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2016-02-22

EMIT Review




Title: Emit Vol. 1: Toki no Maigo
Emit Vol. 2: Inochigake no Tabi
Emit Vol. 3: Watashi ni Sayonara o
Original titles: EMIT Vol.1: 時の迷子
EMIT Vol.2: 命がけの旅
EMIT Vol.3: 私にさよならを
Aliases: Emit Vol. 1: Lost in Time
Emit Vol.2: A Life-And-Death Trip
Emit Vol.3: Bid Myself Farewell
Release date: 1994-03-25
Developer & Publisher: Koei

After I finished playing the second release in Shibusawa Kou's "English Dream" series, titled "Dark Hunter", it's time to take an extended look at it's predecessor - a three part game "Emit". While "Dark Hunter" was "only" released on Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Windows and Mac, "Emit" was published on Mac, Fm-Towns, PC-9821, Sega Saturn, PlayStation, Super Famicom, 3DO (has anyone even ever owned that console?) and even two different Windows OSs: 3.1 and '95. At times it looks that the only home console that didn't get an "Emit" release was ColecoVision, or something.

The Super Famicom (or Super Nintendo for you, plebs) port was one of the most unique game releases of all time and deserves its own paragraph. "Emit" is a fully voiced title with both dialogues and even voiced narration, thus it's no surprise that the SFC porting team met technical difficulties due to the severe limitations of the console. These limitations resulted in a release of a unique historical piece of equipment - Voicer-kun, which came packaged with most copies of "Emit". The SFC release came with a cartridge and two audio CDs, which contained all the voice files. The cartridge would be loaded into the SFC machine, while CDs were supposed to be put into your usual CD player and that's where Voicer-kun came into play. It was basically an infrared transmitter, connected to the console and giving the cues to the CD player to launch the required audio track at an appropriate time.
Comparison between SFC, 3DO, PS1 and PC-98 respectively.
Tell me that it's not genius! The devs managed to overcome the limitations of the hardware with some out-of-the-box thinking. Sadly, that also means that the only way to actually play the SFC version of the game is to own an actual console with the Voicer-kun addon. There currently is no emulator that can deal with such a convoluted system, and the game played on an emulator will invariably have no sound. That makes the SFC version of "Emit" the least desirable to retro game lovers, who want to experience it on their PCs. And the Voicer-kun... the ingenious addon has only ever been compatible with two games and soon went into obscurity. It's interesting to note that the SFC release came with two audio CDs per volume, while every other version of the game came on one CD. I gather that the reason was the uncompressed audio stream in the former, and all the other ports had lossy audio, but cannot be sure.

After scouring the Internet for every available version of the game for my collection, I didn't come away empty handed - some versions of the game are rarer than others, but I managed to download majority of the releases, except for Fm-Towns, Windows 3.1/95 and Mac ports. Admittedly, I did find a Korean Windows release on Adventure Legends, but, after a head-scratching afternoon, completely failed to launch it. I also failed to launch the Sega Saturn version, but considering that the emulation for that system is far from perfect, "Emit" might just not be a compatible game. That left me with SFC, PS1, PC-98 and 3DO versions to try out.
Not a creepy old pervert at all.
Not counting the obvious lack of sound, the Super Famicom release is the most markedly different looking from the others. The menu takes a form of an old yellowed book, while the other consoles simply have the menu on a simple black screen. The game also lacks many of the animations present in the other ports due to the obvious hardware limitations. I eventually decided to play the game's PC-98 port and only give the other versions a cursory glance.

I only managed to run the PC-98 version using an unofficial branch of Neko Project II emulator called NP2x. Every other version of Neko Project and other emulators like Anex86 failed me, but I might have been doing something wrong, because I read about some people running "Emit" on NP2fmgen, while this same emulator game me a middle finger. I also couldn't launch the second disk at all, probably because I lacked a .fdi boot disk and only had a .hdm one, which gave me squat. Thus I chose to play the second disk in its 3DO incarnation, which surprised me by running perfectly on 4DO emulator. But enough about technical shit no one of you cares about. Onward to "Emit".
Generalisations, ahoy!
"Emit" Volume 1 starts with our protagonist Tanaka Yuri standing at a zebra crossing and waiting for the light to turn green. Suddenly, an elderly gentleman speaks to her and asks what the date is. He wants to know not only the day, but the month and the year too, and confused Yuri politely tells him that it's October the 5th, 1994. The man asks again about a probable location of a watchmaker, who should have his shop in the area, and when Yuri cannot help him, he walks away before muttering "Emit". If you haven't figured it out already, "Emit" actually stands for "Time" written backwards and for us, genre savvy audience, that immediately screams "time traveler", thus if we guessed so, we would be completely and utterly dead wrong!

