Story, Characters, Themes, Routes, Rant, God, the Universe and Everything Else!
As per usual, minori has gone that extra mile to deliver a game that is different from most VNs at least in a few ways. In the case of Soreyori no Prologue, it’s how the normal route works just fine as a complete route on its own, with just one problem: The couple break-up at the end. This works as a “prologue” (NAME DROP!!), which by the protagonist’s words: “is the period of happiness before the storm coming in the following parts of the story”. Well, this was one smart thing to say, so let’s talk about the protagonist: I don’t like him! AT ALL!Miyasaka Shuu has a the supernatural ability to read the feelings of anyone around him, something he calls “empathy” (which, by the way, is totally different from the empathy presented here). Sadly, this isn’t exactly something he can just turn-off, so he had to live all his life listening to the deepest and darkest parts in the hearts of people he doesn’t even know. You would expect him to have been molded as a strong person, but he actually is just a wimp!Always accepting the blame for everything, easily manipulated by people around him, frequently getting speechless and easily getting depressed when insulted or teased by people around him. He’s yet another weak-minded placeholder used to give more highlight to the much stronger and capable heroines. Let me quote some lovable lines directly from the game:Girl – Even though nobody told me, I naturally knew it was your ex-girlfriend who dumped you, and not the other way around! Because you don’t have balls to do that!And I can’t forget about:
Shuu – How can you be so defenseless about visiting a young male’s room like that?
Girl – I don’t need to fear anything, do I? After all, you’re not man enough to even attempt forcing your way on me!
Shuu – I don’t know if you’re treating me like an idiot or if you’re just joking around!
Girl – Do you really want to know?
Shuu – Errr…No, I don’t! Sob, sob!At least he’s able to develop a little bit nearly the end, but not nearly enough to compensate for everything…So, Who is this girlfriend of his? This would be Himeno Towa. The meaning of the kanjis used in her name is the complete opposite of the one used in Shuu’s name. Shuu’s name means “end”, while she is eternity (or as she likes to put: “I am forever”). Oh God! The writers literally spelled it for you! OK! I got it! They are like oil and water, and yet they become lovers. It’s romantic and stuff!But this is not nearly enough! To make things even more clear, they gave Towa a special ability: The power to close her heart, which means she never lets her feelings out and she can’t be affected by the feelings of those around her. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t have feelings, but she just doesn’t get affected by those. Pretty confusing, huh? Yes! The way how this works changes depending on the current plot conveniences and also depends on which one of the 4 writers wrote the current event. There is but one effect that is consistent throughout the game: She is immune to Shuu’s empathy (“oil and water”! remember?).Long story short: She becomes interested in Shuu when she learns about his power, because she feels he can teach her about human feelings, and they spend a lot of time just following and observing other people, which is by far the best part in the story, this leads them to fall in love with each other and eventually become lovers. After that, comes the great revelation: Towa is actually Shuu’s childhood friend. When they were kids, her parent’s relationship was very unstable. Towa was always very scared and sad because of that, and Shuu tried to help her by running away from home together with the poor girl, but this was the last straw and Towa’s family finally broke apart.Now Towa hates Shuu’s guts, and she approached him just to make him suffer. She made him fall for her just to dump him later. She even casts a curse on him by saying: “I hope you use this ability of yours as a shell to protect yourself from other people’s feelings, thus making you live alone and in despair forever”.But this wasn’t enough! She returns 2 years later with a special offer to become “friends” with him again, just so she could be close enough to prevent Shuu from forming a love-relationship with one of his other friends. Yes! She is down-right the villain of this story! WOW! Is Towa’s past really enough reason for her to torment Shuu that much? What makes her so obsessed with him?The truth is: She is also deeply in love with him. She was since her childhood and she never ceased to be! She loves Shuu as much as she hates him. This is certainly a very complex heroine! I bet she is very interesting, relatable and likeable, right? Well, this is more of a “hit & miss” thing we got here. There’s no doubt many will fall in love with Towa’s character for her cute, smart, talented and tsundere parts. While others will despise her for how childish, arrogant and hypocrite of a Mary Sue she is. (count me in the latter group!)There’s also Sakurai Mayura, who is yet another childhood friend of Shuu. Different from Towa, the protagonist didn’t forget about her, but she is in fact, very forgettable! The only remarkable thing I have to say about her is that she is very open about her Shounen-Otaku hobbies, and I like that, but aside from this, she is the most stereotypical childhood friend you can imagine! And, Yes! She’s head over heels for Shuu. Obviously!Tsudzuki Haruka is a kouhai from the 1st year in high school who only shows-up after the 2 years