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Love Destination

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Clephas

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Umm... wow?

This game is seriously out there.  

Yes, I needed to start with that.  Love Destination's every aspect is more than a little crazy.  It starts with a salaryman in his late thirties dying in a car accident and being told by the lazy-ass woman at the gates that she accidentally killed him on a whim.  She offers him a chance to start over from the branching point of his life (after several other attempts to cover her own incompetence), and he ends up going back in time... only to choose to go to the girls' school he previously refused to go to.  

Now, up until this, you might think this was a charage... but that couldn't be any further from the truth.  This game is a seriously screwed up plotge with a scenario designed by someone with a rather twisted mind.  There are four paths in this game, one monogamist and the other three threesomes.  There are also a ton of bad endings at two normal endings (some of them branching off from the paths).  

Now, up until now I've focused on how crazy this game is, but I need to say that this game has some negative aspects I need to state early on.  First, though the scenario itself is actually at kamige tier, the writing is... second-rate?  I felt like I was reading something by someone who loved chuunige but also liked to insert symbols in the place of words.  A lot of this game already has furigana even without a parser because of this, which bemused me somewhat.  Personally, I found the methods this writer used to be pure eye and brain cancer, so if you are a fan of god-tier writing, you aren't going to be happy with this game.  I seriously empathize with anyone who might attempt to translate this, lol.  

Second is the protagonist and his osananajimi.  The protagonist, in his previous life, was the type of guy who, rather than seeking out positives, always sought to eliminate negatives.  As a result, he ended up on the lowest rungs of a decaying Japanese society that was on the verge of losing its sovereignty before his death.  While he does try to change in his new life (literal), it is only in the actual heroine paths and at the end of the common route that he actually starts to strip away the layers of cowardice that make up his personality.  He does this in a grand fashion in several of the paths, so I can forgive the way he is at the beginning... but I really hate his interactions with his osananajimi Mayuri early on.  Mayuri keeps insisting he act in a way convenient to her without ever actually getting around to telling him what she wants from him.  That this is true both in his former life and in his new life is one point that annoyed me to no end.

Rina and Shina

The Otona sisters are descendants of foreigners from northern Europe (so no, the older sister did not dye her hair).  Early on, the relationship between Shina and the protagonist is almost antagonistic, whereas Rina is so quiet she is not in the picture.  Shina pretends at being a delinquent, but she fails utterly (even moreso because the protagonist sees through her easily), but she does, unfortunately, have a relationship with real delinquents.  

Honestly, I can't dig deep into the heroines' personalities without ruining the experience for you all, so I'll stick to a vague description of what the path is like.  I didn't bother with bad or normal endings on this path.  In this path, the protagonist gets caught up in the twisted problems hidden beneath the surface of the seemingly normal sisters and is forced to grow far beyond his previous limits in order to deal with what he finds there.  The actual events that occur in this path are... dark and depressing until things turn out all right.  This path is probably too muddy for anyone interested in a simple romance, but I thought the ending made everything worth it, since I loved both heroines (despite their... issues).  

Mayuri and Sakurako

Mayuri is the protagonist's overbearing osananajimi (who has the worst kind of tsundere thing going) and Sakurako is her best friend, a rich girl who obviously has certain 'tendencies'.  Most of this path focuses on this particular love triangle's difficulties (Protagonist>Mayuri<Sakurako), and there are a lot of facepalm moments involved... mostly because all three have similar personalities hidden under different facades.  Now, this path's impression, for me... was that it was good but exhausting.  

I liked the solution they came to in the end, and I had to rofl at some of the weirder moments.  However, the antagonist of the path is a seriously exhausting person... and this is the first time in the VN that I encountered her (vicariously).  The first scene in which she appears left me needing to watch something fluffy, so I went and watched a few episodes of Cardcaptor Sakura to cleanse some of that atmosphere's effects on my mind.  

This path is quite a bit less dramatic and dark than the previous path... and thus it lacks the sheer gravity born of comparison when you watch the ending.  Still, it is a pretty good path, with an interesting concept.

Ai

Ai's path is the only monogamous path in the game, and Ai herself is a somewhat 'mysterious' heroine.  Her role in the story is minimal... until you do her path.  For various reasons, I recommend that anyone who plays this game do this path last, as it spoils all the other paths' secrets.  

Since Ai's path draws on elements from all the other paths, many of the events and revelations were familiar to me.  For obvious reasons, I left the Mizuki/Karin path to last, but in terms of experiencing the story as it is meant to be experienced, it is better to do this path last.  

Ai appears randomly throughout the common route, often questioning the protagonist's ridiculous good luck (which does seem ridiculous toward the end of the common route, though the heroine routes reveal that his luck isn't as good as it seems), and she has a familiar role to many true heroines... the heroine it shouldn't be possible to get together with.

Now, I'm not questioning whether this trope works.  I've played any number of VNs where this trope was used effectively to create truly exceptional stories.  Indeed, this path is one of the single best uses of the trope I've ever seen.  However, the ending feels waaay too convenient in comparison to the other paths.  Yes, it was exhilarating to see the antagonist of the game getting what she deserved, but the way they went all mystic with the ending gave me a headache.

Mizuki and Karin

Yes, I played this path.  No, I didn't play this path for the H (as one guy joked with me as I conversed with him on discord).  Instead, the events in Ai's path made me curious enough to get over my inhibitions.  Well, to be straight, this is a weird yandere SM path.  Well, that is the relationship anyway... both heroines are a bit crazy/obsessive/possessive/etc.  

This path was surprisingly good, despite the fact that I had to actually read the h-scenes to get to parts of the story (normally, I skip h-scenes, but the first few are vital to progression of the story, as are some later).  I also found myself laughing through much of the latter parts of the path, despite the darkness of what was going on, because both Mizuki and Karen are so... out there.  Their common sense and personalities are pretty abnormal by most standards, though they grew on me as the path reached its end.

The ending... well, like most of the paths in this game, the ending was good.  I still like the twins' ending the best, though.

Conclusion

Well, this game was an unexpected treat.  It doesn't really fall into any established genre beyond 'plotge', and the writer/writers (no names are listed) are not the most skilled out there (tons of typos, use of symbols in place of words, etc), but the story itself was pretty interesting.  The only 'downside' to the whole thing is that you only ever really see the heroines truly happy near the end and in the epilogue.  

 

 

 

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