Everything, starting with the description of the game, to the scarce information about it online, to the very meaning of the word 'Emit' implies that this is a time travel game, thus it took me completely by surprise that it has nothing to do with time travel. Rather, "Emit" is a visual novel about dimensional travel! The old man Yuri encountered, accidentally traveled to our world and is looking for a new gateway back, because the gateway he traveled through closed behind him. And time (har har) is actually of utmost importance, because he ages a year per day he stays in our dimension.
Underage drinking. I approve!
The second volume starts with a friend of Yuri's remarking that he saw her at a party a few days ago, but that isn't possible, because Yuri went to no party. It soon becomes clear that a dimensional doppelganger is trying to steal her identity. Volume 3 is a direct continuation of the story and results in a showdown between Yuri and the doppelganger.

Just like two part "Dark Hunter", "Emit" is composed of three games: "Lost in Time", "A Life-And-Death Trip" and "Bid Myself Farewell" and the biggest drawback of of the game is its short length, especially if you decide to skip all exercises. Each volume of "Dark Hunter" lasted for about three hours; the volume of "Emit" lasts about an hour on a good day, which, considering its price tag back in the day, is kinda a rip-off. The short length doesn't create favourable conditions for good characters or deep plot, but treating all three volumes as a single short story might let you overlook some problems with the game. The actual scenario is quite nice in a silly childish way, but the whole aging thing was used inconsistently as fuck throughout all three volumes and it reminded me too much of a plot point from Czech series "Arabela" (or rather its sequel).
Yuri got earrings between first and second volume.
Both "Dark Hunter" and "Emit" were released as educational games to teach Japanese students English language, but the latter is much more deserving of the title than the former. "Dark Hunter" had a slew of minigames, but the majority of them were based around fighting enemies and testing your reaction speed - in other words, little to do with English language. "Emit" on the other hand, actually works as a teaching tool. It is partitioned into chapters and at the end of each one, you can engage in exercises relevant to that chapter. The first exercise is a comprehension check - the game asks you questions about the previous chapter, you choose one of three possible answers, and then the game grades you. The second exercise asks you to make predictions about the next chapter, and then tells you what it thinks about them. The last exercise advances your English pronunciation: the game reads some lines for you and then you are asked to repeat them. Of course, the game cannot grade this exercise, so you work on your pronunciation for your own benefit. Nonetheless, you may choose to skip all the exercises and just play the game like any other visual novel without any undue interruptions.
Catch the thief!
The game looks quite good, with lovely art and non-annoying music. It's worth mentioning that a famous Japanese musician Komuro Tetsuya worked as a composer for this VN. "Emit" also has an actual opening video sung by Shinohara Ryouko, and I have to admit that it is quite catchy. Out of all the ports PC-98 version looks the best and it also has unique bonus minigame (which has nothing to do with the main plot) in each of its volumes. 3DO version also has the minigame, but only in it's first volume. Moreover, PC-98 interface is the most markedly different - all the other versions hide the UI, while PC-98 glorifies in it and allots a section on the screen just for controls. The minigame in the first volume is a tactical puzzle, where you are a detective and you have to catch the thief in a set number of moves. The minigame in third volume is "Ghost Sweeper" and in it you hunt ghosts in a haunted mansion. These are lovely additions and they serve to extend the play time of a single volume.

Also, I shouldn't forget to mention the most important aspect of this VN. It's an educational game, which purports to teach you English language, so it has to be well translated. Sadly, "Dark Hunter" was sometimes painful to read - it was chock full of grammar errors and translated so literally, sometimes it was hard to understand. I'm happy to announce that "Emit" has no such problems - the English language flows well and I didn't notice any glaring problems with it. The English voice acting also seemed to be more competent, despite DH having a more "famous" cast.
No follow-up H-scene? It's like the game wasn't made in Japan.
All in all, I actually enjoyed "Emit" more than I did "Dark Hunter". Despite it's shortness, this game actually gave me a few enjoyable hours to spend. If you treat it as a simple visual novel without knowing its history, it won't offer you anything new or groundbreaking, but it was an admirable effort to teach Japanese kids English language employing something more than just dry materials.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database for Vol. 1 / Vol. 2 / Vol. 3
Download SFC version: Vol. 1 / Vol. 2 / Vol. 3
Download SFC emulator: Snes9x (alternative unofficial build), Higan
Download PC-9821 version: Vol. 1 / Vol. 2 / Vol. 3
Download pre-configured PC-98 emulator NP2x
Download 3DO version: Vol. 1 / Vol. 2 / Vol. 3
Download 3DO emulator: 4DO
Download PS1 version: Vol. 1 / Vol. 2 / Vol. 3
Download PS1 emulator: XEBRA, ePSXe, PCSX-Reloaded
Download SS version: Vol. 1 / Vol. 2 / Vol. 3
Download SS emulator: SSF, Yabause

Final Verdict: Vol. 1: Toki no Maigo - 65 %
Vol. 2: Inochigake no Tabi - 65 %
Vol. 3: Watashi ni Sayonara o - 65 %

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