plot H-events and not of much significance besides that. Kind and experienced.
Vermouth is the captain of the fleet belonging to Chime. She only has one H-scene and some miscellaneous use for the story. Hard-boiled knight.
Story: As in every bakage, story is not of much coherence. So we wake up from the noise that the surrounding fleet makes firing at us. Rei worries that it can bother our sleep and from the controlling gamepad launches a missile that destroys half of the universe. On the nearby planet we meet Eve who gets to know of dark lord's identity, picks up the gamepad and presses a button... which launches a missile that makes a huge hole sends her in the open space. Out of pity we teleport her back to the planet (without her clothes - it's a safety measure while teleportation as Ren says). Eve manages to find us two more times - not without the help of her super space police bycicle!
Afterwards we visit several more planets without any real purpose and help other girls on those planets. Nine and a half chapters of pure bakage and grew quite tired of it by the fifth chapter. Tenth chapter suddenly presents an enemy rivaling our powers and some serious development with deaths, blood, branching and bad endings.
CG: I've zero complaints about CG. They are numerous, beautiful and fun. What I especially would like to notice is that there are lots of full height models on CG which is so rare in today's VNs. Another flavor is the backgrounds. They are excellent with the most notorious are different planets backgrounds with lots of characters on them. They are drawn with love like on this screen.
OVA comparison: OVA ep.1 loosely retells chapter 1 plot - loosely because it misses on several smaller events. The major differences that in game there is one more Eve ship penetration on behalf of the dark lord, but the most significant difference is that in OVA Eve does not recognize the dark lord identity and spend the night with him, but in the game she does regognize that in the end and sets into pursue. OVA ep.2 starts with chapter 2 and mixes some 5 more chapters together inserting its own plot line. Those events actually take place on three different planets and it just tosses them together, hurriedly adds Chime H-scene and ends without any reasonable conclusion. The game's much more satisfying on both the adventure and the endings.
Sound: No complaints either. Lots of compositions of great style.
Minigames: There are actually two minigames in 10th chapter. One is faking an rpg with an ability to attack and defend and the other one is shoot 30 appearing targets in 40 seconds. I barely passed both of those mingames from the third try.
Overall comments: I can't remember a better bakage even from contemporary visual novels. It's possible to rant on characters and story, but it's essence is in baka events so I'm presenting CGs of some of them.
Foreword: I did not want to review it. But then I watched the hentai OVA of its preuel - Mystery of the Necronomicon (黒の断章 Kuro no Danshō) and it's a total blast. I highly recommend to watch it to everyone. A very memorable and bloody occult detective story. There was no anime version of the sequel, so I rushed in.
Title: Es no Houteishiki
Developer: Abogado Powers
VNDB link: https://vndb.org/v8874
Synopsis: "Es no Houteishiki" is the second game in the Detective Suzusaki series. The events described in the previous game, "Kuro no Danshou ~The Literary Fragment~", led to a series of suicides, but the case was believed to be closed. But Kusanagi, the young brilliant psychologist and assistant of the famous detective Suzusaki, has now to face his own past. The traces lead to a remote village, which has seen nine mysterious, unsolved murders in eleven years. Soon, Kusanagi discovers a strange religious cult, that might shed some light on his past...
Structure: One route without branching or dead ends.
Length: 4 hours
Game type: Point and click occult detective mystery.
Difficulty: Easy. Just need to aim at the mouth of the needed character all the time. There were like only 10 times when needed to click something else. And one screen that took me the longest is where I had to click at tiny triangle of pantsu to advance the story...
Character Design rating: 5/10
Protagonist rating: 6/10
Story rating: 8/10
Game quality: 5/10
Overall rating: 7/10
Rating comments: Story is not bad at all. The problem lies with the clustered systems, lots of unnecessary female characters and H-scenes and shallow characters.
Protagonist: Young psychiatrist Kusanagi. Nothing extraordinary besides that. We never see his face as if he's telling the story of Suzusaki detective from afar. At least he's of some use in this game - he witnessed some disturbing events in psychological facility eight years ago and those events now backfire.
