Tag Archives: Otome

Tokyo 11/2018: Animate Girls Festival

So a quick year and a half went by from the first half of this trip report–there actually were other things I thought about writing in the meantime, but I couldn’t face not finishing this one thing and didn’t have time to revisit it.  But that’s ok!  Virtually nothing happened in the meantime, except a virulent pandemic and the decay of civilization as we knew it.

How I’ve spent the last six months.

Anyway, when we last left Past!Jeanine who was still in a reality where people could go places and do things, it was finally Animate Girl Festival day!

Day 3:  AGF Time

Started off the day with the 7-11 across the street getting a coffee and onigiri for the road, since I figured time was going to be a little tight.

Breakfast of Champions

Having seen the horrific line that covered the entire huge entry staircase to the Sunshine City Mall yesterday, I showed up around 10am to get in line for the 1pm admission time.  For a brief second I thought that was early enough as none of the line that I saw yesterday had gathered yet, but going further along the queue, the end of the line came pretty quickly.

At least I made it past the staircase to the side of the mall building.

At this point we just sat and waited for a couple hours.  This wasn’t as terrible as you’d think, since I had my salmon onigiri and finally figured out how to connect to the internet.  I also brought a little stadium cushion to sit on, so really, this was about as restful as it gets for me in Tokyo.  Eventually, this phenomenon happened that completely baffles me when I experience it in Japan:  Everyone is waiting for something and nothing happens, and nothing happens, and then ALL OF A SUDDEN everyone rises to their feet and starts dashing forward like there was some high frequency sound announcement that my gaijin ears can’t hear.  I swear, I never catch anything signaling the start of this sprint, but I see it happen like this repeatedly at Tokyo Disney Resort particularly.  It’s like some hive mind thing.

Anyway, the line starts moving, and it rapidly becomes evident that not only did I not get there early enough to miss the whole line into the building, but I may not have even missed the bulk of the line.  This thing went around like two sides of the building and switchbacked several times and took forever even though we were walking the whole time.

Oh please, make it end.

As we passed 1pm, I started sweating it a little, but eventually I managed to check in and get inside with no problems.  At THAT point, the line split off to go to about five different color-coded areas inside.  I wanted to go to Yellow, where most of the mobile Japanese games I play had booths, and this involved going up roughly a thousand flights of stairs in some back stairwell (who knows what part of the mall/convention center we were in by now.)  One thing I’ve noticed about touring Japan:  There aren’t many concessions for the weak, and there weren’t here, either.  I assume if you left this area you could find an elevator somewhere in the mall, but without being able to read or understand anything anyone was saying, you’d risk having to figure out how to get back in the convention area again, and that seemed like a worse alternative than sucking up the aerobic exercise.

Finally made it into the Yellow area by around 1:45pm, and it was just as much of a madhouse as you’d expect, but a jubilant madhouse, because people finally made it!  Photos were kind of crappy because on the one hand, there were people crammed in everywhere, and on the other hand, some booths didn’t allow photos, so you didn’t want to miss a NO PHOTO sign and be offensive.

The first booth I visited was the Cybird booth, whose Ikemen series I play semi-religiously.  Of course a lot of the more popular merch was sold out for the day already, as I assume was the case for a lot of the really desirable things across the board, but having an afternoon ticket for the second day, I had expected that.

Hope you wanted IkeVamp or Ikemen Live stuff.

This year they were doing a casino theme, where you could take a turn at a game of roulette and then pull scratch-off tickets depending on how you placed in your group.  I actually managed to win $5 on Amazon Japan, which I thought was pretty good for not understanding anything that anyone said.

I don’t know why they don’t bring more Ikemen Sengoku merch when that’s always the first to sell out.
$5! Of course I don’t know when I’ll be buying from Amazon.jp again…

Nearby was the Arithmetic booth.  I played a lot of their games at the time, but just in the last year they basically stopped updating any of their English games, so they’ve been off my radar for awhile.

Where did you go Arithmetic? “Wicked Wolves” wasn’t even that old!

