Yami to Hikari no Sanctuary is a VN made by Azarashi Soft, a company that I’ve ignored up until now due to its obsession with the Amakano series (a series which is aesthetically uninteresting to me). It is written by Kizuki (of Tasogare no Sinsemilla, Gurenka, and Hanono) and Onsen Daisuke (of Kon Kon and Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort). Kizuki was responsible for the writing of the common route and the central heroine route (Alice’s), as well as the character settings. Apparently, Onsen Daisuke was responsible for the non-Alice heroine paths.
The game begins with Himegami Alice and Izumo Souji coming to a mysterious island to attend the school where Alice’s older sister apparently vanished years in the past. Souji is there as Alice’s bodyguard, to protect and aid her as she seeks out the truth of her sibling’s disappearance.
The common route of this game caught me from the very beginning. Souji and Alice’s relationship, Alice’s reactions to the island, Souji’s odd personality and history… it is all pure gold for a chuunige fan.
There are three fight scenes in the common path… all of which are a bit crazy. Souji is unbelievably strong… and I think I should make an explanation of him as a character before I go any further.
Souji was raised as the successor to a fighting style that has existed for at least a thousand years (recorded), known as the Izumo Style, designed solely for the purpose of killing nonhuman threats. Used against humans, it is effective enough that he can overcome the shock absorbency of carbon nanotube armor, toss adult men around like toys, and launch an attack from just about any kind of footing.
His personality is… a bit strange. First, his interactions with friends and the heroines tend to be that of the average, somewhat naive, martial artist protagonist (dense at first, awkward after, bed yakuza and obsessively protective last). However, his first reaction to any threat is ‘kill’. Not ‘fight’, not ‘defend’, not ‘rescue’… it is to kill. If he sees a monster threatening a human, he kills it. If he sees a human threatening a friend, he doesn’t hesitate… and yet there is nothing cold or hot blooded about it. He might consider consequences afterward, but his reactions to threats are pretty close to mechanical in some ways, hardwired into his psyche by his grandfather’s training. As normal to him as breathing is killing monster threats.
I wrote Yulie’s and Claudette’s paths’ commentaries before the common route’s while putting this together because I wanted to see the difference between what was written by Kizuki vs Onsen Daisuke. Kizuki, the writer of Tasogare no Sinsemilla as well as several other kamige, is far better at drawing you into the action and the story as a whole. Sadly, Onsen Daisuke’s heroine paths, while interesting, also seem to be reliant on the dominos Kizuki set up during the common route, at least to an extent. Considering Onsen Daisuke’s previous works (of which I’ve played three), he is a bit less consistent and has a tendency to fall back on common patterns in the industry when he runs out of ideas. This was borne out to an extent when I read Julie’s and Claudette’s paths, as the setup for Yulie’s, at least, was a bit sloppy at times.
Yulie’s path is done in a style that is quite familiar to me, having read Tasogare no Sinsemilla (this game’s scenario design was done by the writer of that esteemed game), though the writing style differs (this path, Claudette’s, and Yuuri’s paths are done by a different writer). This game’s setting makes for some interesting twists and turns, and Yulie’s path is no exception. While it is subtly obvious that she takes a backseat to Alice in the VN as a whole, Yulie’s path can in no wise be considered a second rate one.
There is some slice-of-life and ichaicha in this path, but it is kept mostly to a minimum, focusing on Yulie’s personal issues, as well as those of the non-humans in the setting. You also get to find out what she is hiding, which was something that bothered Alice and Souji in the common route. Her path’s story is solid and interesting… but I have to say, I wish they’d done at least one of the after-stories outside of the island.
Claudette is Alice’s long-standing rival (self-proclaimed) and a generally capable young woman (like all the heroines). Like Yulie and Alice, she is also a natural schemer, and, having experienced life at the top of high society, she traps people with words as easily as she breathes.
That said, she is actually quite likable… you just shouldn’t say anything careless in her presence.
Her path… is interesting. Compared to Yulie’s path, which is focused primarily on Yulie’s personal issues, this one touches on the issues of the island itself. There are some interesting battle scenes in this path (though I still love the common route’s battle scenes the most), and I was actually mildly surprised a few times, which is unusual for me.
I liked her ending a lot more than Yulie’s, mostly because Claudette’s path’s epilogue actually shows what she and Souji are doing several years after graduation. Not to mention that what they are doing is interesting, to say the least. I’d really like to see a VN with one of their kids as a protagonist, lol.
Yuuri is Alice’s childhood friend, who came to the island as a rare childhood transfer (most transfer around middle school or high school age). She is a gentle, shy girl who is a perfect foil for the more active heroines. She is also an extremely skilled practitioner of kyuudou (the competitive archery sport from Japan which incorporates ritual and meditative elements into the sport as a whole).
Yuuri’s path… is frequently frustrating. I say frustrating because the romance between her and Souji is a classic ‘too shy on both sides’ situation. An inordinate amount of time is spent building up to the formation of the actual relationship, in comparison to the other paths (though the others had their own troubles during that stage).
The climax of her path is actually quite excellent… but I felt that the ending/epilogue and after stories were unsatisfying. In this way, it left me feeling similarly to Yurie’s path, sadly. That said, if I were to compare it to the average VN heroine path, it would win by several hundred miles.
Alice’s path, like most true heroine paths, is dramatically different, both in scale and content than the others. However, to an extent this is because the writer has such a different approach to the characters and the writing itself than the writer of the other paths.
To be straight with you, the combat and battles of wits in this path are incomparable with the others (the battle of wits thing is not a major thing, but it does pop up with a certain antagonist). Souji shows off his general awesomeness repeatedly in this path, making it immensely fun to read.
There are three endings to this path… an early ‘normal’ ending (in the Tsukihime sense of the word), one ‘good’ ending, and the true ending.
The normal ending, again in the Tsukihime tradition, is actually quite good and interesting. I can’t actually say anything about it without spoiling it, but I will say it is at least worth playing for the after-story, though those who like Alice will be hurt somewhat by how things turn out.
The good and true endings split off at a later point and involve the deepest (surprisingly non-dark) secrets of the island. You find out why the characters, regardless of who they were, were invited to the island in the first place, and, regardless of the ending, it is a more or less satisfying resolution. Lastly, the true ending is easily the most emotionally satisfying of those three endings, which is fitting (obviously). However, I could have done with a more extensive after-story… perhaps an encounter with the protagonist’s grandfather (since, regardless of the path, you never get to meet the frequently mentioned grandparent).
Noa’s path isn’t a path, as such. It is just an h-scene followed by a quick ending… with Souji condemned to the path of the lolicon and kicked off the island, his new and adoring loli fiance in tow.
Overall, this VN startled me with its quality, and I feel that this is one of those rare VNs that is both story-focused and has a pretty wide appeal. The characters have depth, the setting is interesting, and the protagonist is generally capable. Moreover, despite my complaints about the after-story/epilogues, I really did enjoy this VN as a whole.