ALICE=ALICE is Rejet’s take on the famous novel by Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Unfortunately for the long-since-departed Mr. Carroll, his masterpiece was done practically no justice by Rejet’s writers. I did have my doubts, as I’ve been getting sick of seeing every company and their mothers adapting Alice in Wonderland, but since Rejet is (currently) my favourite otome company, I thought ALICE=ALICE deserved a try. I played the trial, and remained interested enough to purchase the game. Sadly, my faith in Rejet didn’t pay off. Don’t get me wrong, ALICE=ALICE isn’t a terrible game- it’s somewhere between “slightly-below-par” and “par”. I don’t know why it received so many good-bordering-on-rave reviews. LOLNOPE. Of course I know why! It’s because of the super-popular cast and the shoehorned fan-service. When only 2/6 routes are worth your time (by the way, the said two don’t even include the implied main guy of the game), “supplementary game” or no, you may need to work on improving your writing, not the fan-service. Sorry Rejet, I know your game- this “EAT ME” business is a sad attempt at emulating your undead horse Diabolik Lovers’ blood-sucking thing. No amount of kissing will atone for the many times I got ass-pulled into the plot holes!
* THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK! *
Release date: 28-5-2014
Artist: Suou (スオウ)
Writers: Multiple writers from different companies:
~ PolkaDot Corporation (株式会社PolkaDot): Masaki Yui (真崎 結衣), Yamada Yumi (やまだ 有見), Koizumi Izumi (小和泉 いづみ), Arisugawa Ayami (有栖川 あやみ) (assistant), Kanata Haruka (かなた 春香) (assistant), Kitani Shirako (こたに 白子) (assistant).
~ Usagirisu Corporation (ウサギリス株式会社): Tanaka Kanata (田中 彼方), Awaya Uta (粟屋 歌兎).
~ Freelancers: Seta Kaito (瀬多 海人), Furumura Ririka (古村 りりか).
Opening song: “Regulation of A” sung by Kondou Takashi and Tachibana Shinnosuke.
Ending song: “One Scene (ワンシーン)” sung by Kondou Takashi and Tachibana Shinnosuke.
My route completion order: King → Boushiya → Chesire Cat → Sangatsu Usagi → Kuro Usagi → Ura-Alice.
Recommended completion order: None in particular, since nearly every route is self-contained. However, it may be worth mentioning that completing King’s route takes out a minor surprise of Kuro Usagi’s, and vice-versa.
* Cast *
+ Main Characters +
~ Kuro Usagi (Black Rabbit) – Kondou Takashi
~ Sangatsu Usagi (March Hare) – Tachibana Shinnosuke
~ Chesire Neko (Chesire Cat) – Takahashi Naozumi
~ Boushiya (Mad Hatter) – Toriumi Kousuke
~ King – Shimono Hiro
~ Ura-Alice (Another Alice) – Midorikawa Hikaru
+ Extras +
~ Arai Ryouhei
~ Arai Souta
~ Hase Erina
~ Ikki Chihiro
~ Kosugi Fumiya
~ Masuo Kousuke
~ Shimoji Shino
* 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:
The story starts off with the protagonist, Sakuraba Asuka, musing about how bored she is with her life- nothing interesting happens and nothing noteworthy ever occurs. She wonders if she could call her current life “happiness”. We get to see a small glimpse into her current lifestyle and her attitude towards it- she reluctantly agrees to hang out with her friends after the upcoming world history test, gets nagged by her mother to do her homework instead of watching TV and decides to just go to bed because she got bored of watching the TV shows she neglected her homework for. As she lay in bed, she continues to lament how boring she finds her life. Asuka finds that everyday is the same and she’s stuck on a plateau- nothing bad happens, but nothing fun happens as well. She wishes that she could find a world where everything is fun. A world where she doesn’t have to walk around her friends’ eggshells, a world where she doesn’t have to study for tests, a world where parents won’t nag her. Basically, a world free of the hassles she believes she faces on a daily basis.
Just as she dismissed such a world as being nonexistent, a male voice calls for her attention. He tells her that the world he lives in should be far more exciting for her, and that she should come. Asuka looks for the person to whom the voice belongs, but can’t see anybody. A rabbit then comes into her line of sight. He seems to be in a rush, panicked about not having enough time. Asuka believes that she’s dreaming, and that the odd things happening so far don’t need rational explanations. Seeing as she believes she’s dreaming, it doesn’t take much more convincing for Asuka to want to venture into this so-called “other world”. A hole suddenly appears beneath her feet, and she falls into Wonderland. From then on, the reader is introduced to Asuka’s potential love interests, and just how bizarre Wonderland and its inhabitants are. She learns that she actually has “EAT ME” written all over her, which inevitably makes her a target amongst the inhabitants. Starting to think that venturing further was a bad idea, going home starts to sound attractive… but should she pass up this “excitement” she so craved?
Sadly, the interesting premise and strong beginning was totally wasted! There was a strong sense of “I can write whatever because Wonderland is random”. There were so many ass-pulls and even more poorly-explained (or sometimes not at all) occurrences; more than I care to count. Good examples of these can be found in pretty much the entirety of Ura-Alice’s route, though other characters are peppered with them throughout their own ones. The bad endings are a minefield for these! You’re welcome to read about them in the “Characters” section for more details.
As for this “EAT ME” business… For those who read my review of the trial, you may remember me worrying that “EAT ME” is merely a lame, vaguely-connected-to-Alice-in-Wonderland reference for making out? Well, that “fear” of mine was confirmed. Thankfully, some routes had this less than others, but still, Rejet, I disappoint. Asuka apparently “tastes good”, though they don’t literally eat her. Just a bunch of fan-service that had little significance to the plot. To be fair, when the characters had feelings for each other, it did illustrate an expression of love. Still, it’s just for fan-service and had no true significance. I thought that’s what the drama CDs were for, Rejet? Care to write a proper story like Gekka Ryouran Romance or Black Wolves Saga, next time?
