Koihime Musou Review

Title: Koihime † Musou ~Doki ☆ Otome Darake no Sangokushi Engi~
Original title: 恋姫†無双~ドキッ☆乙女だらけの三国志演義~
Alias: Koihime Musou ~A Heart-Throbbing, Maidenly Romance of the Three Kingdoms~
Release date: 2007-01-26
English release date: 2011-02-28
Developer: BaseSon
English publisher: MangaGamer

Now let me tell you that I have absolutely no knowledge of “Romance of the Three Kingdoms”. I have not read the book or played countless computer games based on that enormous saga. I am confident though, that it doesn’t really matter, because I think that the game I’m about to review “Koihime Musou” is a close to RotTK as “Tears to Tiara” is to “Mabinogion”. Words “Very loosely based on…” come to my mind.

“Koihime Musou” is probably the most controversial title released by MangaGamer. Sure, “Soul Link”, “Higurashi” and “Kara no Shoujo” generated their own share of unrest, but KM outdid them all. The main reason for the hubbub was that the game was released without voice files. Many well known and expensive seiyuu contributed to this visual novel and the licence cost for a voiced game was too much for MG. Of course, fans created their own voice patch and distributed on various warez sites, but almost a year after an initial release, MangaGamer released a free voice patch and even a hard copy of the voiced game. All is well in the end.

I’ll do away with pretence and will say that I didn’t enjoy the game nearly as much as I expected to. Maybe it’s a case of wrong expectations as I believed that the game will be much more focused on war and battles, but it was a pure romantic comedy instead.
There MUST be a lethal cook in a visual novel (VN rule No. 15).
The plot starts with a certain Hongou Kazuto visiting a museum to see ancient relics. He notices a suspicious looking person and later that evening intercepts him trying to steal an old mirror. As it happens in those cases, the mirror breaks, white light covers everything and next you know Kazuto wakes up in an unfamiliar place with three bandits trying to relieve him of his possessions. Suddenly he is saved from his predicament by a gorgeous black haired girl named Kan Unchou. As a fan of “Romance of the Three Kingdoms” Kazuto immediately recognizes her as Guan Yunchang (they reeeeally look alike *sarcasm mode*) and assumes that he has traveled back in time. Of course, Lord Guan probably wasn’t a woman, thus he corrects his assumption to being in an alternate universe (he isn’t entirely right, but saying more would be a spoiler).

To make the game more accessible to an average Japanese person, the developers gave everyone their “true” names that they reserve for especially close persons (and that sounds suspiciously Nihon-like). For example, Kan’u’s true name is Aisha. She assumes Hongou to be a Messenger from Heaven and asks him to be a symbol of peace and unification around whom soldiers and warriors would gather. Kazuto reluctantly agrees and thus the adventure starts.
Battle preparations.
“Koihime Musou” is no pure visual novel, but mixes traditional VN presentation with turn based strategy. In that aspect the game is not exactly unlike “Utawarerumono” or “Tears to Tiara” and shares with the latter game its love for stupid and insipid slice-of-life scenes.

What I liked the most about KM was the battle scenes. Not only the actual gameplay episodes, but the whole descriptive passages. The starting battles also set me positively as in one instance a voiced character with a distinguished sprite lost her head. It led me to believe that the game was grittier than it really was. During the reminder of the game the only people that lost their heads were the redshirt conscripts. Booo… As I frequently like to tell my friends, the main ingredients for a good work of fiction are blood, guts and brains… When all those components are on the ground or on the wall, that is. KM is sadly lacking in all them, though it had at least one eye-snack.
Formation explanations.
The actual gameplay episodes are not that complex, but I really liked them. To start a battle you choose a general and a strategist under your command. The general can use a certain special technique, called Ougi that can weigh the battle in your favour. For example, Kan’u raises the general morale of the troops once per battle or Chouhi can wade into the battle and singlehandedly massacre thousands of foes every five turns. Strategist doesn’t play an active role, but gives bonuses to certain troop formations. After you make your choice, you decide how much of heavy, light infantry and archers you will take to battle and finally will choose on a starting formation. As you have no idea what the enemy’s formation will be or what is the rival general’s Ougi, you might have to retreat during the battle and rearrange your choices according to what you learn. In the end, it’s all quite simple and easy. I was never hard pressed to win any battle, but I appreciated those episodes.