The other big company I was familiar with was Voltage who had their usual good-sized booth full of merchandise that also sold out pretty fast.  They and Cybird usually have a big presence at Anime Expo (AX) along with Shall We Date.  Interestingly, Shall We Date was not here, probably because they stopped doing merch altogether after one AX where they took a lot of flack from people who, I guess wanted their favorite games better represented.

Bring more chibis!

The other interesting thing was that you couldn’t just depend on looking at the company booths for merchandise, as third-party vendors also had items connected to various franchises as well.  SEGA had a big Cybird tie-in where not only did they have a boothful of product to sell, but various SEGA arcades throughout Ikebukuro had special claw machines where you could win Ikemen badges.

Ugh, I wanted a tote bag.

Most of the items were blind box, which was annoying because I traditionally have the worst luck at blind box purchases.  This booth compounded the issue as you had to buy a raffle ticket which then determined from what category of merch you got to pick.  At one point, I wound up just buying a complete set of chibi acrylic stands because I knew I would never get the ones I wanted otherwise.  I also discovered another element of difficulty, which I really should have expected, in that most of these booths did not take credit cards.  Most smaller sellers around Japan do not, but for some reason I couldn’t believe that they would be in a venue where people were buying hundreds of dollars of merchandise and not take credit cards.  Cue a trip to the ATM.

So many cute things to buy.

At this point, I had gotten to most of the booths I really wanted to see and now was able to wander around looking at everything else in all the other areas.  The amount of space was HUGE and kind of spread out around the convention center.  Three of the areas were kind of clustered together, but two of the others seemed to be on a completely different floor and side of the mall building, so it wasn’t an entirely small matter to go between them.  I think there might have been one color I didn’t even get to, because it closed a little earlier than I had expected.  Most of the booths were full of standee photo ops from games and anime that haven’t been localized or brought over to the US yet (at least at that time.)  Looking back now, it’s funny how many franchises I’ve seen/played now, that I was clueless about then.

A3!
I’m not entirely sure what this is from, but so cute.
Little bread squishies of the A3! guys.
There was a lot of Idolish7 stuff, but not as much as Uta Pri, of course.
These guys look so cheerful you would never know how gruesome the actual story of “Black Butler” is.

Mostly it was me going around admiring everything and then having to show people my phone where I had PLEASE LOCALIZE THIS AND BRING IT TO AMERICA translated.

Can you imagine something even having this many characters?
I heard this game didn’t do that well over there, so good luck seeing it here.

One booth actually had all their voice actors out in front greeting people and handing out business cards for their characters.  This was at the end of the day and no one was stopping much so the booth people encouraged me to meet them, despite my gesturing that I would not have a lot to say.  They were super nice.

Sorry people I met that I didn’t speak Japanese! My education clearly had gaps.

Eventually, the time ran out and they shooed us away.  In Japan, everything ends pretty promptly–none of the usual convention endings where people straggle around doing last minute buys for another 20 minutes or so.  In Japan, everything closes about 15 minutes to the hour, and when it’s done, it’s done.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay there.  I celebrated surviving AGF by getting a sundae in the mall in a coffee shop that had the virtue of being the only place that didn’t have a line to sit down.

Mostly cornflakes, as oddly enough, most of the sundaes in Japan are.

Later, I staggered back to the hotel through Ikebukuro, stopping at the SEGA arcade to throw money into some claw machines.  I was predictably bad at them so eventually the workers took pity on me and basically put the pins I wanted right at the edge for me to knock off.

There apparently is a whole floor of the arcade that is mostly claw games that change seasonally to different franchises.
I probably would have spent a lot of money trying to get the plush dolls if I that game had been available before this trip.

Even long into the night, every park-like area of Ikebukuro was filled with people trading and chatting and cosplaying their hearts out, which is always nice to see.  I particularly liked the prevalence of older women at AGF which is a population I don’t see as much in the usual conventions I attend.

Nice that everyone was out at night. Also, I lost the hotel again.

