Rogue-like H-RPG Kagura Douchuuki hits Steam Greenlight + First Impression
(This is the safe-for-work mirror of my LewdGamer article H-RPG Kagura Douchuuki Gets Greenlight for Censorship [NSFW])
Steam: An opportunity and a threat to ero-gaming
The opening of Steam to visual novels is changing the face of professional eroge localization. Until very recently this was a world where every eroge, no matter its merit or lack thereof, sold more or less the same. Story-focused eroge consume several times the resources in time and manpower as short sex-heavy titles, and lackluster sales meant these titles had trouble simply recouping translation and voice licensing costs. Just recently, Mangagamer warned that the failure of Princess Evangile (NSFW) could spell the end of moe-focused romantic comedies in English. Meanwhile, JAST's Peter Payne similarly declared that gameplay titles are 2-3 times more costly to localize than even story-focused eroge, and added that if Seinarukana does not sell better than their previous RPGs then it would likely be the last ero-RPG they choose to license (JAST’s failure to market Seinarukana as an RPG could doom English H-RPGs).
Enter Steam. Valve opened up Steam Greenlight to developers of all varieties and backpedaled on its stance that visual novels were not welcome on its platform. Visual novels began appearing on Steam and selling in unprecedented numbers. Capitalizing on this lucky break, JAST and Mangagamer rushed to offer censored versions of their eroge on the Steam marketplace. All at once, the calculus of eroge localization was flipped on its heels, as high-quality story-focused titles showed that they could turn a profit along with their budget porn brethren. Sales of Princess Evangile exceeded expectations. JAST reported increased adult version sales of Littlewitch Romanesque after its Steam debut, despite the availability of a fan patch that restored the adult content in the much cheaper Steam version. A successful release of Seinarukana is within reach, assuming JAST can get a version of it on Steam.
But for all its promise, Steam is a censored platform that does NOT welcome lewd games. There was always the risk that Japanese eroge developers would see Steam as a target market rather than as a means to fund eroge localization. And today we are confronted with the first eroge developer to bypass their natural fanbase--erogamers like you and me--and go straight for Steam, setting a dangerous precedent should they stay the path and find success.
Opening + gameplay trailer
Official Japanese site (NSFW)
Announcing an English release of Kagura Douchuuki
With little fanfare ero-RPG developer Debonosu has unleashed its rogue-like RPG Kagura Douchuuki on Steam Greenlight. Originally released in 2009, Kagura Douchuuki was Debo no Su Seisakusho's first title after rising from the ashes of Studio e.go!. Fans of fan-translated RPGs Castle Fantasia 2 Renewal and Men at Work 2 will recognize the bewitching art of Kazue Yamamoto. Originally released as an eroge, Debonosu also released a non-adult version with erotic content removed, which presumably is the version being offered on Greenlight. It is unclear whether there are plans for a release of the adult version. Contrary to rumor, Sekai Project provided a translation of the description as a gesture of goodwill, but at present are not affiliated with Debonosu's effort to release Kagura Douchuuki in English (source).
Kagura Douchuuki takes place in a remote village built around a hot springs resort in modern-day Japan. The once prosperous village, now largely abandoned, provides a nostalgic glimpse into a rural past unfettered by modern-day civilization and the din of machines. Residents of this rural village have been disappearing recently, and despite a police investigation bizarre incidents continue to plague the area. Suspecting the involvement of otherworldly creatures known as youkai, a squad of Shinto exorcists is dispatched to investigate the disappearances. This 3-member squad consists of two warrior priestesses, sword-wielding Ibuki from the Youkai Coexistence faction and spear-wielding Nazuna from the Youkai Extermination faction, and the monk Minase tasked with coordinating the investigation and performing purification rites. Can the two priestesses overcome their differences and get to the bottom of the mysterious disappearances?
Ibuki (left), Nazuna (right)
I played a few hours into this game several years ago, so I'll try to recap what I remember. As shown in the second half of the video, Kagura Douchuuki features rogue-like gameplay: the player controls Ibuki and Nazuna as they investigate the youkai-infested forest around the village. The maps are essentially randomly-generated dungeon floors, where the objective is to locate the entrance to successive floors while fighting off randomly spawning enemies. Story objectives typically task the mikos with fighting through a specified number of floors to a boss encounter, defeat of which progresses the story.
Items and equipment are littered throughout each floor as well as being dropped by monsters and bosses, and these are the main source of character growth. As I recall, there's 3x2 equipment slots: weapon, armor, accessory. Characters level up by defeating monsters, unlocking new skills, but levels are lost after leaving the dungeon (except in Easy mode). In addition, unequipped items in inventory are lost upon defeat (Normal mode), while in Hard mode equipped items are also lost. Inventory space is very limited, so players will not be able to carry every item they find.
Combat takes places in semi real time with movement and attacks each being counted as one turn. Players and enemies can move in 4 directions; whenever the player moves or attacks, enemies do so as well. Attacks can occur diagonally as well. This game has gamepad support, which is a definite plus. Players can alternate freely between Ibuki and Nazuna. Ibuki is a melee fighter that can attack 1 space in front of her. Nazuna can attack 2 spaces out with her spear, but her defense is weaker so she takes more damage. Some enemies are best dealt with by Nazuna due to her longer reach, while Ibuki's higher defense is useful for others. Health is recovered with food and potions, while MP for skills recovers with time.
While the gameplay dominates time-wise, Kagura Douchuuki still has significant stretches of text between dungeon excursions, and boss fights are preceded by story segments as well. The characters are the main draw rather than the plot, with interactions between Ibuki and Nazuna often forming the crux of the dialogue. Ibuki is a clumsy but good-natured girl (with an Osakan dialect) who seeks coexistence with the youkai, while Nazuna is a stern tsundere-type who believes the youkai should be eradicated without mercy. The plot isn't very deep, but it adequately serves up reasons to go dungeon crawling while providing opportunities for Ibuki and Nazuna to quarrel. There might be a romance arc with Minase, but I didn't play far enough to confirm.