* Characters *
Sakuraba Asuka (name changeable)
A.k.a. just “Alice” when she’s in Wonderland, she’s the protagonist of ALICE=ALICE. Asuka is a high school student in an unspecified year level. When Rejet describes her as “an ordinary girl”, they’re not kidding. Not especially assertive but not a doormat, not especially intelligent but far from stupid, not mean-spirited but not outstandingly kind, Asuka is a well-balanced heroine that exemplifies the definition of “ordinary”, unlike what professional Suethors Honeybee and Otomate define as “normal”. I especially liked how she assertively stands up for herself or her beliefs without coming across as aggressive or rude (unless provoked). She usually gauged her situation well; she rarely made astonishingly stupid actions. Otome games tend to stick to the “kind and innocent” archetype, and on the rare occasion they don’t, they make an unconventional protagonist that comes across as trying hard (sometimes too much) to be the opposite of the “good girl” type. Asuka is in the middle, free from the extremeties of the typical characterisation choices. She is proof that a protagonist can be interesting without over-spicing them with too many dramatic traits. Her flaws are genuine and believable.
That being said, Asuka has a couple of idiosyncracies that not only make her more interesting, but also adds to the story. She’s unhappy with her ordinary life; finding everything boring. She acknowleges that while nothing bad happening is good, the flip-side of her ordinary lifestyle is the fact that nothing exciting happens. She wants stimulation, and to be able to escape from the rut she’s stuck in. (Un)luckily for Asuka, her wish mysteriously comes true and she finds herself in Wonderland. Being a relatively normal person who is open to adventure, it doesn’t take long for her to begin changing as a person. In what manner this occurs is solely dependent upon which guy’s route you take her through. She’s quite malleable, and it can be interesting to see how she develops. She doesn’t always develop dramatically (unlike her love interests), but the changes are still nice to see. You know, considering how most otome games don’t bother with developing the protagonist’s character at all!
The King of Wonderland loosely based on the Queen of Hearts, and a troll-LOLLOL in some other routes (he’s the go-to guy for when the writers run out of bad end ideas). It seems that this Wonderland is governed by an absolute monarchy- anything and everything King says is law, and must be obeyed. Nobody can overturn his rulings, or stand up to him. Unless they’re fine with being executed or cursed. Naturally, the citizens loathe their “ruler” (you never see him doing an royal duties, or for that matter, any governing), but are forced cater to every last one of his ridiculous whims. To top off these highly desirable traits, King is the dictionary definition of “selfish”. In fact, “selfish” is a gross, gross understatement. Given his status in the world, he’s completely of the belief that the entire world revolves just for him. He does absolutely nothing on his own; from even the simplest of tasks. He has someone to tie his shoelaces. He has someone to accompany him around the castle. The only being he shows any compassion for is his pet lion, Leo, who he only picked up since he believes Leo makes him look more “powerful”. Unlike the other characters who truly believed that having Asuka in their grasps will save them from their respective plights, King captured and kept Asuka in his castle just because she tastes good. King treats Asuka like an object rather than a human, and even enjoyed her horrified reaction when he executed one of his henchmen for “treason” (the said soldier suggested half-jokingly that they keep Asuka and “eat” her before King does). He’s quite content with his life- but can you blame him? He gets whatever he wants, whenever he wants. His life is absolutely without hardship or consequence…
…Until one day, Leo goes missing and his servants begin to leave the castle. This continues until Asuka and King are the only people left. Asuka considers leaving King like the others had, but as she took pity on him, she chooses to remain in the castle. Used to having every little thing done for him, King was ready to shift every responsibility onto Asuka. However, when she informs him that she has no intention of doing so (in addition to not being able to complete some of the chores), King is forced to swallow his heaping of humble pie and help Asuka with the upkeep of the castle. She learns that because his servants had done everything for him all the time, King has no idea how to do even the simplest things- like tie his shoelaces, or navigate through his own castle. Asuka patiently helps him learn how to do these tasks. Her compassion and patience changes King vastly; he begins to appreciate how difficult the orders he issued must have been to fulfil, and comes to genuinely feel remorseful of the way he treated his followers.
Apologising for his past treatment of her, King becomes more and more competent with various duties and has even become much more of a compassionate person himself. Asuka messes up the gardening and kills his favourite roses. Before, he would have lost his bananas and perhaps executed her, but now, seeing Asuka as a true friend, he shows no signs of anger and even apologises for asking her to complete such a difficult task on her own (it’s a MASSIVE garden, for the record). During this time, they’ve been searching for Leo. Finally, they find him, but Leo is gravely injured and must be attended to immediately. Unfortunately, Leo is too heavy for just King and Asuka to carry him back to the castle. Despaired, the King begs the forest dwellers for help and apologises for his previous actions. Just when he thought his pleas fell on deaf ears, a griffin appears and agrees to help the two. Leo is successfully cured by Sangatsu Usagi’s medicine.
In the Wonderland ending, Leo makes a full recovery, and King resolves to become a truly good ruler. Merely a day after he issued a public apology, his henchmen and servants had returned to the castle. Asuka goes outside to see what’s going on, and quickly works out that they’ve returned to execute a coup d’état! King comes outside, thinking that he has been forgiven. Unfortunately, and rather understandably, the citizens aren’t moved and they proceed with their coup. It even turns out that those he had “executed” were actually alive- Leo had secretly saved them. God knows how. Anyway, they capture King and throw him into one of his own dungeons. Fast forward an unspecified amount of years later, King had become a do-M. Maybe as a coping mechanism for the torture his former followers had been inflicting on him? Whatever the case, it just randomly happens. As things turned out, Asuka became the queen of Wonderland. I don’t think that’s how throne ascension works, but whatever… Partially motivated by revenge for wronging her love, Asuka becomes a ruler just like the old King. She periodically visits King to “hurt” him. Asuka even thinks that the old him is better. She continues her tyrannical rule, waiting for the day “the real King” comes back.
