Well I am finally getting around to this post. I have finished Heliotrope five days ago but to be perfectly honest I was really unsure just how I felt about this game. In the end I feel the game disappointed me partially from my own expectations and partially because well… it’s a bad game. Being the first game from a company part of me wants to say they made a good effort but really these days there is no reason for a first game not to be at least average. Not to say it was entirely horrible, there are much worse games out there.
The story for Heliotrope starts out with the protagonist Yashiro being woken up by his childhood friend Mitsuba. After which she goes into the usual “You don’t take care of yourself, what would you do without me” type of dialogue. This is where you discover the hidden sad past of Yashiro as it appears his family picked up and abandoned him about a year ago. So he ends up going to school as per usual and later that night he goes for a walk. Upon hearing a singing voice he discovers a… talking starfish. After a brief conversation they end up in the middle of a battle between Yuzuka and some soldiers. During which time he is mistaken for an enemy by Yuzuka, who attacks and throws Yashiro into the ocean where a mysterious naked woman then hands him the sword, Laevateinn.
Now with the opening concluded time to make sense of the setting. It turns out that not so long ago there was an island that randomly appeared off the cost of japan. With the appearance of this island and a mysterious girl named Iris people began to develop special abilities. They call the people who demonstrate these abilities Shingansha or roughly “A person who is god’s plaything” when the kanji is translated. As the story progresses we find out that these abilities are not always a positive as they come with various and generally vicious side effects. These side effects slowly take over their minds sometimes leading to a type of berserk state. Eventually the side effects will kill them no matter how strong they are. The multitude of abilities are a bit of a hodgepodge composed of standard superhuman traits ranging from elemental to well.. just pretty glowing lights whos effects I am sure you all are familiar with.
Due to his encounter with Yuzuka, Yashiro ends up being forcibly absorbed into the government’s special task force that deals with the Shingansha. This places him directly beneath Yuzuka as her subordinate as well as placing him in a position to fight against his childhood friend Mitsuba which of course is much of the basis for the story in Heliotrope.
After the aforementioned events the story begins to develop in the usual ways with your choices affecting which of the heroines you end up with. Both during the time before a route is decided on and even during the individual routes there is a great deal of repetition in the character interactions. Essentially the formula goes as follows; Yashiro and whoever he happens to be with goes off to an arbitrary battle against whoever he is not allied to at the moment. The two groups fight, nothing happens, and they part ways till the next day. I pretty much lost count of how many times this happens in the various routes. Though to be fair it was not as common in the Iris route.
Predictability. Heliotrope has far too much of this. Just about every event that happens is given so much foreshadowing prior that you end up having known the conclusion before the events even begin to unwind. I feel that they made far too many allusions to what was going to occur next. Seeing the coming events is not too bad as long as there cannot be a large a degree of certainty, the key is to keep the options open while giving small, often disguised hints. Heliotrope fails at this miserably with the “Hints” being more or less spelled out. This ends up giving the reader a feeling of why bother reading when you know the outcome. As you progress this feeling becomes more pronounced due to getting used to the writing style thus making it that much easier to accurately predict what is coming next.
Of the three routes in Heliotrope I felt the Iris had the best route and Mitsuba the worst. Sadly enough the routes do not deviate much from each other. Most of the time they deviate only in the manner they arrive at the same place, time, and conclusion which makes sense as the routes are simply picking sides. The routes really come down to just a difference in relationships, the goals and even enemies remain the same so it feels more akin to reading the same story with a different main character. While things do conclude in a separate manner when it really comes down to it there is very little difference. I can understand why and where they came from with this layout however the sensation while reading is greatly dulled by the similarities.
I have to say that aside from sub par writing and repetitive routes perhaps the thing that I disliked the most were the endings. Yes I dislike all four endings. Though it is a little difficult to properly convey the problems I had with the endings without including spoilers I shall attempt to cover what I may. For myself all of the endings felt inconclusive and left me feeling almost betrayed by the writers. A few of the more glaring questions are never clearly answered or even lightly glossed over not to mention it feels as though the true end was randomly cobbled together from various plot twists. In all honesty the final ending did help clear up things a little bit and made me feel better about the game as a whole with what could have been a satisfying ending. Though it was not enough to make up for everything else and did little to address a lot of the more interesting questions.
I feel that I must address at least something about the story in at least a semi positive light therefore I will offer up a positive view on something that I felt was still an overall negative. It can be said that one of the better traits of the Heliotrope story is the ability to see through the same events from opposing perspectives. I would agree completely with this argument if the writing had been done with more skill. Seeing the changes in characters and added details into what was going on at various times was interesting… just not really capitalized upon. I would have enjoyed seeing more focus on an intertwined story that requires all angles to see everything that is going on driving you to “AH HA!” moments as you see events in a different light. I guess I kind of derailed from that positive point of view… The issue really becomes that they had a lot of good ideas to work with but failed to use them. Heliotrope ended up as a tease, giving you a glimpse of what could have been a really great game. Then proceeds to throw it all out the window leaving you frustrated.