So to sum up:  I found AGF super fun but incredibly exhausting.  If you don’t know Japanese and aren’t that familiar with being there, the level of difficulty of attending is pretty high because you really can’t depend on anyone being able to understand English at all.  Once I was able to get cellular data and could use a translating app again, it became a lot easier, but before that it was pretty frustrating.  Having said that, it’s an experience that I really think you could not get in the US, because here there is just too much disdain for women and their entertainment in general for any game companies to put any money into even games aimed towards women, much less big events about the games.  The amount of merchandise was staggering, very limited edition, and again, rarely brought out of Japan…so if you want something for a niche game this is really your only chance before paying marked-up secondary market prices.

Things I would consider if I were going again:

  • Staying at one of the hotels adjacent or preferably attached to the mall for faster access
  • Buying a ticket for both afternoons
  • Getting in line 4-5 hours in advance (but probably wouldn’t because that’s a long time)
  • Taking as much cash as I could carry.

I think after it was over, I thought I was glad I went, but wasn’t anxious to race back to do it again, mostly because I felt like I missed so much by not being able to understand all the outside events that were happening throughout the town.  Having had every event cancelled for this whole year however, I would say that if the conditions were safe, I’d go again now.

[TBH:  I would probably go just about anywhere now.]

Tokyo 11/18: Namja Town and Preparing for Animate Girls Festival

Day 2: Sunshine City and no Wi-Fi.

One of the glitches of the trip came when the mobile Wi-Fi I had ordered from Global Communications had not arrived at the hotel when I checked in. This was not completely unexpected as I had forgotten to confirm it initially, and then after I remembered to put in my payment, noticed it was after the cancellation point. It took my payment though, so I was hoping it would take, but no dice–after I emailed them about it, they just refunded me and I had to place another order for a couple days later. This meant that I had no Wi-Fi but I figured it would be ok since I have free roaming with T-Mobile and would be spending a lot of time in a big mall which would surely have free Wi-Fi. Right? Right?

Wrong. Although it looked like I had a pretty good docomo cell signal, it never registered any data connection. Also, the Sunshine City Mall is not so much for Wi-Fi unless you have a particular app that helps connect you, and it’s hard to download an app without already having Wi-Fi.  Also I couldn’t get my roaming cell service to kick in for anything, until the next day when I suddenly thought of restarting my phone after it updated its connection…things.  In any case, the moral is that you should probably not forget to pay for your mobile Wi-Fi router in a timely fashion.

On the off-chance that there are people out there interested in going to Animate Girls Festival (AGF) I’ll go into a little detail about it, since when I was planning to go I couldn’t find any practical information in English about it at all.  (This information was correct as of 11/2018, when I went, and is, of course, subject to change.) AGF is a yearly event put on by Animate, a huge chain of stores specializing in anime-related merchandise in Japan.  It takes place in Sunshine City, a reasonably large mall connected to a convention center space in Ikebukuro–what’s known as the Akihabara for women, as the stores and cafes there lean more towards properties geared towards girls.

Gacha as far as the eye can see.

AGF is basically a two day merchandising event where a large number of companies who produce anime, video games, visual novels, manga, etc. can buy booth space and sell merch related to their various properties.  Because of its specificity of focus, it attracts a lot of companies who don’t typically make or sell merch, so for the audience that’s really into that one obscure character in that one free-to-play mobile game, this is your big chance to get something with him on it.

Utano-PrinceSama merch at the Animate store in Ikebukuro

As is the case with a lot of things in Japan, the way to buy into something like this is somewhat complicated if you a) don’t live in Japan, and b) don’t speak or read Japanese.  It could be argued that no one in their right mind would want to go to such a thing if they didn’t either live in Japan or speak Japanese, but honestly, people in their right minds miss out on an awful lot.