In the Alice ending, Leo suddenly turns to stone, seemingly incurable. King becomes enraged, and frantically searches for the culprit. He quickly realises that he has no way of ascertaining who did it, and decides that executing everyone is a better idea. Asuka rejects the “new” King and is promptly executed.
In the Present-day ending, King vows to live in the real world with Asuka, and abdicates. He vests his royal powers into Leo. Some time after they both return to Japan, it’s revealed through Leo and King’s SMS exchanges (how the HELL does this work?) that Leo was actually cursed and has returned to his original human form. King and Leo have been keeping in touch; with the latter often sending picture messages. One of them is a CG, where you can see Leo back to his human form, surrounded by his happy followers. Asuka and King are dating, also going to the same high school.
King easily has the best route in the entire game. In spite of some ridiculous occurrences, I enjoyed watching King learn the error of his ways and striving to become a better person. His love for Asuka is actually believable, and I found myself genuinely happy for the two in the good ending. Though I’m left to wonder why he felt the need to be so tyrannical. There are hints that he bore some insecurities, so perhaps it stemmed from there? Still, should have been explored upon more. The bad endings were pretty shoddy with inconsistent characterisations you’re more likely able to come across in Naruto fan-fiction rather than something written by a paid professional! Warts and all, at the end of the day, King’s route is enjoyable and is a must if you decide to play ALICE=ALICE.
Boushiya is supposed to be the Mad Hatter, even though he’s not mad at all. He holds tea parties everyday with his faithful friends(?), the twin dormice girls, Marie and Coli. It’s always just them three, because nobody wants to have to listen to Boushiya talk about himself all day. This is his downfall- Boushiya is supremely narcissistic, and this puts everybody in Wonderland off from attending his tea parties. Unfortunately, though not a bad guy whatsoever, Boushiya doesn’t seem to realise that it’s his own narcissism that’s putting the guests off. This isn’t a delusion he created in order to escape from this fact- he is completely, genuinely unaware it’s his attitude that’s at fault. His life forever changes when Asuka decides to attend one of his parties. Feeling somewhat sorry for him, Asuka decides to come along to his parties daily. She listens to him innocently wonder why nobody comes, even though he’s sending out an invite everyday. Deciding that honesty is the best policy, Asuka breaks it to him honestly that it’s his self-loving outbursts that are letting him down. She asks him why he does this. Boushiya says that he’s merely trying to “advertise” himself as a desirable person to party with, as well as the desirability of his tea parties. He became boastful so often that it’s become a habit.
Asuka decides that they need to “train” him out of his habits by forcing him to correct himself every time he makes a narcissistic comment. It’s quite humorous to watch him constantly having to correct himself, and realise just how silly he sounds! This goes on for a short while, until Asuka determines that he’s ready to hold another party. After much mulling over how to best write this important invite, they succeed and the next tea party is packed with guests! After watching Boushiya overjoyed as he mingled with the guests, Asuka resolves that she should be as determined as he was at fixing her faults and stop running away. As such, she vows to return to her world, and farewells Boushiya. Boushiya insists that he join her, and the two decide to stay at their last tea party a bit longer.
In the Wonderland ending, the party really hits off- Boushiya’s delicious tea is appreciated by all, including himself, and they go back for more… and more… and more. It becomes apparent that they’ve developed an addiction to it; frantically gulping down the stuff everyday at the tea parties. Due to this addiction, Asuka and Boushiya are made to postpone their plans of returning to her world. In spite of his best efforts, Boushiya’s addiction gets worse and he starts to only see Asuka as a “snack” to accompany his tea. One day, Asuka spots Marie and Coli putting some unspecified substance in the teapots. She quickly cottons onto the fact that the dormice girls are causing the tea to become dangerously addictive. They make some comments about “never giving Boushiya away” and the credits roll. It’s also the first time they open their eyes, and this moment is used well to highlight their seriousness (and a bit of creepiness) about keeping Boushiya in Wonderland.
In the Alice ending, Ura-Alice appears out of the blue (well, probably not… I’m thinking he was invited to the party), and gets Asuka to drink a strange tea which causes her to shrink to Thumbelina size. Somehow, Ura-Alice knew all about Asuka’s plans to return to the real world, and wouldn’t have any of it. He picks up tiny Asuka and plops her into one of the teapots. Ura-Alice gets an unwitting Boushiya to drink tea from the pot in which Asuka is trapped in, and sadly, succeeds. Boushiya realises that he had swallowed Asuka, and loses himself in his grief. He finds a knife, and tries to cut himself open to rescue Asuka. Naturally, this goes very poorly and I’m certain he died.
In the Present-day ending, again, the “Present-day” one, Asuka and Boushiya head off and successfully return to the real world. Boushiya has become a successful hat designer. Marie and Coli came to the real world soon after Asuka and himself, assisting him with his hat shop.
The only other good route in the game is here, folks. I prefer King’s one sliiightly better overall, but I believe Boushiya’s one shouldn’t be missed as well. I liked it how the writer(s) of this route made him very annoying in the beginning. Just as you want to give up on his route or him completely, Asuka steps in and delivers the truth. This helped empathise with Asuka too, as you could really imagine how much he was taxing her reserves. Boushiya just came across as a narcissistic dork, and I couldn’t wait to finish his route. However, after he resolves to improve himself, the rest of the story flew on by. I had my suspicions as ALICE=ALICE is a fairly predictable game, but it was still good to know that he’s a nice, friendly guy after all that just needed somebody’s honest opinion. Boushiya’s endings made far more sense than King’s, though it’s tainted by Ura-Alice’s sudden appearance. Yes, I do not like that guy at all.
