Beat Valkyrie Ixseal Review
Choukou Shinki Ixseal, (Beat Valkyrie Ixseal), is the newest game in AliceSoft's "Beat" series. (Same universe as Beat Blades Haruka and Beat Angel Escalayer.)
Though, while the game is set in the same universe as the other two games, it can be played without having played either of its predecessors. (The only connection to previous games is a few small references, that are not important to the story at all. In fact, I'd recommend playing this game first if you plan on playing a game in the series. I will explain why later in the review.)
Similar to its predecessors, Ixseal is a gameplay/ VN hybrid, where you advance through a number of stages, defeating monsters along the way until you reach the area boss. Upon defeating the boss, the story progresses, and you move onto a new area. In between gameplay aspects, you see normal VN styled scenes, which makes up the bulk of the game. The game is voiced throughout all the story segments, as well as the H-scenes. The only portions of the game that are not voiced are "filler" scenes, that appear between gameplay segments, outside of the main story. These are normally only added for comic relief, and are not actually important at all, so the lack of voice acting in these scenes means quite little.
In Ixseal you play as Oudou Tsuguhiko, a perverted man who swears he is the true "demon king," the most powerful evil being in the world. His dream is to make all female students in the world wear bloomers as their official uniform, through the use of his demonic powers. His best friend, Kirika, always brushes Tsuguhiko's talk about demons and such aside as jokes, but it turns out that he is actually telling the truth.
With the help of his servant demon Bezel, Tsuguhiko's true power as the demon king is awakened by a dark ritual, and the power of the seven deadly sins, (the source of the demon king's power,) pours into him. The ritual is interrupted shortly after, however, as an angel with the name Xillia shows up, with the intention of killing the newborn demon king.
Bezel and Tsuguhiko escapes, but things only go downhill from there for Tsuguhiko. He is betrayed by Bezel, who steals six of the seven deadly sins from his body, and uses them to awaken six powerful demons, leaving Tsuguhiko with nothing but the power of lust in his body. Bezel tries to take Tsuguhiko's life, but fails because of the angel, who finally catches up to them, driving Bezel away. Sadly, Tsuguhiko's friend Kirika is killed in the struggle.
Kirika is revived by Xillia, but this takes up nearly all her power, leaving her defenseless against the demons summoned by Bezel. But, through the power of lust, which still resides within Tsuguhiko, he powers up Xillia with demonic energy, and she changes forms from an angel, into the ideal warrior in Tsuguhiko's mind— a valkyrie.
With the power of lust, the demon king powers up Xillia through sex, and with the combination of her own power and demonic energy, she grows stronger, ready to take on Bezel's army.
Bezel, along with six of the seven deadly sins, (in the form of powerful demons,) plan on absorbing energy from all humans, so that they can take over the world. The demons create a barrier over earth, stopping other angels from coming down from heaven to help, leaving Xillia alone.
Now it's up to Xillia and Tsuguhiko to stop the demons' onslaught before it's too late.
While the gameplay part of Ixseal might make it sound silly, (have sex with the heroines to make them stronger, by injecting them with your demonic energy) the story is miles better in Ixseal compared to Haruka. I'm not sure I'd call this game a nukige, actually, as the story does truly work by itself, not relying on the abundance of H at all. (Unlike Haruka, where the H content is the most appealing factor by far.) The characters are well designed and interesting, and the story is good. Lastly, the protagonist is very well done as well. He is actually powerful; he is the demon king, after all. The story is about taking back the deadly sins stolen by Bezel, powering up Tsuguhiko with each boss defeated. While he does not do the fighting himself, he does not feel like a pointless plot device. You actually feel like you are the demon king, trying to reclaim your powers, and not a can of gasoline that exists only to power up the heroines. (Like in Beat Blades Haruka.)
Sadly, Ixseal wastes a lot of its potential by sticking to the same formula that Haruka did.
Instead of making it possible for the player to choose how to guide the protagonist from the start, (choosing to be good or evil,) the game has it set in stone that Tsuguhiko is a good guy at heart, and he acts like the biggest vanilla-pleb in history towards his comrades, despite the fact that he is the demon king, and his objective is ultimately to reclaim his powers. Not exactly what you'd expect from the demon king.
The story is good, but it would have been even better if there was more choices in terms of how the protagonist acts, in my opinion. The more you learn about the origin of his powers, and the history of the demons, the more you feel like making choices to impact his decisions, but you are left following the linear story until the branching point that only appears towards the end of the story.
Another issue I found with the structure of the game is that it is very similar to Haruka at its core. While the story is different, and the characters' motivations etc also differ from that of Haruka's, it still shares enough similarities that the story can become predictable if you have played Haruka. Because of this, I would personally recommend reading Ixseal first, if you have not yet read Haruka, as the plot twists will be more surprising. And, seeing as the story is without a doubt better in Ixseal, this way you will get more enjoyment out of the game, compared to if you read Haruka first. That being said, the game is still good, and some predictability won't ruin that.
Similar to Beat Blades Haruka, the gameplay comes in two stages. The first stage is all about buffing your heroines by sleeping with them, raising their stats in the process. Then, you advance through an area, defeating monsters, collecting power-ups, and fighting bosses.
