Ok, so here I am (Zen) for my first real post. I know its late, I know that at this point it is pretty useless to even post this. Mostly this is something of a proof of concept. I will more or less start for real from the april lineup since I have some time to prepare. Anyway primarily working on the layout and such so lemme know what you think of it so I can change it as needed.
So anyway I have had Bokuraku (Boku no Te no Naka no Rakuen) sitting there and had planned to play it after cleaning up my backlog a bit. However since I will be writing up such reviews in the future I figured I had better get started.
The story for Bokuraku starts with the protagonist washing ashore of an island in a fantasy based world. He ends up being found by three girls during which time he realizes he has no memories other than his name is Yuu. Initially rather skeptical of who Yuu is their relation to him ends up dragging Yuu into the affairs of the island. Well needless to say various things happen as you progress through the story.
I feel that the stories for the bokuraku routes were well done but missing something to make them truly great. To put it rather bluntly, the stories are typical fantasy fare, that gives a tried and true feeling. Going for a tried and true story is fine, and the stories are fun enough to make playing worth it. On the other hand though a bit more originality would have been nice. The various stories are similar, not quite the same stories but so similar it feels a bit like grinding after completing one story. Part of the problem with this may be the predictability of the story progression. There are obvious foreshadowing elements throughout the various stories that lead to you having far too firm a grasp on what will happen ahead of time. Couple this with a lack of diversity among the antagonists and the routes all have a blending that ruins the unique aspects of their stories. I feel that either the game was far too rushed to properly complete a web of interconnected and yet individual stories, or the writer was unable to fully make use of the available plot.
Perhaps the most annoying factor of the story for myself were the endings. They felt very lackluster and incomplete. All of the endings are pretty much the same exact thing just a different CG and girl. Minus the small story differences the basic concept of the ending remains the same throughout. Not to mention that it is not a good ending which they all share, but rather something that feels completely half-assed. I am a sucker for a good story with a good ending, be it your typical good ending, a bittersweet ending, or even a completely sad depressing ending. As long as I feel that it works well with the story itself all are fine when done properly. The cheap endings in Bokuraku were nothing short of a large scale cop out to me.
That said Bokuraku was quite enjoyable but just not as immersive and engrossing a story as I would have liked. As a result I had no problem putting it down to do other things.
Ahh characters, one of the more lacking aspects of Bokuraku. While there was nothing wrong with the characters per se in terms of glaring faults; The characters fell more or less into cookie cutter type personalities. Seems that they rather like tsunderes too as three of the four heroines have tsun elements in their personalities to varying degrees. Perhaps just as bad is that the characters follow a very typical progression as they like the protagonist more and more. Its almost as though you are predicting the path of a train when watching the character growth.
While the characters themselves are bland and unable to really reach out and touch you, their backgrounds are interesting if a bit ordinary for the genre. The ways in which their pasts intertwine is worth noting as a good point. Although this aspect could have been done better to make better use of all of the characters shared pasts to create a good web of interlaced stories.
Your typical “Nice guy” protagonist. He has two different eye colors and is found with a huge two handed sword on his back. I cannot say I like his character at all, he is just so ordinary eroge protagonist there is nothing really to like (Or hate I suppose) about him. Aside from his personality, his uselessness makes for boring action scenes where hes mostly just watching the girls fight. Which is usually followed by getting in their way, assuming he was not getting in their way beforehand. In the end your typically useless nice guy with an unknown past that is revealed over the course of the story.
Well to her credit Thea is a bit hard to define clearly. In the end her character is an amalgamation of various character traits. I suppose they were trying to create as wide an appeal as possible for her, as she is the primary heroine. Thea fluctuates between an uptight by the book character, a bit of tsun character, a childlike innocence character, and an awkward dere character. A bit surprising that they pull this off fairly well with Thea. While I feel no specific appeal towards her character I also find it hard to dislike her, which speaks to their success.
I personally find her character and her story endearing. Much more so than the other heroines at the very least. Though while I did like her character she is anything but original. Standard sword wielding tsundere who goes from complete disregard to “Oh my god, what will I do without you”. Even her story and how she acts on it feels very mundane and uninspired. Not to mention her progression from tsun to dere feels too fast and easy. Just to make it clear she is not all that tsun but frankly there are too many moe traits and its simpler and easier to just call her “Tsundere”.
I am also aware that her name should be “Ellinor” as that is what they use in the game. However that feels too engrishy and so I changed it to Eleanor which has a more correct and elegant feel in english.
Over here we have your typical book worm character. Chris contains all your favorite study girl characteristics! Glasses, clumsiness, and not to mention lack of confidence! To complete the ensemble she is almost always serving tea or in the library. In the end another cookie cutter type character design. I suppose there was some balance needed from the other characters to present some sort of diversity. Cannot say I like her much, she is probably the least thought out of all the characters. Her personality is so standard it makes me cringe.