Friendly, but an overly flirtatious (supposed) playboy. Just like the Chesire Cat we know and love, this guy’s always smiling. He’s a whimsical fellow who prefers life to be unpredictable and even enjoys it when things don’t go his way. He claims to have fallen in love with Asuka at first sight. It’s amusing how cold Asuka is to his advances at first. She can’t determine whether or not she can trust Chesire’s words, but enjoys the feeling of being desired so much that she can’t bring herself to genuinely turn him away. Naturally, there’s a lot of this “eating Asuka” stuff in Chesire’s route, but unlike with some other characters, it suited Chesire much more to have these moments. They were done well, but I still would have appreciated more substance, even if I did understand why Chesire’s route had lots of… “eating”. Anyway, they spend more time together, visiting various places in Wonderland, just like a normal couple going on casual dates. Asuka eventually falls for Chesire; relieved that he was dead serious when he said it was love at first sight for him. I did see this coming, but I was happy enough for Asuka that this predictability didn’t bother me too much! I guess this is Rejet’s gap-moe for you.
Not a whole lot of really interesting stuff occurs, save for a mysterious key Asuka finds in her room. However, it disappears during her time with Chesire. They search and search for it, but can’t find it. They learn that the key materialises based on the Asuka’s desires, much like many other objects in Wonderland. Thanks to being influenced by Chesire’s resolve in finding the key, Asuka’s doubts about returning to the real world are swept away and the key appears again.
In the Wonderland ending, the two are shown to be in Japan, but Chesire spends his days lazing about in Asuka’s room. Naturally, he gets very bored and lonely and wishes he had never left Wonderland. The key materialises, and Chesire forces Asuka to accompany him back to Wonderland. Asuka isn’t very happy about this. To prevent her from going back, Chesire eats the key, though it’s implied that if Asuka truly wishes for the key back, it’ll someday, somehow pop out of nowhere again.
In the Alice ending, though the key is found, Asuka becomes reluctant to leave Wonderland as she’d have to leave Chesire behind. As the two pondered about what to do, King was about to capture them. Chesire decides that running is only delaying the inevitable, and he’ll go to King himself. He vows to return to Asuka’s side. King’s plans are foiled when Chesire uses his special “Super Ultra Neko Punch” attack, and is victorious over King! This little scene was pretty funny, I’ll admit. This apparently means that King has been overthrown, and Chesire is now the ruler of Wonderland… Hmm… I wonder if this turned out to be good for him? The story makes a point of highlighting how he enjoys unpredictability and things not going his way above all. So when he is shown to get whatever, whenever he wants in this ending, you’ve got to wonder how happy he truly is. Was this supposed to illustrate him going mad with power? I dunno… I guess the two stay together, so it’s good?
In the Present-day ending, the two use the key to go back through a door back to Japan. Chesire was scouted by an agent and becomes a popular model. He becomes very well-loved amongst the girls, but he only has eyes for Asuka! His cat ears go mysteriously missing… this is never explained.
Chesire’s route was just okay. I don’t really have many strong positive or negative opinions about it, other than the usual “random stuff happening without an adequate explanation or without any explanation whatsoever” thing that occurs in almost every other route. Considering the kind of character Chesire is, I expected something way more interesting. Though it’s worth adding that I liked how Chesire’s Alice and Wonderland endings didn’t follow the same formula as the others’ bad endings- it did leave a strange aftertaste; not being black-and-white. t’s not super-deep or anything, but it did get me to think a bit more about the implications and how things might further pan out.
He’s meant to be inspired by the March Hare, but… well, similar to Kuro Usagi, the dude pretty much has no rabbit-like traits… or hare-like ones, for that matter. Anyway, this guy is your run-of-the-mill tsundere- snarky and irritable on the surface but a nice, caring guy deep down. He’s so cliché, that I’m wondering if Rejet did this intentionally for comedic or tongue-in-cheek purposes. Otherwise, they’re getting VERY lazy or one of these writers are particularly untalented. Anyway, Sangatsu is a scientist that works tirelessly everyday to create a very special “drug”- one that will turn him into a human. I think this is leaning towards the “potion” territory rather than drug, but I guess Rejet wanted to stick to his astonishingly-lacking-in-scientific-methodology scientist approach, so drug/medicine it shall remain for the purpose of this review.
Supposedly, Asuka is the key to developing this drug he’s been trying and failing to make for a long time. More specifically, a certain part of Asuka may be what he needs, and he guesses it’s her innards. Poor girl… Well, he doesn’t ever do this anyway, despite his fervent desperation and obvious (initial) dislike of her. Makes sense? Nope… Moving on, he tests all of these drugs he comes up with on himself. He’s taken so many different ones for testing purposes, but miraculously, it has no adverse effects on his body. Well, almost. He developed dysgeusia, which is the medical term for one’s sense of taste getting addled, and apparently, some drugs can cause this. Nothing tastes good to him anymore, so he snacks on pills. He sees no difference between eating a well-balanced meal and suspect drugs, apparently! So why does he want to be a human so badly?
One day, he catches a cold (apparently from a lack of rest in between his experiments. So this guy can guzzle dangerous, untested medicines but will fall ill without sleep?), and Asuka attempts to nurse him back to health. She looks for something to feed him, and comes across a pile of apples outside of his house. In spite of everything tasting bad to him, she finds it odd that he has a stockpile of them. It turns out that the reason he wants to become a human is because he wishes to enjoy the taste of apples like a young girl he saw on TV did. Ironically, his constant experimentation to reach this goal ended up making his sense of taste worse, and now everything tastes bad to him- apples included. While that anticlimactic reason that destroyed his sinister character is his major motivation, he seems to admire the day-to-day existence of humans as a whole. He’s been observing how people work through his TV, which has a mysteriously clear reception of Earth TV shows… considering Wonderland may be in another dimension. Asuka attempts to tell him of how humans aren’t all that great, which brings back memories of her (involuntarily) coming across her friends bitching about her back in Japan. Sangatsu isn’t convinced, and still tries to become a human.
