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2013-03-26

May Club Review

Title: VR Date - Gogatsu Club
Original title: V.R.デート 五月倶楽部 or メイクラブ
Alias: VR-DATE Simulator May-Club
Release date: 1995-08-25 (original release)
                       2001-05-12 (DX Edition)
English release date: 1999-05 (original release)
                                    2003-03-21 (Milky House Memorial Collection)
                                    2010-12-12 (DX Edition)
                                    2012-06-28 (JAST USA Memorial Collection Special Edition)
Developer: Desire
English publisher: RCY America & Milky House (original release)
                                JAST USA & Milky House (Milky House Memorial Collection)
                                JAST USA (JAST USA Memorial Collection Special Edition)
                                ViLE Project (DX Edition) (as a fan-program/loader)

I believe it would be prudent to review another of eroge classics available in English – “May Club”. This is one of the old visual novels I have never played before. Actually, I did download “May Club” together with a few other VNs more than a decade ago, however I failed to understand how to play it, got bored and dropped it after about an hour. What do you want from me? When I was fifteen I had an attention span of a goldfish and a patience of a bull in heat.

As I currently own “JAST USA Memorial Collection Special Edition”, I thought it would be fitting to play the only game in the bundle I haven’t finished before. The strange title of the game is actually a pun: “May Club > MayC lub > Make love”. The VN actually spells that for you in the very beginning. MC is probably the closest thing to a dating simulator without actually resorting to stat-building, which is usually indicative of the sub-genre.

Being a 16-bit program, that started its life on PC-98, MC is of course susceptible to all the same problems that plague “Nocturnal Illusion” (see more in the respective review). The most prominent of those being corrupted colour palette and overtly silent music.
The most important equipment... get rid yourselves of those nasty thoughts.
One of the charming points of “May Club” is its completely frivolous and non-serious attitude. The plot is so fucking silly, that... Wait... Plot? What plot? The game is set 20 minutes in the future with the prototype virtual reality world being unveiled in Japan. Our protagonist Hajime Kudo decides that entering the VR would be a great idea to score some chicks and on he goes. Yes, that is the whole of his motivation and the sole idea behind the game. Hajime trolls a virtual representation of his city in cyberspace and looks for some easy women. The game lasts from the 16th of February to the 1st of April and unless you manage to snag yourself a girl, you will start your job in a CAT Trading group and won’t have anymore time to seek a significant other. Hence a bad end.

The protagonist is the textbook example of a “blank slate” self-insert with no personality whatsoever and we are clearly expected to step into his shoes. For all intents and purposes, it’s you who goes trolling for chicks in a virtual reality under a guise of a different name. For 44 days, 3 times a day you can take one of the two actions: sleep or jack into VR. Yes, before you ask, you CAN sleep through the whole game. There is one inconvenience to this system – you can only save in your home hub. It can be very frustrating to search for the available routes due to an inordinate amount of randomness in this VN (though “save anywhere” function was introduced in the DX remake).
Charged with public indecency.
There are nine girls (10 in the remake) with a total of ten endings. MC can be very easy or very hard to beat depending on which girl you go for. Basically every girl corresponds to a certain difficulty level. Akiho, Keiko, Misato and Rei – easy difficulty; Rieko and Kirara – medium difficulty; Kazumi, Hiromi and Mikoto – hard difficulty. Walkthrough is not an aid, but a necessity to get the more difficult girls. Let’s look at them closer.