Characters: There are too many useless female characters introduced for the main purpose of H-scene, I bet. Apart of that, it's the same cast, evercool Suzusaki, same two police detectives and cute secretary Asuka. Well... she's actually cute only the first time we see her as her sprite is more or less transferred from the first game. As for me, all the character designs and CG in this game are ugly, yet the drawing is very fresh. Maybe it suits the atmosphere of the game, but I can't sympathize with those weirdos. At least let me show you the cute Asuka the first time we meet her in this game.
Story: That's the most difficult part! Story is much more shallow that that of the prequel. And to cover that shallowness we constantly have to be distracted by slice-of-life fragments with some girls or H-events with them and when that's not enough we get to see the flashbacks from the past, mostly from that psychological facility 8 years ago. So the story starts as Kusanagi with his girlfriend come to a quiet ordinary town... that in the night becomes prostitutes town. Why oh why was such stupid move about prostitutes needed? Suzusaki bought a full building to establish detective agency here and we deal with a strange series of suicides. The victims usually open up their abdomen with a knife. Here's where Kusanagi memories show up ... first depiction of his activities in psychological facility and its patients and then strange behavior of some staff members followed by same suicides. The new present time suicides are especially strange because they happened at the very same time with different persons who never knew about each other's existence. Suzusaki is already a well-known occult researcher so he digs some disturbing stuff about one of the three legendary items from Amaterasu god that is rumored to be in this town. And I don't think I'll spoil much if I say that one of the psychological facility members is involved (since there are a big number of both doctors and patients there). So it really felt like Silence of the lambs when he seriously appeals to the fault of the government, accumulated DNA diseases and overpopulation to justify provoking suicides. And Kusanagi gets to remember previous talks to him - lots of disturbingly serious stuff to chew.
CG: The only full-screen CG are actually HCG with just maybe 2 ordinary CG for couple girls. The most important events are depicted on some 1/3rd of the screen just as usual backgrounds (character sprites go beyond the background so they are full-height) so resolution is poor and lacks immersion.
Sound: I really prefer midi sound. But here we get the usual .ogg or something. So music often starts at the beginning of the sequence, plays for some 2 minutes and goes down. For the rest of the sequence we get to play in total silence. That's not good. The game is not voiced... oh wait, there is exactly one phrase voiced - it's in one of the later scenes when there is imminent danger rises, Asuka cries "Oniii-chan!" and that's all.
Systems: I usually hate to speak about systems, but in this game it just has to be done. First of all, the game won't load correctly in win10. But we've got dxwnd to cover that, no biggie.
Second issue is that at least in win10 font is so bad that every character is only some 30% filled - we see different dots of it and usually can guess its form, but it may be just win10 issue, no biggie. We still hook the text and it's drawn as usual this way.
Game is point and click, but it narrows down to mouths hunting as characters sprite move. There were like only 10 occasions when I had to click on anything else rather than mouth.
The cursor does not change shape while moving on different objects... in fact it does not change shape ever and you have to point the ugly white small cursor everywhere!
For the first half of the game there are no interactive commands, but then Suzusaki tells us to move and explains us how to push at the border of the screen to invoke the menu for moving! Great - I thought - since I totally overlooked that mechanics! So in the second part of the game we can invoke that menu and push move... and guess what... we don't get to use it even once... and when I attempted to there was a usual commentary than I need to do something else rather than go away.
And the last - but not the least - there is a map of psychiatric facility in the game with a lot of rooms and initially we get a chance to come to every of those room and talk to its inhabitants. But this map is later used just once when we hear a woman's scream and need to find the source among those rooms! And when we found the source, we never ever get back to that map...
So there are lots of systems piled together and each of those system is crumbling and poorly designed.
