Cocoro Navi was the very first adult Dating Sim I’ve played on PC, and to this day, it’s one of my favorites. It seems I’m not alone on this, since Rinko – the protagonist’s little sister – is regarded by many as one of the best “imoutos” of the genre. For this reason, Q-X games are kinda special to me, even though the prequel – Gengetsu no Pandora – was pretty disappointing. Regardless, I had high hopes for Cocoro Restarter, as it was advertised as a “true sequel” to the company’s magnum opus. For me, this was not just another Galge! Playing through this game was my mission!
Story & Characters
Nagasawa Yuuto is a pretty unreliable teenager who isn’t intelligent nor athletic. He spends most of his time shut in his room and claims that he has no need for “3D girls”. But once Yuuto gets online in the social app “IRIS”, he becomes Ryuugo by using a futuristic avatar known as “rounder”. Ryuugo has an advanced AI system to adjust the user’s behaviors and he can even keep surfing in the net without its master. Ryuugo is the Yuuto’s ideal self. He’s very social and has no problems talking with girls.However, a strange rounder named “Alpha” summons Ryuugo to an unknown domain where he finds a giant tree with millions of branches. Alpha forcibly uploads an app known as “Cocoro Rista” (which is short for “Kokoro Restarter”) to Yuuto’s system, which she reveals to be her own version of the legendary app “Cocoro Navi”, being the version 2.0x of the app.Different from the original, Cocoro Rista doesn’t need to be used exclusively by people with pure hearts. In fact, it was made to fix broken or tainted hearts by “rebooting” them, hence the name “Restarter”. By using it, Yuuto can enter directly inside IRIS by becoming one with his rounder to experience the online world with his own 5 senses. But there was a catch: The time he can stay inside IRIS is paid by using a special currency that he can only get by interacting with real girls off-line. Therefore, he needs to do what he hates the most in order to keep escaping reality.Alpha steals powers from the legendary navigator Kona (upgraded to Kona II) and gains the ability to exist in the physical realm. As an artificial existence, Alpha longs to understand human feelings, and she chooses Yuuto as her newest test subject by giving him an order: He must prove the existence of true love by falling in love before the time limit, otherwise, “his world will end”.From this point on, Alpha starts to intrude Yuuto’s life by forcibly making him get closer to other females, which includes even his little sisters, like Nagasawa Seika. Even though she and Yuuto are from the same “shut-in species”, they are nothing alike. Seika is very attractive, absurdly intelligent and she could easily become physically stronger than her brother if she were to exercise a bit more. Which is why she has zero respect for her pathetic onii-chan. She normally barges in Yuuto’s room and do whatever she wants with his privacy, time and belongings, as there’s nothing he can do to stop her, since she usually threats to destroy his social life by posting weird info about him all over the net. Besides, she has the power of Superficial Intelligence at her side! Because of a childhood trauma, Seika don’t like to talk, so she created a voice synthesizer for her smartphone which uses her own voice as bases, which can even perfectly imitate human emotions, which makes no sense but at least she doesn’t sound like Anthony Hopkins having sex.The only person Seika trusts and love is her twin sister Nagasawa Yukine, who acts like the real mother of their family. She feels responsible for the whole family, since her mother is a lazy bastard who hates work and her father is rarely at home. She cleans the house, does laundry, cooks, take care of their shop and much more! Which is why she considers herself to be Yuuto’s older sister (maybe she was influenced by her first name, which sounds like “Yuki big-sis”). The truth is she has a huge brother complex, and even though she is always arguing over anything with Yuuto, there’s this constant “friendly atmosphere” during their quarrels, which is akin to that of a married couple. For this reason, she is the only female Yuuto feels to be at his “same level”.Kounami Sachi is yet another strong candidate for Yuuto’s partner, being his childhood friend and the little sister of his best friend Kounami Jin. There’s only one problem: Much like Yukine, she also has a brother complex, except that she is very open about it, as she is always clinging to her older brother. She has a habit to collide with Yuuto every morning while trying to use her roller shoes to commute to school. She has a love for justice and dreams of becoming a hero (heroine?). For that reason, she is constantly fighting for whatever reason, but there’s nothing to fear, since she is inexplicably stronger than anyone. Yuuto is no exception to her purge, as he also gets his ass handed to her regularly.Manai Mariho’s first impression of Yuuto was the worst possible, as she misunderstood him for a train molester. But when Yuuto said he would never feel attracted to a 3D girl, she felt she could relate to him, since she also has no interest in real boys thanks to a childhood trauma. This traumatic episode gave her many complexes, including one about the size of her chest, which is why she uses pads to make her breasts look bigger. Even though she uses a different uniform, she just happens to be Yuuto’s senpai and the president of the internet club, which Alpha forces Yuuto to join in, because she feels Mariho has a high probability to bond together with him.Contrary to Mariho, Mercedes Japon Uren~a had a fateful encounter with Yuuto, when they first met at school and he helped her. From this point on, she became quite fond of the lad. For an exchange student such as her, Yuuto was her very first friend and even more than that. Naturally, she has an unconditional love for everything related to the Japanese culture, like most “gaijins” do. Mercedes is temporally living with the Imazeki family, the owners of a nearby convenience store. Curiously, “Imazeki” is also the name that Alpha adopted when she suddenly transferred to Yuuto’s school.
