This was one of the group of about forty VNs I played in my first year after I began playing untranslated VNs. It was also the fourth chuunige I played that was untranslated. For those who are interested, this game was written by Takaya Aya (the writer of several kamige, including Komorebi no Nostalgica and Otoboku 2). He is a writer who can handle just about any genre, including nakige, chuunige, charage, serious drama, and deep science fiction.
Alicematic is his first chuunige, written in 2006, during the 'golden age of VNs'. It is based in a version of our world where the dimensions that comprise reality are collapsing, and as a result entire swathes of the world are becoming unlivable, the survivors driven mad. The protagonist, Marume Kuroudo, is summoned to an experimental facility based on an artificial island in the Tokyo Bay in order to participate in an experiment to alter the currently unavoidable extinction of humanity and the end of the world as we know it.
He and the others summoned, are told that they must fight to the virtual death (pain and sensation included) in a virtual realm to supply the mental energy to alter the fate of the world.
Now, this game has a pretty diverse cast. The protagonist, Kuroudo, is a wild, pure-hearted type who knows his own limitations as a person and devotes himself to the things he feels are important without hesitation (he uses the odachi). Sayane, a young woman constantly dressed in the goth-loli style, is a master swordswoman with a passionate heart and an iron will (she uses the standard katana). Kuroe and Shiroe are twins, with the older sister Shiroe being hesitant and gentle and her younger sister Kuroe being an overprotective siscon (their weapons are kodachi). Iori is an unsociable young woman whose hobby is observing people (her weapon is an executioner's sword). Rikka is a cheerful, talkative, and active young woman (and the most normal of the heroines) who wields a crescent-spear. Fuyume is a blind and innocent miko who is also a talented onmyouji and can see the souls of people and objects. Nobotsuna is a seemingly light-hearted womanizer who quickly befriends Kuroudo and the others, his surprising wisdom coming out at just the right moments. Kei is a cross-dressing young woman who is also a master of western sorcery (also a confirmed lesbian).
This game's common route changes depending on what choices you make throughout it leading up to the heroine branch-off, the events occurring after the prologue changing the most dramatically. While there is a lot of repeated text, it can mostly be skipped using the skip function on subsequent playthroughs. This is a technique used a lot in early chuunige, because events tend to accelerate rapidly in chuunige once you get into the heroine paths. The differences mostly lie in which heroines you interact with the most and the fate of a certain antagonist that appears early on... as her fate is usually related to how things turn out in the heroine paths, somehow.
Route Order Suggestion
I honestly suggest that you use the exact route order found in the Foolmaker walkthrough: http://sagaoz.net/foolmaker/game/s/alice.html
The reason is fairly simple... despite not restricting any of the paths but Fuyume's, there are assumptions made about your preexisting knowledge for each path.
Nine out of ten people who play this game through the end of the prologue without picking a heroine will choose to do Sayane's path first. Why? Because she is the heroine who leaves the most vivid impression in the prologue, by far. As a result, for the second time around... I ended up picking her again (it was a toss-up between her and the twins). Sayane's rather twisted value system is the basis for why the actual buildup to relationship formation is so... long. However, the reasons make sense, given the events of the prologue, and the romance is... beautiful in a sense that is rare in visual novel romance in general.
The battles in this path are first-class (really all the battles in this game are), and the last battle is just... superb. I laughed, I cried (a lot), and I felt my heart wrench with empathy for Sayane and Kuroudo. This is an excellent path, and, even if you play none of the other paths, this one would make the game worth playing (though I might end up saying the same for some of the others as well, lol).
Kuroe and Shiroe
I just ignored my own advice... but I don't like Rikka, so that was inevitable (her type of heroine is my least favorite, because they are so common). Kuroe and Shiroe are a pair of twins that are one year younger than Kuroudo. Shiroe is the older sister, a gentle-mannered girl with a tendency to view her own motivations negatively, particularly when it comes to Kuroe. She is rather obviously in love with Kuroudo almost from the start (the incident that brings it on is fairly obvious). Kuroe is the younger sister, and the dependent half of the pair (most otaku media twins operate on the theory that one is dependent and the other dominant). She loves her sister first, second, and last, lol. She is also an aggressive violent tsundere with a fondness for jump kicks and a generalized dislike of men.
Kuroe and Shiroe's path has a much different focus than Sayane's... the swordsmanship aspect is far less important (the fights in this path are mostly short ones), and it is very much about the twisted psychology of the twins' dependent relationship, their past, and how it effects the experiments when Kuroudo gets mixed up with them (hint: the results tend to be mixed). Generally speaking, the path itself can probably be called one of the weaker ones in the VN from a chuunige perspective, but it is emotionally rich and generally enjoyable to read.
I'll say it right out. Rikka is the heroine I like the least in this game. She is mostly a comedy relief character. She is genki, she eats a lot, she makes random sexual jokes, and she is in a deep manzai relationship with the protagonist and other characters.
That said, her path is of even quality to the others so far. This path... will probably be hard on people who like Sayane (I won't go into details), and I had to wince at some of the things that happen to the characters here. However, in exchange you get a series of three first-class swordfights, a bunch of lesser fights, some seriously crazy turns of events, and a nice ending.
Iori... by the time you get to this path (I recommend doing it last amongst the initially-available paths for reasons I'll mention in a moment), you'll have some idea of her personality. On the surface, she is calm and collected, but underneath, she is very much like a lonely child who desperately wants the love she never received from her parents. However, she also has a tendency to instantly make decisions others would procrastinate on, and there is little in the way of hesitation to her personality.
Her path... is split into two parts. The first part, which is treated pretty much the same as the other heroine paths, is a sad ending (almost like a Tsukihime-style normal ending), that feels bittersweet. It is also fairly revealing about Iori's personality and her limitations as an individual. The second part has you start from the beginning of the game from a slightly different point, and it dramatically alters events when it comes to how Iori, Fuyume, and Kuroudo interact with one another and eliminates a major story element common to all the other paths, including Iori's first path. How it differs most radically from the first version, however, is in how Iori deals with her personal issue that pops up in almost every path of the game. Let's just say that the issue is confronted much earlier, at least in part because Iori held close contacts with the others at a much earlier point. This is also the most revealing path so far for the Cthulhu Mythos elements in the story.
Because of Fuyume's tendency to refer to herself in the third person, whenever she talks, I get the feeling she is putting herself down (my backbrain keeps interpreting her name as Fuyu and 'me' as that deliberately servile appellation some retainers to wealthy or socially high-ranking individuals use for themselves). However, her personality is fundamentally kind-hearted and gentle with a strong flavor of curiosity about new things and a tendency to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders.
This path... is very emotional, both in the romantic and in the story/drama parts. While this path doesn't have any superlative fights, the flow of the story is the most 'complete', and I honestly loved the way the relationship between Fuyume and Iori strengthens throughout the path. I smiled, I laughed, and I cried... and in the end, I was left with a sense of completeness, as this path put an end to the story as a whole.
This game is one of those that was hard to appreciate fully on the first playthrough. Part of it is that, when I first played it, I was unfamiliar with much of the terminology (occult, scientific, and swordsmanship) involved. However, the largest part was that I simply didn't have the understanding of the concepts involved necessary to fully appreciate how this story plays out. Most who read this game will be satisfied entirely by the sword-fights and the story, but, later on, if you have a wider understanding of the concepts involved in this game, it becomes a much richer/deeper read.