Nippon Ichi is at it again. This is a new game following their trend to make simple games at the style of western indie games. This trend was officially recognized by Nippon Ichi when they were developing htoL#NiQ (Hotaru no Nikki), but whoever followed Nippon Ichi releases for a couple years would easily be able to notice they have been following this trend since way back. This isn’t bad! Simple games can be really good as well! But how well this game fares in the end?
This game centers around a fictional Edo from the feudal era, which started as a gathering place for outlaws, so you know it’s a hardcore place! There’s also a blabbering about the sealed Sea God, but this will only be ever mentioned much later in the game…
Souji is a genius blacksmith with a lot of potential which he may never be able to develop, since he suffers from an incurable disease.His doctor Rangakurin Hitoe said she isn’t giving up just yet and she is willing to go out of her way to find a cure for him.But there was more things for Souji to concern with, like passing all his techniques to his disciple Kana, but she was so worried about her master that she wasn’t able to concentrate.Souji’s fate suddenly changes when he meets Yatarou, a mysterious happy-go-lucky man who took a liking for the ill blacksmith. A certain day, he drags Souji to a tea-house at the red district in order to raise his spirit. There, Souji meets three very special hostesses.One of them is Kiyohana, someone who is just too pure to be at this line of work, which works on her favor, since many clients are attracted by her innocent behavior and her clumsiness. But what brought her to this world?Asaka is the also one of the favorites among clients, even though she is very open about her second intentions, since she is only nice with clients who have lots of money, but she does have a proper reason to be so greedy, since she needs the money to help her ill mother, but is she being really honest about this?For Souji’s surprise, his master’s daughter was also working there. Yuugiri is famous for being one of the most beautiful “flowers” in the house, but she isn’t so high in the ranks because of how gloomy she is. What happened with her father? Why she is working there? Souji like felt he should do something to help her.In order to keep visiting those ladies, Souji required money, which gave him the motivation he needed to resume his work. For this end, he not only asks for the help of both his disciple and doctor, but he also hires Ranmaru to look for materials in old dungeons and ruins. Once a samurai, Ranmaru is now a Ronin who works as a sword for hire. She is too used to the way of the warrior, which creates a gap when she gets overly embarrassed with simple things.He eventually becomes acquaintances with Kiri, a ninja who seriously believe she is keeping a low profile. Souji is immediately able to see through her clever disguise, which impresses the kunoichi. She enjoys killing things, but she is too lazy, so she becomes attached to Souji, since she thinks he would be able to make a ultimate weapon for her. A weapon that would let her kill all her opponents without breaking a sweat. The biggest problem is that she wants this weapon for free, which doesn’t cut. That’s why she offers to help looking for materials.Risa also offers her help. A mercenary who learned how to use gunfire weapons with her foreigner father. Souji is one of the few people who can provide new weapons for her, for this reason she becomes attracted to the blacksmith, refering to him as “darling”.Mase is the last one to join Souji’s crew. A trickster woman who was born with strong spiritual capabilities (which might be the reason behind those fox ears). She isn’t aware of the greater good she could be doing with her powers, so she just wastes her time fooling around flirting with women and drinking sake. But since she needs money for this, she offers to help looking for materials for Souji.
Themes & Routes
The game is pretty straight forward. Right at the beginning, you receive a warning from Yatarou to never be a “two-timer” with the girls, since they can get angry, but this actually just means that after visiting the girls a few times, you have to choose one of the three. From that point on, you will enter her “route” and will be unable to visit the other two anymore.The events with those girls are not as simple as it may look at first, and things can even get pretty intense! I appreciate the writing for those parts, since it goes really further from those clichés heroines that are so common in dating sim. Actually, I think this is much more interesting than most Galges I’ve played this year. Which doesn’t mean that much, unfortunately…Actually, one of the major problems is how slow the flow of the story is. You will spend hours working as a blacksmith and sending the girls to explore dungeons, just to raise the money necessary for one visit. When you finally get to pay a visit to that special someone, it ends in less than 5 minutes of conversation, and then, it’s back to dungeons and blacksmithing, hence and repeat.At the first visits, it feels like the plot is really going places, since the heroines don’t take too long to show their true colors, but after that, there will be a lot of visits that will be basically just some casual talk between Souji and the girl. It’s really infuriating to waste hours of playthrough just to see events like these!