What fantasy story would be completely without a magician of some sort? Bokuraku leaves this crucial role to Tim. Who despite being female upholds the traditional attitude usually reserved for crotchety old men. Tim is more of a typical tsun type character but I have some aversion to calling him.. wait no her by that. Yes he / she is a reverse trap which is made quite obvious right from the start so not very trap like.. and thus boring. Personality wise the least honest, contrary, and most aggressive of the bunch.
Ok let me preface this with a bit of a warning. First of all art is generally not bad. Actually to be a little clearer it is rare that a game has bad or below average art. The standard is judged based on overall quality of the artwork. I will not address specific stylistic issues involved in this or any game, such a discussion is entirely subjective and a waste of words. If you like the style you like it, if you do not you do not. As such I shall not make any major assertions about the art in a general sense save when it deviates in quality and not simply style.
Art in bokuraku has a very clean look to it, which matches well with their preference of making everyone look very young. Bokuraku has par artwork for the most part. Nothing terribly stands out as good or bad. Provided some allowances are made for a few bad CGs here and there as is normal for any game.
My biggest problem with the art in Bokuraku is that they do not have enough CGs. The CG are re-used way too often where new CG should have been made. This tends to leave a repetitive feel to the game and characters, which after some time dulls the experience.
I just happened to take two quick screenshots while playing to remind myself of two issues with the art. Since I happen to be lazy I will leave them as is and just show both here. The first point is the re use issue. While I understand the need and acknowledge that it is not only necessary but good for them to reuse images for quicker production. A problem arises when you have only a small handful of CG that end up being reused over and over. Secondly the panties, why? Is there really a need for a panty shot every time Thea turns around? From the perspective of fan service it loses the impact of a “Surprise! Panty shot!” moment. In addition the mystery of what lies beneath and the romance of discovery are completely lost! On a more normal note I personally find it annoying that they would be so blatant about silly fan service aspects. I find it dulls both the story and the artwork.
In the end the CG is good in terms of the average quality, however it is marred by a few glaring perspective flaws. As such I cannot help but treat it as completely average on the whole.
Again subjective, perhaps even more so than the artwork. I will try to be as fair as possible when talking about music in terms of how well it fits the material. It is still judged by my ear so in the end is an arbitrary and subjective decleration which you may or may not agree with.
Finally on to something where Bokuraku shines. The backround music in Bokuraku is really the only area in which the game stands above average. Music is not only fitting but changes enough to keep from being too repetitive. Theme songs are not overused to the point you want to spam click to move ahead just to change the music. This was a pleasant though not entirely unexpected surprise given the OP theme was well done. In the end the music was a refreshing change of pace both in terms of how well it fit and in terms of not becoming stagnant from overuse.
Voices were good but still that is average. Nothing special with the voices in particular other than the fact that I felt Thea and Eleanor sounded way too similar. Perhaps the only comment I have on voices is that there is not a single male voice in the entire game.
While not something that really makes or breaks a game I do feel that it bears mentioning in terms of the overall quality of a game. Bokuraku is mostly the same as every other game as far as interface functionality. In terms of interface design however Bokuraku is sub par. The text window is dull and feels like it was made five years ago. The menus are a bit clumsy and the required double clicking for saving / loading is annoying. While I do like innovative changes to any aspect of a game, something about the Bokuraku interface just feels very out of date. Almost as though I had gone back to windows 98 days, damn you Dr. Loli Kujo.
I have to give credit where it is due and I think that after everything is accounted for they did a better than average job on the H scenes. Other than a few… well awkwardly placed H scenes it was nice that they were kept short. No arthritis inducing run on H scenes that make you want to tear out your hair as it never ends.
That said there were a few that made me wonder WTF they were thinking when they added and wrote those scenes in game. Quite annoying when you stumble onto H scenes that feel as though they do not belong there. The sense of incompatibility hurts the overall feel of the relationships.
Despite all of the complaints and problems pointed out Bokuraku is a good solid eroge. I would even say it is a good game, that is better than average. Perhaps its lack of standout features is a blessing that it does not lose major appeal from creating a contrary point of view. Definately not the best game but it was an enjoyable game that I had fun playing through. Which in the end is what matters most.
I will be using a percentage based system to grade the various aspects of a game in a final section here. The breakdown will be that a 50% is dead neutral, completely apathy, no plus or minus. Below that is bad and above is good. The Overall score is simply a rating of the game in its entirety and is somewhat unrelated to the other scores. It may end up being better or worse than the sum of its parts.
- Overall: 73%
- Story: 68%
- Characters: 54%
- Art: 50%
- Sound: 82%
- Interface: 41%
- H: 57%
The offical Caramel Box site can be found here.
Walkthrough for the game can be found here.
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=603265