With only 9 days to go until the release of ALICE=ALICE and Bad Medicine -Infectious Teachers-, Rejet has released a trial for each game on 13th May. I don’t think I spent any longer than 20 minutes per trial. It seemed like Rejet was cautious as to not give too much away. The shortness of the game makes me think that both of these games could be interpreted more as a “supplement” to their respective drama CD series rather than an established, stand-alone visual novel title such as the Black Wolves Saga duology or Ken ga Kimi. This also explains the pleasantly cheaper price when compared to your average otome game. So if you’re strapped on cash and/or would like to play something short that won’t command too many hours of your time, both of these titles are worth checking out- especially ALICE=ALICE.
The format this review will take on will be very similar to my monthly “Visual Novel Releases of [X Month]” entries, due to the shortness of the trials. I didn’t manage to write enough to warrant separate posts for each trial. I’m sorry if this seems lazy!
Release date: 28-5-2013
Artist: Suou (スオウ)
Rating: CERO C (15+)
Price: 2,917 yen
Knowledge of Japanese recommended: Basic
Official website: http://rejetweb.jp/alice/
VNDb.org link: http://vndb.org/v13100
* Cast *
~ Kuro Usagi (Black Rabbit) – Kondou Takashi
~ Sangatsu Usagi (March Hare) – Tachibana Shinnosuke
~ Chesha Neko (Chesire Cat) – Takahashi Naozumi
~ Boushiya (Mad Hatter) – Toriumi Kousuke
~ King – Shimono Hiro
~ Ura-Alice (Another Alice) – Midorikawa Hikaru
* Plot *
Unchanging days, where nothing worthy of note occurs.
Nothing exciting ever happens.
Is this really happiness?
“If that’s “happiness”, I don’t want it.” That’s what the other me says.
They say that there is something much, much more fun in this world.
As I was thinking about those things, one day, a brusque white rabbit appeared before me.
“Oi, you. If you’re that bored, you should come here. Well, I guess once you come here, you might not be able to go back. Kuku, there might be something really exciting here that you’ve never experienced before.”
Without hesitation, I answered:
* Impressions *
While I think the trial could have been a bit longer and should have established the setting a bit more (specifically, its interpretation of Wonderland), it’s safe to say that I enjoyed it. The trial is the prologue of the game, concluding at what appears to be the first character/route selection screen afterwards.
The pacing was quite fast- I’d even (regrettably) say just a liiittle too much so. However, it’s just my opinion in the end. I prefer common routes and introductions to be long enough to get to know the characters past their appearances and surface personality traits before choosing who to pursue. Whatever the case- whether Rejet was merely lazy with the introductions or the presumed shortness of the game meant that they decided to allocate time towards the meat of the game- in the end, I guess I can understand the desire to not give too much away.
It’s clear that the lifeblood of ALICE=ALICE will be the characters. All of them are probably crazy, odd or a combination of both. They jump to strange conclusions and so out of the loop that they can’t really hold proper conversations. Their strong individualism heavily constrasts the common Japanese way- they’re direct and rude to each other, with no sense of social norms. This gave me an even stronger impression that Wonderland is much more different to Japan in many more ways than just aesthetically. The characters’ colourfulness and looniness make them a complete joy to observe, all the while making me wonder how and why they became the way they are. Do the Wonderland citizens just seem bizarre because of the differences in culture, or are they truly suffering from some level of mental instability? I’m not partial to anybody in particular at this stage, but I really do wonder who and what Ura Alice exactly is, what his motivations are, etc.
Asuka (the protagonist), so far, gets the distinct honour of being a protagonist in an otome game that is actually interesting. She’s not a goody-goody two-shoes nor a delinquent, not incredibly intelligent nor a total dumbarse, not saintly kind or needlessly nasty… As first impressions of her character goes, she sits comfortably in the middle- in other words, I like how she isn’t a character full of extremes in her personality. I’m not saying extremities are bad, but otome games tend to go too hard with them and render characters unbelievable. Since she is the protagonist, I think that it’s more crucial for her to be relatable. In addition, her reactions to the situations she gets put in are realistic, making her even more empathetic. Her lack of hesitation to travel to Wonderland makes me think that her boredom comes from her inquisitive nature not being satiated in the real world- rather than boredom born from depression. Perhaps I relate to Asuka more than other players, as I did (and still occasionally do) have experiences, thoughts and moments in my life where anything and everything is just totally boring and utterly pointless.
Life without stimulation, thrill and zest is torture for the adventurous and inquisitive… You start to feel that life is about going through the motions society dictates that an average “good” citizen should be. If you stay in this mentality, each day becomes duller than the last, to the point that everything you do is just killing time until you die. I can certainly understand that when you’re that bored and uninspired, being able to go to Wonderland- even with a good chance that you’re not able to come back to the real world- becomes irresistably appealing. In Asuka’s case, however, she believed that she was dreaming, so that’s probably why she so readily ventured to Wonderland. Whether she would have anyway remains to be seen, and is up to your own interpretation.
