Leveling Down: The Story of Hentai RPGs
Chapter 11. The Final Chapter. The Great Crisis. Brave Soul.
Brace yourself, kind reader, as we are getting close to the end of this epic story. After the fall of the heroes, with only Illusion left standing (and not making RPGs), what we have now is a very, very sad situation.
Basically, what happened is that hentai companies refused to follow the technological leap of the mid-nineties. I don't know why it happened. Probably because they didn't have enough money. Before, a couple of people could easily create an entire game. Now, it's a multi-million business with a hundred of people working just on polygons and another hundred working just on animation, and the third hundred working just on realistic nose hairs or whatever. I don't know how exactly it goes, but the point is, now you need to be a mega-corporation and have plenty of money and plenty of people to make a game to fit modern graphical standards.
I don't demand from each game to have the most cutting-edge graphics and ultra-realistic facial expressions and whatever. I care more for good gameplay and good stories. But let's face it, "good gameplay" means that you utilize whatever the time can offer to you. Good gameplay is not just re-hashing again and again the same old mechanics. What was good for its time is not necessarily good now. 3D graphics make games more atmospheric, more immersive. I'd accept it if hentai games were a few years behind the mainstream. But now, they are already more than a decade behind the mainstream.
During the PC-98 times, hentai RPGs looked and played nearly as well as mainstream Japanese RPGs. There was no bar that separated the one from the other, except that 18+ sticker. Today, a serious gamer who follows the technological progress will not pay any attention to modern hentai RPG. He'll say they are amateurishly, awkwardly made, terribly outdated products. And he'll be right. Just look at the recent hentai RPG series, for example Ikusa Megami or Izumo or anything else. While the second series had stone-age production values from the beginning, Ikusa Megami followed the same sad pattern: the first game was behind its time perhaps three, four years; the second - maybe six; the third one well over a decade. It's not that they always stay behind; they go backwards. They can't catch up with the technological progress of today, and they look pitiful.
Some of you will probably say that I'm being unfair to small companies whose games are aimed at a very small and very niche part of the gaming community. But with Illusion still around, I can't agree. Illusion is also a small company, but they try to be modern (it's a pity they can't make good RPGs, but that's another issue). That's what counts for me: be up to date, experiment, try new stuff, look what other games have achieved in the meantime and learn from them.
Today it's very hard to find a good hentai RPG that is not a nostalgic remake of an old PC-98 classic. But I would still like to end this article on an optimistic note. That's why I dedicate those final paragraphs to a recent RPG that has conquered the non-Japanese market like a storm: Brave Soul. It was made by Crowd, which did some digital novels before, but I think it's their first RPG attempt. It has outdated graphics - no 3D at all. But it still looks nice, in a charming retro way. It has badly recorded music. But it still sounds awful. (Did you pay attention to what I just wrote? Never mind. Don't read too fast). What this game has, however, is interesting gameplay.
It has action combat, with AI-controlled party members. How many RPGs do you know that work like this? Quick, off the top of your head! No, don't say "Tales Of..." or whatever, because Brave Soul doesn't need any silly separate battles screens, it's very fast hack-and-slash. The closest system I can think of right now is playing as a necromancer in Diablo, only with pretty girls instead of undead skeletons, which I actually consider a plus. It also has a very robust "dating sim" system: each time you play the game, you end up with one girl, depending on your choices. Like in Sakura Taisen, only you really get to see how you have sex with the girl you've chosen. Which means that unlike most Japanese RPGs, this one has plenty of replay value.
As a matter of fact, I can't say I'm a big fan of Brave Soul - I don't care for its gameplay, and its story is pretty dull. But I still have a sympathy for this game and I hope its success will encourage developers to create better hentai RPGs and translate them into languages other than Japanese.
And now I shall end this article with a hentai RPG haiku!
Contemplating naked flesh:
About the author: Unicorn B. Lynx is a fellow MobyGames contributor and a long-time approver.
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