I basically had to run all the Animate sites through Google Translate which is sometimes more helpful and sometimes less.  From what I could figure out, it seems that there are three types of tickets:  An early entry ticket, an all-day ticket, and an afternoon-only ticket.  The process of getting an early entry or all-day ticket involved entering a lottery that was only held once, for about a week.  After the lottery, winners were notified and could then purchase their tickets–any leftovers were dispensed in a secondary lottery some months later.  The problem I had was that from the erratic translation I had, I gathered that both types of tickets needed to be picked up onsite with a photo ID…and it wasn’t clear to me whether they would accept a passport with information that wasn’t in kana.  What was pretty clear was that if you didn’t have the right ID, they weren’t going to give you the ticket at all.  The afternoon tickets, in contrast, were available as just a straight online purchase so that seemed like a safer bet.

What made even that transaction difficult is that in order to buy anything from the AGF website, it appeared that you had to register for the Animate Club website, and then use that login to purchase the tickets.  Unfortunately, you could only register for the website with a Japan address.  What to do?

Sunshine City has some pretty cute stores.

I imagine there are many different ways to deal with this, however I used a website called Tenso which provides you with a free Japanese mailing address for the purposes of buying stuff.  I believe the way it’s supposed to work is that you buy stuff there, have it shipped domestically to whatever specific Japanese address they give you, and then they take it from there and ship it to you internationally for a service fee.  I have never used it in that fashion–only to register for online things.

Having figured out how to register, I was a little concerned as to whether I would need to have them mail the tickets to the address and get them sent by proxy to me which seemed like a huge hassle, but then realized you could arrange to print them out and pick them up at any 7-11, which are ubiquitous and multi-purpose there.  By this time, the only tickets left were for Sunday afternoon, but I figured without knowing how much of a madhouse it was going to be, that might be all I needed.  From this point it was pretty easy, since they took international credit cards online and the pickup at the 7-11 across the street from my hotel was a breeze thanks to the helpful employees there.

Since I didn’t have a ticket for the first day, I figured I would head over and do a trial run to the mall, scoping it out for the second day.  After walking around all of Ikebukuro cursing my lack of Wi-Fi for about 45 minutes, I finally found it.  Sunshine City is a large mall that seems to be connected to a convention center-like area on one end where AGF was taking place.  By the time I arrived, which was around noon, the huge staircase that leads up to that side’s entrance seemed totally covered with people in line or trading things or trying to muscle their way into the mall between them.  I tried to figure out where the line started so I could get in position fast the next day, when I discovered that there was no English written or spoken in AGF except for the letters “AGF.”  Eventually I wandered around enough where I felt like I knew how the line was going, and actually ended up seeing Hiro and Diana from Cybird in line.

Hiro and Diana at the Cybird panel at Anime Expo 2018

Having found out about as much as I could concerning the line up process (which looked frighteningly long even an hour before the afternoon tickets were supposed to be let in,) I just wandered the mall looking at the cute things and watched one of the few programming events that took place on the mall stage and didn’t require a ticket.  Because this is a bizarro situation where the performances didn’t need a ticket, but buying the merch did.

An appearance by the voice actors of Ikemen Live Koi no Uta o Kimi ni
There were a LOT of people at AGF. I think the people in chairs bought the early/fast entry tickets.
It was a talk-show format, I think, with parts where they did improv and read scripts from the visual novel. It was entertaining even without understanding much of it.

Afterwards, I walked around Ikebukuro and visited the big Animate store where they were having a big K7 Stories display (one of the few current animes I’ve seen.)

Afterwards visited Namja Town–a mini amusement park inside the mall that is part arcade and part themed food court.

Namja Town

The games there looked interesting (additional fee) but most seemed to require a pretty high degree of Japanese to play them, so I contented myself with just walking around and triggering the various effects placed around the themed areas.

Some areas have little windows you can peek into to see scenes, or areas you touch that move or make a noise.
There are of course scary haunted areas because Japanese stories are always mad scary.
They were having some sort of special event on these guys from a game I did not know.

The main reason I was there however, was for the Gyoza Stadium.  In Japan, they frequently advertise things like ramen or takoyaki museums that are really just food courts, and this wasn’t too much more than that, except for the great post-war theming.

It was pretty good gyoza. Not too cheap after awhile, but you’re not going to go every day.
All the different booths had different gyoza from different locations around Japan, presumably renowned for their gyoza.