During subsequent runs you can skip the battles altogether and just enjoy the story, which is a useful feature for completionists. What I was missing, was variety. In times like these I remember an old VN/RPG hybrid “Castle Fantasia 2”. There, depending on the route you followed you fought different battles, so even on subsequent playing sessions you didn’t know what to expect. On the other hand, KM is entirely linear with different scenes appearing only in “Home Base” sequences.
Choose a girl.
You enter “Home Base” after the battles and that is where the majority of the game happens. During “Home Base” phase you will choose one of three routes you want to follow and also the available sub-routes. The endings can be achieved with Kan’u (Aisha) herself, her adoptive sister Chouhi (Rinrin) and the shy strategist Shokatsuyou (Shuri). It’s sad, but I mostly disliked “Home Bases” that are made of 60% slice-of-life and 40% ero scenes and just waited for a new battle to start. While SOF scenes were as useless as a toothpick in a sword fight, at least I was able to read them, it was ero content that really bothered me. I confess – I’m a pervert and enjoy my H-scenes in eroge. “Koihime Musou” is probably the first VN where I was inclined to skip them. Not only the scenes were overlong, but the writing was incredibly trite and boring too. Even the sexy pictures couldn’t keep my attention for long. The worst thing is that “Home Bases” make up about 80% of the total game length and during second play you will be doing NOTHING but reading them… Nooooooooooooooo.
Les Yay!
Well OK, I cannot be only negative all the time. I really appreciated that HBs were consistent in telling coherent stories and were not just one-shot vignettes. In other words, one HB would stack on and refer to the events of the previous one. Somehow I didn’t expect that. Additionally, I really liked Enshou’s story as it was completely different from any other girl tales and was actually funny and interesting (viva yuri!).

It’s regrettable, but there isn’t much character development in the game. Even the main heroines do not noticably grow during the course of your journey. It might be consistent with the final Reveal, but I call bulshit on that.

Kan’u herself is one of the girls you can romance and she also rules the cover for the physical release. She is the very embodiment of tall dark and bishoujo. While one of the strongest generals, she is quite naïve and blushes easily when confronted with vulgar stuff. Aisha is a diligent worker and frequently gets exasperated at Kazuto’s laid back attitude (quite rightly so).
Your doggy looks mighty unhappy.
Chouhi is Aisha’s younger adopted sister and despite MangaGamer’s claims, would only be 18+ if you wrote 18+ on her forehead. She looks and acts more like twelve which makes all the lolicons worldwide rejoice. Also a strong general, she sometimes wants to act as just an ordinary girl and Kazuto fulfills those desires. She puts on a dress and they go on a date, they eat pork buns together and in the end she gets a piggy ride. Rinrin never had a chance to do that again after her parents’ death and Hongou embodies a father, a brother and a lover for her.

Shokatsuryou is a brilliant strategist straight from sage school that presents her services to Hongou’s army in order to make a difference. She is very shy and is easily flustered in the beginning of their interaction. During the course of their journey, Shuri gains more confidence and an ability to freely express herself.
She's a fan of KamaSutra.
Additionally there is a fourth – Harem route and would you believe that it is the True End (makes sense in context). The previous three paths were lackluster and underwhelming and this one is no less so, but at least it provides an ending that doesn't feel like a glorified bad and. This is also the only route where we get an ending after the credits and a nice word "FIN" in big letters. In order to get this ending you first have to finish the three character paths.

Those are the only routes that you can get, but there are additional fifteen sub-routes, which you can complete during the game. In short, during every “Home Base” you can choose two main heroines to visit (though I always chose one for simplicity’s sake) and three side heroines. So, during every route, you can also finish three sub-routes. As there are so many of those girls, it would be simply implausible to describe them all, but three of them that act as your generals need to be mentioned.

Bachou (Sui), whose clan was destroyed by Gi faction is a formidable warrior and a tomboy, but gets really flustered if someone addresses her as a girl or comments on her looks. At first her stuttering and other unconventional reactions were funny, but they become old by the end of her path.
Watching the Moon.
Chouun (Sei) is a funny and lecherous mercenary that joins your campaign later in the game. She spouts great one-liners and behaves in a way that frequently exasperates her colleagues. Sei really likes to drink wine and eat menma and you better not get in the way of her nourishment. She acts like a sexually experienced person and throws around vulgar jokes, but is still really a virgin. Of course you can rectify that shortcoming of hers… :-D During her free time Sei moonlights as a vigilante hero "Masked Butterfly" or "Masked Menma" (it all depends on whom you ask).

Kouchuu (Shion) is a widowed lady ruling a city taken over by Enshou in her last stand. Upon successful rescue of her daughter she will join your territory. She was obviously included as a fetish material for lovers of mature refined ladies… and big boobs. She may be a mature lady, but refined she is not (thank Gods). Shion might be even more lecherous than Sei and is decidedly Machiavellian about her conduct regarding you. She always has this or that matchmaking plan in her head, or just another way to have sex with you.
Sex in public.
These are the girls and this is the boy. As I have already mentioned, our protagonist is Kazuto Hongou, who in this world assumes the place of Liu Bei from “Romance”. As for description, I would call him Mary Sue, but that doesn’t exactly fit a male. TVTropes came to my aid and apparently there is a male version of the trope – Marty Stu. Kazuto is simply so “perfect”, that there is no personality left. Within mere hours of arriving to this new world he leads an army against Yellow Turbans. Upon conquest he rules the territories and meddles in bureaucracy matters (apparently he also can fluently read Chinese). He is so charismatic, that all the vanquished foes want to serve him from now on. He is an anti-donkan and can tell every girl’s feelings toward him with a glance. Oh, and every girl wants his cock (he probably drinks 50 cc of Tohno Gland Extract every morning before breakfast). Fidelity is also non-issue. There is no jealousy between the girls, thus our hero fucks everyone with two legs, Chousen excluded (poor Chousen). In proper hands he could be a Genius Protagonist; now he is just a blank doll that acts like one.