Rei is a shy and timid girl that tries to talk to random passersby on weekends. You can allow her to engage you in a conversation and try to slowly pull out her story. She apparently had a boyfriend before, but their relationship didn’t end so well. It’s your job to find out why and to help her regain her self-confidence. It’s a pretty realistic story, with her ultimate plight being very believable. Rei is one of my three favourite girls (the other two being Keiko and Rieko) and surprisingly is the absolutely easiest one to get, requiring exactly zero effort. Incidentally she is the only one that has two possible endings, depending on the very last choice.
Damn, and here I got my hopes up.
Keiko is a singer in a bar. She lives a luxurious life and collects jewels and other posh accessories, however she isn’t very happy. This path explores a duality of identity. Keiko is a country girl born in a poor family. She rose to a relative fame in the city, but while enjoying the monetary gain, she feels that her current life is fake. Keiko has one of my favourite endings and is also one of the easiest girls to get. The tricky part is that she also has a bad ending which is much harder to achieve and might require a guide.

Misato is a girl that talks to you on the street in the beginning of the game and immediately sets a date for you. Strangely someone completely else shows up for the date... It’s also a very easy path; the only tricky part being that if you also met Rieko, it will be she that appears on the set day and you will lose Misato. This path is a mess both content wise and on the technical side. The writing is all over the place and the route itself was heavily censored. The fan-patch that reinstates the censored scenes exists, but is horribly buggy and makes some of the previously existing lines describing the whole backstory of the route appear as gibberish.
You shouldn't be proud of that.
Akiho is an aloof and slightly unstable woman you can meet in the station. She is a former member of a biker gang and a crazy feminist on the side, but her route is strangely normal. Too normal; to the point that it’s boring. After the first meeting I had great expectations for her, but ultimately they fell flat. At the very least she is very easy to get.

Now we finally come to the girls that are not so fast to jump in with you. These two paths are not so hard as to be annoying; the biggest challenge is the unpredictability. Unlike the previous girls, they do not follow a set routine and appear seemingly randomly.

Kirara is the very first girl you encounter in the VR. She appears to be outgoing and energetic, but you cannot shake a suspicion that there is something wrong with her manners. Kirara’s path was another one to be heavily censored in the English release. Unlike “Nocturnal Illusion” which was published uncut for it’s re-release, “May Club” is censored in all of its iterations. There was never a patch to decensor Kirara as was done with Mikoto, however a guy by the moniker Coolgamer released an unlocker that lets us view Kirara’s CGs in the gallery. Strangely, there must be some programming differences between the previous MC releases and the current version included in “JAST USA Memorial Collection Special Edition”, as Misato’s patch now lets us also view Kirara’s CGs (it didn’t work that way with the original or Milky House Memorial releases) and the unlocker is obsolete.
No need to get that flustered, girl.
Rieko is another of my three favourites within the game. She is a fickle woman that randomly appears in the game (and might ruin Misato’s route for you). Talking to her more you will realize that she is not happy with her current life. Her personal troubles are very realistic and understandable, but the solution is so weird and fucking hilarious that I completely fell in love with the ending. Rieko FTW!

The last three girls are much much harder and will almost definitely require a walkthrough. Mikoto is a moral guardian of the “May Club” and her job is to make sure that no inappropriate conduct happens in the VR World. She appears in the second half of the game and frequently reminds you not to break the law or act indecently. She is a strange girl and I didn’t actually like her very much as she is annoying to no end and you cannot get rid of her even if you want, but I have to confess that her ending was hilarious in a good sort of way. Actually, she isn’t that hard and I would count her among the easy girls if not for one small detail – while other girls have wide time window when you can start romancing them, you have to have your first meeting with Mikoto on the 15th of March or you won’t be able to get her ending.
Is this an appropriate work posture?
Hiromi is a quirky redhead that has previously had a bad break-up with her boyfriend and is quite vary of getting into another relationship, while at the same time craving for love. She wouldn’t be that hard either if not for the fact her path is so closely interwoven with Kazumi’s. Initially I quite liked Hiromi’s personality, but soon I realized that she comes with some unfortunate strings attached. I’ll spoiler that shit for you:
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
While Hiromi’s ending was kind of sweet, it was ruined by the implications.