They were supposed to also be known for having a dessert area where you could get ice cream in a bunch of wacky flavors, but I only saw one place open in that spot and I think it was selling pastries, mostly.

They even played period-appropriate music which I thought was a nice touch.
Most of these corridors opened up into little areas where people could sit and eat their gyoza.

Anyway, after that closed for the night, it was time to find my way back to the hotel and rest up for the next day of actually attending AGF.

The hotel was reasonably close to both the train station and Sunshine City, if you are not terminally lost, as I am.

 

 

“Liar! Uncover the Truth: Sequel Chapter Four” Playthrough Thoughts

SPOILERS

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—Ok, here we go again. At least we don’t get Kunio this time.

—Yuri is the best. I never get why she’s hanging around someone as lousy as Lady Sachi.

Lady Sachi on Keima’s turnaround, and the only time I’ve ever agreed with her.

—Man, what is the deal with putting your bffs that are all comatose drunk into cabs by themselves and hoping for the best? Particularly after one of you almost got abducted and raped that way?

—The landlord roping them into running the booth for free rent sounds implausible until I remember the time in school the ceiling of our rental house caved in, and the landlord got us to clean it all up for a month’s rent.

—MC is stone cold, making dates right in front of two guys who like her.

—Wow, harsh that MC picked up the special Nanyami doll even though she didn’t give a crap about it compared to everyone else.

—Oh nice of MC to totally lie to Itaru about Toya being a nutcase so she doesn’t have to be indebted to him for saving her…LIKE HE DID.

Itaru speaks for me.

—Basically MC can forgive and forget anything you’ve done to her unless your name rhymes with “bitaru.”

—GDI, I cant believe I screwed up the data hunt AGAIN.

—Ok, at this point, I might just go ahead and bag getting the early clear bonuses and just try to redo it the next time there’s a data hunt for me to botch.

Itaru’s expression at having the fortune teller glom onto him kills me.

—Well Joe is a nutcase, but at least the Nanyami doll went to someone who really appreciates it.

Or maybe he’d just think you have shockingly bad judgement LIKE THE REST OF US.

—Awesome that she’s now going around pulling cold hot dogs out of people’s hands so she can get the special love fortune.

—Oh Well, Kota was kind of grumpy anyway. I bet he’ll get a route someday.

—Ok, on to the specific routes. As usual, we’ll start with our least favorite and work up.

Oh honey, you are about eight short.

—Holy mackerel, she stole Sotaro’s breakfast! MC is like your nightmare roommate.

—Now she’s giving Sotaro’s breakfast to Keima and I just can’t anymore.

BUT HE…AND YOU…HUMAN TRAFFICKING…oh, forget it.

Oh good. Off to Germany with Keima and Lady Sachi. What could possibly go wrong.

—Ok, the fact that MC is letting this dude who probably stole her wallet front her money for gambling his so bad.

—The fact that he now wants her to sex off her debts to him is a surprise to only MC.

If there was any justice, MC’s first female slap would be now.

—Wow, I took so long with this, they actually started up another data hunt already.

—Ugh, can’t decide whether I like Joe or Toya least.

—Joe in whatever backwater village MC is from feels like it should turn out like Eva Gabor’s character in “Green Acres.”

—Well he acquitted himself like a normal person, but now he just seems like a totally different guy, since Joe’s always been marked by weirdly extravagant speech and actions.

—On to Toya. Maybe it’s just me, but if you JUST got frightened by a guy thinking that he was so mad he might let loose and beat you, maybe you don’t go along with it when he says he won’t let you go home and now you have to live with him.

—I always wonder if this is an actual Japanese thing or just a mechanism of fiction that people can decide to go stay at someone’s house or a hotel that same night with no preparation or anything.

—Like, I can’t stay somewhere overnight without about two hours of packing and a 30” duffel bag.

—Again, It seems like she went with him almost 30% because she really likes cake.

—I like that her big confession to him is “I love you…r cakes.”

—Wow, just read that getting the early clear data for both halves requires like 48 extra tickets, which I don’t have.

—Guess we’re letting this data hunt slide by as well.