time skip, which means people who played the trial version didn’t even get to see her. Shuu ends up writing his love-story with Towa on a book which becomes a best-seller (remember him talking about story structure and prologues? So subtle!). Haruka turns out to be his biggest fan, and even though she is a filthy rich ojou-sama, she enrolled in the same school as Shuu, just to be closer to her idol.She is, however, not exactly too gentle with him, often insulting, humiliating, teasing and embarrassing Shuu in many different ways. She even gets to the point of following him around dressed in a maid dress while she vary from calling him “onii-chan”, “onii-sama”, goshujin-sama”, “senpai” and many other fetish-related honorifics (I actually like that! It’s like she is making fun of those clichés!). She also insists to call him “Owaru” (which is the most common way to read the kanji for “Shuu”). And no matter how many times the protagonist expresses his dislike for this nickname, she never stops using it…because who gives a fuck to what that lame protagonist thinks?Her final goal is to make Shuu fall in love with her just so she can dump him, exactly like it happened with Towa. According to her, this is for the greater good, since this will inspire her idol to write the next volume of his Novel. But Shuu’s abilities tell him that there’s something more to this girl. To be honest: I love how crazy this bitch is, but since I am not a masochist, I couldn’t get past her abusive behavior.It’s sad to see the most interesting characters in this game are actually the sub-heroines! During the prologue when the main couple was tailing people to study their feelings, one of their targets was Shuu’s class-president Hoshikawa Maki, who acts all serious and pure, but actually is a closet pervert.There’s also the air-head senpai Amami Shizu, who is actually a very mature person who puts a lot of thought about everything she does and has lots of life experience. These girls were only used to show how useful Shuu’s ability is. Ironically, they turned out to be the most complex characters in the game!This is pretty much a Kinect-novel. You must watch the 1st route with Towa, and after the time-skip, you must choose one of the other two heroines. This is the only time you get to choose something! The only multi-choice in the game! After watching the selected route, you get immediately transferred to the route you didn’t pick the first time (to cut time short). After getting those unimportant routes out of the way, you finally get to watch the true route with Towa 2 years later! This whole setting with an ex-girlfriend is fairly unique for a Galge. Too bad the reason why they broke-up in the first place is pretty silly, and the same can be said about how they get back together. You would expect them to have an adult conversation (I’m not talking about sex!) to sort their differences, but this would have enough impact! Instead, they decide to get married out of the blue! (more like: Towa decided everything on a very one-sided manner, like always).Surprisingly, the writers didn’t go with the typical “wedding ceremony full of happiness with friends and family”. These two actually go through all the necessary documentation and start to change things in the lives in order to start living together! I would give props for this, if it wasn’t for the fact Towa keeps treating Shuu like trash even in the epilogue! There’s arguably no character-development, and this is quite sad!As a given, there are many H-scenes. Each session is full of loud and silly sound-effects and flash-lights. You better enjoy this stuff, because each one of those scenes can last over 1 hour! I swear those damn monkeys tried every positions from the freaking Kama Sutra!
There’s a never-ending amount of CGs used to make the player feel more like he’s seeing the game by Shuu’s perspective, there’s even graphics for when the heroines turn their back to the protagonist in order to speak with someone else! Every single graphic is animated, there’s even a simple-but-cool animation for when a character turns around to face the protagonist! (I could make a .gif showing that, but I had enough of this game, just trust me. It’s pretty!).Thanks to some neat editing techniques with digital coloring, shades and transparency, the visuals are really gorgeous! (Except for those ridiculous proportions). They are able to make the heroines look wet, sweaty, dirty or embarrassed whenever it’s necessary.There are 2 things to complain about the visuals. The first one is the overuse of effects like flare/flash-light, scroll down/scroll up, fade-to-black/fade-to-white. All of those are unskippable, even when you set the game to cut animations!The second one is the the character design for Towa and Mayura, some of the most uncreative designs I’ve seen these days! Long brown/black hair with ribbons. Even the type of ribbons and the way they tie those damn things have no trace of creativity!
When I play a Charage, I can just forgive most of their silliness, since they are not trying to be too complex with their slice-of-life setting. However, I just can’t overlook a title that’s attempting to be much more! It is sad to see it required 4 writers to write this short Kinect-novel, while Liberation Maiden SIN (which is, in my opinion, a vastly superior game), needed just 2 writers to create a huge-ass game with a story full of alternative endings, and even a branching conversation system! I suppose this is just like 12 no Tsuki no Eve: It’s not for everyone. At the very least, it’s not for me!