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2012-03-15

The Second Reproduction Review


Title: The Second Reproduction
Release date: 2008-12-28 (2012-02-20 in English)
Developer: Heterodoxy
English publisher: Ate the Moon Translations (as a fan-patch)

So... "The Second Reproduction" is my first commercial otome game that I have played. That is to say, you play as a girl seeking to romance various boys. Holding a position, that genderbending is both fun and healthy I happily dove into it. My previous forays into the genre were in the form of various OELVNs, that were mostly of very low quality with the exception of "Frozen Essence" - the only game of this kind to impress me. I'm happy to say, that TSR didn't disappoint me, however it didn't amaze me either. But let's talk about everything from the beginning.

 "Pleasure is one of life's necessities."
-Gardis

First of all, it's important to note that "The Second Reproduction" is a sequel/spin-off to the earlier title "Queen of Darkness" by a doujin circle Heterodoxy and while the game stands on its own, I still wished that I had a chance to play QOD as I would have had a better grasp of the backstory. Oh, well...
Explosive relationship...
TSR starts about a millennium after the events of "Queen of Darkness" and casts us in a role of warrior princess Christina of Almenan. Almenan has been for a long time at war with various demon kingdoms, but nowadays Deathryde is the last of those still holding against Almenan's military might mainly because of its powerful ruler Gardis. Under the orders of Queen Helaris, Christina and her trusted knight Lezette embark on a dangerous mission to assassinate Demon Lord Gardis. A success in this endeavour would ensure that Deathryde crumbles without a strong leader. Being genre savvy players we already know that things won't exactly work as expected. Soon Christina and Lezette find themselves prisoners in the Demon Lord's castle and the longer they stay there, the less they are sure that demons are the source of all evil as is being taught by Almenan's religion.

 "I'm not the sort of woman who squeals and wants a man to protect her."
-Christina

What pleasantly surprised me was that Christina has both a real personality and is a capable and likable protagonist. Most otome games cast their players in a blank template, but TSR doesn't take such an easy route out. The second cliché that many otoges fall in is a weak doormat protagonist that exists in a story solely to be gently raped by numerous bishounens. Christina, on the other hand, is a stubborn and determined warrior princess, that at the same time can be compassionate and feeling. It's really interesting to watch her transformation from a religious zealot in the beginning of the game to a fighter that opposes Almenan's racist ways, especially concerning a relatively short playtime of the VN. The voice actors in the game are also top notch and their efforts pay off to bring the characters to life, including Chris, that contrarily to many VN protagonists is also voiced.

If I have one complait about my protagonist, she is not as proactive as the game tries to make you believe her to be. On the contrary, it feels that major events just happen to her without any input on her part. Chris is not a participant, but rather an observer on the sidelines of the ongoing conflict. The means to end the war and acquire a happy ending just fall into her lap out of the blue in a very unbelievable fashion as I will complain later. While Chris' actions make sense most of the time, less Gardis/Lezette centered conflict and more focus on the war would have made a much better reading experience.

The plot is not particularly complex here, but still manages to provide a sensible amount of surprises - the major one coming about 1/3rd through the game and honestly I didn't see that one coming. Characters act more or less sensibly (with the exception of one cocky Premier) and you really get to feel for them by the time the story is underway. Sadly, both the story and gameplay are not without flaws. The mechanics of map movement are lousily applied and disjoint the storytelling. Moreover, it makes reaching a good ending a more complicated deal as it's often not clear were you should go next (especially, if you want to get all the scenes). Admittedly, places of interest are marked with exclamation marks, but they are not always helpful.

As I have already mentioned, the extended movement scenes weaken the storytelling, but the bigger problem is that those scenes appear to all be made somewhat tongue-in-cheek and it's hard to take them seriously. I, for one, will never buy that Christina's sister just visited Deathryde out of the blue in order to buy Viagra (lolwut). Not only that, but the resolution of the whole gods damned war rests on that bottle of Viagra (double lolwut)! And what's with that filthy rich guy with a military fetish that gives you 1000 col that you never use during the course of the game? You see what I mean with "tongue-in-cheek"! It's especially hard to reconcile those scenes with relatively sombre mood of the rest of the game. Some plot threads also go completely nowhere and are quickly forgotten.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

Oh, well, let's talk about individual routes.