Story-wise, the demo gave very little away. Even so, it still successfully instills vague impressions to me which still are strong enough to want to purchase the game. The Wonderland characters often commented on wanting to “eat” Asuka/Alice. There’s the distinct possibility that it’s merely an under-18-friendly way of cracking onto her, though I really hope that this isn’t the only case. Despite the possibility, I believe that the “EAT ME” reference isn’t inconsequential- at the conclusion of the trial, Asuka notes that all over her body the words “EAT ME” appears. When Asuka (understandably) gets shaken by this, Ura-Alice says that she “should understand” what it means and that she even “wishes” for it. He goes on to add that this is “Alice’s world”, and that Asuka is free to explore it. Finally, Ura-Alice informs Asuka that all of the inhabitants “need” Alice. This statement, combined with the repeated “EAT ME” references doesn’t sound like it’d bode well for Asuka. Nevertheless, I find myself really wanting to know the context of “EAT ME” and why Asuka’s presence in Wonderland is so important.
It does seem like the trial assumes you’ve had read the character profiles, so I recommend doing so as it will attach a very brief insight into why some of them behave the way that they do. I would listen to the drama CDs before playing the game, given that the game seems like it’d be short and is more like a supplement. Perhaps listening to all of the drama CDs and playing the game may add to the experience the best, but maybe I’m falling hook, line and sinker into Rejet’s ca$h money trap! (“⌒∇⌒”)
As for the system, I don’t have anything terribly interesting to note. It’s appealing without being overly colourful and difficult to read. Rejet knows exactly which functions are the ones that players want readily accessible, including a dictionary that assists you in keeping up with game-specific terms that are bound to crop up later. It’s nice to see Asuka’s expressions on the bottom left, which players have the option of turning off. The lip-syncing and blinking, combined with the sprites’ rich expressions and movements, really does a good job with helping to imbue life in what otherwise would be something that looks static. What I didn’t like is how unlike most visual novels, ALICE=ALICE doesn’t have a skipping keyboard shortcut. Usually, my style is to use Ctrl to skip through unread content and press and hold onto space/Enter to rush through read content. You must use the menu’s skip function, though thankfully, the skipping isn’t too slow and you’re even able to jump leaps and bounds between what I’m presuming will be choices and/or character selection screens.
Fittingly for Wonderland, the artwork is colourful and unique. While I don’t like the skinny look, I like the character designs for the most part, as the colourfulness of the fashion really gives you a sense that Asuka has transported to a totally different world. They all look quite unique, and are easy to tell apart from each other. Even so, I wouldn’t say I’m attracted to the love interest’s appearances, but again, I’m loving how unique the artstyle is so this is really a minor gripe. Besides, it should be the characters’ personalities that is the deciding factor of character attraction, IMO. Anyway, the backgrounds are drawn in a style that looks as though they were painted, which does serve to support the fantastical aesthetic of Wonderland.
The OP was just “okay” to me, but the music as a whole of ALICE=ALICE is fantastic. It’s mostly upbeat with music-box like effects to make it sound a bit more fantastical. Some tracks have techo and dubstep tones, which certainly adds to the upbeat nature and emphasises a modern twist on Alice in Wonderland. The monologue track is a pensive piano affair peppered with record-player sound effects, which does help with a sense of recollection of thoughts. The many styles of music, sometimes within a single track, does add to the whimsical feel of Wonderland. The voice acting seems like it’d be fairly solid, with an honourable mention going to Kondou Takashi as Kuro Usagi. Well, don’t we all know by now that he’s incredibly talented? （‐＾▽＾‐）It’s not to say that he’d be the only one that pulls weight- Midorikawa Hikaru sounds appropriately menacing as the mysterious Ura Alice, and Takahashi Naozumi as the Chesire Cat works his magic in making the cat sound perfectly “charai”, being slightly annoying yet a bit adorable as well.
So will I be playing ALICE=ALICE? If the tone of my mini-review didn’t give it away already… Yes, I will be!
Bad Medicine -Infectious Teachers-
Release date: 28-5-2013
Artist: Futaba Hazuki (双葉 はづき)
Rating: CERO C (15+)
Price: 2,917 yen
Knowledge of Japanese recommended: Basic
Official website: http://rejetweb.jp/bm/
VNDb.org link: http://vndb.org/v13101
* Cast *
~ Shido Kaname – Takahashi Hiroki
~ Nagihara Taiki – Terashima Takuma
~ Kuzuha Kakeru – Takahashi Naozumi
~ Kashu Remu – Kakihara Tetsuya
~ Yanagi Ryouta – Itou Kentarou
~ Toujou Kairi – Hino Satoshi
* Plot *
“He” was the ideal teacher you looked up to.
There is a classroom (sanctuary) you must never set foot in.
A special lesson with dangerous teachers.
When you learn of the teachers’ true selves, will you be able to handle the shock (pain)?