The adult version of Kagura Douchuuki is filled to the brim with sexual content. There's a reason that the priestesses do all the fighting: youkai are extremely hostile to and kill any males they encounter, but they use human females to propagate. They subdue and rape females they come across, but otherwise don't harm their captives. With time and sufficient insemination, these females will spawn more youkai or become youkai themselves. However, the sperm of a human male is curative of youkai fertilization due to its spiritual antagonism to youkai negative energies
In short, there's 2 unique defeat rape scenes for every monster type and boss, one per heroine. In addition, there's further scenes involving purification of the youkai fertilizations by Minase, which are required to prevent an eventual game over (i.e., being turned into a youkai) after being defeated. On top of that, there's textual and voice variations of the scenes on subsequent defeats that make the scenes worth re-experiencing, including variations for defloration. The art is one of this game's main assets, and the H-scenes really bring that out. Quite simply, the ero in this game is awesome, and frankly the writing in the H-scenes is more interesting than the main plot as it's very descriptive and filled with emotion. Contrast that with the cliched and somewhat dull vibe I got from the main plot.
EGS median: 70 (109 votes)
VNDB rating: 7.1 (12 votes)
Kagura Douchuuki's strength is its art. And, ironically enough, every CG on both Getchu (NSFW) and the official site (18+ version, NSFW) is from an ero-scene. I can only imagine that Debonosu had to gut most of the art assets to create the non-adult version, and in fact a quick survey of the site for the non-adult version shows 4 CG compared to the 24 CG shown on the adult site. And as explained above, the H-scenes are really quite good. If you're into monster rape, you can't do much better than Debonosu's Kagura series--in English or Japanese.
The rogue-like gameplay is decent. It's simple without being overly tedious. I'm not a fan of level resetting, but you can always play on Easy if that bothers you. I wouldn't call the gameplay engaging, but at least it doesn't feel like a chore like Yumina the Ethereal's dungeon crawling did.
The story is... mediocre. If you've played the translated Studio e.go! titles, you'll know what to expect. If you like moe comedy, then maybe you'll appreciate the story more than I did. I found the dialogue to be pretty standard fare, and the plot was uninspired and mostly an excuse to set up the dungeon excursions and character dialogue. In the few hours I played, the setting didn't get much development and ended up feeling very generic, which is a shame because I feel that with a bit more detail into the mythology and the town's circumstances the story would've been much more engaging. I've played some of the sequel Kagura Gensoutan and I found the setting in that one a bit more developed.
Overall, Kagura Douchuuki compares well against titles like the Raidy series. The art is on par with if not better than the Raidy series (though it lacks animation), and it edges out Raidy in terms of battle system and story development. But as a non-adult title? It doesn't have much going for it other than having gameplay and not being terrible. It's unremarkable. I honestly can't recommend it against the likes of Littlewitch Romanesque, Aselia the Eternal, and Seinarukana, or even Yumina the Ethereal.
Kagura Douchuuki Sou and expansions
Debonosu released an updated version of Kagura Douchuuki in December 2014, Kagura Douchuuki Sou, which added widescreen support (game and CG resolution increased from 800x600 to 1024x576) and added 40 HCG to the defeat scenes. Three append disks were also released which added new dungeons, new monsters, further story content, and a new playable heroine. The Steam Greenlight campaign appears to be for the non-adult slimmed-down version of the original 2009 release, meaning that it won't include all of the bonus content released since.
Koharu, the additional heroine from append disk 3
Debonosu's other titles
Debonosu has a diverse lineup of gameplay titles, and if you include Studio e.go! titles they have a huge selection of games under their belt. The Kagura games are a long-running series including other rogue-likes and an SRPG (Kurenai Kagura). While the Kagura series is focused on monsters raping defeated miko, their other titles are more varied thematically (many featuring no defeat rape at all), though all boast high sexual content. These other titles include a Tales series-like sidescrolling RPG with raising sim elements (Sora o Aogite Kumo Takaku), a loli action RPG with item synthesis and base management (Hanasaku Otome to Koi no Grimoire), a dungeon crawler (Chaos Labyrinth), a real-time strategy game set against a backdrop of military conflict (Senjou no Folklore), and a traditional RPG (Gigai no Alruna).
Sora o Aogite Kumo Takaku (left), Gigai no Alruna (right)
Debonosu is what I'd term a third-tier gameplay eroge developer: they produce a wide variety of decent games, none of which are particularly outstanding. Their gameplay systems range from adequate to entertaining, their stories are character-centric with a comedy focus and plots that are simple and uninspired, and their art and especially their ero is excellent and probably the main draw.
Given the limited selection of licensed gameplay eroge in English, Debonosu fills a niche for high sexual content non-nukige gameplay titles. Stripping the ero-content out of these titles removes the very assets that make these titles stand out in the first place. My recommendation to readers is to clamor for release of the adult version of this title and future titles. While it's important for marketing purposes to get this game and others on Steam, without the ero these titles are merely soulless husks. The non-adult versions will never be more than hollow stand-ins for the adult versions. You can't strip the art out from titles that are remarkable only for their art and expect a satisfactory result.
(Also check out the followup post Tell Debonosu you want the uncut version of Kagura Douchuuki)
Article edited 5/29/15 to clarify Sekai Project's role in the Steam Greenlight campaign.
Article edited 5/31/15 to add information about Kagura Douchuuki Sou and append disks.