If he is so bloody perfect, why the fact he acts like a lazy retard during the time of war and no one kicks his ass for that. If Robb Stark was sleeping under a tree with Lannister host one li away, he wouldn’t have survived as long as he did. Apparently Kazuto feels no need to be diligent with enemy camping outside his city walls. Bloody hilarious. And everyone follows such a leader without question.
Favourite pastime of your Generals.
Moreover, what’s with his clothes? Apparently Kazuto arrives into this world with only his school uniform on his back and its polyester material added to his supposed celestial status. The question is, why he is always portrayed in his school uniform from that moment on. Didn’t the uniform get dirty or torn during all those battles? Plus, why flaunt his alienage. If it were me in his position, I would have worn his arrival clothes for a few weeks or so, while they were a novelty and then changed into local garb. It only makes sense to blend in – lower chances for assassinations.

The main problem of the game is the mood dissonance – SOL scenes (lazing around) come at a completely inappropriate time. There is time for bloodshed and time for party, but apparently the characters in this VN do not grasp that. In order to see a realistic war time VN, that still manages to be heartwarming and funny, read “Utawarerumono”.

The main conflict is pretty well thought out and all the vanquished foes join your cause. This creates a situation where there is no clear cut villain to propel the plot (unless you count Seiji). The thing is that while Seiji is a looming menace on the horizon, he doesn't enter the arena as your main adversary until it's the very end of the game. It's disappointing seeing him so underused, but what can you do - not every game gives you Master Therion.
It's a widely known fact that the less a girl wears, the more she is impervious to attacks of various lethality.
On the technical side of things the game is quite nice looking. Both sprites and CGs are really well done (there are no such facepalmy moments as Mordin from “My Teacher is a Mage?”). Nonetheless, I wanted more battle and fight CGs and the amount of those is dreadfully low – majority of them focus on H-scenes. Still, I don’t have many complaints in this area. However, backgrounds suffer from dreary repetition: all castles, towns, rooms, forests and roads look the same and one has to think long and hard where Kazuto is in time-space coordinates. Just looking at another room makes you question – “Haven’t I seen this like five minutes ago and 100 li away?”.
P.S. MangaGamer somehow missed one CG that is still mosaic censored.

Voice acting is very good and there are lots of roles, thus it’s not strange that recording speech was apparently the costliest part of making this novel. Many known actors pitched in and Chousen is voiced by Norio Wakamoto. Honestly, I didn’t even know who the guy is until I Googled him – apparently he plays Father Alexander Anderson in “Hellsing” OVA and did the voice for Augustus in “Demonbane” (both a game and the series). Cool story. On the other hand, BGM was very repetitive and got boring very fast; well, I will at least give bonus points for the music sounding vaguely Chinese in certain instances.
Let's party.
It’s not that I completely disliked “Koihime Musou”. It’s that I was very disappointed by it. There is a remake/sequel “Shin Koihime Musou” where you can chose to align with any of the available factions (Go, Gi, etc.), but I doubt the core mechanics were changed. Would I recommend KM? Probably not, but opinions are like dicks – everyone has one and they always try to shove it down someone’s throat.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site
Download an English demo
Buy a download version of the game at MangaGamer
Buy a physical version of the game at: MangaGamer, J-list, Rightstuf, United Publications, Anime Corner Store.
Koihime Musou combat guide

Final Verdict: 62%


  1. Anonymous24/2/13 15:52

    Fun fact: In VN medium, Norio Wakamoto is also the seiyuu for Houzuki in Sharin no Kuni, Takayashiki Hiroshi in Kazoku Keikaku, Paul Radhabinod in Muv-Luv series, Tachibana Heizou in Tsuyokiss, and David in Gekkou no Carnivale.

  2. Anonymous4/5/13 14:59

    Now I rue the day I picked this game up.

    1. Some people DO like the game - there is a reason why Shin Koihime Musou is the most requested game on MG fora. Not me though.

    2. Anonymous29/7/13 05:31

      Guess I qualify as one of those people who really liked it, though the ending bugged me because the creators decided it needed to get weird and metaphoric for reasons that escape me. Also, it irked me that two of the "main" romance companions were loli which have never particularly appealed to me.

      Still, overall I liked it.

    3. Well, Shokatsuryou was not THAT loli - IMHO she was a pretty normal young girl. Rinrin, on the other hand... Let's say they ain't fooling anyone with that "Everyone's 18 or older" propaganda.