Now, a forbidden special guidance will begin…
* Impressions *
Gosh, Bad Medicine’s trial was shorter than ALICE=ALICE’s, or so it felt. It doesn’t muck around- it attempts to move on to the meat of the game real quick, though whether this is out of laziness in writing or some kind of constraint, it remains to be seen. Perhaps the pace will slow down after prologue. I can’t really say I “enjoyed” the trial, since it really is your run-of-the-mill, “introduce everyone quickly” kind of affair. It’s efficient, you could say.
Much like ALICE=ALICE and many otome games, the life of Bad Medicine will be the characters. Even so, the introductions were weak, and somebody who hasn’t read the character profiles and/or listened to the drama CDs would have even less to gauge with. Let’s get boring ol’ Kawana Hina out of the way first, whom in typical otome game protagonist fashion, is an adorable, empty shell of a, er… “character”. Maybe I’m being unfair- as I can’t say for sure how she’ll turn out. My point is that she is as average as average can get for an otome protagonist. Nothing noteworthy. Call me lazy, but seriously, play for yourself and see. I could copy-paste Komori Yui’s or Yahisa Tsukiko’s description, change some key nouns and use it for Hina. Sorry Hina, I really hope you prove me wrong if and when I play the full game.
As for the main men… Wow, everyone is HOT. Shido Kaname (voiced by DUMMY HEAD MIC TAKAHASHI HIROKI, triple whammy!) and Yanagi Ryouta are my favourites in terms of appearance. Have you seen the “black” side of their drama CD covers?! You’re welcome! Boys, please tone it down! You’re making me look so shallow! \(//∇//)\ Anyway, Kashu Remu is the exception, who’s
the obligatory cutie borderline shota just as cute as the candy he so loves, not “hot” in a mature, alluring sense. The other exception is Toujou Kairi, who is more “beautiful” than “hot”, IMO. I also have to get over my envy of his gorgeousness, too. Just attach a female figure on Toujou-sensei and bam! Bijo shoujou-ai route, I’m 110% in! No worries, I like beauties, cuties and hotties equally- I have enough love to go around! °˖ ✧◝(○ ヮ ○)◜✧˖ °
The teachers (again, except for Kashu-sensei, sorry darling) succeed in exuding that mature attractiveness- but will their characters be as good as their looks? There’s nothing more disappointing than a game with gorgeous men that are as hollow as the protagonist… Additionally, I genuinely want to write more intelligent observations of their characters, but the trial gave me absolutely NOTHING. If you want to learn more about these dreamboat teachers, you’re far better off reading the character profiles and/or listening to the drama CDs. You’re basically seeing their “nice sides”, and naturally, the “bad sides” will be saved for the full game as it’s the selling point. So let’s just say as very first impressions go (without taking the drama CDs into account), the no-way-you’re-28 Kashu-sensei has me the most interested, because of his colourful, whimsical and a bit bonkers demeanour.
Like I said with ALICE=ALICE, there’s not a lot I want to comment on about the system. I could have copy-pasted as the engine and menu options are identical to ALICE=ALICE, but that’s no good, right? However, rather than the system interface being more colourful, Bad Medicine’s one is clean, efficient and streamlined. The colour palette and font style is modest, making it easy to read. For a more subjective opinion, I love the “memo/notepad” style of the primarily-white background, and the lavender colour of the font and buttons really cater to my taste as purple is one of my favourite colours. The game-specific cursor (you can change it back to the Windows one) is a triangular paperclip, which is a cute touch. Nice to see the stationery-inspired design, which while not original for a school setting, again, caters to my personal tastes so it works for me.
Much like the system design, the artstyle isn’t stand-out unique, but it’s clean, organised and streamlined. The backgrounds, which aren’t very interesting, are so neat. The character sprites are lovely, with quite a few varied expressions in just a short amount of playtime. The clothing choices of some and the way that others wear their clothes aren’t realistic in spite of the relatively “real-world” setting. Especially moreso since they’re working for what looks like an uptight, snooty, prestigious private school… but by suspending my disbelief, I’m able to appreciate the lovely array of suits and how well the colour choices match the guys’ hair and eye colours. Overall, I like the artstyle of Bad Medicine quite a lot.
The music, from the few tracks I’ve heard throughout, aren’t too interesting. They’re not “bad” but they’re certainly not good. I did think the title screen music, with its many distortions, did well in conveying a twisted nature. It’s unsettling, and definitely reinforces that no, this isn’t a perfect school with perfect teachers and that you won’t get a perfect student-teacher romance. That is, if the title didn’t give it away enough for you! The cast choice is pretty spot on for each character, IMO. A special mention goes to Kakihara Tetsuya, as he doesn’t make Kashu-sensei sound too young, but still retains his whimsical and childish nature. I’m suspecting their acting chops will be best displayed when the teachers show their real selves, so we’ll see.
While I didn’t enjoy it, the trial didn’t put me off the full game. While I definitely was interested in Bad Medicine earlier on due to it reminding me of Gekka Ryouran Romance, my stance is now more like “maybe someday, definitely no hurry”. As first impressions go, it seems like a pretty generic game, but I still would recommend you to give it a shot as it does have the potential to be quite interesting, and its price is quite fair.