Review by TheConfessor
"A good and expansive plot concept hindered by stunted execution and a poor translation."
Ryo Sakagawa is too nice. He lent out his "life force" to give a deceased girl of his acquaintance one last chance to express her unrequited love for another... and now he's just a disembodied soul, watching helplessly as his friends and girlfriend cry over his sleeping body.
The story takes several twists and turns from there, many of which depend on the player's choices in the same manner as most other mature adventure games of Japanese origin... but the choices given are often insufficiently granular, and actions not left up to choice sometimes seem at odds with the mindset and motivations I, as the player, attribute to Ryo based on the previous choices made.
For an example of the former, at one point Ryo enlists the help of a psychic in contacting his pining girlfriend, but fails spectacularly in assuming she would believe in the seemingly impossible in the absence of evidence, even after having been warned otherwise by said psychic. Neither Ryo nor the psychic, however, thought to compile a list of details of their relationship that only Ryo would know before making contact. There are several more examples of this in the course of the game, and when taken together they amount to an unbridgeable disconnect between my point of view as the player, and the point of view of the first person character. In a way, it's similar to the disassociation I felt when I tried playing Slave Pageant, a game controlled similarly, but featuring mandatory scenes of rape and heavy coercion. I'm not a rapist, and I'm not stupid, and I have no interest in pretending to be either.
Several examples of the latter occur in the second half of the game, which in some instances assumes a regard for Minamo - the woman to whom Ryo lent his life force - not indicated by previous choices or otherwise explained. I would go into more detail on this point, but doing so would spoil too much of the plot, which remains somewhat effective despite its many problems.
My final complaint specifically involving the plot involves several narrative choices in which the character's intent seems unclear. Having the player's choices occasionally have an unexpected effect is fine, and can actually increase enjoyment of the game, but since the game is played from a first-person perspective, there should never be any question as to what the character expects to accomplish with a given choice. I will not deduct points for this, however, since it seems to be a flaw shared by many other Eroge games.
Given that the game was originally in Japanese, and was subsequently translated to English by speciality publisher G-Collections, it's difficult to know where to attribute blame for the problems in plotting, but the translation contains several obvious errors of its own in spelling, grammar, and even in naming; certain scenes use the name Mio (Ryo's girlfriend) to refer to Minamo (possessor of his life force) and vice versa. Some narrative choices also seem blatantly mistranslated, rather than merely unclear in intent; one particularly memorable example in the first half of the game simply reuses the choices given at a previous juncture for a situation to which they do not apply. This error especially makes me wonder if the game was test-played at all prior to its English-language release.
My final complaint with this game is more a matter of taste than the ones listed above. The game uses the peculiar Japanese blend of humor and drama seen in light anime series such as Excel Saga and Rurouni Kenshin, epitomized by the execution of "fight scenes" between certain of the female characters. In my experience, this sort of humor tends to distract from rather than enhance the dramatic facets of the plot. Again, I will not deduct points for this, as it seems to be a matter of my taste more than anything else.
From a *perfect* score of 10/10, I deduct two points for its severe plot problems. More would have been deducted were it not for my affection for the game's overall conceit and certain plot elements that I have not mentioned for fear of spoilers.
From a remaining score of 8/10, I deduct two more points for its translation problems, which are relatively severe even by the muted standards of Eroge games.
Neither the sound nor art style merit any further deduction or bonus to the scoring, so the final score is 6/10. Having said that, however, if you share my dislike for the mix of comedy and drama mentioned above, there are many Eroge games that might be more to your taste, such as Kana: Little Sister and Crescendo on the heavier side of the dramatic scale, and The Sagara Family and Amorous Professor Cherry on the lighter side.
Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 10/23/09
Game Release: Figures of Happiness (US, 03/28/05)
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