Alongside Blind Prism ~Rainy Season~, Kare to Kanojo no Koi no Sankaku (from here on out, I’ll refer to it as just “KKKS”) is one of the few games I purchased during my monthly(-ish) DL Site shopping expeditions. Priced at just a mere 108 yen, I had even less expectations in KKKS than I did with Blind Prism. Just like Blind Prism, I’m sad to report that I had a baaad time with KKKS. Even moreso than with Blind Prism! The reason why I decided to try this game out (other than because it’s cheap, of course) was because it was created by Skip>>. Skip>> created Sensei no Goshujin-sama, which wasn’t too shabby.
The premise is very simple- the protagonist, Kugami Chika, is best friends with Takaoka Natsuo, and adores Natsuo. However, Natsuo is close to Satou Keita, who Chika dislikes. In order to be able to hang around Natsuo more, Chika tries to become better friends with Keita. As the story progresses, a love triangle emerges and complicates their relationship with each other. Unlike most otome games, and VNs involving love triangles in general, this is a kinetic VN. A kinetic VN is one in which the player simply reads through the text, and isn’t required to make choices or stat-raise. In other words, you merely read how the situation gets resolved, rather than having an active role in choosing who ends up with who.
*** This review will contain spoilers. You have been warned! ***
Release date: 4-4-2012
Writer: Kirishima Kanata (霧島 かなた); Takahashi Roku (高橋 ろく)
Artist: Takahashi Roku (高橋 ろく)
Rating: CERO Z (R18+)
Genre: Drama, Friendship, Romance
Length: Very short! I completed it in about 15~20 minutes.
Knowledge of Japanese recommended: Basic
Official website: http://skip.x.fc2.com/game01.html
VNDb.org link: http://vndb.org/v13320
* Plot *
Chika (the protagonist) likes Natsuo.
However, Natsuo is close to Keita, who Chika dislikes.
In order to still be with Natsuo, Chika tries to become friends with Keita, but…
Let’s just get this out of the way in case there is any confusion- Natsuo is not a guy. She is one of those tomboyish, “handsome women” with a gender-ambiguous name.
The premise pretty much sums up the first quartre of the entire story. Which is fair enough, seeing as KKKS is no longer than a 30-minute read. Chika becomes jealous of Natsuo constantly hanging out with the latter’s boyfriend, Keita. Chika’s dislike of Keita isn’t just because of jealousy- she thinks that the popular and beautiful Natsuo could do way better than somebody like Keita. Quickly catching on that the ticket to spending more time with Natsuo is to tolerate Keita, Chika does so; for both her own sake and Natsuo’s. Despite dating Natsuo, Keita seems to be more interested in spending time with Chika. Chika first chalks Keita’s ways to him trying to get along with her, but his seemingly constant attempts to spend time with her- even more than with Natsuo- makes Chika uncomfortable. Though uncomfortable, Chika finds herself slowly falling for Keita’s “kindness”, and wishes he would stop approaching her without Natsuo being around.
One day after school, Chika sees Keita dozing off in an empty classroom, presumably waiting for Natsuo to finish her club activities. Chika remembers that the two were supposed to go to karaoke together later on, and concludes that it’d be cancelled because of Natsuo’s club activities. She figured she should let Keita know for Natsuo. So she wanders in, and begins to admire his good looks. Just as she was about to tell him about the karaoke, Keita grabs her and pushes her on top of one of the desks, apparently thinking that Chika is Natsuo. Even though Chika protests and tells him that he’s made a mistake, Keita says that he knows and keeps on trying to make out with Chika. Keita then asks Chika for “help”, since he wants “an image for when he’s doing it alone”. This confuses Chika; she wonders why he’s “doing it alone” since he’s with Natsuo. As he feels her up, Keita admits that he “likes” Chika and wants to make her his.
Naturally, Chika is disgusted by his actions. He detects her discomfort and lets her go. Angry, Chika calls him “the worst of the worst kind of guys”, and says that she’ll tell Natsuo everything if he tries anything further. Keita relents, insisting that he won’t come near her again. As soon as he apologises, Chika feels sorry for Keita; believing that his actions are also somewhat Natsuo’s responsibility for not letting him have sex with her. *Sigh* She then suddenly realises that she enjoyed Keita’s touch. *Double sigh*.
The next day, Natsuo tells Chika that Keita refused the lunch Natsuo made for him and has been dodging her SMSes and calls. Natsuo says that’s it’s not she who cares, but more her mother. She then recalls that she forgot to tell Keita that the karaoke got cancelled, and concluded that’s why Keita has been ignoring her. Natsuo laughs and calls Keita a “weak guy” for getting pissed over “something like that”. Chika knew that Natsuo and Keita were always quite brusque with one another despite being lovers, but found herself unamused by Natsuo’s attitude in regards to essentially standing Keita up. Chika quizzes her attitude, saying that Natsuo should pay more attention to Keita. She also wanted to add in a “subtle” comment about Keita’s “needs”, but couldn’t work out how. She tries, but her awkward wording only serves to frustrate Natsuo more.
