Ryuusei World Actor is the latest VN by the up-and-coming plotge and chuunige specialist company, Digination, under its subsidiary Heliodor. This company's games so far have been somewhat unpredictable and unbalanced in my experience, with a great deal of ambition and not quite enough talent to pull things through completely. I say this from the point of view of a long-time chuunige/plotge addict, and from the perspective of a person that has played two of their games to the end and sampled two others.
Moreover, this is a Kinugasa Shougo game... his first since the second Reminiscence game (which is probably why Tonari no Shoujo never got released, the whimsical jackass that he is). The bits and pieces of Kaito's worst qualities seen in Ruka (the protagonist of this game) make it pretty obvious who wrote this game, as do the way the endings are handled.
This game is based in a world where dozens (literally) of sapient species coexist (in the sense that they are alive, though their countries war against one another constantly) in the only nation that accepts all races, as well as the only nation that has achieved a high-tech civilization, The Seventh Federation. The protagonist, Ruka, is a low-ranking detective with a lot of bad habits who gets on just about everyone's nerves (including the readers' at times). He rarely admits when he is wrong, complains when things don't go perfectly his way, uses numerous illegal sources, and generally makes every other cop look good in comparison (even the ones who take bribes). That said, when he wants to be, he is quite capable... even ingenious. Unfortunately, that is coupled with a lack of motivation except when cornered, a tendency to get involved with incidents his superiors don't want investigated, and a fundamentally amoral ethos to getting things done.
In other words, except during a few moments when he shows his true colors, he can be a constant irritant to vicariously experience, simply because the reactions of those around him are almost entirely negative and his attitude is bad enough that you can't blame them.
This game is not ladder-style, unlike many of the previous games by this company. Rather, it utilizes a classic (though I don't necessarily consider classic a compliment) structure where you must experience the three sub-heroine routes before you can see the true route (Claris's route).
The heroines in this game include Claris, the protagonist's naive rookie elven partner; Chiffon, a Seguit (think inhumanly strong barbarian race) with a strong sense of honor who is living on a shoestring budget because of her easy-to-fool goody-goody personality; Mel, the princess of a primitive human nation of powerful warrior-mages who is in hiding; and Komachi, a female traffic cop who is constantly going to mixers in hope of finding the perfect guy.
The common route, as is common in most VNs, serves as an intro to the characters, their personalities, and their circumstances. It is often humorous (well, I found it so), though there are just as many serious moments due to the nature of Ruka's job... and his bad habits. To be honest, I found the common route serviceable, but it also shares a complaint I had throughout the VN, from beginning to end... despite the fact that the protagonist is actually very capable, he almost never shows it.
While Ruka can be depended on to bring cases to a conclusion, his lack of an interest in credit for his work (mostly because he knows he won't benefit even if he does get credit), his need to hide his true abilities (he has good reasons, but I honestly felt that this aspect was perhaps something they should have cut out), and his tendency to bring things to a conclusion in the worst way possible while solving the case (for him) is often frustrating. Worse is the lack of lateral connections between the heroines, with most of their connection being through the protagonist and momentary, rather than being a near-constant.
The combat scenes in the common route are decent... even good. However, they are frustratingly short considering the sheer number of abilities and powers apparently present throughout the Seventh Republic and its races.
The common route also fails to really bring the Seventh Republic's peoples to life, which i found irritating, since the setting has such potential.
Chiffon's path is the earliest branch (the only early branch) and is really a sub-heroine path in structure. Chiffon is perhaps the most pure-hearted person in the VN (mostly competing with Mel, though I give Chiffon the pure-pure prize due to Mel's surprising familiarity with things that made me wince). Her innocence, naivete, and strong code of honor also make me tentatively name her as one of only two people in the VN I consider to be 'true good' alignment characters (the other is Melissa, the fairy the protagonist rescues fairly early on).
Chiffon's path is the weakest and (oddly considering she is probably the strongest fighter amongst the heroines) the most SOL-centric. I liked the relationship, but that was despite how it developed rather than because of how it developed. This path showed off one of the major reasons I am so wary of this company's games... the inconsistent pacing. This path is also the one that is most completely disconnected from the others, and that is more than a little irritating.
The epilogue in this path is good in the sense that it is based more than 'next week' and it reflects the results of the events that occurred in the more dramatic ending parts. However, I felt it could have been more extensive, to compensate for the shortness of the main path...
