Kiss to Maou to Darjeeling Review
Sarasa has finally arrived and I for one could not be happier! That is until I actually played the game. Not to say Kiss to Maou to Darjeeling (Dear god that is a long name, KissMaou it is from now on) is a terrible game but on the whole it simply lacks the sophistication a game of this type should have, and we have come to expect. Regardless of the disappointment I felt after playing there are still a few things to like about the game.
KissMaou starts out as the title would suggest, with Sarasa kissing Keiichi while telling him that he is, in fact, the Maou. With this oh so shocking development out of the way we can begin the actual story in the form of a flashback to before Sarasa sexually assaulted Keiichi. Flashing back to his normal everyday life at school the plot opens with characters being introduced one by one as they meet up with keiichi during the day. Once we are through basic character introductions the common route begins with.. well not a whole lot. Most of the common route and game in general is very focused on replicating a rather normal, natural, slice of life environment, giving a grounding to the story that both works for and against itself.
As a result of Keiichi becoming maou and the blue flower turning red, it seems the school created a “Hero club” to deal with the maou. Of course they would choose the most worthless teacher to supervise this club, none other than the resident blonde twin tail heroine Chiyoko. As a result Chiyoko drafts Keiichi and all his friends as members of the same club. Since the sister could not stand for that Sarasa and Daigo are added in too for good measure, what a blatant plot setup. I do wish they would have tried a tiny bit harder in establishing a setting that brings all of the characters into a single place.
The various routes through KissMaou range from touching with Sarasa’s route to mundane in the case of Tsubasa, all the way through to dull and nonsensical when Chiyoko is chosen. What everything comes down to is that the only route that really stands out at all is Sarasa’s, the rest are pretty much typical of every eroge in existence for their character types. In fact it is only in Sarasa’s route that the maou, kissing, and tea have any real significance. Of course there are a few noteworthy elements of each in the other routes, however not only do the individual situations hold less of an impact, they also only have one of the three major elements at play. Perhaps the last major difference between the routes would be that Sarasa is the only one I felt had real character growth during the story, there is room for argument with Chiyoko as well perhaps but surely not to the same degree. As a result there is a feel of the common route carrying on into the heroine routes, though there is a clear focus, the scenarios one finds oneself in usually involve the group until much later. At which time you are in the winding down stage, leading to there being little true bonding time, or perhaps rather the scenes which depict a deepening of relationships have a similar sensation to those you would expect in a common route after making a choice.
Moving along I feel it may be better to get the positive points out of the way first, leaving my usual abrasive ranting for later. First up with things I found enjoyable with KissMaou would be there are plenty of scenes involving the relationship between the heroine you chose and the main character. Where many games focus on the build up then often neglect furthering their development, favoring instead a quick plot build up towards a final problem that requiring them to overcome it. Now I am sure a few of you are thinking I am contradicting what I said above about the routes not having enough development only to say there is plenty here. However you are wrong. I mean different things, when talking about relationships deepening here yes there are plenty of scenes, however for the most part they are rarely alone. Perhaps being a little more clear they are rarely able to continue being away from the group during an activity for a long enough duration. So there you have it, yes there are plenty of cozy relationship moments to create an adequate sense of attachment towards each other, which really I do not think we get enough of in many games.
Perhaps another one of the better points of the game for me would be the method of heroine selection. Initial choices are pretty irrelevant and the main options come from the now pretty typical SD character selection from a campus map. Now of course that alone is not enough to mention but rather the brevity of the selection process is notable, there are three quick choices on the map in succession with one another that result in a route selection. After you select the same character all three times you get a little CG notice telling you which character’s story you are on. This simple and quick decision making, as well as avoiding of blind choices really strikes home for me as a smooth and easy selection method. Thanks to the minimal diversion due to options there is a smooth and pleasant transition between common and heroine routes that allows you to focus on the character at hand. I for one would prefer more games taking a similar approach, since all I really want is the story to progress, not worry about which specific choice I have to make in order to follow a certain route.
On a rather neutral note the absence of familial problems gives me a somewhat shallow impression of the depth in the setting. I understand that it is a boarding school but the lack of effect on the characters due to their home and family situations feels lacking. There are a few moments where things from the past are brought up briefly to be dealt with or explain a current issue, but never does it go past that. There is a feeling of isolation, almost as though the school is an island where nothing outside has any bearing on what happens within. While that is fine for the story and certainly is not something that causes many problems it feels incomplete, especially when one considers the end and future of any of the established relationships.