Anyway, even though he looks well, Sangatsu won’t leave his bedroom. Asuka was worried, but he then confesses that he actually got better a while ago, and was fearful she’d leave him once he got better because of the way he had treated her like an experimental object. After this point, his attitude towards her noticeably changes. He’s still tsun-tsun, but shows his dere side much more often. She decides to start helping him attain his goal, and thus, their bond thickens. Sangatsu’s reason to become human changes as well- it’s because he wants to be the same creature as Asuka, and exist along her. That’s nice, but so far, it doesn’t seem that being a rabbit makes him so different to Asuka… Anyway, Sangatsu then comes up with an idea- perhaps if he goes to Asuka’s world, he might become a human. Asuka happily goes along with this, and the two decide to return to where she came from.
In the Wonderland ending, they search and search for a way back to the real world, but finally give up when they don’t even find a single clue. Sangatsu then decides that rather than him becoming human, Asuka should become a rabbit. Some time later, you can see that his plan had succeeded- Asuka now has orange eyes, which appears to be the only thing that separates rabbits from humans in Wonderland. It’s unbelievable that a human becoming a fantastical rabbit is achievable over the other way around, but whatever… They seem to be happy together, so I am for them as well.
In the Alice ending (which was very predictable as the last-minute foreshadowing was cheesy and unsubtle), the two attempt to go back through the hole Asuka came from (why they couldn’t find it in the Wonderland ending, I have no idea), but do not succeed. For some random reason, they’re back in Wonderland again. Sangatsu came out of this uninjured, but Asuka had died… and starts to dissipate into what looks like granules of sugar. He vows to save her, but quickly changes his tune as his grief overcomes him. He then remembers how her innards may help him become human, and decides to not “let her go to waste” and promptly gets to dinner. You don’t get to see whether he succeeded or not. Don’t ask why they failed this particular time, it is never explained.
In the Present-day ending, they both succeed in returning to Wonderland. Sangatsu’s wish came true, and he appears to be completely human. He’s a university student, studying medicine. In this ending, he finally tells her he loves her, and they live happily ever after. I have NO idea why merely going to the real world worked, but again, happy to see them happy so I won’t bother dwelling too much.
Um, you know what you could have done, Sangatsu? I genuinely respect your determination, if Asuka (and Chesire) were able to pretty much wish for a key that will send her back to Japan, which is thought to be in another dimension… Surely you can wish to become a human? After all, you desire it so much, which seems to be the only prerequisite in getting what you’re after out of thin air in Wonderland. Poor Sangatsu, the writers have shafted him in order to further this convenient plot. Sangatsu’s route was just “OK”. I found Chesire’s to be slightly better. I’m disappointed that Sangatsu’s character turned out to be so thin- though a mad scientist would be a cliché as well, it would have worked better with Sangatsu’s obsessive desire to become a human. His desire just felt so superficial, given how quickly he was willing to give up this lifetime goal in some of the endings.
Though he has no rabbit ears, he’s called the “Black Rabbit”. Apparently, his “fur” is black, but you never get to see this “fur” of his. He identifies himself as a rabbit, though nothing about his appearance really seems “rabbit-like”. Apparently, he was once white but became black thanks to the stress of King placing a curse on him. The curse’s purpose was to make him immortal. Dunno why King picked this particular curse. Due to this, Kuro becomes distrustful and neurotic, and somewhat amusingly agonises over the time, even though he has all the time in the world. He has a habit of biting his nails and saying the onomatopoeia for doing so: “gaji gaji”, and constantly says, “I wanna die, I wanna die”. Kuro’s fear of ending up alone also contributes to his current nature, and also makes him want to die- he has tried to no avail to end his own life. He was told by King that eating Asuka will free him from his curse, so Kuro Usagi wastes no time in “eating” her… though unsurprisingly, mean-spirited King lied, and Kuro finds himself still immortal! Even so, he continues to “eat” Asuka… Gradually, his time with her (read: just “eating” her) causes him to fall for her (God knows why she fell for him, though), and he changes from wanting to die to wanting to live. Which is nice, but I don’t truly care, since the game has given me absolutely no reason to.
Anyway, King suddenly drops by, kidnaps Asuka, and makes an offer: “Give me Asuka, and I’ll undo the immortality curse”. Ha! Silly King. Kuro Usagi wants to live now (if only for Asuka), so your silly little trade-off won’t happen… Right? Wait… why the hell is Kuro Usagi suddenly mulling over wanting to live or die again? Moreover, should his long-standing desire to die be so easily be wiped away from the first place?
In the Wonderland ending, King releases the curse on Kuro… but unfortunately, his henchmen are ordered to find and kill them. Now that Kuro is “mortal” again, he will know the fear of dying before his time rather than the fear of living too long and having everyone else die around him. At first, Asuka and Kuro resolve to run away for the entirety of their lives if they must, but this determination is quickly scrapped by their fatigue and fear after “a while” (the exact amount of time they were running away isn’t really specified, but maybe a few weeks?) Seeing Asuka reach her limit and feeling his own quickly approaching, Kuro suddenly comes up with an idea- if they both die, they can be together forever. Kuro kills Asuka, and vows to join her soon.
In the Alice ending, King decides to capture them both, and places them in the same cell. Well, actually, King did this in order to pain the two lovers further- knowing that Kuro “cannot die”, King tortures the black rabbit, and dumps him in with Asuka once he’s done for the time being. Asuka is powerless; forced to watch Kuro’s sanity slowly slip away as the torture inflicted upon him escalates. Once again, Kuro constantly expresses his desire to die, and “eats” Asuka, hoping that the King’s lie will miraculously turn out to be true.