And finally Kazumi and her absolutely insanely difficult route. Kazumi is a genius and a hacker, who broke into the VR using her own equipment. She is a cool and collected woman who is also responsible for some of the odd happenings in the previous routes. This is basically a secret character route and Hajime hangs a lampshade on that; good luck getting her without a walkthrough. Surprisingly and disappointingly, her ending was so plain and tame. I expected insane craziness, based on the route as a whole, but it all simmered down to “married happily ever after”. Basically here I received the same treatment as in the Akiho’s path. A real shame... What’s worse, there is some very questionable content that appears during Kazumi’s route too:
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
Yeah, I remember when smoking was cool.
Well, that is all and finished with my dissection of our heroines, but beware – there is a TRAAAAP!!! Yes bitches, one of the above girls is actually a man. Rejoice fujoshi league. Oh, and there is one more character that is available in the DX remake, but even playing the remake with the help of ViLE won’t let you access her.

Yes, just like with “Nocturnal Illusion”, the remake of “May Club”, simply called DX (probably short for Deluxe), can be played by importing the English text with the help of ViLE, at the same time vastly improving compatibility. The current version of the program 0.4.8 appears to have a bug that cuts of the lines that overflow into the second text box (though admittedly there are very few such lines in MC, in comparison to NI). If you don’t want your reading experience marred, use the previous 0.3.24 release. The biggest difference betwixt “Nocturnal Illusion” and “May Club” ViLE conversions is that the latter actually supports voices. Of course, if you don’t want to bother setting up ViLE, The Asenheim Project will let you play both the original and the DX versions of the game online.
See the boobs in higher res.
Graphically the game just screams oldschool, maybe even more so than NI, despite being a later release. The backgrounds are very simplistic and totally devoid of any enlivening details; the environs all look cold and lifeless. On the other side, CGs are quite well done and the sprites are simple, but expressive. The DX remake upgrades the art without changing the overall design and improves the general look by not a small amount. However, DX’s H-CGs appear to be toned down and less racy than the originals. The biggest and most glaring problem are the huge opaque textboxes that cover way too big a portion of the screen during ero scenes. In NI the box turned transparent during sexy time and here the only way to see everything that needs to be seen is to hide the box altogether. It seriously sucks. The music is ridiculously bad and the blame cannot be laid at the MIDI door. “Nocturnal Illusion” also used a MIDI soundtrack, which was great. MC doesn’t even put any effort here and the DX version doesn’t improve the matters.

While I found “May Club” quite a silly, but entertaining game, the entertainment value is a bit marred by the translation. It’s bad... The strangest thing is that some routes read quite well and others are an unmitigated mess. The only conclusion I can draw from this is that a few different translators worked on the VN without any editor. Well, of course there was no editor! “Nocturnal Illusion” didn’t have one either, but it was at the very least consistent. The absolutely worst route in the translation department was Kirara’s – I don’t know what the translator was smoking, but I definitely do not want any of that shit.
Let's toast a cup of tea to "May Club".
To sum up, you might do much worse than picking “May Club”. It’s genuinely funny in places and manages to endear in others and what’s the most important – it’s relatively short. Using a walkthrough you will finish it in one afternoon. It took me longer, because I did four routes without any guide and in the end I don’t feel bad wasting my time on this.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site for the original/DX versions
Buy JAST USA Memorial Collection Special Edition at J-list
Download original 1999 English release of “May Club”
Download Misato’s route decensorship patch (alternative direct link)
Download Kirara’s CG Unlocker by Coolgamer
Walkthrough (you will need it)
The official page for ViLE Project
Download an earlier ViLE version from Sourceforge
Buy the Japanese "MC DX" edition from DLsite (I think it should work with ViLE despite being DRM protected)
Play "May Club" through The Asenheim Project
Play "May Club DX" through The Asenheim Project
For those interested, download the original Japanese PC-98 version of MC (I'll upload it as soon as I find it)
Get a PC-98 emulator here

Final Verdict: 68%

1 comment:

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