Ah on to my favorite part, giving voice to all those little complaints and disappointing elements that build up while playing a game. Perhaps the most glaring fault in KissMaou would be the very title itself and the implications of rendering that meaning throughout the story. Keiichi becoming maou fluctuates as a story element between excessive and understated. On the one hand I feel the story in it’s entirety could have done just fine without any maou element at all. The plot, characters, and the problems they face for the most part have very little to do with the concept of a “Maou”, simply unabashedly using the maou as a cheap gimmicky plot device to get things moving. Changed to a normal slice of life game without the use of a maou would have given a far greater depth to the emotions on display throughout the plot. Thus necessitating characters to develop themselves and also their relationships wholly on their own.
On the other hand the idea of a maou could have been kept in the game even with the same stories only by slightly expanding the role which maou plays throughout the story. That is to say minor details like being kissed activates his power of well.. strength, regeneration, and uhh.. red eyes, or the really silly and unconvincing explanations given for the maou would have needed a better definition. Quite frankly the abilities and restrictions of the maou as well as the reasons for its existence and why people wanted it made me want to give a good stiff backhand to the writers. Not only was the use of a being called maou underdeveloped, there were no point through the entirety of the story I felt they gave even adequate attention to using the maou as a plot device. Every single development felt excessively superficial in its placement and use of the maou, there was nothing to make you feel that he was really special in some way, nor that there was some kind of purpose to him being the maou other than heroine get. This lazy writing on both sides of the maou issue really hindered the story for me, making much of the central plot feeling gimmicky and worthless.
What turns out to be a relatively minor annoyance for me would be the way certain scenes just cut off in the middle. As an example, we would have a scene depicting a slight misunderstanding over the reason Keiichi told one of the girls not to bother doing something such as making a bento. Now under usual circumstances the protagonist would be forced to desperately explain himself, however in KissMaou the entire situation just disappears into thin air. Not only does Keiichi not offer any response or explanation, but the girl somehow magically cheers herself up as well. It feels as though the authors made the rather accurate observation that we all know exactly what is going to be said and the scene will play out. However astute that may be off them, this leads to what feels like lazy writing, those scenes may be cliche but if you do the lead in and yet skip out on the climax in order to move along with the story, well there is not much to say other than it is being half assed and lazy.
Then there is the way tea is used as a plot device. Keisuke cannot drink tea (He is perfectly fine with green tea though) due to his childhood trauma. While it does make sense in a way.. however vaguely, and while I can see such a thing being possible the reasoning for it does not sit well with me. Certainly the tea element does not play much of a role in any of the routes, with the small role it does assume being mostly irrelevant and pointless. For all the build up I was expecting more of a use as a plot element, specifically in his overcoming it. But no, all that expectation went to waste as there were only about five or so minutes devoted to Keiichi mastering his tea-phobia, and that was only in one route. Not to mention the reason for him to do so was useless, superficial and quite frankly made little to no sense in the context with which it was used. How in the hell could him finally coming around to drink tea again, in the process doing a terrible job of overcoming his fear and proving his point, be used as an excuse to go make out with another girl is beyond me.
After the common route, post selection, beyond the dating, and following the H scenes comes the final piece of each and every story, completing the puzzle that makes up a route, the endings. I for one cannot say I very much enjoyed the endings to KissMaou, they came about quite quickly, and fell apart just as quickly. Each conclusion pretty much reiterates those things we already know from the story, in fact often the ending does not really even conclude until the epilogue. What this means is that both the final part of the normal story and the appended bit afforded by the epilogue both come across as rather shallow. There is precious little to project their relationship into the future and what may or may not occur as a result of their choices during the course of the story. In fact the endings feel as though you just ran full speed into a concrete wall, disillusioned, disappointed, and most of all with a bloody nose and concussion you fall over at last in the ultimate bad end.
But wait! There’s more! Call now within the next ten minutes and you get a side story, absolutely free! Which instead of being a touching and heartwarming story about character development, or maybe their pasts, or perhaps even a proper ending extending further into the future than the few days they give us… Ends up simply as an extra H scene. Yes, who cares about stories or their conclusions when you can placate people with a few extra ero pictures. It is not so much the fact that they added in the extra H scenes as “Side stories” that bothers me so much as with the lack of real stories and developments they really could have done much better things than simple extra H scenes. In fact they could have kept those scenes and made these stories actual ya know, stories. Instead there is little plot and simply a quick build up as an excuse then onto the H.