In the Present-day ending, the two are once again, escaping from King and his henchmen. Asuka proposes that they escape into her world. Given his predicament and his newfound love for Asuka, it doesn’t take much to convince Kuro. They both eventually find a “door” back to her world. Unsure if they’ll meet again in the real world, they farewell each other… After the credits, the epilogue shows them happily dating in Asuka’s world, and Kuro’s “fur” had returned to white again. For some reason…
Given that the King’s ability to curse was merely a lie he allowed to perpetuate in order to make him seem more powerful, one would then wonder exactly what the hell is going on with Kuro Usagi. Well, it does get explained, albeit not well. Yes, all of his suicide attempts were unsuccessful basically because he believed he was immortal. His route was very disappointing. Not just disappointing, but a total bore. He spent too much time being a dickhead to Asuka, and his “change of heart” came way too late for me to even begin to sympathise with his plight. As for the good ending, it was so lazy and predictable, just like the entirety of his route. It would have been better to have left it ambiguous whether Kuro and Asuka ever reunited in the real world with maybe a couple of happenings and such that makes it even harder to ascertain… but nope, it just had to stay mediocre to the very end.
Ura-Alice is a mysterious guy; nobody really knows what or who he is, but one look at his name should tell readers that he has a connection with Asuka. At first, he remains vague about exactly what he is and his significance to Asuka. Nothing of interest really happens in the beginning, though the main purpose is see how controlling Ura-Alice can be. Of course, Ura-Alice also gets in on the “eating” thing, though he doesn’t really have a reason for doing so… yet. Things heat up when Chesire Neko, out of the blue, shows Asuka a picture (though his mobile phone. Seriously, don’t question the ass-pulls anymore) of her mother in pain due to some illness. Worried, Asuka rushes back to the area where the hole she fell through came from- but it’s gone. She’s still frantic, so Ura-Alice tried to comfort her by informing her that there are other ways to go back home. Asuka calms down a bit, and then realises that she should merely phone her mother using her own mobile phone. Before she could do so, Ura-Alice takes her mobile and breaks it, claiming that he’s the only one on her side in Wonderland. Shocked (only Asuka would be at this point, not the readers) at his betrayal, she learns that Ura-Alice can stop suffering only when Asuka suffers. Uh-huh. She then comes across some random mirror. When she looks into it, she’s shocked by her reflection yelling back at her! Ura-Alice comes along and threatens to switch Asuka with her reflection if she doesn’t let her eat him… (‘◇’)?
To go into more detail about their relationship, he is “another” Asuka that is an embodiment of her self-restraint(s). It seems that whatever negative emotion Asuka feels, it affects Ura-Alice. Also, due Asuka’s tendency to escape from anything that bores, hurts or taxes her, negative emotions associated with those experiences become Ura-Alice’s burden. I believe this only applies when Asuka is in the real world, otherwise Ura-Alice’s crusade to get his revenge would ultimately hurt himself more! Okay, so that lazily contrived-for-wangst character set-up explains her significance to Ura-Alice. Why does Asuka and Ura-Alice only have this unique set-up? Are all the other Wonderland inhabitants actually technically-not-human “embodiments” of some aspects of the “real world” population? Well no. It’s just Ura-Alice. Just because. His goal is to pretty much “switch places” with her, as well as make her suffer like he did. I understand that when people are suffering, they look for someone to blame, but this guy makes it sound like Asuka was making a conscious decision to push all of her negative emotions onto him. Which is untrue, in addition to being illogical. If she has been managing to push all of that onto him, why is she still such a depressed young lady? Shouldn’t she have little-to-no-negativity left in her if it diverts to him? Makes no bloody sense…
Anyway, now that Ura-Alice has Asuka in his cluthes, he tries to kill her, but then disappears. (‘◇’)? From then on, Wonderland starts going haywire- birds disappear, the forests go erratic… Asuka decides to go look for Ura-Alice, only to find that she always ends up back at her Wonderland house (it’s a cute house that materialised out of nowhere for Asuka). I was thinking that Ura-Alice was somehow thwarting her efforts to escape by keeping her in Wonderland, but guess who appears in Asuka’s little house? URA-ALICE. Ura-Alice appears truthful when he says it’s not his doing- instead, he believes it’s Asuka’s machinations. He attempts to leave the house, only to find the door is sealed shut by an unknown force- they try and try, but it won’t even budge. So now, they’re trapped together. They have no real way to pass the time… so they conclude that that the only they can forget their woes is to “eat” each other.
The theory of why Wonderland and the real world got “joined” in the first place was because they both wanted to run away from their world. Ura-Alice adds that the door won’t open because deep down, Asuka doesn’t want to return to the real world. Furthermore, he believes that he may have a hand in it, as Asuka is helpful for him to forget about his pains… I thought that the only way that Ura-Alice can be saved from the pain is if Asuka is in pain. Now, all of the sudden, “eating” her will help him forget as well? Gosh… This guy’s route is such a mess that I’m starting to get paranoid that I a) forgot, b) missed out on or c) misunderstood something. Have I? I would love to know if I did!
With the endings, it seems like the door will only open only if they resolve to do something on their own together. Hmm…
In the Wonderland ending, or what should also be known as the obligatory harem ending, Asuka and Ura-Alice are able to leave the house. It seems like the citizens- the other five guys included- are fearful of the world ending (Wonderland was still acting bizarre even when the two were trapped in Asuka’s house). To forget this pain, they proceed to all eat Asuka at the same time by force, remembering how she’s the “ultimate meal”. Asuka seems to enjoy this. Some time later, Asuka is nowhere to be seen. Was she “eaten” to death? Was she literally eaten? I have no clue… but it seems like that fixed Wonderland right up… again, for some reason. Nobody but Ura-Alice remembers Asuka. Thanks to this, Ura-Alice became the “one and only true Alice”. He decided he doesn’t need the real world anymore, and says he’ll go to a world where he can be all alone. I guess I can understand why he’d wanna be alone. Don’t understand much else about this ending, though.
