Café 0 ~The Drowned Mermaid~ Review

Title: Café 0 ~The Drowned Mermaid~
Alias: Café 0 ~Oboreta Ningyou~
Release date: 2011-10-04
Developer: roseVeRte
Publisher: roseVeRte

The game was crap. See, that was the easiest review to write, ever. "Café 0" wouldn’t get a passing mark as a free game, but it’s actually a paid product. My mind just throws an error message whenever I think about it.

roseVeRte is actually an interesting group, as it’s a Japanese circle, which mostly releases their titles in English and only then translates them into Japanese. Not your usual setup. If only their games were actually good…
If only those characteristics were actually evident in the game.
"Café 0" for all its faults has an interesting premise. The protagonist is dead both at the start of the story and at its conclusion. The mysterious café of the title is a place where the souls of the dead are given chance to relive the last seven days of their life, so that they can accept their death and move on. Marin Umino (name can be changed) was a popular girl at school and really loved swimming. An unfortunate accident left her unable to swim anymore and then she died, and lost her memories to top it off. Poor girl – she just cannot get a break. If only anyone would actually care about her plight.

Marin isn’t a character in her own right, hell, she isn’t even a blank slate protagonist. She is only a plot device – a human MacGuffin being pushed by everyone else on the game board. During those last seven days of her life Marin can interact with any of the three people important to her: doctor Shou Takizawa, ex-boyfriend Tooru Mizutani and best friend Ami Kawase. It could have been interesting to piece Marin’s life together and solve her demise through the conversations with her friends; alas this is not a game about Marin. This is a game about Shou and Tooru, and Ami. As I have already said, Marin is just a plot device, whose only function is to help us learn more about her acquaintances.
Dead? Don't look so hopeful.
Every day Marin can talk to one of the aforementioned characters and recover one more piece of her memories. Sadly, all those pieces are completely useless as they do not tell us or Marin anything. The information acquired is inconclusive and after seven days Marin is left with assumptions instead of facts. So, obviously, she makes an ass of herself and acts on those assumptions in order to receive one of the completely trite endings, leaving us with no feeling of accomplishment. There are two endings for each of the male characters - good and evil, and evil endings are so much better and satisfying, mainly because in order to reach the supposed "good" ending Marin has to become a complete doormat. Gag me with a spoon.

The true ending is even worse as it actually breaks the fourth wall with no apparent foreshadowing. The four previous endings net you a certain object once you complete them, and those objects are used during the true route. I cannot even imagine what quantum mechanics allow you to shift items from one route to another without the use of time travel. Moreover, the true route structure is a textbook example of how not to do a VN. The route that was supposed to reveal all the mysteries and make all the other routes finally make sense actually engages you in inane conversations until the very end when the massive and ill-placed infodump occurs just before the epilogue. It’s like the creators said "Screw this. We know how the route ends. Now let’s add some filler chatter to justify making a separate route for it all".
And screw you too!
Actually, the most interesting decision the makers made regarding the game, was introducing a fully villainous cast. It could have been a good game about a poor girl caught in a spider web of three horrible people taking advantage of her, but instead we get a snooze-fest. All the villains have their own goals and those goals never make an interconnecting tapestry. Instead we get a jumbled mess with everyone making their own decisions and no coherent plot in sight. The final nail in the coffin was The Reveal and I’m gonna fucking spoil that for you. Ready?!
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

There is one more important character in this charade - waiter Sui - who is like a guide of souls or some other similar shit. It's a crime that he is reduced to stalking Marin in an Edwardish way and repeating the same phrase "Let's look what we'll see today" ad infinitum. Such a shame, as he had the most potential to be interesting. Now I have no idea what his role is in this game, other than being a creep.
Stalking even in the doctor's office?!
For all the shit that goes with the plot, I hoped that at least the other aspects of the VN would be decent. However, as it is said: "Hope is a mother of fools". Backgrounds are dull and lifeless and the sprites look like Frankenstein monsters incarnate. Seriously, the artist's rendition of the characters is just creepy. Or maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way and the monsterical paper doll design was intentional as to portray our characters as secret monsters... Nahhh, cannot be. At the very least the game is quite competently voiced in Japanese; that is, all of the characters but Shou, whose voice doesn't fit his personage at all.

The most positive feature of "Café 0"was its short length. One route could be finished in less than half an hour and others took even less with skipping. This proves that gods are merciful, after all.

*Sigh* This was a failure on a monumental scale, and to say that I actually expected the game to be moderately good. Avoid at all costs.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Lemma Soft forum thread
Official site
Desura page

Final Verdict: 37%


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