Cocoro Rista is a product of our current generation. It’s an amalgam of many of the most popular trends and tropes in nowadays’ Dating Sims, which is why the main character is an utterly loser. Each interaction with a heroine is a masochistic session, as these girls will insult and beat the protagonist up all the time, and usually for no reason. As always, it gives that strong feeling of suspension of disbelief regarding “why the fuck those chicks would fall in love with a super lame guy with no redeeming qualities whom they seem to hate so much?” Nevertheless, fans of this M fetish will probably be quite pleased…At least during the first 70% of the game, because everything changes on the remaining 30% of the playthrough.When you reach one of the heroine’s route, all of a sudden, all the girls start to be very kind and caring towards the protagonist. They will not insult him anymore, not even Seika, who have been a huge annoying bitch just moments ago! From this point on, the game will be only filled with “lovey dovey” events. No more physical or mental torture whatsoever!But why this abrupt change? Well, one could assume that Yuuto absorbed all of his rounder’s qualities when they fused their minds together. By doing so, he conquered the hearts of all heroines by turning into a better person! This would be the same as saying “BECAUSE MAGIC!”, but it would be better than nothing! However, it’s not like Yuuto needed to change anything about himself to make all the heroines fall for him. It gets to the point where the heroines don’t even know what to answer when asked why they are so head-over-heels for the guy, Except for the Nagasawa twins! Yukine and even Seika admit to feel incestuous feelings for their brother just because of a “precious memory from their childhood”…This isn’t romantic, anymore. It’s just silly!At first, I thought this mess of a plot was because the game had two writers, with a different one working just on the heroines’ routes, but according to the official credits, everything is done by Matsumori Shou, the same guy who wrote the scenario for almost all Q-X titles (except for the very first one). I assume Matsumori was trying to please as many people as he could by giving both gentle heroines as well as the cocky and sadistic ones. I can’t say he did the right thing, but at least I got 30% of enjoyable content.Too bad it didn’t last for long, as the routes are really short! After all, those aforementioned “30%” consist of all the heroines’ routes combined! Each route usually has about 3 H-scenes, 2 conflicts, credits roll and a brief epilogue. Nevertheless, this was clearly the most ambitious Q-X project in a long time, since it has two times more heroines than their previous game: Gengetsu no Pandora, a title from 2009! And if you look around their web site, you can find traces that show they were working on Cocoro Rista at least since 2012. This is a freaking long time to work on a single Galge! That’s why they’re relaying on anything to make this into a big hit.One of their main weapons was Nostalgia. They try to emulate Cocoro Navi all the time, specially when it comes to Imazeki Rinko, the imouto returning from the original game. She is very likeable, attractive, caring, kind, humble, reliable and she’s also everywhere! She has more screen-time than even some of the main heroines, and is directly involved in most of their routes. But it seems this wasn’t nearly enough, so they put Rinko’s references all over the game! Like:*Seika is a super-intelligent shut-in hacker with a cold personality, who also happens to be a little sister, much like Rinko herself. There’s even a H-scene between her and Yuuto that is pretty much exactly like a scene from Rinko’s route.*Every route has a dating scene at the water park, much like the scene in Rinko’s route.*During a certain H-scene, Yukine wears a school uniform from the same school Rinko was in Cocoro Navi.*There’s a scene between Yukine and Yuuto that is exactly the same has an exact equivalent in Cocoro Navi!