In the Alice ending, they decide they should be right by each other… so Asuka gets placed in a mirror. She’s happy when Ura-Alice is happy, sad when he’s sad, etc. It seems like they believe they’re two sides of the same coin, and can’t exist without one another. When one suffers, it saves the other so they need each other? Then it just ends… (‘◇’)?
In the Present-day ending, Ura-Alice has an epiphany- by constantly relying on Asuka to soothe his pain, in a sense, he’s going against his wishes of being free from her influence. They decide that Asuka should return to the real world by herself. Now that she knows of Ura-Alice’s existence, she won’t so readily run away from the negativities she will face once she gets back. Thus, she won’t be paining Ura-Alice anymore. Um, I’m pretty sure she can’t control some emotions, but I guess this means that it will be painless enough for Ura-Alice that he can go on with his life? After the credits, Asuka discovers that Ura-Alice is also in the real world! On top of that, he’s been her younger twin brother “since always”, despite bearing no resemblance to each other whatsoever. Like me, Asuka is totally dumbfounded by this, but Ura-Alice guesses that it’s because that Asuka has become unable to burden Ura-Alice, Ura-Alice isn’t needed in Wonderland anymore… so here he is. I thought Wonderland went mental when he was gone? They hold hands to please the incest/twincest fans, with not-so-subtle implications that they’ll be more than siblings. The end!
God, this route was so poorly executed and boring. Don’t get me started on that twincest ending. Yes, lots of people like that sorta stuff, but did they have to place fan-service ahead of story quality? Given how much he hated her, it was so unbelievable to see him interact with her amicably, even after he got what he wanted. Deep-seated emotions like that don’t just go away, even after one “gets their revenge”. He clearly wasn’t the type to be moved by logic. It would have been better to show Asuka being a stronger person after the credits, and maybe cut to Ura-Alice living a better life in Wonderland because of Asuka’s new-found emotinal strength. Not once did I ever feel sorry for this prick. Aside from his good looks, this guy has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Given that otome games aim to want to make players romantically get involved with the heroes, who is shallow enough to stay with this fool? He’s not even the “complex type” that is at the very least, interesting to see how a relationship with him would go.
Another really dumb thing is that Ura-Alice only really advances on his goal in his own route.Yes, luring her to Wonderland is the obvious course of action he must take, and yes, trying to keep her in Wonderland is another important goal… but if you pick the route of anybody other than himself… Despite the pain he has endured over the years, in spite of the clear advantage over Asuka he has by knowing his surroundings, despite knowing exactly how she works (i.e. he unambiguously informs her that he can pretty much perfectly predict her actions) because he is “another her”, Ura-Alice only interferes ONCE outside of his own route. How the hell does this make sense? One could argue that Ura-Alice may eventually act upon his plan in the events of the Alice and Wonderland endings… but what of the Present-day endings? Another argument could be that since he knows her so well, he’d know she will improve thanks to her relationship with the others… but that doesn’t explain how he would achieve his second-most important goal- to get revenge. So yeah, there’s no way there’s sense in him, given his personality, to be so complacent even when Asuka pursues other guys.
* Gameplay and System *
ALICE=ALICE does not deviate from the typical ADV playing style. You read through the text, and then are intermittently prompted to make choices. You’re always presented with two options. In most cases, one will be the “correct” choice, and the other, “incorrect”. Choosing all of the correct choices lead to the Present-day endings, a mixture of right and wrong lead to the Alice endings and all incorrect will lead to the Wonderland endings. To assist you in gauging where you’re headed, ALICE=ALICE uses an apple, which is placed on the top-right of the textbox (pictured above). Correct choices will keep the apple intact, whereas continually making incorrect choices will gradually “eat away” at the apple. Once the apple has been bitten, it is permanent throughout the route until its conclusion. You cannot regain a bitten piece, so for this reason, saving often is recommended.
While the apple guide could be seen as taking the mystery out of where your choices will lead you, I think it’s a good and simple indicator to help players reach or avoid specific outcomes. This is also helpful for 100% completists like me. Speaking of the choices, I found that it’s pretty easy to work out what choices you should be making as ALICE=ALICE is not difficult. Once you grasp how the apple works, and have a basic understanding of the guy you’re pursuing, the rest should be easy-as-cake. Also, I found the “meaningless” choices to be jarring. To go into more detail, in every route at some stage, you’re presented with two choices, but neither adds nor subtracts from the apple. Moreover, you pick one choice, watch the scene of the choice, and then you’re returned to the same two choices, but are forced to pick the choice you didn’t pick and watch its scene. What is the point of this? Why not just put these scenes into the standard parts of the plot? Perhaps these were going to intially be meaningful choices, but the developers decided for some reason to not make them but were too lazy to change this? Is this some cheap way to pad the routes out further? Who knows.
I don’t have much else to comment on in terms of the system’s interface that I haven’t already mentioned in my review of the trial. I still think the system is nice and colourful without being too offensive to the eye. The vibrant colours compliment the whimsical and fantastical atmosphere of ALICE=ALICE well. I’ve always been fond of Rejet’s system interface, as the essential functions are quick and easy to access. My only complaint is the lack of a skipping function keyboard shortcut. In most visual novels, you press the control key to force skip or skip read text (depending on how you set it up). However, in ALICE=ALICE, you must press the Skip tab on the textbox. This isn’t a big deal, but it gets annoying to have to constantly move the cursor and click on the tab; especially since it won’t automatically skip after making a choice.
Rejet’s “CG Click” system also makes a return. For those unfamiliar with it, CG Click is a feature in which players can exit out of a text box to click on certain parts of the CG. The characters in the CG will make various comments pertaining to the scene. You’ll know when a CG is eligible for poking around when you see the above icon in the text box.
