NekoNeko Soft! I am so old that I remember your days of glory, when you were popular enough to have your titles spawn into animes and such. Nowadays, after a nearly bankrupt, you are still releasing titles strongly. This alone is already very admirable, but now you came and did one of the boldest things I’ve ever seen: Parody one of the most used and loved plot devices in Galge history!
Hinomiya Tetsuo loves his little sister very much (and who doesn’t?), but he feels very sad for not being able to help her much. However, when she gets accepted in a very prestigious school, she gets very nervous, since she is extremely shy around people who she is not used (specially men) and her brother is one of the few exception. Desperate to be of help to his lovely sister, Tetsuo decides to do what every Galge protagonist would have done in this situation: Disguise himself as a little girl and enter in the same school. The only problem is that, for the first time in a Japanese media, the male protagonist in question is not a bishounen, shouta or whatever! He is actually very tall, muscular and has a husky voice, in other words: MANLY! Well, he tries to do that anyway and, surprisingly, it works! Everyone accepts the excuse that he is just a normal girl who was raised like a boy because of her family circumstances. He even gets the principal as an accomplice!Everything is going smoothly, and that’s exactly why a group of girls come to escort the two to enter in the drama club, which is only a camouflage to hide the club’s true nature as a supporting group for girls who have problems dealing with men, and Tetsu”ko” would be perfect to “act” as a man during their practices. Since his sister also suffers from the same problem, he finds no reasons to refuse.
When I think of how to describe Himenomiya Tetsuo, only one word comes to mind: Cool!Different from most Eroge protagonists, he is not the type who only watches the heroines doing amazing feats while being unable to help in any form. It´s quite the opposite: He is awesome enough to come from nowhere doing something even more impressive than whatever the girls are doing, making everyone surprised! He is not the type to be manipulated by the girls and be made into their little toy either, actually, it’s the other way around…A very strong main character indeed! Such a shame he goes to waste in this game.
If this man-among-men-badass-dude is willing to do anything for the sake of his sister, you would expect this girl to be nice enough to be worth of this special treatment, and you would be completely right! Himenomiya Yuri is very caring for her brother, does many things for him and asks nothing in return. She is obviously a super brocon, and can feel extremely jealous when Tetsuo is close to other girls, but since this is not one of those games to make you feel bad for the unchosen heroines, she doesn’t appear to care much for when Tetsuo start to date one of the other girls in the club.
Naruse Shizuka is a short blonde girl with twin-tails. Her design is so stereotypic of Tsunderes, that it seems even her is aware of it. Therefore, she is always shouting famous Tsundere lines that rarely have anything to do with the current situation. This tsundere farce is nothing more than a mask she uses to protect herself when she panics. Behind it, she is a very lively and friendly little lady, but she is also very dumb, thus, even though she is the club’s president, she is always manipulated into doing embarrassing stuffs.
Suzushiro Saori is very energetic and friendly, but a little dumb… She is always manipulated into doing embarrassing stuff andOK! WHAT THE HECK! This is what happens when you got a bunch of writers to make the characters for your game, but don’t establish good communication between them: They end up having very similar ideas. This was probably the case here, as both her and Shizuka fill in the role for the “baka-genki” girl. Well, there are some few differences, like Saori having an actual allergy for men (that is mysteriously cured/forgotten during her route), or the way Saori often narrates what she does. Aside from that, they are almost the same…
Oujiyouin Ruka can look like a quiet and innocent little girl at first because she got a very low voice, but the truth is she got a “poisoned tongue” (dokuzetsu), which means she is actually saying very cruel insults to the people around her all the time. The only one who got ears sharp enough to understand her is Tetsuo, which makes him become her official interpreter (By the way: When a girl confesses her feelings to him, he never asks “What did you say?”, so this makes sense). As someone who have seen a lot of dokuzetsus on those type of games, I can say with confidence that Ruka is… very weak! Really! The worst thing she is able to say is “die”, and she never elaborates a complicated insult that uses the target’s weaknesses (specially with someone like Tetsuo always standing next to her). Anyway, another nice change of pace for this type of cliché character.
Of course, you can’t have a game like this without a loli in the cast, that’s where Ayukawa Nene enters. She is a “fake loli” teacher who is responsible for the drama club. Yes, she is very short and childish, but unexpectedly, she seems to take pride in it! Her catch-phrase is “don’t underestimate small-girls!” (chibiko wo namennayo!).
Themes & Routes
Aside from the different take on a very stagnated concept, this game has little to offer. While it’s characters are very likable, there are few decent character developments, even during the specific routes.It even got beyond the typical plot for the rich girl, where her parents don’t accept the protagonist and she gets engaged with some random rich asshole or has to go overseas, forcing her to personally reject the main character. No! Nothing like this over here! Ruka’s route is simple and yet refreshing!The other routes, however, are extremely simple. It’s basically a bunch of lovey-dovey scenes mixed in with a lot of H-scenes, which makes everything feel like a Nukige, which makes this title very similar to Chiisa na Kanojo no Serenade.Other than the bizarre deconstruction of it’s theme, there are few surprises in the plot. Every girl in the group eventually finds out about Tetsuo’s true gender and they are all pretty ok with it.
The drawings are all very decent. They are very colorful, which fits the cute style and theme of the game. What surprised me the most was that the styles used in each CG and character are not so different from each other, which means a lot when you see that there is more than 5 people doing the art for this game.There are some few animations to Yuri and Ruka to give more emphasis to their peculiar habits. Yuri always digs into fried potatoes when she is nervous. Ruka has animations for when she shakes her head negatively or positively. Those are not very well-done, but it’s better than nothing.
NekoNeko Soft games have this thing about the standing graphics where they keep the same body and only change the arms position and facial expressions. It feels very lazy and it gives a hiralious effect when you hit the skip button!
The dub is excellent and the cast is full of fan-favorites. Some heroines even befit greatly from that, like Saori, who is a very forgetful character, but I love her voice actress so much (Natsuno Coori) that I could never ignore her.Because of the character’s setting, Ruka’s voice is configured to be in a very low volume as default, but you can re-configure it to be at the same level as the other characters (except she still got no text during her lines).After hearing the excellent soundtrack from Monobeno, its back to the forgetful music from the regular Galges. Well, at least they have Kotoko to sing the main theme, which gets boring really fast because it plays in the title screen.
The most notable element in a NekoNeko Soft game is their flashback system, where you can make choices during the protagonist’s background scenes, which actually interfere with the characters and plot. In some games, the heroines even changed personalities by doing this! It’s probably the most inovative and interesting mechanic I’ve ever seen in a Galge. However, compared to their past titles, this one lacks this gimmick entirely, being much more average.Actually, average is a perfect word to describe this game, but seeing the level of this month releases, average is the best you can get, so AVERAGE IS GREAT!