Backloggery

Backloggery.com

2011-12-19

Guilty ~The SiN~ Review


Title: Guilty ~The SiN~ (罪囚-The SiN-)
Alias: Zaishuu -The SiN-
Release date: 2003-09-26 (2011-03-14 in English)
Developer: Tactics
English publisher: MangaGamer

Ah, Zaishuu -The SiN-, a visual novel from Tactics that promised to take us to the darker side of an eroge world. Considering that I'm a fan of everything that is horror, fantasy or sci-fi, I was more than eager to get my hands onto it, expecting to experience another "Bible Black". The title left me with very mixed feelings, but I suppose that is the point of this review. So, let's proceed by diving straight into the underworld of Akatsuki City.

First of all, let's break of from the traditional routine and criticize the cover a bit. Before going further, let's ascertain the fact that I like the cover, but then I'm a massive pervert. However, its fault lies in the wrong assumptions that it induces in people. First of all, it shows three half naked chicks thus leading us to believe, that we will be playing a nukige which could not be further from the truth as the VN has a surprisingly low number of sex scenes (at least in the two main routes), but I will talk about that more later. Secondly, who is the third girl portrayed on the cover? However I look at her, she looks more like Cassaca to me than Nagi. The only reason why she can't be Cassaca is because she lacks certain... er, assets and I'm not talking about the obvious ones. Oh, well... Once I got the aesthetics of the cover aside, I can move onto the main body of the review.

I didn't trust in my ability enough to promise that I'd be able to protect everybody. My minimum requirement was to protect the people within my immediate circle.
-Akira Kamijo takes a stick made of common sense and clubs Shirou Emiya to death
I would have related with Akira better if he had a face.
The plot of the game follows our humble protagonist Akira Kamijo as he lives his ordinary days while being followed by his annoying imouto Aya, engaging in witty banters with his friends Shiro and Soichiro, helps his uncle work in the restaurant and engages in kicking asses of various thugs for fun during his free time. Those peaceful days are shattered when Aya's best friend Atsumi disappears without trace. That's not the first disappearance in the area and in the school itself, thus there is lots of reasons to worry, but that is nothing to the fact that Aya herself soon goes missing too. While searching for her, Akira runs into a bunch of demons that hold her captive. While, due to their inexplicable luck, both Aya and Akira get out almost unscathed out of the situation, soon Akira realizes, that demons are specifically targeting Aya for some strange reason. Kamijo family's life suddenly becomes much more dangerous.

Now, that sounds like a good enough template for an epic plot which can go either way. Let the protagonist engage in epic larger than life battles that defy common sense and you will get something akin to "Deus Machina Demonbane". Show the seductive side of the left hand crafts and add lots of fetishistic sex scenes and that would be a recipe for a spiritual successor to "Bible Black". You can do something in between too, but why would you make a slice-of-life drama in a supernatural background and that is what "Guilty" essentially is! After Akira learns about demon existence the rest of the game is composed of him going to school, interacting with his friends and sister, working at the restaurant... wait, that's exactly what he did before learning about the existence of the otherworldly forces! Mind blow! Nothing changes; it's like Akira or his acquaintances are not worried about anything. I suppose a semblance of normalcy has to be maintained and, after all, he starts physical and mental training and occasionally battles demons, but all that comes across as a sort of afterthought. My impression was, that the game doesn't know which genre it wants to be and appears imbalanced and poorly paced. The more I think, the more I believe, that pacing is the main problem of the VN that is 90% a personal slice-of-life peppered drama and 10% supernatural thriller.
And sometimes the game becomes very philosophical ;-)
It doesn't help that the writing was all over the place. Topics come out of the left field with not a single explanation. Characters might be devising a way to beat demons one second and switch to discussing interplanetary transportation systems without a blink in the next one, and then in the next moment start ridiculing someones weight. It almost reads surreal. It's bad enough when it's only a narration, but during dialogues it's almost impossible to follow what you are reading. It reminds me of "Divi-Dead" all over again, but when all is said and done, DD had a more comprehensible translation and I don't even know if I should blame the translator or a writer in "Guilty" case. It doesn't help that it's also impossible to follow who is actually speaking at any given moment. Less than half a cast has spoken dialogue, the names of speaking characters do not appear on screen and also no changes to the expressions of sprites appear during the dialogue. In the end you end up following huge blocks of dialogue on screen with two stationary unchanging sprites and not a name in sight to help you get your bearings. It's a nightmare.