Conveninently, Keita waltzes in and wedges himself in between Chika and Natsuo’s argument. Natsuo asks Keita if he tried anything with Chika, and he frankly admits that he did. Natsuo lambasts Keita, adding that she’ll beat him up for what he did to Chika. The argument then turns into a quarrel between Natsuo and Keita. Feeling guilty, Chika admits to the two that she’s attracted to Keita. However, she adds that she doesn’t want to betray Natsuo, so she promises not to approach the two. She rushes off, and after Natsuo and Keita exchange insults, Keita decides to chase after Chika. Chika sees him approaching her, and feels scared. She’s confused as to why Natsuo would let him go after her. She wants to be with Keita, but doesn’t want to lose Natsuo. He notices she’s scared, and asks her if he’s scared of his body. She doesn’t understand what he means, so he then directly asks her if she’s scared of having sex with him. Ignoring his incorrect guess, Chika says that she’s scared of being in love with her best friend’s boyfriend.
Keita then laughs and tells her that Natsuo and him aren’t dating, and never had. Keita and Natsuo’s mothers are sisters, making the two cousins. This is why Natsuo brings him lunch, and Keita’s workaholic mother is the reason why Keita stays over at her place. Chika is shocked, and says that she was never ever told this. Keita then says that when he made a move on her the previous day, it was a love confession. *Sigh* Keita declares that just looking at Chika is making him excited, so he asks her if they can do it. She says it’s fine, and they end up having sex in the school hallway. Wow, they waste no time.
Initially, I thought the the G x B x G dynamic was an interesting choice for an otome game, seeing as the B x G x B plotline is far more common. I was interested in the potential routes that a story like this would take. I thought that because it’s R18+, it would be more complicated and mature with some josei manga themes.
Boy, was I very wrong!
KKKS is supremely immature- it reads like a D-grade shoujo manga. Given that the target audience is 18 and above, it’s an unneeded miracle that the writers thought a story like this would be okay. Seriously, minus the one-and-a-half sex scenes (yes, one-and-a-half; the first one was “fooling around” and the second one was going all the way), you could find a story like this in monthly shoujo magazines aimed towards those under 13. Instead of choosing to explore common yet complex personal dilemmas a love triangle of this kind (and maturity rating), KKKS took the “explain a forced misunderstanding in the last second with no foreshadowing whatsoever” avenue that the shoujo genre oh-so-loves. Everybody wins, everyone gets what they want with minimal struggle and effort. What a lazy and cowardly approach! It’s highly arguable that Keita and Natsuo never calling each other boy/girlfriend, or never be seen hugging or kissing counts as “foreshadowing”. Many couples are likes this!
The already dull story fell further into my disfavour with so many things that beggar belief:
~ Natsuo never mentioed- not ONCE- anything to her best friend about a cousin she’s very close friends with? Who [Keita] is practically always at her house? They never bumped into each other at all?
~ When Chika was introduced to Keita (prior to the events of KKKS), why didn’t Natsuo introduce Keita as her cousin?
~ They’ve never met each other AT ALL until all three of them went to the same high school? Despite Natsuo and Chika being friends- for what is alluded to- a long time?
~ Why didn’t Keita correct an obviously confused Chika when he tried to make out with her? She mentioned that “you have Natsuo”…and Keita SERIOUSLY didn’t think that Chika thought him and Natsuo are dating? What the hell did he think she was on about?
…I’m sure there are more, seeing as the writing is pretty bad and mediocre at its best, but I think I’ve mentioned the key ones. A story like this should not require the audience to suspend this much disbelief. Yes, no story is perfect, but you have to admit that if any of the above were resolved, KKKS would and could never have happened.
Oh yeah, so why and how did Keita fall in love with Chika, you ask? Apparently, Chika’s looks helped, but he fell in love with the Chika that Natsuo always talked about. Really, Skip>>? You overexerted yourself with this one! A popular guy with so many options would fall in love with a girl he never saw? Only with an idealised fantasy? This horny dog wouldn’t find anybody to satisfy him? He certainly wasn’t the type who had a hard time with interacting with others or forwardness, so shyness isn’t an excuse. God, why is this story so bad?
* Characters *
Similar to the plot, there’s nothing new nor interesting here. Chika is your run-of-the-mill protagonist with a slightly stronger backbone than the others, Natsuo is your tomboy best friend who is protective and Keita is the hot popular guy whose hotness and popularity only serves as wish fulfilment and/or to validate the “Not Popular, Not Hot” protagonist’s worth.
