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Sen no Hatou, Tsukisome no Kouki



First, a little background for those who didn't read my previous posts on the subject.  I'm one of those rare souls who read Aiyoku no Eustia, by this same company, and came to hate it in the end.  I have reasons... even good ones.  The biggest one is that the side-heroines' endings make no sense in the context of the story as a whole.  This isn't a joke and it isn't something that can actually be denied by anyone who finished the main path (Eustia's).  This is actually the thing I despise most about the 'ladder-type' story progression seen in this and G-senjou.  The inconsistencies in the setting and plot as a whole bother me, precisely because those side-heroines almost always seem to be more interesting than the main ones (this seems to apply to almost all VNs that utilize this story structure, for whatever reason).  This is not so much an excuse for how I feel about this VN as an excuse of why I temporarily abandoned playing it.  I got so stressed out when I found out it used this story structure that it took me seventeen days to get back to it. 

Sen no Hatou is August's second chuunige.  In some ways, it echoes Eustia's flaws while escaping others.  The thing that both VNs share is a massive hole in the setting (again, anyone who plays the main path of either game is going to run across that hole).  However, on the bright side, Akari makes for a far better true heroine than Eustia.  Eustia was a weak-willed, weak-spirited, and overall weak heroine in every possible way.  Akari, despite being politically naive (sorry, but no matter how you look at it, she is that), is a far stronger spirit and she grows a lot more during the story than Eustia does, which shows that August at least learned something from us hecklers' complaints, lol.

I did play the secondary heroines' paths, and they generally had interesting endings... that just aren't possible when you consider the elephant in the room waiting beyond the door to the true path.  Considering the nature of said elephant, there is no way any of those endings could have turned out that way, logically speaking.

The common route has its ups and downs, with plenty of blood shed for the 'hungry' ones such as myself.  If I have a complaint about this aspect, it is the relatively low number of combat CGs (considering August's investment in artwork, you'd think they would have included more than there were...), but the clever usage of the sprites made up for a lot of that.  The protagonist, being your classic stone-faced samurai by nature, tends to bear a distinct resemblance to numerous other 'donkan' protagonists, but, considering his origins, this isn't surprising.  For those looking for slice-of-life or comedy, this VN won't be a winner in your eyes.  August went completely for the 'serious storytelling' bug, so no scene is wasted and everything is focused on progressing the story.  From my point of view, this is a plus, but for people who have fond memories of more 'peaceful' works by this company, such as Fortune Arterial or Hitsujikai, this would probably be a disappointing aspect.

There are some really great moments in this VN... but as an addict of chuunige and fantasy-action VNs in general, it was a bit too obvious when it started stealing from Chuusingura and Hachimyoujin (yes, by Masada).  While stealing stylistic approaches and setting concepts is common in chuunige, those moments were definitely 'ah, I've seen that before' moments for me, and since August's team just doesn't have the flair for this that Light and the makers of Chuusingura do...

Some of my complaints about the setting from my previous - raving - post  and certain pms were eased by things revealed during the progress of the story (the elephant mentioned above helped with that).  As such, you can disregard most of that rave, save where it concerns the annoyances of this story structure.

As story-focused VNs go, this VN does manage to move the emotions and there are moments where it is exciting, but when I compare it with other VNs with similar themes and concepts, it tends to lose out on the details and in terms of impact.  It is definitely above 'common' chuunige like ExE by Yuzu Soft, but I can't really classify it as being in the same league as works by Nitroplus, Type-moon, or Light.  I did think the way they ended it was a bit cheap (I sighed in resignation there, since I was hoping to be allowed to cry for an hour after the end based on what was happening up to that moment), though.  The addition of extensive after-stories in the extras section is a huge plus and a familiar one for those who read Eustia.  In the end, I enjoyed this VN, and it was an interesting one to play.  However, if you were to ask me whether it would remain in my heart forever, I'd have to say no. 

PS: For those who love Eustia, understand that I consider this VN an improvement in some ways, but in terms of the raw setting, Eustia was about equally as interesting.  The biggest improvement, to me, was the decision to use a true heroine who doesn't grate on my nerves by the end (in opposition, Tia drove me insane every time she came on the scene, and I hated the way Kaim acted in her path). 


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