Exodus Guilty Review

Title: Exodus Guilty
Original title: エクソダスギルティー
Release date: 1998-11-06
English release date: 2005-11-28 (Vol. 1)
2006-09-15 (Vol. 2)
2006-12-10 (Vol. 3)
Developer: Abel
English publisher: Hirameki International

"Exodus Guilty" was one of the visual novels released by the dead and buried Hirameki in the horrible DVD-PG format for a supposed compatibility with more devices. That's not unusual of the said company. It wasn't even unusual for them to cut the sex scenes. What is a bit more strange, is that the game was split into three volumes, which were released separately.

Originally EG was released for PS, DC and PC platforms as a single game, but was split into three volumes for a Japanese DVD-PG release, which is what we got exported to the west, sans H-content (which wasn't actually present in the original PS and DC versions).
She says half of that sentence in English.
Structurally the game is a bit weird. It's basically a kinetic novel with no interactivity. Sure, there are some choices, but they affect nothing in the game. If you pick the wrong choice, the game lets you retry until you get it right. The said structure really doesn't work on a DVD-PG format. The game plays automatically like an anime OVA, and there are less than a dozen points where you have to actually click something in order to advice. Hirameki's release cannot even be called a visual novel - it's an anime conversion of a visual novel. You just launch the DVD, lay back and watch it for 6-7 hours until "the game" ends.

"Exodus Guilty" is an adventure story spanning 15 centuries and steeped in Judeo-Christian mythology. Yes, the "Exodus" in the title does refer to Moses' journey from Egypt to the Land of Canaan. That would be an interesting concept if Japanese had any actual understanding of the Biblical myths. Now, instead of an epic adventure story, we get a so-so game which drops some pseudo-religious gibberish into the cauldron and pretends it has some deeper meaning. Majority of religious references are made up or simply incorrect (calling Moses a Muslim leader is the most egregious example). It's like a Hollywood company taking a similar concept and turning it into an action movie which can satisfy no audience... oh, wait, they have just did that!
Will we see Isaac too?
The writing itself is also pretty bad (and I'm not taking a shoddy translation into account). The scenes are disjointed and jumbled like something thrown into a blender with not much care how the details should actually fit together. One moment we might see a character taking a leisurely walk, the next moment he is exploring a cave, a few seconds later he is back in his room, and a few seconds after that he is in a cave with another character. All that happens with no context and leaves the reader mighty confused. It happens all the time with no explanation. It's like lots of scenes were cut from the game and the remaining ones were glued into a nonsensical patchwork. But that is not so, I actually know what happened.

The original game had map movement scenes... which were cut from the DVD-PG release. The original game would present a map screen where you visit various places looking for the next scene which would advance the plot (think "Divi-Dead" or "Eve: Burst Error"). Map movement now happens automatically. That's why scene transition makes no goddamn sense! Can you imagine an "Eve: Burst Error" DVD-PG conversion with the "look/talk/go" interface removed and everything happening automatically. Yes, the game would stop making any sense. It would be a nightmare. The same problem sadly happened with "Exodus Guilty".
Yeah, it's a rather dull game.
Another thing that really bugs me, is a poor translation. Usually it's quite adequate, but completely fails when anything more complex than an everyday dialogue is introduced. Any harder scientific or religious concepts become gibberish. The greatest offender is Titi's father's letter to her (chapter 3), which is basically a machine translation level bullshit. Pseudo-religious texts appearing in the game are also mangled so horribly that I was barely able to understand what they were supposed to say. Other well known terms were also mistranslated, e.g. a thing frequently mentioned in the game is "Land of Fate", which should have been translated as "Promised Land". It's like the translator was completely unfamiliar with Christianity. Not surprising, as he was a native Japanese person.

One positive aspect of the game is a full voice acting (though there are some unvoiced scenes). Almost every person (including the protagonists) has voice acting, which is quite competent. That is actually one of the best things about EG. Every character has a distinctive voice and doesn't fall afoul of some Japanese voice acting tropes, like giving minor characters overly exaggerated theatrical voices (I'm looking at you, "Swan Song"). The graphics are also very nice looking. They have that sweet old-school look prevalent in visual novels from the last decade of the 20th century. The drawback is that the character sprites are not expressive and are always portrayed in the same position. On the other hand, backgrounds are very pretty and there is a large number of CGs and even fully animated cutscenes. The producers didn't skimp in this department and it shows. Sadly the sexual content has been removed from the western release, but the references are left intact and it's clear when the sex scenes occur. The characters even talk about that afterwards.
My gratitude is boundless.
Now I think it is time to talk about the actual game or rather the three volumes available to the occidental audience. The volumes are titled "Present", "Past" and "Future" respectively, and they each have a different protagonist. It also makes sense plotwise why the titles were not released in a chronological order.