In KissMaou the characters are well… cookie cutter designs. What you see is pretty much what you get, and of course you can expect them to grow according to the usual format as well. With that said the characters are good examples of their respective traits, each of them pulling of their personality in a convincing manner, with a few exceptions anyway. Other than Chiyoko all of the heroines have a well defined character that neither feels lukewarm nor goes too far with the quirks which define them.
Ah Keiichi, change his name and you have the protagonist from just about every other eroge in existence. The only defining features this cookie cutter character has are his extreme fear of tea, his affinity towards wire puzzles, and lets not forget the fact he is the maou. As the typical nice guy that he is Keiichi always does his best to consider the girls around him, and of course fails due to thickheadedness only an eroge protagonist could ever manage to deal with and still get the girl.
Keiichi lives in the dorm with his friends Ryuuji, Tou, and Shinobu, his room is apparently the official meeting place and just about every day the four of them come together there in order to talk, play games, and just relax. With his parents dead Keiichi when not in the dorms lives with his kind aunt who in order to burden less he stays at the dorms over vacations.
Sarasa, as the student council president is your standard cool beauty type of character, flawless at everything she does, Sarasa is serious and direct. As a result she is quite clumsy when attempting to relate to other people. Technically the first girl Keiichi meets, Sarasa becomes Keiichi’s loyal servant as a result of him becoming the maou. Throughout her route the idea of her seeing herself as a servant to him causes the most conflict and hesitation, neither her nor Keiichi are quite sure where the line for their relationships is, nor able to easily grasp the others true feelings. As their relationship develops her curt and harsh demeanor slowly gives way to a more affectionate if a bit jealous and awkward character, at least towards Keiichi. Her personality changes little towards everyone else, almost as though she is trying to seclude herself and Keiichi. Most of the characteristics that define Sarasa come from an extremely strict and traumatizing past, which often drives her to machine like efficiency.
To sum it all up Sarasa is a shy and lonely girl who really just wants someone she can rely on to hold her hand and prioritize her over everything and everyone else. As a side note here, Sarasa is by far my personal favorite character, being the embodiment of my favorite traits both physical and mental I have a hard time finding flaws in her character.
As Keiichi’s childhood friend Yuna often played with Keiichi as a child. In fact he was her only real friend for some time as children, leading invariably to her current crush on him. With the standard elements such as forgotten promises given as naive children, Yuna runs the full range of typical childhood friend scenarios. Her personality is quiet, calm, and attentive, she is excellent at housework and of course thoroughly enjoys taking care of Keiichi. Quite popular among the boys around her age she nevertheless turns them down without exception, greatly confusing the thickheaded keiichi. Despite her friendly manner Yuna only really has one friend, Tsubasa, leading to them being an almost inseparable pair, where one appears the other is usually not far behind.
Tsun, Tsun, dere! No eroge would ever be complete without a resident tsundere to put all the M people in their place. Filling in the obligatory tsundere role Tsubasa is strict with an upright character, her unyielding character is the perfect counterpart to the gentle and forgiving Yuna. While Tsubasa is not as sharp tongued as one may expect of a tsundere, she has a level of tension as a result of her more forceful attitude. In simpler terms Tsubasa is the type of character that yells at people who run in hallways. As the closest thing to an athletic girl in KissMaou Tsubasa also has a cheerful energetic side that makes others want to try their best when around her.
As a side note am I the only one who sees Minato from Akane iro when looking at Tsubasa?
Supposedly genius teacher who has a personality as childish as her looks. Chiyoko holds a special fondness for Keiichi and his friends, often dragging them around to play along when inspiration strikes her. In between her being completely annoying and useless she can occasionally be helpful or offer useful insights.. extremely rare though. Students in the school have nicknamed her “Choco teacher” as a result of her being easily tamed by a piece of chocolate. For the most part I for one found Chiyoko a nuisance, she was not only a useless character she was far too loli to be convincing as a teacher. Chiyoko is nothing short of a gimmick for all you lolipedofins out there to have a reason for buying KissMaou.
Am I the only one who felt her voice was rather flat? There was almost no emotion especially when she was yelling… which for her is pretty much all the time.