Another interesting system addition Rejet implements in most of their games is an in-built dictionary. Though interesting, I think it’s just a gimmick added on by Rejet in most of their games these days because it’s well-known as their “thing”, if you will (for the record, Rejet isn’t the first company to implement this in their games. I’ve come across other visual novels that have done this before them). While in Black Wolves Saga, a dictionary was helpful in order to remember the various races, specific terminology, locations and past events that occurred within its universe, in ALICE=ALICE, things are quite straightfoward. Thus, the dictionary- while an interesting feature- serves little purpose. On one memorable occasion, Kuro Usagi vocalised the onomatopoeia for biting his nails, “gaji gaji”. Even though he vocalised it AND his sprite depicted him as biting his nails, it was given a definition. Sure, it doesn’t impact the gameplay, but I can’t help but comment on its pointlessness.
Next we have another Rejet staple- a collection of character profiles. Each character gets four “pages” worth of information about them. You unlock the sections depending on which ending you come across. I believe the first page is unlocked regardless of which ending you get, but the remaining three can only be unlocked by completing each of the three varieties of endings each guy has. It sounds like a pain, but with ALICE=ALICE, once you learn the “flow” of events in one route, the same principle pretty much applies to everyone else. To help you along, the game even gives you a hint on how to unlock a profile page. You can view these hints by hovering your cursor over the yet-to-be-unlocked page’s number. Anyway, what makes the character profiles interesting is how instead of being confronted with a wall of informational text, you click on the questions and the guy will answer it for you. As you can see in the above screen shot, the types of questions you can ask them are bulleted by diamonds. Other than the profile questions, there are some just-for-fun ones you can ask a guy. Such as, to kiss you, confess their love for you, propose to you, etc… I think presenting the character profiles like this is a great idea; it breathes more life into them!
Other post-completion bonuses include most of your standard “rewards”- a CG and key scene recollection sections and a section to listen to the game’s soundtrack.
* Art *
My opinion of the artwork hasn’t changed since I reviewed the trial and played the game. Though it’s not really a style I’m fond of, especially how skinny everyone is, Suou’s colourful and unique artstyle is a perfect match for ALICE=ALICE. The Wonderland characters all have interesting clothing choices, which really brought home the sense that Asuka had stumbled into a very different society. The landscape and architecture were drawn to reflect the fantastical nature of Wonderland well, further adding to sense of being in a fairytale-like unfamiliar place. The backgrounds were nice- particularly the forest and King’s rose garden, though it’s nothing to rave about. As with nearly all Rejet games, the sprites had variety, were animated well and even move their mouths, adding life into a medium that can easily feel static. Aside from my own, personal preferences in regards to the artstyle, what lets down ALICE=ALICE here is the lack of CGs. This is common in short games, as CGs can really blow the budget. Six CGs per guy isn’t terrible, but I felt like they could have picked more carefully what moments to give CGs.
* Music and Sound *
Again, my opinion hasn’t really changed since my review of the trial. Both the OP and ED wasn’t anything spectacular to me. Passable, but nothing memorable. This is just a matter of personal preference, and has nothing to do with the singers’ performance. ALICE=ALICE utilised a variety of styles, and sometimes even combined them together. Some had music boxes to add to the fairytale, fantastical feel, the piano and violin were utilised for more pensive moments and techno was common for day-to-day scenes to keep things lively and upbeat, just like Wonderland is. My favourite tracks are “ALICE in the mirror”, which is a pensive piece exclusively used during Asuka’s monologues. My second-favourite is “Hontou no Kimochi” which is played during romantic, heart-warming moments of the game. If it counts, my absolute favourite is the official website’s BGM. It’s really great; I wish all of the techno tracks in the game reached the same level of quality as the website’s.
If there should have been more work somewhere, in this department, it’s the sound effects. It was the standard fare- pouring drinks, doors opening and closing, walking and the sounds of weapons being readied. To be fair, great sound effects aren’t very important in a story like this, but if done well, it really does help with immersion.
The voice acting was superb, as expected of this talented cast! Tachibana Shinnosuke as Sangatsu Usagi never ceases to amaze me with his ability to convey so much emotion. That being said, Takahashi Naozumi as Chesire Neko probably wins all up, as his “chara” acting skills are pretty convincing and very well-suited to Chesire Neko himself. He conveyed Chesire Neko’s over-the-top personality flawlessly. Such a brilliant cast was wasted on such a mediocre story, but to think of it another way, thanks to their talents, it was probably made more bearable.
* Score and Final Thoughts *
Gameplay and System: A
Voice Acting: A
Music and Sound: B
Overall Score: C
I was gonna go with “C-“, but I felt that was too harsh considering how highly the other factors of ALICE=ALICE scored. As the scores reflect, on the surface, ALICE=ALICE is a well-presented game, with its colourful art, superb system, talented voice actors and a fitting OST… but look deeper and you’ll find flat characters, countless ass-pulls and a ton of inadequately or not-at-all explained events. Yes, it’s a short game so they can’t jump in too deep because of time constraints, but for God’s sake, at least keep things consistent. I do get the sense that the writers knew what they were getting at, but should have ran it past outsiders to see if they can understand. I can guarantee you that many endings will rarely make sense. Though King and Boushiya’s routes are definitely the best to me, it’s not like I cared for them very deeply. None of them could be called truly unique or interesting, in spite of them being advertised as wackos from Wonderland. However, praise should be given to Asuka, who is one of the best protagonists I’ve come across in a while. It was so nice to read the story through somebody with genuine flaws that are believable. A protagonist doesn’t have to be “badass” to be likeable.
So… do I recommend this game? No, not really. Not because it’s horrible, but because it’s so average. However, if you do find yourself really wanting to play this for some reason, don’t miss out on King’s and Boushiya’s routes. Ura-Alice may help some understand the game better, though it does raise more questions (read: doubts) afterwards.