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2015-06-28

Armored Warrior Iris Review

Title: Soukou Kijo Iris
Original title: 装甲騎女イリス
Alias: Armored Warrior Iris
Release date: 2006-03-24
English release date: 2014-07-18
Developer: Black Lilith
English publisher: MangaGamer

As you probably have read in my "Valkyrie Svia" review, that particular "Black Lilith" nukige was a disappointment for me. I was apprehensive going into "Armored Warrior Iris", but suffice to say my fears were unfounded - Iris is a much better nukige in every way.

The biggest disappointment about "Valkyrie Svia" VN was its trainwreck of a translation. I am happy to announce that I noticed no problems with the translation of AWI, well except for a typo or two.

The game starts with a bang, as our heroines Iris and her partner Mei Li are storming a mansion of a nobleman connected to human slavery. Some background details are given to us. The game is set in a far future where humanity has long since left the Earth, colonising other planets and meeting other sapient races. In order to uphold peace and stability, special agency SSF has been created and within that agency there exists an all female squadron of mecha pilots called Armored Warriors. It should be obvious by now that Iris and Mei Li are two of those ARs.
The only time we can actually see the mechas clearly.
To my huge surprise their initial mission goes without a hitch and the heroines have a chance to relax and celebrate in their normal environment. However, a breather is very short as ARs receive a new mission to planet Left (yep, that's an actual name), and it's there that things go pear-shaped. Mei Li and Iris are separated and then captured by slave traders. Soon Iris is bought by Jabba the Hut Bozuk, the crime kingpin of Dark Town, for an exorbitant sum. She is fitted with an electroshock collar and forced to work in Bozuk's brothel. That's were her adventure begins. Will Iris manage to escape her predicament? Will she be reunited with Mei Li? Will she come to love sex? It all depends on you.

In order to break Iris, Bozuk decides to make her choose her customers herself, and that's were you come in as a player. Six times throughout the game you are given a choice of three different customers and your choices determine one of the five endings you will receive. The choices can be separated into three distinct categories: humanoid client, monster client and bizarre/body-mod play.
Talk like a crime boss - it always charms ladies.
Another of the drawbacks to playing "Valkyrie Svia" was how "vanilla" and boring the VN was. I could barely believe it was produced by Black Lilith. Well, if you dislike "vanilla", you have come to the right fucking place. "Armored Warrior Iris" thrives on varied sex catering to many fetishes. Seriously, this VN tries to cram as many fetishes as possible in its short playing time. There is sex with monsters, tentacles, futanari, electrostimulation, belly inflation, pregnancy, kyonyuu, loli and some more. Almost every taste will find something to like... or something to dislike. But surely it's better to overstep some boundaries rather than leave things half baked. I personally loved everything "Iris" threw at me and wanted some more.

AWI is a nukige and thus the plot of the game will never win any awards, but I actually liked the scenario and the characterization a lot. The VN takes time to establish our heroines as people we care about.
Relaxation time.
Iris Rebel is a cheeky girl with a big mouth and a personality that is somewhere between a deadpan snarker and a high-school queen bee. During the battle she takes time to criticize the fashion taste of her enemies and is more worried about ruining her hairdo, than actually being hurt. She is also the protagonist of the game. Yes, this is one of the Black Lilith games with a female protagonist (the most famous of them being Taimanin Asagi series). Usually BL games are presented from the villainous point-of-view, but the switch works very well here. We barely see the big bad Bozuk at all, and he is more of a background character than an actual threat. Iris is much smarter than any other Black Lilith female character and, what is most important, she is honest with herself. The main reason I dislike Asagi, is how dishonest she is. Iris, however, comes to love sex and admits it both to herself and to her clients. Her gradual change from a proud warrior to a sex loving whore is very believable and, frankly, there is nothing hotter than a woman in heat begging for more.

Iris' partner and friend Mei Li Naceri is of Elven race. Which is to say she has pointed ears and red eyes, otherwise she looks identical to any other human. Outside battle she is into tea ceremony and old Westerns. It's scenes like Mei Li egging Iris to watch "Yojimbo" with her, that create a unique atmosphere for the VN and show that developers were very fond of little details.
I always knew Jabba the Hut is a real fucker.
Sadly, Iris is separated from Mei Li during the FUBAR mission, but gets a shock upon arrival to Bozuk's brothel. A girl looking almost identical to Mei Li greets her and claims her name is Riruru. Is she really a different person or an amnesiac Mei Li? Iris takes it upon herself to unravel the mystery and possibly save her friend. However, Riruru doesn't make it easy for Iris. She is mischievous and slutty with sudden flashes of kindness. One day she might have Iris raped, the next one she takes care of her and makes her tea. Riruru is an enigma and a very fun person to be around, because you never know what she might do.

All of the characters within the game have great chemistry with one another: Iris and Mei Li, Iris and Riruru and even Iris and clients. While clients are mostly faceless johns, they also have distinct personalities: one might act like a gentleman, another - like a psycho. It's the Bozuk that gets shafted, because he is an obvious third wheel and is barely relevant to the plot.
High Voltage love.
The biggest problem with a lot of Black Lilith games I have played, is the lack of properly crafted conclusions. The endings feel lackluster and barely relevant. There is no such problem with AWI. All the endings have proper conclusions with an almost epic showdown happening on the path towards the best end.

Graphically "Iris" is very good looking, again soundly beating "Svia" in that department. Admittedly, the relatively low budget of the VN didn't let it reach the full potential. The action scenes suffer from the lack of CGs, with the fights during the prologue as the main offenders. The VN describes exciting feats of hand-to-hand combat and all we see is a black screen or people just standing around. Even when the mecha action starts, we are only shown some blurry lumps of metal without any detalization. It kinda takes you out of immersion. But I can forgive these shortcomings, because otherwise the game looks great, the sex scenes are super hot and they are of perfect length (neither too short, nor overstaying their welcome). The voice actresses also do a great job in fleshing out the characters. Sadly the BGM is shit. Yes, it's the worst aspect of the game and I can find no redeeming qualities there. Oh well, there is no such thing as perfect cake.
Buttsex - the best contraceptive ever.
Ultimately, if I have to describe "Armored Warrior Iris" in one word, it would be "fun". Yes, I had fun while playing the game and I hope other people will have fun too.

Once I have reviewed the VN, it would be a shame not to say a few words about the 4 episode OVA based on it. In one word my verdict would be "mediocre". The animation is good, but the plot is watered down, with even less of the setting explored than in the VN. The interactions between Iris and Riruru are soulless and lack the passion as seen in the game (plus it's a real shame that Riruru's futanari status is never explored in the OVA). The sex scenes are a mixture of those seen in the VN and new ones, but they all lack inspiration and just do not seem hardcore enough. The ending is abrupt and lacks a proper epilogue. There is a short bonus episode available on physical media, but it only adds one additional sex scene. Let's also not forget a continuity error, where Mei Li's eyes are portrayed as blue in the first episode, when they should be red (they are properly red in the fourth episode).
Apparently Jawas and Greedo are a thing in the OVA...
During my "Svia" review I suggested skipping the game and watching the OVA. Here I'll give a reverse suggestion - skip the OVA; just go and play the VN.

P.S. Why the hell there are so many obvious references to "Star Wars" in the OVA?

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site
Buy the download edition of the game at MangaGamer
Buy the physical edition of the game at MangaGamer, J-list
Walkthrough
MyAnimeList page for "Soukou Kijo Iris" OVA + bonus episode
Buy the OVA at J-list

Final Verdict: 81%

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