With a Headache inducing name Lycerisious rounds off the group of heroines as the stereotypical frail, sick girl who is pretty much on her deathbed. Only able to walk a small distance when feeling especially well Lycerisious is usually found in her wheelchair.. which is less like a wheelchair and more like a batmobile with all the gadgets it has. Attended by her personal maid Lycee makes the best of things, diligently maintaining her plants and rooftop garden as a hobby, quietly passing her days. All the while she secretly stalks Keiichi’s group as they pass under her window daily, longing to be a part of their cheerfully rowdy group. Warm hearted and kind despite the harsh hand dealt to her in life, Lycee is innocent, naive, and unsuspecting of others, thinking of everyone else before herself even when it would cause her direct harm.
There are only a few characters besides the protagonist and the heroines, the only ones with a dedicated role who appear much are his friends. Unlike most games however Keiichi is a bit more realistic in that he has three friends instead of the usual single pervert friend. Of course it goes without saying that one of them still fills the perverted friend role. For the most part however these characters have little to no impact on the game itself, at best being used to setup situations that drive Keiichi and his chosen heroine forward.
Ryuji is a good friend if a bit of a narcoleptic. Playing the role of the lazy cool guy Ryuji is apparently not quite cool enough to sway any of the heroines, thus making him a great best friend for an eroge protagonist. Still when he manages to be awake he is a loyal and trustworthy friend who often helps guide Keisuke in the proper direction.
The usual perverted friend character who only thinks about girls that just about every eroge has. Tou fills the niche of both good friend and comic relief, of course in between those moments of sexually harassing everything female he will join in with Ryuji to offer up some keen insights. Of course as the eroero friend Tou also offers up no competition when it comes to wooing those bishoujos. Tou like Ryuji and his narcolepsy also has a special ability, the complete inability to read a situation, thus leading to all sorts of inappropriate and comical comments.
From Merriam-Webster online dictionary:
Main Entry: trans·ves·tite
Pronunciation: \tran(t)s-ˈves-ˌtīt, tranz-\
Etymology: German Transvestit, from Latin trans- + vestire to clothe — more at vest
Date: circa 1922
: a person and especially a male who adopts the dress and often the behavior typical of the opposite sex especially for purposes of emotional or sexual gratification
Another of Keiichi’s friends Tranny is there purely for comedic relief. Between teasing Keiichi by trying to kiss him awake Tranny will often engage in other silly situations such as laying in wait in Keiichi’s bed. Usually quite jealous of the heroines Tranny is the least useful of Keiichi’s group of friends, without being restrained by others Tranny would have made many active attempts to break in between Keiichi and the various heroines.
I think that it had a name? Shinobu or something like that, whatever I am sure no one cares.
Completely convinced that Tranny is in fact a girl. This guy is more gender confused than Tranny, they make such a perfect match I would really like to see them get together in the end. As he is completely sure of his own convictions Daigo sees Keiichi as his rival in love, thus looking for any chance to best Keiichi.
The local Sister is also a teacher at the school and pretty much the opposite of Chiyoko. Extremely strict she does not get along well with keiichi’s group of friends. Constantly seems to be running after Chiyoko in order to teach her a lesson.
Paparazzi. The typical wannabe journalist character. About as annoying as Tranny and Chiyoko, Kozue is pretty much a throwaway character who only really does anything other than cling to Keiichi in one route.
KissMaou has excellent artwork which makes the biggest flaw all the more glaring. To start with there are few if any awkward positions or badly designed perspectives. The style is consistent and the characters are well represented throughout the game. Shading is your standard cell shading affair that we are all used to by now, though there are a few CGs where the shadows and lighting are brought out quite well. In addition the backgrounds are flawless if a bit bland, giving the usual simple and sterile 3d prerendered feeling. Of course the sprites hold up to the standard being well made and usually fitting the character and situation.
On the other hand there are a few minor mistakes to be seen here and there, though far less than average and they are probably rather hard to notice when not paying attention to all of the little details. So then what could possibly be such a big flaw that I saw fit to mention it almost immediately? Lack of CG. That is to say there are almost no CG other than the HCG itself. Against the smorgasboard of HCG the average of two to three normal CG per character comes across as a problem to say the least. There are so many scenes that are deserving of a good CG to accompany the mood and really set stage… which are simply ignored, leaving us to deal with sprites the entire game. Of course the sprites are quite excellent and change more often than usual to prevent the scenes from becoming static, but in the end sprites fall short during important scenes. Additionally, the sprites are just looping the same five or so poses and expressions in various outfits. In fact even the HCG suffers from lack of variation, there are perhaps six to eight or so HCG images per character, then those images are reused, simply drawing over the top for different facial expressions and such.