While the title of this volume is "Present", it starts by introducing us with the events in the Past and the Future. Those introductions are also repeated in their appropriate chapters and I'll leave them there.

"Present" deals with a high class treasure hunter Shindo Kasumi, who arrives to an unidentified European country, where his childhood acquaintance Tachibana Reina is overseeing an archaeological dig dating back to 1200 BC (Ales' time). He will also get a chance to see his fiancée Ai, Reina's sister. The fiancée thing is more like a joke, where their parents thought that they would be a good match together. Kasumi remembers Ai being a shy and gentle girl, thus his worldview is severely shaken, when it appears that Ai has become a tsundere tomboy during his ten year long absence. Not that it matters much for him - Kasumi is a greedy little bastard and he mostly cares about money and tomb robbing, which is highly ironic, considering Reina hates tomb robbers with passion. Thus Kasumi pretends to be a simple 18 year old tourist coming here for a sightseeing tour.
A true zen mantra.
It soon becomes clear that the situation at the dig is more complicated than anyone could have imagined. There are at least six different parties with different agendas secretly converging onto the dig. Kasumi seeks to unearth the 11th Commandment of Moses, which shows the path to the Promised Land. He imagines that the Promised Land is full of riches just waiting to be grabbed. Unfortunately, a highest class treasure hunter Phantom is also showing an interest in the dig. No one has ever seen Phantom, thus he can be anyone staying near the dig. Sadly, the mystery aspect doesn't work very well - Phantom's identity is clear from the very beginning to anyone who has half the brain. The moment Phantom was mentioned I said "I know who he is", and I was right. Not much mystery there.

The dig is sponsored by the Richter Foundation and its owner Arariel von Richter (mistranslated as Ararael Fond Lihitel) also has a hidden agenda, plus he appears to suspect Kasumi of being more than he lets on. The local people are waiting for the return of their Goddess and claim that the end of the world is near. Oh, and there are at least 3 more treasure hunters engaged in this mess. And it IS a mess. Characters shifting allegiances, and plots within plots make the game hard to follow and not in a good way. It's like everyone wants something but they don't know what.
Female bonding.
It doesn't help that Kasumi is a pretty unlikable, and, what's more, unbelievable protagonist. He is only 18 years old, but can fluently read ancient Hebrew, shoot a gun, scuba dive, and is one of the highest ranking treasure hunters in the world. Yeah, right, my suspension of disbelief is silently crying in the corner. He is also a real asshole. The way he treats Ai or his rival Argelech is frankly disgusting. He is a real jerk to Ai, just because she is not a meek demure girl he remembers from his childhood. He also seduced and left Argelech, after robbing her, and feels nothing about that. It seems like the only thing he cares about is making stealing more money. His habit to unconsciously speak his thoughts aloud also irritates me to no end. He just blurts sensitive secrets within the earshot of other people and then tries to cover his blunders... and he does that all the time. Is that how a master thief acts?

The chapter is also pretty boring. For all the convoluted plot, the first two thirds of the game consist of Kasumi just walking, talking and being an idiot. He doesn't even do anything meaningful to justify his title of master treasure hunter. On the contrary, he appears to be a bit dumb. He loses his gear, he almost dies under water, and then he allows a kidnapping, which could have been easily prevented, to happen, due to his incompetence. Thus this is a classical case of the game telling us that our protagonist is a genius, while all we see is an idiot. Which is ironic, because Kasumi treats players like idiots. He repeats the same infodump drivel over and over ad nauseam. We get it! We got it when you said it the first ten times - we are not developmentally handicapped and we are not goldfish! We remember what you said five minutes ago!
Sister rivalry.
The other characters are not much better. Majority of them are being purposefully mysterious with no good reason. The others are shallow as fuck and have no character development. Ai and Reina do not change at all either during the course of the game. It might appear that there is some sort of change, but it is just an eroge girl mentality asserting itself and making them fight over the protagonist with almost no redeeming qualities. Every girl appears to have a crush for Kasumi, which I can only shake my head at. Moreover, the game mood is full of dissonances - funny sequences change to deadly serious ones in a heartbeat, which doesn't work well within context. There is a place for fun and for work, but the game clearly cannot manage these concepts effectively.

