Review by BWoodhouse

"Costume Jewelry"

If Jewel Knights - Crusaders serves as any indication, the Japanese company responsible for its creation utilizes what one would believe to be a common marketing strategy, making their products synonymous with their name. This particular title is advertised as pure farce; a parody that pokes fun at sentai-battle shows like Sailor Moon or the infamous Power Rangers. Certainly, it succeeds in pointing out the most ridiculous aspects of the genre. However, these forced moments of levity occur in-between reprehensible events that are somehow portrayed in a glorified way. For this utter lack of class, Jewel Knights - Crusaders earns the company seal: ZEROCOOL.

Most of the game's failings can be placed on the broad shoulders of the manly protagonist. One can acknowledge the creators' efforts at avoiding the tired archetype of a simpering weakling who, despite lacking any experience with women, finds himself in the middle of a harem of admirers. In contrast, Ginji Takeda is a raging badass who lives for a good streetfight, and he has a nationwide reputation as an unbeatable force. Even though this bloodthirsty warrior will just as happily beat down a glass opponent as the Devil himself, he does proclaim to live by one ethical code: he can't stand to see the strong take advantage of the weak.

Immediately, though, his hypocritical actions speak louder than any words. One day, Ginji wanders unknowingly into the middle of battle between the scantily-clad champions of justice, the Jewel Knights, and the nearly naked minions of evil known as Ragnarokrr. Temporarily caught off-guard, Ginji's hit with a powerful attack and knocked unconscious, but he's fortunately saved by the Knights. He promptly shows his gratitude for their kindness by raping all three members. Somehow, these vile deeds are intended to serve as an illustration of his overflowing machismo and actually raise the player's opinion of the faux hero. All those responsible for the conception should take note of a basic fact: having a guy throw a girl down and take advantage of her does not make him manly; it just makes him a rapist scumbag.

Of course, the girls in the game are more than willing to classify Ginji's inhuman behavior as a minor character flaw. In fact, the Jewel Knights would graciously allow him to continue if he agrees to fight with them against evil (besides himself). Only Ruri seems reluctant to forgive and trust the guy again. Being the obstinate and independent one of the bunch, though, she musters the same levels of indignance at even the smallest annoyance. The resident lolicon, Hisui, is also at least a little shy, but that has more to do with her overall role, which involves looking and acting like a six-year old Goldilocks. The group's supposedly responsible leader, Meno, provides the biggest push for his inclusion in the team; the pink-haired nurse seems to have fallen for her former patient at his first felonious act. Even the sworn enemy of the Jewel Knights, the arrogant Arshura, doesn't mind being throttled after every loss in battle. The four victims aren't made out to be such, which should be enough to turn most off of this title.

For those who persevere, don't expect a reward. As much talk of there is of fighting in this game, it does in fact feature the typical bishoujo game interface, still characters superimposed over various backgrounds with command-selection driven gameplay. What's more remarkable is how simple the endings are to achieve, even when compared to the notoriously easy setup of most all games. Half the decisions don't matter at all, they only determine who Ginji will screw next. In fact, all the guesswork has been taken out of the ultimate fate of our main character. At certain points you're unceremoniously presented with a menu featuring a picture of each girl; choose the one you like best repeatedly and she'll magically give into his charms.

This absence of even a semblance of gameplay can be blamed on the relative lack of plot. Jewel Knights - Crusaders fancies itself as some sort of cue-card anime, complete with episode titles, eye-catches, and previews that spoil all of the important upcoming scenes. Yes, there is a general theme of the virtuous Jewel Knights obstructing Ragnarokrr's vile path towards world domination. Most of the events, though, would be best described as filler, except that implies they occur in the space between points of significance. Things that are almost cute, like Ginji accompanying Ruri to karaoke or a DDR contest get swept away by the banality of lecturing Hisui about not trusting dubious strangers (like Ginji) or eating cheap noodles with Meno. With any potential drama stifled by this glaze of unimportance there's no way to get excited about whatever might be happening next.

Don't forget, though, that Jewel Knights - Crusaders is supposedly a comedy, so the effect of the disappointing plot could have been mitigated by some genuine humor. Certainly, the material takes advantage of the battle-team genre's most glaring idiosyncrasies: the characters have cheesy codenames, they rattle off ridiculously named attacks during fights, and the heroes even transform by exposing their magic thongs. Also, the villain Arshura is delightfully manic, cackling lofty threats one moment but wallowing in self-pity the next. These themes can't really sustain momentum for long though, and they're counterbalanced by jokes that fall flat in the first place, like Ginji's attempt to think up lewd fighting poses for the girls.

The reason these ploys don't connect is quite simple; most of them would rely on visual gags to get their point across. Because the game follows the traditional text-based format of bishoujo games though, the player is left to read through a sometimes lengthy description of an event, and that's not suited to elicit the knee-jerk reaction required to enjoy this type of dirty humor. The game only breaks this trend in the raunchy harem ending, where it explores some notorious hentai fetishes: catgirls, unbelievably oversized breasts (as opposed to only normally oversized), and hermaphroditic themes. These scenes are undoubtedly illustrated only because they contain sexual content, but having that visual makes these over-the-top moments some of the only ones where you'll laugh out loud at the ridiculousness of it all.

With little complementary material, the artwork that is featured is easily the highlight of the game. The girls literally bust out of their tight superhero uniforms with skimpy skirts. They even look enchanting in their sexy civilian clothes, and out of them as well. Though sparse, with usually only one picture per encounter, the sexual scenes have plenty of variety and reveal alluring details like Ruri's seductive tanlines. Excluding the disturbing pedo moments with Hisui, you could wholeheartedly enjoy the rest, if only they weren't accompanied by accounts of how the girl happened to be unconscious.

In essence, Jewel Knights - Crusaders represents every unsavory aspect of adult bishoujo games. It treats rape as a joke, sex randomly occurs with no significance, and there's no story or characters to care about. Perhaps that's the point though, that the game is so terrible that it becomes a parody of itself. If that is indeed the case, however, you could only enjoy the game by planting your tongue firmly enough in your cheek to rupture the skin. At least it earns the company name; Jewel Knights - Crusaders has zero appeal, and it certainly isn't cool.

Reviewer's Rating:   1.0 - Terrible

Originally Posted: 11/29/04

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