To be honest I have nothing good to say about the sound at all. The reason that I failed to give sound a complete zero is due to the voice acting and background music being the usual fare. Generally on par with everything else the voice acting was acceptable though even that has a few faults that did get to me after awhile. Though I must say in all fairness I did enjoy Sarasa’s background music, and now that I think about it the maou background music was pretty good too.
I do not know if it is just me who feels this but the voice acting often feels like it has a lack of emotion, especially for Chiyoko. Her energetic demeanor leads one to feel the voice should match, but instead it gives the impression of imitating a high pitched and loud voice while talking normally. Given that Chiyoko talks in this way almost all the time makes it all that much more pronounced and annoying. There are moments where the same sort of completely flat, not quite monotone but definite lack of expression can be felt. I am unsure of whether this is due to giving all the voices a static volume control to keep them all at the same level, or is the result of poor directing of the voice actors or even just voice actors doing a bad job. No matter what the reason is though the result is somewhat appalling.
The background music suffers from being the typical fare in eroge, however that is not the main problem I have with it, I am used to the normal music and while certainly not great, it is far from being bad either. What really bothered me about the background music was the timing, it would often change too early in a scene leading you to already know exactly what was going to happen. When this happens it feels akin to watching the climax of a drama where misunderstandings are piling up and two people are fighting when suddenly! Dramatic music dies off and the calming romantic music begins, of course anyone would know exactly what is going to happen and the moment is ruined. Not saying this is exactly how it happens, and really the music was only off by a few seconds, but it is often enough to have an impact on the feeling of a scene.
Somewhat difficult to address without being vulgar are the H sound effects that are in play throughout the game. Not only did they get a bit monotonous rather quickly but the sounds were often… quite badly done. We all know by now how bad the slurpie sounds are in certain scenes however KissMaou managed to come up with a sound effect which neatly trumps even those. All I will say about this one specifically is that to me it sounded like the sputtering of a small engine putting along, I am sure anyone who has played the game will immediately know what I mean. While normally a bad sound effect here or there is par for the course and nothing game breaking other than becoming a fun joke, the pervasiveness of this particular sound effect along with the the location often ruin the moment so to speak.
I do not know if it was just me but on a final note there were some volume changes among sound effects in the various routes for me, of course changing the volume settings had no effect. Not a major annoyance as the sound effects were annoying anyway, but the fact that volume controls did nothing to change it was something to note as odd.
KissMaou has your standard eroge interface, which can be navigated successfully while blindfolded. I did however like both the character introductions and the intro page when you arrive on a certain characters routes. Although it is hard to not know which route you are on at that point… Still that aside there are no problems with the interface itself, but at the same time nothing that really stands out as being especially useful or a good idea. Well that is other than not being pink all the time, I did not mind the switch to pink when changing to the heroine’s perspective.
There are 75 saves and 5 quick saves in KissMaou, for a grand total of… 80. A bit small really though I only used roughly half of them myself so for the game it is more than reasonable.
The extras menu is standard fare as well not much stands out here other than the lack of CG, especially for everyone other than Sarasa. I suppose if there is something to note it is that the menu felt a little bit cluttered to me, though that is simply my impression.
The H scenes in KissMaou were fairly decent, with proper build up and development before to allow the relationship to feel natural. There were no completely out of place H scenes to leave a bad aftertaste nor any fetish play to turn people away… or on. I also have to give the writers some credit here for withholding the normal “MOU GAMAN DEKINAI” moment where H scenes generally stop feeling like part of a story and more like something out of a hentai movie, minus the tentacles.
On the other hand the scenes were a bit lengthy and felt static, with there being maybe one or two CG per scene with just facial expressions changing or clothes being removed. Towards the end you also get the feeling once you reach the first H scene the story is pretty much over, it becomes a few H scenes in quick succession one small problem rapidly solved then you reach the end. Only at that end you are rewarded with yet another H scene rather than a post epilogue touching scene or something with more meaning.
While KissMaou may have a few good points, especially if Sarasa is your type of character the rest of the game is disappointing and in the end probably not worth your time. Half hearted stories combined with average characters, average artwork, abysmal sound effects, standard interface, and decent H scenes makes for a forgettable experience despite the potential to be a winner.
I use 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: 66%
- Story: 58%
- Characters: 72%
- Artwork: 57%
- Sound: 31%
- Interface: 50%
- H Scenes: 68.9%
The offical Marmalade website can be found here.
Walkthrough for the game can be found here.
Getchu link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=651985