On a positive note, game does manage to redeem itself at the end. The end is positively explosively fantastic, and the characters suddenly get smart. Kasumi, Ai and Reina make choices that were probably the smartest decisions they made throughout the whole game. It all worked exactly as I hoped it would but couldn't expect it actually happening. If only there was a proper character development leading to the ending, I would have been more satisfied than I am now.
Boom, headshot!
In the end, I want to mention a few bugs present in this volume. There was one scene near the lake, which repeats itself twice for no apparent reason. There is a more serious one, where a lengthy sequence plays the wrong audio file (luckily the subtitles are correct in that instance). While there are some small bugs in the other two volumes, none of them are of such magnitude.


In the Past (1200 BC), Voice of God, Masa, is performing a dance when the Oracle of Fire - messenger from the God - arrives and burns Masa. Her adopted son Ales tries to protect her, but she rebukes him saying that striking God's servant is surely a bad idea. Oracle demands a sacrifice, which Masa refuses to do, and leaves. A few days later, Masa talks to Ales and tells him that she is going to die, and the divine wrath might level the village. She encourages him to leave for the neighbouring town of Plen Arc, where he is supposed to meet Voice of God, Will, who also refused to be sacrificed to God. However, upon reaching Plen Arc, Ales sees that the town has been completely destroyed by fire and wind.
Tell yourself that, buddy.
While the previous chapter reads like an adventure story with mystery elements, this one reminds me of a traditional fairy tale. A hero embarks on a long and dangerous journey, during which he has to defeat many boss-like characters, collect magical artifacts and scale the Mount Doom in order to complete his objective. I'm not even being sarcastic! Somewhere along his journey Ales' quest changes from that of finding Will, to meeting God and demanding explanation about His purpose for mankind. Whatever you might think, but the boy surely is ambitious! Along the way he has to defeat all the four Oracles (and of course, defeated enemies immediately become his friends), collect their magical amulets and then climb the mountain Gina Ii, where the God resides. A plucky comic relief character Di also tags along and provides some information during the times of need. There is even a very fairy tale-like comic chase sequence, where a character is defeated just by stalking him.
Please, retry.
From a purely story-based perspective, this chapter of the VN works much better than "Present". The story-telling is tighter and more focused. There is no unneeded filler material or long infodump sequences, which is not strange as this is a much shorter chapter than the previous one. Actually "Past" is the shortest of the three game chapters by a large amount. Moreover, while this chapter's map-movement based nature is more pronounced, somehow it seems less disjointed and hurts the storytelling less.

Ales is a much more likable protagonist than Kasumi. While the latter was an anti-hero with a vicious streak, the former is actually a pacifist determinator. He is determined to reach his destination, but tries to do this by employing the most peaceful methods possible. None of the characters are particularly well fleshed or that interesting, but that is understandable as they each represent some sort of fairy tale archetype: a helpful guide, a strong sidekick, a worthy opponent, a funny old man, a fair maiden and etc. All of the characters are overly melodramatic and, frankly, unbelievable. Ales/Flare romance seems rushed and Ales himself acts like a medieval knight, despite the game being set in a Bronze Age. Not that I particularly minded such treatment.
You're a doctor?
The chapter managed to hold my interest better than "Present", even though I felt cheated in the end. Just as the most important information was revealed to our hero, game cut to another scene and didn't let us to listen in. I understand that the whole mystery had to be left for the last chapter, but the blatant way in which the game snubbed my curiosity pissed me off. I was also miffed by the constant interchangeable way the titles God, Goddess, Motherly Spirit, Gaia and Death were used. It gets confusing and at first I wasn't even sure that they are the same entity.