The translation of the VN is not the best either. I establish myself as a honorific purist; it's really OK to remove them in "Demonbane" or "Conquering the Queen" as they are not set in Japan, but it cannot be anything worse then constantly listen to Aya say "onii-chan" and read "Akira". The biggest WTF inducing thing is this though. In the beginning we establish that Atsumi's nickname is Narumi and all the characters constantly refer to her as such (we are not deaf, you know!), but translator always calls her Atsumi in the text (reminds you of DD again, no?). Why? There is absolutely no reason to do that! Add to it typos, missing words and a facepalm worthy scene, where a female character is called "he" and you get the bright picture. Uhh...

I shat on the game a bit in the paragraphs above, but truthfully I do not hate it. It showed enough moments of brilliance for me to state that I have mixed feelings about it. Lots of the character interactions were genuinely touching. I usually dislike slice-of-life, but Akira's interactions with his sister, Yukari-sensei and Nagi were interesting enough, that they did not bore me. The "supernatural thriller" parts were positively brimming with energy and, while they might have not been epic, I still found them well done. Fights were energetic and at least a few scenes had me sitting on the edge. Moreover, I didn't find I single character I hated (in a bad way) and that is certainly an accomplishment.

As I have already said, the main protagonist is a certain Akira Kamijo. He is a strange character. Strange, because he stands somewhere in between a blank slate "step in his shoes" character and a fully realized flesh and blood protagonist. On one hand, he doesn't have a full inner world with prominent thoughts and inclinations. On the other hand, he can be a complete badass, with notable fighting powers and his actions usually step outside of the expected spectrum for a "blank slate". Plus, he is smart... seriously smart. Akira has a god tier intuition and can connect seemingly unrelated pieces of events into a full picture so quickly that it comes out of the other hand of unrealistic. Usually eroge protagonists can't see anything going under their nose, while Akira comes across as a genius, because, honestly, most of us won't be able to draw such accurate conclusions from so little evidence. Moreover, he is an anti-donkan as he is perfectly aware of the feelings all the girls have toward him; he just chooses not to respond to them.

They were holding onto selfish hopes, and blaming me for being hurt.
-Akira
While the clothing in the game is over the top ridiculous, it also strangely fits here. 
Aya is Akira's little sister with a serious brother complex, who is usually staying as close to him as possible, to the point that others suspect that they have a relationship more close than a brother and a sister. Despite falling into a clingy jealous girl trope, I strangely did not find her annoying. That might be thanks to her relationship with Akira being portrayed in a pretty realistic fashion by the creators. I would also claim that her route probably has the most even flow of the three.
How do I eat Japanese food.
Nagi Okitsu is a demon hunter that arrived in Japan due to their increased presence in the region. She is a cold and cynical loner, preferring as little interactions with other people as possible. Akira meets her when she saves his life and can try to melt her icy exterior. I probably would call her route the flashiest one as it has the biggest amount of fight scenes and interactions with demons and other demon hunters. She is also a DFC... nom nom. Unlike in other eroge, where a character is called flat, but upon removing the clothes it becomes clear that protagonist is blind (*cough*Bible Black*cough*), Nagi IS flat, which is really refreshing. Strangely she also has the biggest number of endings (four, where the other girls had two each). I do not consider Nagi a main or True heroine, so this plot point took me by surprise.
Does she put on a pair of inflated balloons under her uniform every morning?
Mayuki Shindo is an ojou-sama meganekko kyonyuu heroine, which is to say that she is a walking fetish incarnate. Thus, probably, it's not a surprise that her route is almost a nukige. Probably the majority of "Guilty" sex scenes were stuffed here. Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate Mayuki, nor did I hate the sex scenes as they hit a bull's eye on some of the fetishes I like, but it was all irrelevant to the plot. Mayuki, unlike Aya and Nagi, has no place in the overarching conspiracy. She serves no purpose and probably has the weakest ending of all. Both Aya's and Nagi's endings felt poignant in some way, where here I only thought "Meh".

Other important characters are Akira's gay (or is it bisexual, if he is only interested in men and lolis?) friend Shiro and his love interest Soichiro, who are basically a boke and tsukkomi pair, who are supposed to provide a majority of the humour for the game. It's a shame that most of their humour falls flat and I didn't even understand most of what they were talking... I blame a translator, because no way that the creators wrote such lousy jokes in.

Yukari-sensei is a new mysterious art and homeroom teacher for Akira's class.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

Doesn't she look gorgeous in the sunset?
She is a mature woman with a strange behaviour and a penchant to dress in really provocative clothes. Most of the dialogues that involve her are pure gold. In the end I think that the game lost a lot of potential by not including her route. Seriously, that would be one thing that would really increase the game's value for me. I want my Yukari route!!!