Just like the story suggests, you main objective is to raise enough money to visit your favorite hostess. When you commit to a specific heroine, you get a schedule of 10 days for each new visit, and you need to raise the money before the time limit.It’s not difficult to become filthy rich in this game, but the price gets higher and higher with each new visit. So you need to constantly create new items to put for sale in your store, but you need a certain level of fame in order to attract custumers.Every time you visit your own store, a certain amount of items you left on display will be sold depending of your fame, and your fame level will raise for each negotiation as well.Just like that To Love-ru game on the Vita, you also get a mini-game which feels like a rhythm game without any music to follow. This time this mini-game is used for when you are creating weapons. How one would expect, this has much more depth than that H mini-game. Here you also have to choose the right time to put the weapon you’re forging on the furnace. The hoter the weapon is, the faster the rhythm of the mini-game will be. You objective in this mini-game is to raise the meter on the right to make better results. But the level of this gauge will drop if you don’t put the weapon in the water for some seconds.You have about 1 minute to complete the task and it feels very satisfying when you get good results. However, this is not really that difficult of a system to master, so it’s likely that this mini-game will get boring instead of challenging as you play through the game…Of course, you also get to have some H fun with the girls through the touch screen, just like To Love-ru, Moero Chronicle and even Criminal Girls, after all, this game is supposed to be a spiritual successor to that “SM torture” RPG. However, what you will get here is infinitely more tamed than Criminal Girls and the others.Occasionally, you get a mini-game where you touch the girl enough times at the right places to see some cleavage, followed by another mini-game where you spray the girl’s kimono to see her bodyline better. This is not nearly as borderline H as those other games and not nearly as frequent either…Nothing special to say about the battle system and dungeon exploration. It’s the same basic dungeon crawler that everyone loves so much, but even more limited now, because the 3 characters you can control work as a single unit, sharing the same life bar, and you’re not free to explore the dungeon as you please because your life keeps depleting as you move around. It works with the game’s logic of time-management, but, SHIT! This is really annoying!
The graphics during the visual novels segments are pretty good! I really dig this art style! It fits right in this setting and the girls are able to look cute without being ridiculously colorful and childish! I get why this artist got a job at Nippon Ichi!However, when we shift to the regular gameplay with dungeons, battles and other mini-games, the visuals suddenly become really dull and poor! I suppose this is the part Nippon Ichi choose to look like an indie project.Dungeon exploration have this poorly animated 8-bit sprite of the current leader of your party walking around and smashing rocks to get materials, and it looks so unprofessional. The dungeon’s design is as bad! It’s usually a cave or other dark environment, there are no animations in the background and a lot of assents are recycled through the whole stage!The battles look a bit better, but nevertheless, it’s still too simplistic. 1st person battle system, enemies have generic designs and no animations, attacks and special moves are just some spark effects…Keep in mind that this is a dungeon crawler, which means you will have to battle A LOT! Too bad there’s nothing too interesting to look in here…
Akin to a Dating Simulation, the protagonist has no voice. On the other hand, the three main heroines are fully voiced, while the other supporting characters have only some side events without voices. The voice-actresses responsible for the 3 main heroines have decent acting skills, which contributes to those dramatic scenes from their routes. The voices for the other supporting characters are pretty good as well, saddly, they don’t get too much action, so I don’t really have much to say about them…This is because there are very few voices outside of the sessions with the three hostesses. There are voices here and there, but you will only listen to the same voice-clips over and over again, during forging (ganbarimasu!) during battles (sasuga kiri!), it makes those parts even more boring to play though!
The few tracks you got from the Visual Novel parts are all in the style of traditional Japanese songs and they fit the mood perfectly! But you go to a dungeon and everything starts to sound generic, boring and repetitive. It’s the same BGM for every dungeon and the battle theme never changes. On the other hand, the opening theme is great! It’s a fast-paced song called DA-SHI-TE with high-pitched vocals by aya from the group LOVERIN. It’s pretty catchy!
So, this is really a very low-budget game. Congratulations, Nippon Ichi! You reached your goal! Now, give at least half of my money back, please! I am not against this game being simplistic and all, I even found some enjoyment in those repetitive dungeons for a while and the VN parts were interesting, but overall, this game doesn’t worth all the 5,100 yen it is asking. And this is the price of the download version! The physical copy goes around 6,400 yen! If you will follow this trend to make cheap games based on independent projects from overseas, please, don’t be half-assed! Follow this to the very end and copy their price-tag as well! Indie games are always very cheap and not sold at full price!