—Back with Haruichi and his perpetual Yakuza girlfriend-threatening rivals.

—I feel like MC is, in the hysteria of the moment, overlooking the part where Haruichi said he had his henchmen investigate and report back on her living situation.

—Now he wants her to not go to work and just stay and sleep in his room for some indeterminate amount of time while he hunts down some threatening guys she hasn’t seen for herself yet, and now it’s sounding like HE’s kidnapped her.

—Asako has just told MC that she’s been living with the Mamiyas for forty years now, and I’m expecting her to say she was just staying until they hunted down their rivals too.

—Ok, I get that Haruichi is used to faction fighting within his own clan, but he seems pretty blasé about the fact that his MOM practically put a hit out on him.

—Ok Itaru. Try not to make me sad about MC’s treatment of you this time.

—Wow, she got all mad at him and I don’t even know why. Because the server dropped a glass? And he was nice about it?

—Maybe MC has been around so many of these nutbars, she forgot what a reasonable response was.

—Oh good. Now she got him maimed because she ran out into traffic upset for reasons unknown to either Itaru or me.

—Oh my God, he got amnesia, which is really the only way any of this can end happily for Itaru.

—If Yuri got divorced and then married Itaru, I would feel like they had a chance for a good life.

—Now I have no idea why she’s moping around so much. When she was all he thought about, she found him repulsive, and now that he doesn’t remember her, she’s bummed.

—Maybe make up your mind next time, MC.

—Notice that at no time does she tell him or anyone else that he got hit by the car because SHE darted in front of it like a dummy.

—No thank you or anything, plus she acts all sullen at him like it’s his fault he got brain damage saving her. He really is better off this way.

—Now she is so concerned about him, she’s letting Sotaro buy her cake, like she’s the one who got hit by a car.

DING DING DING DING
We have a wiiiiinner…

—Oh so now after she lied to him about him ever caring about her, he has decided to accept his memory loss and live a fruitful life. Clearly, she can’t tolerate that and is going to run after him like a banshee to ruin his life some more.

—Oh my God, she gave him ANOTHER concussion.

—Dude is going to die before she figures out what she wants.

—So it ends with her having beaten Itaru’s obsessive love for her (and probably a subdural hematoma) back into him again, so she can be happy wielding complete power over him while continuing to deny him the slightest signs of affection.

—In the life of MC, we call this “Tuesday.”

Hakuoki Festival Edo Blossoms 2018

Attended the Hakuoki Festival last week—it was pretty fun, although a little weird to go to a festival about a game I haven’t played yet. (I was waiting until the second half came out!) It was taking place pretty close to where I live and had free parking tho, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

It was pretty fun! They had some games that ran the gamut from easy (Plinko) to hard (rubber band shooting) to impossible-for-me (game trivia.)

Besides that, there was a cosplay contest and photo ops with character stand ups that were auctioned off at the end.

Along with that, they provided respectable refreshments like crackers and cheese and hummus and cookies which was nice since their location wasn’t around any eating places. Merch was also available for purchase—I didn’t get any of the single character charms/pins/badges since I didn’t know their in-game specifics and didn’t want to be the person getting all the Hans merchandise during intermission for “Frozen.”

Voting for Best Boy was held (Saito won) and a Wall for people to draw cartoons or write messages was provided. People are both talented and relatable.

The thing I thought was the most entertaining was probably trying to collect all the different coasters you could win from the various games. It was tricky since, having not played the game yet, I couldn’t do the trivia and I proved to totes suck at rubber band guns, but people were super nice and traded/gave me some and I finally succeeded.

In all it was a fun day and certainly helped increase my anticipation for playing Hakuoki!

Review: “Amnesia: Memories”

So since there was a serendipitous overlap of a) me being wretchedly sick and b) #DatingSiMonth, I finally got motivated to finish off a game that’s been sitting in my queue for some time–Idea Factory’s “Amnesia:  Memories.”