"There's no such thing as a person who can judge others. The only one who can judge you... is yourself."
-Gardis
You don't really want that, do you, Christina?
The first route I undertook belonged to the Dark Lord himself. Gardis - the last ruler of Deathryde - appears to be a pragmatical and ruthless leader with a special contempt towards humans. However this mask is mostly a lie, and, while Gardis does despise humans for what they've done to his country, he is a honourable and hard working king whose biggest weakness is loneliness. He takes an immediate liking to Chris due to her fiery personality, and, despite treating her really badly at the beginning, soon they both start to trust each other. There exists a real chemistry between their personalities, but as a whole I found this route to be weaker than that of Lezette's, even though Gardis was a more likable character. That is mainly because a few major plot points are never revealed in this route. There are two endings: the good one is sweet happy ever after, the bad one is sincerely heartbreaking.

The most surprising thing about this route was the mature treatment of pregnancy. Usually this concept comes in visual novels as either a fetish fuel or as an afterthought during the epilogue. Nonetheless, Christina's pregnancy comes as an important plot point halfway through the game and is treated in a very normal way. The same can be said about sex scenes in all the routes. Usually VNs are either eroges or do not have sex period. TSR provides us fade to black scenes that do not show any erotic content and still work very well within the context.

"What kind of assassin gets taught by his own target!?"
-Lezette
Not so innocent cuddling.
The second path I followed belonged to a trusted Chris' knight Lezette. It's obvious that Lez is madly in love with princess and she completely fails to notice that. I haven't liked character interactions here that much as the route plays on a dense protagonist angle that I frankly have been overfed while playing various bishoujo games. Still, I am inclined to proclaim it to be a True Route courtesy of the fact that all major secrets are revealed here and Christina gets a most complete resolution at the end. The route also has two endings and in this instance I think that the bad ending has a certain dark poignancy and is really fitting to the game as a whole too. The good ending is just as sweet as that of the first route.

"A rose isn't a rose without its thorns. They can only reach their true beauty by blooming the way they naturally are."
-Jin
The most delicious cake.
The third and last path belong to a perverted S&M loving prime minister Jin of Deathryde. I truly consider this an apocryphal route as everything about it differs badly from all we have seen up to this point. First of all, the path is filled to the brim with rape scenes and I find such content useless in a non-H game, especially considering that those scenes are mostly played for the laugh (Chris' reaction after being taken advantage of for the first time is... hilarious). Secondly, not only the core secrets are not revealed, but they are buried even deeper with the help of Jin... which made me hate him more than any other action of his. In a truly disturbing scene Jin and Lezette discuss how Christina's staying with Jin benefits her. And finally, Jin is revealed to have always had means to stop a war between Almenan and Deathryde. Why the fuck hadn't he used that in the other routes?! Has he been to busy playing with whips and ropes to notice that the world is going to hell... literally? All in all, I found this path completely useless in relation to the game. It having only one ending confirms its apocryphal status in my eyes.

If you installed Valentine's path, the game will provide an epilogue to every route. Strangely, despite being named Valentine's, the epilogues are set on Christmas day and provide some closure to all three stories. Worth reading, especially Lezette's epilogue.

In the end I found story both in general and in specific routes entertaining but flawed. The same can be said about the graphics. The sprites are really simplistic and do not portray emotions very well. I recognised at least a few free resources used for backgrounds (especially those that were also included in "Monster Girl Quest") and I have a suspicion that all of them are free. Also, I have the same complaint as with SonoHana series - the text box covers way too big a portion of the screen. The soundtrack wasn't memorable, but, as I have already mentioned, the creators hired some excellent voice talents. It's a shame that TSR is only partially voiced and such lines come and go as they please.
Rapey time!!!
To sum up, "The Second Reproduction" is a worthwhile experience, even though it's not a very good game as a whole. Still, there is a real shortage of otome games available in English and you can do much worse than spend a few hours with Christina and co. Plus, you have almost nothing to loose as any individual route can be finished in one sitting.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
English translation thread or direct link for patch
Get the game at Kureha One, Eroge Download or direct link (The creators have gone under and the game is out of print, thus there is no legal way to obtain it).
Direct link to Valentine's Day DLC patch
Download the soundtrack from the game

Final Verdict: 68%

14 comments:

  1. could you tell me how to save this game? i played it a couple days before, but i was getting sick because i don't really know how to save it. :(

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    1. just press right click

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  2. This game was awesome, until I hit a super super stupid bad end -_-

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  3. i really like Jin route... hmm... i guess we just have different taste :D

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  4. do you know who are the seiyuu's of the characters? i search for it and never find it. i'm pretty sure sasanuma akira is gardis seiyuu, though.

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  5. "those seiyuu's are amazing, don't even dare compare them to the American voice actors..." from my sis

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  6. Jin is awesome and very sexy!=) Strange that you didn't like him....