Overall comments: As I already told, story is good. But Japanese reviewers promised falling back from occult matters in the realm of psychoanalysis and physics and that's barely true. What I see is the same occult stuff, just spiced with mental illnesses. ES should have only ment that inner chaos that is protected by the wall of consciousness. But in reality ES kind of also started to mean ESpers at some point. It should have been a story from the reality and in fact it involves too many surreal stuff. I can't blame the game or Japanese reviewers for that game was not fulfilling my expectations. If we look at it just as a sequel of Mystery of Necromonicon, it's a sequel worthy of its prequel and it should only be examined as direct continuation of prequel, not some original story with original themes. I rated this game quite poorly because of unnecessary slice-of-life episodes, useless spontaneous H-scenes, crumbling systems and poor character design and CG. But if those factors are overlooked we get a good story and I like good stories.
Foreword: I erroneously marked this game as eroge and now it's the time to check out what it's really about.
Title: Ushinawareta Rakuen
Synopsis: College student Kojima Kousaku is promised a high payment for assistance in scientific expedition on a southern island. However, a storm breaks out and the ship suffers a shipwreck. The crew gets separated and they start to search first for bed and food and then find a strange temple in the jungle.
Structure: Pretty much one route with minor branching.
Length: 4 hours
Game type: Mysterious island adventure.
Difficulty: Moderate. Several saves will lead you to some happy ending, although getting all happy endings will probably require a guide.
Character Design rating: 7/10
Protagonist rating: 4/10
Story rating: 7/10
Game quality: 7/10
Overall rating: 6/10
Rating comments: Game is thrilling and something constantly happening keeping you glued to the chair. So while playing it's totally fascinating, but the aftertaste is bitterish due to several shortcomings.
Protagonist: Usual college student, nothing really outstanding.
Characters: If we count only happy endings, they're only for the three girls. If count possible H-events, there are six characters. Characters seemed quite cliche to me - an active red-haired Ayano, a shy megane Yumi, professor young wife Shiori fills ojousama role, there's a blond american origin girl Monica and sexy mature professor secretary and partner Reiko, there's also the ingenious shaman girl Lira. They all share the same one-road story with minor branching leading to different girls happy ends - like go along the coast and that somehow means a happy end for Ayano, go by the forest and get the Shiori happy end. No meaning at all in that choice. Character design is great for all of them, but without voicing and with such small volume it's hard to start to feel sympathy.
Story: The story is depicted quite shallowly. First acquaintance is with the local flora that can cause various effects on eating and fauna presented by tentacle monster beasts, who rape some girl, but never harm anyone leaving peacefully afterwards. Then we discover the jungle village where professor holds supremacy. He throws the crew in prison and makes them to participate in a ritual ending being trapped in a cave with tentacle monsters. Professor boasts that three years ago he made the first contact with the villagers of this island and they agreed to assist him if he can keep the tentacle monsters away. Somehow he managed to lock most of tentacle monsters in a cave. But most important are special fruits that grow in this location and turn humans into beasts - professor is going to use them militarily later. The crew manages to find a way to the inner temple of the cave with some high technology ancient device inside as well as a mutated monster to oppose. And couple events later the end.
CG: The CG here are great but not too many for not a long game.
Sound: Music was actually great. Lots of memorable tracks. What was especially cool is some midi sound that resembles a cry a lot and it's used in all the situations when a girl is in danger and she screams loudly. At that time music stops and after that some dangerous music starts playing - really good sound support.
Overall comments: So game is thrilling, good-looking and memorable which is a lot. So here are the shortcomings the game is blamed for:
1. Heroines happy ends depend on quite a random looking choice and are difficult to get without guide. And those happy ends are a short talk and couple of HCG, not really satisfying.
2. The story is too short if all the 11 bad endings are cast away. So game has bad endings chasing in mind.
3. Repetitiveness of actions is big since heroines "routes" branch quite early.
To sum it up, game is short so it tries substitute volume with repetitiveness, fake happy endings, lots of bad endings and artificial rise in difficulty. Read it once to the end and get some happy ending and you're going to get a very good impression. But get all of three endings and your evaluation might fall as you get close to nothing for much additional effort.