Ou no Mimi ni wa Todokanai is one of my favorite games by AXL, which has consistently made high-quality games since the middle of the last decade. Ou no Mimi is based in a medieval fantasy village in a nation that is still recovering from a war that wasted most of an entire generation of young men's lives. The protagonist, Cactus (generally called Cas), lives his daily life as a self-proclaimed bodyguard for Baree Village while skipping out on working in the potato fields and taking long naps at the riverside. However, at night he really does protect the village, patrolling the area to look for bandits, wild beasts and monsters, and various other dangers that might harm the village.
Cactus was originally a spy and assassin from an organization known openly as the Izayoi Knights and behind the scenes as the King's Ear. During the war, he carried out all sorts of dirty work for the King, ranging from assassinating enemy commanders to purging traitorous aristocrats. However, in the last days of the war, he was used as bait, along with his friend Collum, and his friend was killed in the process, though not before asking him to bring his heirlooms to his grandmother in Baree Village. When he arrived at the village after a long period of wandering, Collum's grandmother's kindness gave him a purpose, in quietly protecting his friend's village and family, while never letting on he was doing so.
Now, none of this spoiler material. All of it is revealed in the prologue or in the Getchu page. However, a lot of people don't take second looks at AXL games because their art style is different from the current trends (though it has been refined over the years). So I felt a need to go into more detail about the setting than is usual.
Now, this game, is for the most part, a medieval slice-of-life game with occasional moments of serious drama (in both the common route and the heroine routes both). This game probably has the darkest moments of any game made by this company, with the possible exception of Shugotate 2. Cas was a master of assassination and misdirection, and there are times in each path where he gets to show off that expertise. His primary weapon is the needle, followed by the long dagger. He is also a master of poisons and various chemical concoctions which he uses to provide specific effects, which can range from mundane stuff like laughing endlessly to instant death or the complete loss of all memories.
The four heroines are Coreo, Thistle, Peony, and Jinnia.
Jinnia is the princess of the Reste Kingdom in which Baree Village sits. She is a proud but kind-hearted princess with high ideals who can nonetheless admit when she is wrong. While she has led a very sheltered existence, she lacks the arrogant disregard for commoners which is common to her fellow aristocrats, and this leads to her being a much more interesting character than most variations on the princess archetype.
Coreo is the daughter of a former mercenary and bandit who has spent most of her young life looking after her father and his small gang, who now work mostly by hunting meat and exchanging it with the villagers for veggies and various other goods. She fell in love with Cas at first sight and has been pursuing him for years, but she is innocent of most of the details of what goes on between men and women, which can lead to a number of amusing situations.
Thistle (pronounced as Shizuru) is a poverty-stricken aristocrat girl living alone with her butler in the run-down manse at the edge of town. She is sweet-natured and compassionate, as well as being a glutton with a stomach that seems to have a black hole inside. She is also immensely clumsy, constantly tripping over her own feet or getting into other messes that put her in compromising positions (think lucky sukebe).
Peony is an apothecary/doctor (literal Japanese term is kusushi, which is a pre-modern word for a doctor who is trained in the use of herbal remedies as well as minor surgery and diagnosis of various common ills) who is dispatched to Baree Village shortly after the beginning of the story... and turns out to be Cas's estranged adopted sister. Kind and impartial by nature, with a tendency to be harsh with Cas's apparent laziness, she serves as a tsukkomi character throughout much of the game. She is also the game's main heroine, though none of the heroines are neglected in any way.
I have already reviewed this game in the past, so I'll conclude by saying this is an excellent game with well-written routes with just the right balance between SOL and drama in a medieval setting. For those who want something based outside of a school in modern Japan, this game is an excellent choice.