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  7. I heard this is based on an other game called 'the Queen of Darkness' which is about Risty (Gardis' grandmother). Does anyone have a link for a download of the English version of that game?

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    1. There is no English version of that game. When in doubt C4... err, I mean, check VNDB.

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  8. Anyone that enjoy playing otome games with adventure and mystery theme should try Area X and X Note. Amazing graphic and storyline, especially area x!

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    1. Hmm... Heard of those. Might give it a try some day.

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  9. I've finished TSR recently so I checked its VNDB thread to amuse myself with the silly discussions when I happen to saw the link to your review. Now, I've to say that there’s a part of it that I agree with, but I've also found some very glaring errors within it. I hope you don’t mind me correcting it.

    This post will be a choke full with spoilers so everyone shouldn't read it if they have not finished the game.
    .
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    “As a daughter of a half-demon mother and a full demon father she should be fearsomely powerful”

    This is quite a big mistake. Helaris was still a virgin when he met Vardes and even if he did impregnate her and stole her virginity, Christina shouldn't have been his daughter because she's Helaris third daughter. So no, she doesn't have a full demon father. Furthermore, in Lezette's epilogue for Valetine's day, Helaris diary stated that she named her third daughter Christina despite the name carries a bitter memory of her past. In addition, the power of demon has weakened over the time that some demon has actually resembled more of a human as Gardis said it, plus, the demon blood that runs within the royal bloodline must have thinned out, which is why Helaris spell was quite weak and easily breakable. I don't even think she could be called a quarter-demon mother.


    “Christina's demonic status is also downplayed and barely mentioned and once Lezette confirms that by expecting Chris to display magical powers, but the plot thread vanishes without reaching a conclusion. We find almost nothing about the Gap and the reason the time loop happens. The presence of Shade is also an enigma and, while I speculate that he is a recurring character from "Queen of Darkness", I don't know if that is true. In Jin's route he is implied to be over a thousand years old, but why he is seeking Keys and who he really is is never revealed.”

    As Helaris stated, some of the people who carry the tainted royal bloodline sometimes exhibit a demon trait, like inheriting magic power or have a longer life span. They may or may not develop this ability. Christina's power is most likely the reason why she could enter the Gap and went back to time. The identity of Shade has bugged for quite sometimes too, but the TSR translator said he is someone from the QoD VN.

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  10. "And finally, Jin is revealed to have always had means to stop a war between Almenan and Deathryde. Why the fuck hadn't he used that in the other routes?! And finally, why hadn't Chris' sister started a coup d'état in the two main routes? She did that in Jin's route due to her love for Chris and not because she was previously Jin's mistress. What was stopping her in Gardis' and Lez's routes?"

    It should be noted that Jin’s route was written by a different writer than the one who did both Gardis and Lezette’s route, so some plot elements have been handled quite differently. That said, the flaws within Jin’s route don’t affects the outcomes and events of the other routes. You've forgotten that Gardis hides the fact that Helaris annihilated Croft and took all the blame on himself because he doesn't wished the human to go to war against each other. When Jin entered Christina's mind, he has found out that she was involved and was later put under a spell by her mother. Still, he doesn't make any move based on this. You should have realized that Jin was previously a man who acted on passion before his sister's death, before he became the current cold Prime Minister. It was after he broke down because of jealousy that he later went to Christina's sister and told her everything and makes the rebellion plan, obviously without Gardis knowledge. That scene was named as “His Role Collapses” if it wasn't that obvious already. He also kept what happens in the cave a secret and tells a white lie to her so that should tell us something about his cunning personality.

    Her sister doesn't start a coup d'état simply because 1) she didn't know about what happens in Croft 2) Jin is still the cold Prime Minster and respect Gardis wishes to keep Croft event as a secret. Also, she isn't Jin mistress; the word “puppet” doesn't imply that they have an intimate relationship and neither of her reaction towards his handsome appearance. He doesn't even enter her room during the scene.

    The only flaw that it has is the fact that you could talk with Shade in the church during the map segment despite the being wasn't mentioned anyway else in Jin’s route.

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    1. That's some long posts here. As the minor details are a bit sketchy for me after all this time, I concede my defeat on the matters clarified in your first post.
      On the other hand I'm still not sold on Jin. Obviously he should realize that the continuing war can only result in total destruction of the Demon Kingdom. Promise to Gardis or not, the Prime Minister's duty should be to the people of the nation and not to the King. As he knew the truth about Croft, he should have done anything in order to remedy the situation or else he was unworthy of his position. Oh, well, I found Jin so unlikable that I wasn't even surprised by the reveal. You clarifying that the route was done by a different writer explains a lot.

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