The characters in Heliotrope are pretty much what you see is what you get. There is painfully little character growth throughout the story. Instead of characters growing you are just allowed to see more of them or the hidden aspects of their lives. Aside from the heroines and main characters there are precious few details about the others and much of their purposes feel a bit shallow and lacking any real motivation. There are the eccentric scientist, aristocratic military lieutenant, megalomaniac bent on world domination, confused ancient warrior bent on world destruction, and last but not least emo teenager who blindly worships her faction leaders. Problem really becomes there are no changes at all over the course of the story, their problems, opinions, and characters are in a static state the entire game. Even the relationships between Yashiro and the heroines feels exceedingly shallow and even transient.
Generally the characters in Heliotrope can be considered as all having some sort of sad past that drives them throughout the course of the story. All of the major characters and most of the minors as well lost their families in various ways and Yuzuka became an experimental test subject.
Say hello to your protagonist. He pretty much hates the world because he lost his family a year ago when they abandoned him. Yashiro feels like a combination of your standard nice guy protagonist and Shinji (You know the one I mean <.<). He is neither of them entirely but has elements of both. All of the girls claim he is kind and gentle and the usual while he pretty much just sits around and whines about his life and how he does not want to fight. To counterbalance his indecisiveness there are moments of overconfidence just so he can be crushed as justification for more whining.
Yuzuka is the primary heroine of Heliotrope. For all intents and purposes she is the second in command of the government organization which manages the Shingansha throughout Japan. This inevitably brings her into conflict with Mitsuba quite often and is the main source of the rift between the two of them and Yashiro. She has a somewhat aloof personality however that does not hold up long at all. Afterwords she is… well just sort of there. Lacking any strong character traits her main appeal is that she is generally a good person who does her best to support the main character despite often conflicting interests.
As a side note Yuzuka REALLY likes chocolate. In fact I believe it is the single thing she ever eats. It is as though she is powered by a small chocolate reactor. She likes chocolate so much she puts chocolate spread on things not made of chocolate…
Of all the heroines in Heliotrope I liked Yuzuka the most. Her straightforward and direct nature is more attractive to me than the dishonest Mitsuba or stubbornly gentle Iris.
Standard childhood friend type character. Mitsuba takes care of Yashiro by doing most of his cooking and cleaning. Little does Yashiro know she is the leader of a terrorist organization called Banner that opposes the government in an attempt to free everyone who has special abilities. If I had to characterize Mitsuba as more than childhood friend I would say she is a partial yandere. I say partial since it was only really in one route that she goes completely nuts at Yashrio being taken from her (I am fairly certain you can guess which route that is but I will say nothing just in case). In addition there is an outside factor that contributes to her degenerating into that state of mind.
Even though she keeps her terrorist associations a secret from Yashiro it is painfully obvious very early on just who she is which makes waiting for them to finally reveal her true nature a bit annoying. I feel they should have revealed her sooner or made at least some effort to hide who she really was until Yashiro could find out.
After completing the previous two routes you may then follow the Iris route. Half breast half human Iris is a person from two thousand years ago that grants powers to people who see her in their dreams. As such Iris is a well known figure to every character right from the start of the story even though they do not encounter her till later. Iris is a very caring person who takes the role of an older sister type for Yashiro, often comforting and calming him down. Iris plays a key role in guiding the events in every route.
The other significant characters are Yuzukas older brother Fuyuki, leader of their organization and the megalomaniac bent on global domination. Chiaki who pretty much worships Mitsuba and serves as second in command for their terrorist group. Then comes the two characters from the EU, Fennel the eccentric scientist and Shrivau the aristocratic lieutenant. Irizu is a warrior from two thousand years ago who is hell bent on destroying the world, and of course must be stopped! There is also the most random character, Kumamoto the starfish. This character almost singlehandidly ruined Heliotrope for me it was just so silly. I constantly felt as though I was reading a book for children when some talking starfish started lecturing the protagonist on life.
Yashiro’s relationships to these characters change drastically based on which route you follow. At least it does for the majority of the routes, usually coming full circle in the end. Depending on the route they may become Yashiro’s allies or enemies leading to the main differences between the three routes.
The artwork in Heliotrope is simply excellent, in fact it is the only aspect of the game that not only met but even exceeded my expectations. For this being their first work the artwork deserves even more praise. Their characters are well drawn with few if any mistakes to be seen. There is a definite lack of CG causing a lot of repetitions however they are used sparingly so the fact is less noticeable.
First the good news, there are several touching CGs that really help along the story and set the mood well. There are no really awkward feeling poses or artwork that I can recall. In addition the lighting effects and color selections are skillfully made without an overuse of glow effects. In the end the artwork is the best aspect of Heliotrope. When taken into consideration that it is their first game combined with the mistake free art they managed to really shine in this department.