The protagonist of KKKS, Chika is a high schooler. Not a lot is revealed about her outside of the main story. She’s best friends with Natsuo, and adores her. Though adorably designed, there’s nothing really stand-out about Chika… I think she has slightly more of a backbone than your average protagonist? Her actions are mostly understandable. This makes her easier to empathise with, but makes her (and the story) very predictable.
Chika’s tomboy best friend, who is an (apparently) ace-of-all-trades, popular girl with a “boyish” beauty. She’s also a high schooler, and is a member of the school’s kendo club. Though she belongs to a different homegroup, she often comes to Chika’s class. Natsuo is very close with her cousin Keita, even if they pay each other out often. There’s not a lot to say about Natsuo, even though she is a key person in Chika’s life and a big source of the “plot’s” complications. Beyond this, Natsuo is no different to the obligatory “best female friend” character often placed in otome games. By this, I mean the personality archetype of the “best friend” character, rather than their function.
Another high schooler, probably (yes, probably, since the game doesn’t make MANY things clear) in the same grade as Natsuo and Chika. Due to his good looks, he’s popular with the female students. It seems like shallow, uninteresting characterisations run in Natsuo and Keita’s family, as Keita is just as boring as Natsuo. If he’s not just making small talk, he’s trying to get with Chika. As Chika initially noted in the story, without his good looks, Keita is nothing. Unfortunately, Chika no longer sees this.
* Gameplay and System *
Seeing as it’s a kinetic novel, there are no choices and you can only reach one ending. It’s quite literally, a visual novel from beginning to end. Click to get through the text, and that’s it. It uses the same engine as Blind Prism, which I now found out is called KiriKiri (吉里吉里). It seems to be a popular choice amongst doujin visual novel creators, alongside the older NScripter series of VN engines. KKKS’ system is honestly, one of the laziest ones I’ve ever come across. The creators chose not to place even the simplest of menus shortcuts near the textbox. This is more of a presentation complaint than functionality, since it’s so short that saving isn’t really required and the only other essential functions- namely, “close window”, “history/log” and “skip”- are easy to find and access. You can close the window with the right click, access the text history in the drop down menu and press the spacebar to skip quite swiftly through the text. The system is blander than stale bread, but at the end of the day, functionality is the most important part, and KKKS gets the job done.
* Art, Music and Sound *
The only notable redeeming quality of KKKS is its art. I think the character designs are cute, especially Chika. She also wins brownie points for having wavy, long purple hair and eyes- I love that colour and wavy hairstyles a lot. Keita and Natsuo barely look different save for some palette swaps and the fact that Natsuo’s eyes are slightly bigger with slighly longer lashes. I’m not into the tomboy look, but Natsuo’s green eyes are very pretty. As for Keita, yeah, he’s cute, but he’s nothing special in my eyes. The uniform designs, while cute, don’t stretch into the realm of ridiculous. I could actually see school uniforms like this in real life being possible. It’s stylish, but remains appropriate, setting-wise. The sprites look nice, but they’re very static since the creators only give them very few expressions. The movements are pretty much solely made with the facial expressions; it seems some care was taken not to change poses.
Only the sex scenes had CGs, and even though the R18+ label is pretty blatant, the content was very soft. Chika and Keita were positioned so that you couldn’t see any “private parts”. Not that you’d be able to see them anyway, seeing as they’d be obscured in mosaics. If you want to be titilated, KKKS is an absolute waste of time- more than it already is, of course. As for the overall quality of the CGs, they were well-drawn enough, and of a much higher quality than similar works in the cheap price range.
The music and sound are pieces you can find on those free-to-use websites. This isn’t a bad thing, but the songs selected were practically elevator music and the only thing that made sound effects was perhaps the opening and closing of classroom doors. Boring music and lack of effort in the SE department… can’t say I really favour that.
* Score and Final Thoughts *
Voice Acting: N/A
Music and Sound: D
Gameplay and System: C
Overall Score: F
Needless to say, I did not enjoy KKKS. AT ALL. It’s even worse than Blind Prism. Didn’t think it’d be possible to encounter a game worse than it in such a small space of time! The only redeeming quality of KKKS is the artwork. Chika looks very cute, and for the most part, her actions are far more understandable than her supposedly “switched-on, can do anything” best friend Natsuo and Mr. Informed Popularity whose only memorable trait was his horniness. Despite the “fierce competition” Chika faced, she ended up being my favourite. It’s very rare for me to like the protagonist the most, so in a sense, KKKS achieved the very-rarely achievable.
Through it all, it’s regrettable that my second “full game review” is negative; I don’t want my readers to think I can only say bad things about a game. Hopefully with my next review, it will be far more positive and it’d be a game I RECOMMEND instead of trash. If this negative trend continues for too long, perhaps I’ll cherry pick through games I have completed- selecting one that I have enjoyed for future review.