Foreword: C's Ware chuunige is always welcome by me. There are only couple Japanese reviews with mediocre scores, but knowing C's Ware... they must have prepared a new exhausting system like Kazeoto or Vist that most of people could not even pass through. Welcome to the elitist club review, since I made it to the end and have much to say about it.
Title: Heart & Blade
Developer: C's Ware
Synopsis: Osamu, the protagonist, is a student whose family descent from a lineage of samurais and owner of a Dojo of kendo.
He was studying and training at the United States, but now is time to go back to Japan.
At this house, where he must protect a sacred milenium old tree, he meets a strange girl who resembles someone he met a long time ago.
But his problems are just starting. His father got him a fiancee from a rich and traditional family, his blond classmate from United States came all the way to Japan after him, and his older female cousin came to help at the dojo.
What is more strange, monsters started to appear in the City. Osamu must wield a sword and fight them to protect the sacred tree and his friends.
Structure: Game is divided into 11 days.
Length: 8 hours for one route
Game type: Small town mystic demon fighter adventure
Difficulty: Well... since game is command selection type it's still best to use walkthrough not to fall astray from the chosen path, but overall there aren't many crucial decisions to make.
Character Design rating: 7/10
Protagonist rating: 6/10
Story rating: 7/10
Game quality: 6/10
Overall rating: 6/10
Rating comments: Well, I could not rate even Vist as masterpiece, so can't rate Heart&Blade higher than Vist - and Vist is more impressive in most of fields, but in other fields like story integrity, heroine route integrity and fights mechanic Heart & Blade actually wins.
Protagonist: Osamu is a normal boy protagonist, but males are drawn very weirdly in this game. It's nice that we don't control Osamu all the time, and he mostly makes his own decisions after we take him to the needed place. I like it that he has a face and some personality, but that's it. He's not voiced ofc.
Characters: There are four heroines that have individual endings, but their routes are almost the same. I chose Alice for playthrough since she's the only one outside of that traditional Japanese spirit that the whole game is soaked well enough already. Can't say that Alice had a good route though... but the story matters much more in this game than some girl route.
Story: So... what's not covered in synopsis yet... actually pretty much everything is there. And nothing much is happening in the game, actually. Osamu arrives, gets acquainted with the girls and then there are several school days with occasional demon attacks. In the center of the story is the sacred tree that grows near Osamu dojo. Some girl vision visits Osamu from time to time near that tree. Girl blames him for not keeping promise. And that girl comes from Osamu past, prior to USA study period...
CG: Where is Carnellian? Or at least some normal artist? Both CG and heroines design is inferior to previous works. Males usually look plain weird while girls CG feel soapy... can't describe well. The number of CG is big at least.
Sound: BGM is absolutely the best, like in all C's Ware games. At first I thought games is not voiced at all and BGM has to bear full weight like in Re-Leaf, but after first hour girls showed up and they are voiced - phew! Voicing is ok, but can feel irritating at times thanks to chosen heroines archetypes.
Humor: In the core of the game there is confrontation of Japanese ojousama Harunako and American Alice. The whole game either of them tries to invite Osamu somewhere and the other girl instantly shows up and demands accompanying them. That produces quite many funny situations like Alice attending nobility evening in her freestyle outfit.
Mechanics: As if command selection narration and mouse-only control is not torturing enough, there is also horrible fighting mechanics. Games tries to give some tutorial on fighting, but reality gets much fiercer. The very first demo fight with Osamu father in dojo took me some 20 minutes, because - as I understand now - I was expected to make some combination of hits out of 10 different strikes or so. In walkthrough there is a list of combo strikes, but - surprise - they aren't usually available in every fight and game should teach you this strike prior to using it and it only teaches these strikes on hero death... But this is still nothing compared to three very long consequent fights with multiple opponents in a row in the endgame. Absolutely every hits kills Osamu and upon load about 70% of the time Osamu gets killed without even an opportunity to strike. I deliberately left all those save/load stuff in the video so that degree of madness can be felt. I'm quite sure that I had to load at least several hundred times during the playthrough. It's a very sadistic game.
Overall comments: Heart & Blade is a very C's Ware'ish game. It uses the same outdated engine, same mouse-only control with torturing gameplay elements. What only improved is the system so that now there's at least understanding of flags and of hit/avoid mechanics in battle, as well as voicing. But graphics is worse here. Story still kicks in, but it's much more simpler than in Vist. There is more attention to heroines and slice of life here, but C's Ware games were always story-centric. I adore it immensely in C's Ware that they stay loyal to their principles and keep on making thrilling hardcore games. As a C's Ware fan I really liked Heart & Blade, but if I played this game without the historical contest it would hardly interest me or make me play it to the end.