Righteousness is always inside of individuals. You have your own, and your enemy will also have theirs.
-Uncle Kamijo

A good thriller also has to have strong villains to carry the menace on their shoulders. Here, sadly, "Guilty" really looses. It has a tonne of villains to threaten our heroes, but none of them have a presence or charisma to carry the conflict with sufficient grace. Master Therion and Dr. West were a big reason why I rated Demonbane so high, here the villains actually lower the rating. Let me dissect them a bit under a spoiler tag:
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

The biggest problem with this game I believe is the structure of routes. Whenever I see a low heroine count (three in this case), I assume that the routes are long and very diverging (think FSN or Demonbane). That sadly is not the case here. The VN spans a time period of about a month (November 29 - December 31). The novel has an undeservingly extended common route; the text is absolutely identical until December 14th in all three routes. Some different scenes appear then, but they are short and diluted by huge blocks of repeat text. Only starting with December 25th the routes really diverge. Let's count: six non-repeated days out of 33... The fuckin' game has over 80% of almost identical text in all routes! Seriously? How much character interaction can you have in that time frame with a girl of your choosing? Until the day of Christmas Akira shows no romantic feelings to Nagi or Mayuki and then suddenly wam bam they are a pair. The most natural and believable relationship development comes betwixt Aya and Akira.

We pursued the matter with vigor, but it was a flat ending.
-Cassaca

It's not even strange that game has a really lackluster ending that ends with a slap instead of a punch. And yes, I said ending, not endings, as with the exception of bad endings, all the three main ones are 95% identical, which again was a blow to main expectations. That is even foreshadowed by the characters in the game itself (look for a phrase above). It's disappointing, considering there is an ungodly amount of choices here, so one would believe they would make the plot diverging enough, but no...
Mana upgrade soon to be completed...
After all that dishing, let's talk about something positive: H-scenes. I have to say that I genuinely enjoyed the lot of them in this game. Aya's route has some scenes evenly dispersed throughout, Nagi's route has the lowest total count of scenes, however it has a really looong orgy scene near the end and Mayuki's scenes are high in count and in placement. The graphics are really nice looking (with the exception of the last Mayuki scene; look at her face, look at her fucking face! Was the artist high?) and the scenes employ a number of different fetishes, however nothing really extreme to turn people away. Even the tentacles that appear in some scenes are quite tame (at least by my standards). The scenes themselves are on the short side and never feel like they come out of nowhere and intrude on the plot unlike in some games (*cough*Kara no Shoujo*cough*). Many skinship scenes that would turn into full blown H in other games, do not follow that path here. The writing itself is also surprisingly nice and not so cheesy. Akira is also not a pervert, like a character is wont to be in such games, but rather he is frequently taken advantage of by girls.

Graphically the game is very old school looking. Seriously, upon entering the game I immediately quit it and checked VNDB to see if it wasn't first released in 1998 or so. But, no, it came out in 2003. Considering that's the year that gave us "Muv-Luv" and "Cross Channel", the art in "Guilty" is unusually old looking. The low resolution doesn't help either. The sprites are very inexpressive (which, as I already have said, obstruct the ability to follow dialogues). The CGs on the other hand are quite well done and pleasant to the eye with rare exceptions (see the paragraph above). Sound is also really oldschool and wouldn't be out of place in "Seasons of Sakura" or "Runaway City". Also, the BGM is very loud compared to the voices. I had to lower the music to (1) in order to hear the spoken speech. Really strange. Only a handful of female characters are voiced and I don't feel that they performed in any way worth mentioning (neither good nor bad). The unvoiced male parts are really detracting, considering how big a role they play in this game.

In the end I think, that "Guilty ~The Sin~" is a wasted opportunity to make an epic game. The game doesn't know what genre it wants to be, weak and uncharismatic villains, plus lots of repeated text between routes marred an experience. The game could have been much better, it had lots of potential, but alas... I still do not consider it a bad game, after all I'm a freak, when it comes to fantasy stories, but even my biased love for the genre doesn't salvage "Guilty" from mediocrity.
P.S. Damn, but this game is a tobacco advertisement. Someone is smoking, smoked or will smoke every two minutes in the game. It's like they are all living in a permanent cloud of carbon monoxide :-D
P.P.S. Atsumi always wears a hat with letters NNL. Lol.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site
Buy the digital version of the game at MangaGamer site
Buy the physical edition of the game at: MangaGamer, Play-Asia, Rightstuf, Archonia, Anime Corner StoreShopAnimeDVD, J-list.
Get the walkthrough here

Final Verdict: 65%

2 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I feel bad for noticing your blog so late.Your writing is really great.As for the game it was decent.I enjoy old games so art was not a con for me.I agree with you about inconsistency where the game changes genre between thriller and charage.I expected some plot twist for example about our two voiceless creepy ass male friends but it did not happened. :D

    ReplyDelete