On to the bad news, well the bad news is that there is no bad news. Really, I have absolutely nothing bad to say about the artwork quality itself. In fact I would dare to say the CG for the game is worth more than the game itself. Since there are no problems whatsoever with the art other than my personal tastes I will move onto that…
Something that really bothered me in terms of artwork were two of the weapons, Yuzuka’s axe baton ribbon thing, and the sword laevateinn. First of all for those who do not know the sword comes from norse mythology. So then why is it a very weird, no make that STUPID looking katana? I died a little inside every time I had to bear witness to such a travesty. Then comes the odd … thing that Yuzuka uses. Words cannot describe how silly I felt just reading that she was using a ribbon on a baton with an axe like blade attached to it. It all just felt so very very wrong. I am all for new and different weapons but at least they should make sense and look pretty. I am sure some people may find Hatena’s designs likable, just not me. My personal tastes as usual will not affect the score for their artwork, especially since the overall quality is nothing short of exemplary.
As usual there are no major flaws to sound. With that said while it did not have a major impact on the game itself I felt there were a few minor issues with both the voice acting and the music.
The voice acting was about average for the most part. Talking between people felt natural and easy on the ears. While I question some of the content the voice actors did an admirable job of expressing some rather bad writing at times.
To be nice I will say that I did like the title music quite a bit. In fact that was probably my favorite BGM from the entire game. There are a few other tracks that were composed well, most of the best tracks are rarely heard which is both good and bad. This is a good thing as it keeps them from becoming boring, and bad since I would have liked to hear them a few more times. While there were no tracks that really jumped out and gripped me as amazing they were overall of good and even better than average quality. I cannot think of any tracks that ruined the mood or failed to match the scene which goes to show even their placement and timing of the tracks was done well. None of the music really grows too stale after ages of repetition though by the end I was a bit sick of most of the tracks.
Now for the issues I had while playing. None of it is major but I felt that the voice actors were a bit on the engrishy side of things for a few sentences, and that some of the speech felt a little flat and almost comical at times. This was especially the case during the usual silly screaming that happens during battles. Not really a fan of the pointless screaming in general which probably did not help but at the same time It felt lacking in emotion. When yelling their voices often carried an almost monotone quality.
In terms of the music while not bad none of it was especially striking. I had sort of expected this when the OP theme could not decide between melody or metal. Nevertheless I was a bit disappointed by the lack of a fitting musical score for the game. As said above my favorite track was the title screen music which I had allowed to just sit there and play several times.
Nothing special here. I personally did like the English as I feel a bit more comfortable with it, but nothing that impairs or improves functionality. If anything the interface is somewhat basic looking, not really a bad thing as its simple, effective, and does not distract. It would be a nice change to have more companies follow the example of games such as tapestry and try different means of displaying text though.
There are only fifty save points which is rather small. I ended up using all of them which is pretty rare for me. Although this is partially because I kept randomly stopping to avoid playing. I really wish that at the very least one hundred save points was a standard for all eroge though, any less is inhibiting.
The CG viewer was lacking in organization. Basically it consisted of a lump of disorganized CGs to click on and see the larger picture along with all variations of it. Some of which have quite a large number of variations which was mentioned in the artwork section. What bothers me is the lack of anything such as tabs to separate the different character CGs. There are simply a massive lump of CGs that you have to sort through yourself, this shows a lack of dedication to the little details. As this is Hatena’s first game it is not as major a factor but I hope they put more thought into such things in the future.
There are two H scenes per heroine in Heliotrope. The scenes themselves are done well enough and do not take up a lot of time. In my opinion Heliotrope did a better job on the H scenes than much of the rest of the game.
On the other hand I felt that the H scenes were a bit awkwardly placed. I felt that the timing was a bit off and the reasons for the two people to turn a situation into an H scene was just a bit uncomfortable. Not anything game breaking as I think we are all used to slightly unrealistic situations and scenes occurring, it’s just that Heliotrope felt a bit more off putting than normal in that respect.
Heliotrope was a huge disappointment for me. I was really looking forward to this game hoping it would be great but in the end it was just a series of let downs. I wanted to like this game a lot, I honestly wanted to like it however it was just so bad I could not bring myself to enjoy this game at all. The plot was poorly developed, the writing amateurish, and the characters boring. Were I ten years old I may have liked this game however now it just falls so drastically short of even average quality that I cannot find much to redeem the plethora of faults which plague the game. To get right to the point this game is not worth the supremely infinitesimal effort it takes to merely glance in the vague direction which it occupies if only even to spurn its very existence, avoid at all costs.
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: 43%
- Story: 27%
- Characters: 52%
- Art: 84%
- Sound: 61%
- Interface: 40%
- H: 59%
The official Hatena website can be found here.
Walkthrough for the game can be found here.
Getchu link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=626105