In the Future (13800 AD), the humanity has been destroyed. There is very little humans left alive and they live in single region. All the knowledge of the past is in the hands of the Royal Family and is kept away from the common people. Sui and Lalaila are adopted sisters living with their guardian Nene in a city of Gina Ii, and making their living selling flowers. One day they bring the flowers to the royal castle, but the place is in an uproar. Apparently a person named Zazan has just successfully performed a coup d'etat and took control of the castle. The confused sisters leave, but their troubles are not over. They learn that Sui is actually a princess from the previous Royal Family, and it is her duty to overthrow Zazan. Nene is murdered by Zazan's men and Sui flees the city with Lalaila. Soon the girls are joined by the professor, who is also an intellectual (sic) Titi (*snickers at her name*) and go onto a long and arduous quest to remove Zazan from power and, maybe, even save the world.
Best friends.
If "Present" reminded me of an adventure mystery story and "Past" was a fairy tale, then "Future" has all the trappings of a point'n'click adventure game (only without actual mechanics). The game is a string of light puzzles (which are sadly solved automatically). The girls encounter a locked door, they need a key to the said door, in order to get the key they have to exchange another object for it, than they have to apply the key to the door. Such sequences are constantly repeated throughout the game and get tedious with no interactivity, especially when our trio decides to act dumb and cannot get a solution to an obvious problem (Saars Tower comes to mind).

The whole atmosphere of the third chapter is lighter than that of the previous two, despite being set in a post-apocalyptic totalitarian world. Sui and her companions constantly find time to fool around, and admittedly some of the lighthearted scenes are actually funny. The one that comes to mind is of girls trying to distract the guards with their feminine charms. Surprisingly, Lalaila has the most success in that matter. The joke of Lalaila being the most attractive to the opposite gender runs through the whole game. Another overly long gag concerns a totally not suspicious and not-gay peddler following the girls around.
Lalaila is a real heartbreaker.
It's no surprise that some mood whiplash is in order. After all, we cannot have only the good things happening to the girls. Unfortunately, one major depressing scene involving a ghost completely fails at continuity. It doesn't fit the game world and mythology. Talking about that, it needs to be said that the game has been steadily shying away from Christian Mythology since the end of the first chapter and entering a complete Fantasyland. "Future" doesn't even mention Moses, Abraham or the Promised Land, which figured prominently before. It's probably a good thing, because otherwise the plot would be just too hard to swallow, what with all those undertones of Nature worship and Paganism.

Despite some flaws in the execution, the plot manages to hold together for three fourths of the chapter, until the characters from "Present" and "Past" arrive to wreck havoc. The game becomes so disjointed and fragmentary that you can just watch the mess and try to focus on the good bits only. In my opinion the ending was pretty good, but the character epilogues lacked focus. What I particularly liked, was the grey vs grey nature of the conflict. Neither of the opposing parties are completely right, nor are they really evil. Such conflicts are the worst, because they are usually ideology based, and neither side would be inclined to make peace with the other.
Evil wears black.
All of the involved characters are less cliché than than those of the second chapter and more likable than those of the first one, but they are way too passive. Sui is supposed to be the last hope of the world, but she makes no important judgements during her journey, Lalaila only cares about Sui and Titi only cares about science. Ironically both Lilean and Zazan, who are supposed to be antagonists, do more towards ending the conflict than the supposed "good guys". And Kasumi, who mellowed a little since his debut in the "Present", only appears to talk about treasure and fuck Ai (offscreen in the English version).

There are also a few loose ends left hanging. The most visible is the situation of Sui's adoption. How did Nene manage to steal Sui away from the Royal Family 14 years ago, if Zazan was not a threat nor a consideration at that time? I cannot imagine the King and the Queen giving their child to the handmaiden to raise for no apparent reason. Maybe the game did explain that, only for the translator to mess it up. Wouldn't be a surprise. Anyway, I still liked "Future" more than I liked "Present". It has more likable characters and still less filler material.
Have we seen those guys before?
The game taken as a whole is pretty mediocre. It strives to be a giant story, but loses its identity somewhere. Starting out as a Christian epic, it becomes something else entirely in the end. All the three chapters can barely create a coherent story and trying to follow it along can be as arduous, as trying to put a square peg into a circular hole; the chapters are also hurt pretty badly by the removal of map-movement sequences. Characterization is pretty lackluster, full of clichés and unlikable characters with unclear motivations. For the most part, the game tries to pretend that it tells a more meaningful story than it actually does and it shows in pseudo-scientific, pseudo-philosophical and pseudo-religious paragraphs. Somehow the game appears too long, even though it is shorter than 20 hours. There are some pretty good ideas, nice character interaction scenes and exciting action sequences, but it all is lost within a mediocre greater whole.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site for original release / Alternative
Waybacked official English site
Look for physical English releases on: J-list, eBay,, Rightstaf.
A guide how to run "Exodus Guilty" on a modern PC (originally written for "Hourglass of Summer", but works fine for any DVD-PG game)

Final Verdict: 59%


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