Each time you lose against an area boss, you see a rape scene with that boss, (with a maximum of two scenes per boss,) and the heroine's "lust" meter is filled up with one stage. (If the lust meter gets maxed out, you will get a bad ending.) These scenes can be disabled in the menu, if you do not like to see scenes of that nature. Seeing as what types of H you make your heroines do during the first phase of gameplay is up to you, you can freely choose to be evil and only see dark H, or be nice and only see vanilla. (Or do a mix of both!)
You also have two other meters to keep an eye on. The love meter, and the demon energy meter. (Actually has a different name, but this sounds cooler!) While this might sound complicated, it is actually very simple. The love meter is raised by doing things like going on dates with the heroines, while the demon energy meter is raised by doing evil things to the heroines.
Depending on the stats you are left with towards the end, you can choose an ending with your favored heroine.
Just like Haruka, the boss fights can prove difficult if you do not boost the stats of the heroines properly, so do be careful there. Overall though, the difficulty has been decreased quite a lot. While I found myself failing quite a few times during my first playthrough of Haruka, I did not get a game over screen once during my first playthrough of Ixseal.
H-scene and ending variety
Beat Blades Haruka is known for being filled with all sorts of H-scenes, ranging from normal vanilla, to hardcore rape, beastiality and more. Ixseal also has a varied roster of H-scenes, though not as many as Haruka. (I believe Ixseal has a bit over 100, while Haruka had over 150.) But, seeing as Ixseal is more story driven than Haruka was, they might have opted for more focus on the story instead of adding extra H-scenes. But, while the game has less H-scenes, the quality has not dropped. Even the vanilla scenes are quite good, (I phrase it this way, as I did not exactly play the game for the vanilla personally.) The voice work in this game is amazing, which adds a lot to the H-scenes. There is a large variety of different H in Ixseal as well, with most scenes being very hot. So, while this might not be as nukige-ish as Haruka, it sure does have its fair share of good H, too.
Now, the endings. I had high hopes for the Ixseal endings, especially the bad ends. The Haruka bad endings were very good, though way too short. Seeing as we are literally the demon king himself in this game, I was hoping that the bad endings would be longer, and even better than Haruka's.
The game has six primary endings, one bad and one good for each heroine, a harem end, and a "normal" ending. You can also get other types of bad ends through the game, but these six are the main heroine endings. (For comparison, Haruka had three endings per heroine, a good, a bad and a brutal end.)
In Ixseal, they did indeed make slightly longer endings, though they still felt too short to me. The bad ends did somewhat live up to my expectations. I don't want to get into details to avoid spoilers, but they felt satisfying to a certain extent. (To me at least, as I want dark bad ends.) And dark they were. Kirika's ending was something out of an utsuge, and Xillia's bad end was definitely a cool way to tie the "evil" side of the protagonist into the main story. That being said, they were still too short, which in turn still made me feel a bit disappointed. With how long the game is, and how much build up there is to the climax of the story, I would have wanted endings at least twice as long as the current ones, perhaps even longer.
Still, they were pretty good, all things considered. As for the good endings, they too were well done, and even though I did not have any plans on caring much about the vanilla side of the game, I do have to admit, I felt some feels towards the end of the good routes. Sadly, these too were a bit too short as well.
If they do make another game in the series, I hope that they finally make the endings a bit longer for that one.
Music, art, the heroines and more.
Like I mentioned above, the voice acting in the game is stellar. It had to be hard delivering some of the messed up lines in this game with a straight face, lol. The six demons representing the deadly sins were all handled well, and all come off as creepy and "demonic" in their own ways. I especially took a liking to Pride and Wrath, as the two really fit perfectly for the roles they are meant to fill. The VAs do a great job of bringing the "essence" of their sin into their character in their voiced lines.
The heroines were... good and bad. While Kirika had lots of unique aspects that made her fun and different from her "counterpart" in Beat Blades Haruka, Narika, Xillia was way too similar to Haruka in my opinion. The two are basically the same, boring character, just in different settings. That being said, Xillia has a very good backstory, which makes up for some of her blandness.
Overall, I wanted the heroines to be more unique compared to the heroines in Haruka, and found myself a bit irritated at the similarities at times. Nevertheless, the story for each heroine was done well, so it was not a complete bust. Also, Kirika's ass is just amazing. (/ω＼)
As far as the art goes, it's just great. The resolution was stepped up to HD, (Haruka's resolution was 800x600, which was a disappointment in my eyes.) The art is consistent and well drawn, and some of the CGs are truly badass. Like I mentioned before, the character designs were great, so I have no complaints about the art at all, tbh.
I'm not really a music guy, so I can't give a detailed review of the music, so I'll just say this: I liked it a lot. There are over 30 music tracks in the game, all well fit for the scenes in which they are used. I especially liked the opening. Definitely a game I'd consider buying the OST for.
Ixseal is much better than Haruka in my book. Pretty much everything I felt was lacking in Haruka was improved in Ixseal, (although it did not quite win me over when it came to the game's endings.) The story, characters, art, music and gameplay have all been improved, making a great overall experience.
I rated the game an 8.4, which would have been even higher had the endings been longer, and more thought out. Still, this is a very solid game for both vanilla fans, and people like me, who likes games with darker H.
If you're a fan of demons, angels and such, you'll definitely like this game. I am personally a sucker for anything that involves the seven deadly sins, so I was hooked from the start.