The Setup:

In “Amnesia,” you play a protagonist who’s had the misfortune of colliding with a spirit named Orion, who is now stuck in you.  Even worse, Orion has managed to displace most of your memories (memories have mass?) so all you have left is your name and knowledge of activities of daily living.  Starting off in a limbo-like state, Orion tells you to choose one of four world (Heart, Spade, Club, or Diamond) states which in turn determines the storyline and romance you get.

Once you begin, Orion, in a nice display of paranoia, advises you against telling anyone you have amnesia unless you absolutely trust them, because it would otherwise only result in them either locking you away in a hospital where you’d slowly go insane from sharing your mind too long, or taking advantage of your lack of memories for their own personal gain.  The only way you can get back to normal is by having experiences that remind you of things–the influx of memories will have the effect of pushing out Orion and achieving separation.

Because the main person you end up interacting with is your romance interest (sometimes he starts off as your boyfriend, sometimes not,) there are generally three parameters you can track to see how well you’re accomplishing your charade of a relationship:  Affection, Trust, and Suspicion.  Ultimate failure at any one of the three generally leads to a Bad End, of which there are several per route.

[SPOILERS FOR PLOT CONTENT BELOW]

The Story:

Each of the four routes ends up representing a different genre:  Mystery, Fantasy, Romantic Comedy, and Horror, with an additional route only revealed after finishing all the others.  In general, the beginning of each one deals with the heroine trying to figure out the mechanics of her life–where she works and goes to school and what her relationships are.  Interestingly enough, although the player is free to choose to play the suits in any order, I found that playing them in the order listed actually made the most sense in terms of how they introduced these things.  For example:  In each world the heroine works at the same Maid Cafe.  In the Heart route, a significant amount of time is spent with one character introducing the concept to the heroine and training her beforehand in what she needs to do there.  In the Spade route, they show her having some problems and getting help at the workplace.  In the Club route, it just shows her mastering her work by getting the manual and reading it at home, and by the last two routes there’s hardly any mention of her learning anything about it–she seems as familiar with it as the player is, by that time.  There are also specific character relationships and pathologies that are revealed in both the Heart and Spade worlds that play important roles in the Diamond world.  The Club world is largely stand-alone.

The Characters:

The major character, and the one that’s around you almost all the time, is Orion.  I found Orion hilarious, in large part to the voice work by Hiromi Igarashi.  Although the dialogue is all in Japanese with English subtitles, Igarashi is so animated and Orion so histrionic that in a lot of instances you hardly need the translation to get his reaction.  Although sometimes of very little help and periodically a source of really bad advice, Orion is completely devoted to helping the player get back her memories, and is a fierce advocate for her in situations where he perceives she’s being treated unfairly.

Tell us what you really think, Orion.
Tell us what you really think, Orion.

The rest of the characters are pretty much the same in each storyline, although they change in their relationships to the heroine.  One might be a boyfriend in one world, then an advisor in the next.  Or a brother-figure in one world, and a boyfriend in another.  Or a creepy stalker in one world, and…a creepy stalker in a few of them, actually.

I love this expression on Orion.
I love this expression on Orion.

While I haven’t had too much experience with otome games and their various conventions, the boyfriends in this game appear to have a lot of common characteristics found in this genre.  Most of them have a touch of the tsundere about them, except for the ones that go full-blown yandere, which justifies the heroine’s mistrust of them until late in the game.  For those unprepared, I can imagine that this might completely turn them off on all of the guys as each one has moments where they are, at best, rude and hypercritical of the heroine, and at worst, kinda rapey.  Of the five, Ikkyu (Spade) and Kent (Club) come off the best as at least they are shown to each have a rationale for their behavior by the end.

Ending Thoughts:

[SUPER SPOILERS FOR THE DIAMOND END.  DON’T EVEN, IF YOU’RE GOING TO PLAY IT AND HAVEN’T FINISHED.]

So if I was going to rank the different stories, I would probably go Club, Spade, Heart, Joker, and Diamond.  This is largely based on both the appeal of the romantic interest and the ability of the story to hold up under the amount of repetition required to get all the endings.  I have a fair amount of gaming OCD where I need to get all the endings and in some instances, that was a pretty grueling process.