Komachi is my least favorite heroine. She is also a Victim A type heroine (the nosy investigative type with no ability to protect herself), which I constantly scream at whenever they get included in an action story game. This is in comparison to Mel, who is a Victim B type heroine (the virtually helpless sheltered girl who is caught up in circumstances beyond her control), and the choice to plop a heroine like this into the story is questionable at best. I honestly think she should have been position as an occasional sex-friend who dies partway through (hence the Victim A label) or a side-character rather than a heroine, considering the type of story this game is.
Her path's value lies in what it reveals about certain members of the Cult, rather than in Komachi's circumstances themselves. This path is a rather obvious 'revelation preparation for the true path' path, and it seems to exist solely for providing the information that comes out in it. The romance feels a bit forced and the way the two get together just doesn't sit right with me, after reading it.
I'll say this straight out... Mel's path needed a 'five years later' after story. For better or worse, the core conflict is left only partially resolved (Mel's issues), and, in classic Kinugasa Shougo faction, nothing is concluded. This is the thing I hate most about Kinugasa Shougo... and the part that he seems to insist on unless the company he works for forces him to act otherwise.
Mel's path itself has some excellent action scenes (several levels above either Chiffon's or Komachi's), but it feels like they only scratched the surface of the potential for this path. As such, I felt more than a little irritated about how it was handled. Unlike Komachi's and Chiffon's paths, where the romantic elements felt forced, it is rather obvious that Mel had a crush on Ruka from early on, so I wasn't bothered by the romantic shift.
Aaah... I'm going to be clear about this. This path reveals the truth of Ruka's past, which is hinted at repeatedly throughout the VN, but is mostly shoved to the side in the other paths. It also clarifies his relationship to Claris, who turns out to be a halfway decent heroine...
... unfortunately, this suffers from what I'm tempted to call 'Kinugasa Syndrome'... in other words, Kinugasa Shougo's absolute hatred of concluding his own stories (extrapolated from his writing habits). For better or worse, Claris's path suffers from this disease. Actually, in some ways it is worse, since it cuts off just when things were getting interesting, probably to let them set up a sequel. Claris's path occurs chronologically after a non-romantic version of the other heroines' paths (predictably so, since that is one of Kinugasa's standard storytelling techniques, as was seen by how he handled the transition to Akagoei 3). It is actually written quite well, and its paced about as good or better than Mel's path... but somehow, there is even less action (disappointing, considering the case they are chasing).
I honestly was frustrated with how this path ended... especially since it really doesn't go anywhere beyond handling the protagonist's past and a number of h-scenes. I was deeply disappointed by how this was handled, and I'm more than a little angry about the way it cut off...
It is hard to describe just how sharply this story gets cut short... literally nothing gets concluded, obviously setting things up for a sequel... but without even the minimal effort to throw the readers a bone that Shougo usually makes.
This game concludes with an epilogue that becomes available after finishing the four heroine paths. It is mostly a short get-together of the four formerly-young detectives that joined at the same time as Ruka, and it rather blatantly sets things up for a sequel... which made me want to pull out the few strands of hair still remaining on the top of my head. I hate it when no attempt is made to at least tie off a few strands of the storyline. Even in the original Akagoei, at least some of the conflicts were resolved (though he deliberately overturned most of them in Akagoei 3, with Kaoru's path being the storyline that heads into Akagoei 3).
A game whose setting possesses enormous potential, ruined by Kinugasa Shougo being allowed to indulge all of his worst habits without restraint... and with none of his good ones really surfacing at any point of the VN.
Edit: When writing the above review, I tended to focus on what was wrong with the VN... and that was perhaps inevitable since I wrote each part after the conclusion of a path, and the conclusions to each path are singularly unsatisfying, even for something by this writer.
What was good about this VN? First is the setting... the Seventh Federation is an interesting country, a nation enveloped in permanent darkness with numerous races coexisting within. Second? The characters. The characters are all well-defined and stand out well (except the heroines, who oddly are some of the weakest characters... well, other than Claris), and I smiled frequently at the kind of BS Ruka spewed whenever things weren't going to his advantage. The detective action is sometimes hit and miss... but Ruka really is intelligent and experienced as a detective... he is just apathetic when he doesn't have something or someone prodding him to do his job.
Honestly, the only thing I can say to anyone considering reading this VN is wait for a potential sequel to come out. Until one does, this game will be nothing but frustrating to most people.