*Rinko don’t get any CG scene just for her, but she appears in many CGs together with other heroines.Anyway! For this and other reasons, this game has much in common with the original Cocoro Navi, but the Galge industry changed a lot since then, so they are not as limited as they were before. Things are much “bolder” than ever, while other elements don’t have as much attention as they used to have. For instance…*Cocoro Navi starts with the classic scene where the protagonist awakes in his room. While Cocoro Rista starts with a noisy girl accusing the protagonist of molesting her.*In Cocoro Navi, you won’t be seeing nudity or anything erotic until much later in the game and only during heroines routes. On the other hand, the second scene in Cocoro Rista, is this one one here.*In Cocoro Navi, the protagonist’s best friend was this very unique and bizarre dude on the left. Unfortunately, in Cocoro Rista, you only get the plain guy on the right, whose only job is to be even more pathetic than the protagonist, just so the players could not feel so worthless.*The mother from Cocoro Navi (left) looked and acted like a real mother who is around 40 years old! But nowadays, 2D girls are immortals, as there is no such a thing as “old women”, which explains why Yuuto’s mother (right) look younger than her own daughters!*Back then, romance between real siblings was a taboo even for Japanese Erotic games! They had to work around this limitation, resulting in Rinko’s route being all about the siblings’ prohibited relationship, as they suffered to hide their feelings from their parents and friends. To avoid risks, they never have sex. But these days, incest means almost nothing in Visual Novels, so Yuuto and his sisters have all kinds of hardcore sex, and they have nothing to worry about, since their mother knew about their relationship from the very beginning, and she thinks it’s WONDERFUL!It’s kinda disappointing to see some of those changes, almost as disappointing as the name “Mercedes Japon Uren~a”. What a fucking stupid name! I can kinda explain the “Uren~a” part, though! They probably just used the wrong keyboard language to type the name “Ureña”, like in “Marco Ureña” a famous soccer player. But I have no excuses for how stupid the name “Japon” is! It’s like if there was someone famous for loving America so much that his middle name was “America”!
Akata Itsuki once again made the art for this Q-X game, just like he always did! Nowadays he’s more famous for his work on the light novel “Dragon Crisis”. I always loved his art, though (before it was cool)! It has those huge and attractive eyes, stylish haircuts and that bright red color on the lips!If you visit the official web site, you will see some SDs for each heroine. Surprisingly enough, those are by Naruse Miya, the voice actress behind the voice of the rounder Penpe and the heroine from Gengetsu no Pandora: Mahime. However, those are never used in the game, as there are no SDCGs!
Rounders and their masters never share the same voice actress (except for Rinko’s). This could be made into some interesting surprises, but sadly, they completely wasted this opportunity by making the rounders identity very obvious! Hey! Did you know Seika has a complex about her voice, but she once wanted to be a singer! Guess who her rounder is? Here’s a clue: It has something related to music!On the subject: Who had the stupid idea to give a “voice synthesizer” to Touno Soyogi’s character? This means that Soyogi will constantly try to make a robotic voice. She has one of the cutest voices in the Galge industry, but now she just sounds like a cheap vocaloid!Mercedes (the heroine, not the car!) is also quite obnoxious with how she needs to put a random “question mark” in the middle of every sentence, like she isn’t sure if she is using the correct words. Ok! It sounds way more realistic than the way the gaijin stereotype talks! And oddly enough, her Spanish sound much better than the Engrish of most Japanese voice actors!
Overall. I can’t really say Cocoro Rista is a horrible game! I played much worse than this! For me, this was an ok game. Even though I wanted it to be so much more! But to be honest, I was already expecting something like this. After all, this isn’t much different from what Gengetsu no Pandora was. Even so, It’s still depressing to see the sequel to Cocoro Navi turning out like this, because it makes more noticeable how the Dating Sim genre is declining. I hope for a brighter future…maybe on console releases!