The Heart route probably had the most involved plotting, although it was hard for me to take it all in, given that it was the first one I played and I don’t think I had a clear idea on what the end goal was supposed to be.  My approach to these games is that I would play through once completely blind, and then go back with a walkthrough to get the specific endings I missed.  As a general rule, I almost always ended up with the Normal ending when I answered on my own–these tended to be a result of the heroine never evidencing a sufficient level of trust in their guy, causing a end where the couple separates, but has hope of reuniting in the future.  To me, the amount of support you had to show for the Good End towards guys who were often treating you pretty bad was fairly extreme, but maybe that’s why some of us were not naturally created to be otome heroines.

Orion speaks for me.
Orion speaks for me.

Kent’s story was most appealing to me, in part because at his worst he just seemed kind of stiff and unemotional as opposed to the full-blown psychosis some of the others demonstrated, but also because his route was relatively free of the unifying sub-plot that confusingly peeks into every world but is only explained in the last, secret route.

My least favorite world was Diamond–I found this one absolutely frustrating on a number of different levels.  In the first place, it was the last one (of the cardinal four) I played, so some of the parts that seemed like they were supposed to be big mysteries were pretty apparent from the beginning, if you were familiar with all the characters from the other routes.  In the second place, to get all the different endings in most of the others, you generally had to save and start from different points in the story, making different decisions or saying different things to move the story into a different direction.

In Diamond, literally the only difference between some of the routes was a couple of different choices close to the beginning, and then the rest of the game was identical, except for the ending.  This means you had to play through almost the same game like four different times to get all the endings.  Maybe this wouldn’t have been so bad except that you actually spend most of this world confined and totally passive (so passive that at one point Orion starts playing another video game just to pass the time) and…

Dude is a complete psychopath!  Almost from the beginning, it’s obvious that he’s lying to you, and it just progresses from there to basically putting you under house arrest, then drugging you, then locking you up in a dog cage.

Toma, no.
Toma, no.

For some reason, Orion constantly gives you the worst advice possible in this one, and you’re not even given any options that make sense half the time.  When you have access to your phone you don’t have the option to call for help, and when you get out, you’re never able to try to head anywhere but right back to where Toma is likely to catch you again.

The real finisher is the endings.  A bad ending is where Toma winds up keeping you in the cage as a sex slave for, I guess, the rest of your life, while you get brain damaged from having Orion in your head for too long.  This is despite the fact that at least one of your friends knows he’s keeping you in his place!  WTH, Shin?!

You saw he was keeping us there Shin! You didn't get curious when we never saw the light of day again?
You saw he was keeping us there Shin! You didn’t get curious when we never saw the light of day again?

The Normal end is where Toma actually tries to rape you, but you manage to escape and run out into the street in your underwear.  You get rescued, but Toma leaves town and you are sad for the rest of your life because you never see him again, and apparently Stockholm Syndrome is a thing.

So at this point, I figure the Good end must be totally different right?  WRONG, back in the cage again.  The only difference between the Good end and the Normal end is that this time, when Toma tries to rape you, he accidentally reads your diary where you wrote that you were in love with him, and suddenly everything is cool and you just start kissing?  The epilogue is that you wander off with him promising that you’ll stay with him forever, and he notes that you have the worst taste in men, and at least one of those two things is perfectly true.

Orion's face throughout most of Toma's route.
Orion’s face throughout most of Toma’s route.

The absolute kicker, however, is that when you get to the secret/Joker end, there is actually one part where Ukyo (your other psychotic future-telling boyfriend) warns you against oversharing with Toma.  If you ignore that and make friendly conversation with him…SURPRISE!  Back in the cage for the rest of your life again!  At this point, you’ve spent so much time in the cage, it’s like you lived it real time with the heroine.

Toma aside, however, I actually did like this game quite a bit.  The art was beautiful and just listening to the Japanese voice work made me crack up, even not understanding most of it.  I would play at least half of it again once the immediate knowledge of it dies off…just not the Diamond world.

Rating:  8/10