[VN Review] Kurogane Kaikitan -Senya Ichiya-

2016-03-19-155713Kurogane Kaikitan -Senya Ichiya-
クロガネ回姫譚-閃夜一夜-

Developed by Minato Station and was released in January of 2015, Kurogane Kaikitan is quite the niche within a niche as this is probably the first and only original galge made for the PS Vita rather than most other VNs that are ports from the PC. I guess that’s one of the sole reasons I checked this game out, plus I wanted to see how ‘chuuni’ the fights could be. Since this is only for the Vita, there are no erotic scenes, which is a shame, but the game is still enjoyable without it.

70 Years ago on February 4, 1945, a huge world war broke out which eventually led Japan to be the epicenter of the economy with the help of a special crystal. Now in modern day Japan, year 2015, the country actively faces terrorism. Our protagonist, Habaki Masamune, is a second year high school student who attends a police academy, and is a member of the secret Kurogane team that fights against terrorists. The Kurogane team bears unique anti-terrorism items that grant special Kurogane powers. Kurogane Kaikitan -Senya Ichiya- is a story about violence, corruption, and redemption.

There’s not much to say about the storyline beside it being Masamune and the gang frequently battling terrorists and revealing the truth of the past war. What I can say is that there are many hot-blooded fights and brawling scenes along with lots of wacky comedy, making the game enjoyable and fun. One thing to take note is that the story includes numerous terms that pop up often, just looking at the story tab in the main site generates a huge page of text that goes further into detail of the different terms and concepts that prevail throughout the game. It’s best to read through it beforehand, as it’s very handy once starting the game. Because of this, the game can be a tad complex once the characters start info dumping about specific weapons, powers, and the war. Other than that, the game is very linear with some clusterfuck and ‘what the hell is happening’ scenes, but the comedy and characters make up for those.

2016-03-19-155851Habaki Masamune had me calling out ‘sasuga Masamune-sama’ often. Why? His character seems very generalized and molds into the common yet popular cookie-cutter protagonist stereotype. Not only is Masamune an independent handsome young man with dark black hair, striking crimson eyes, and a deep battle scar on his face, he’s quite the over powered protagonist who isn’t hesitant on a clean kill. One may initially see him as a Gary Stu who has the ability to dual wields swords with a cool and nonchalant attitude toward others. Masamune’s the type of guy who doesn’t study at all, falls asleep in class, and still aces his exams, even ranking 11th place in the country, scoring 100% on 3 out of 8 mock exams in the entire year. Masamune’s so cool and popular, all the girls in school want a piece of him (too bad this game doesn’t have ero scenes). Ignoring his exterior appearance and his stereotypical characteristics, he can be a nice guy and is a sucker for free shit; if it’s free, he’s one happy camper. He has a distinct liking of black coffee, doesn’t remember his classmates’ names, and isn’t the romantic type.

I first thought Masamune was going to be some super over powered protagonist winning every battle, and well, there are times where that will happen, but he does have a unique personality and fighting style. I’m glad he’s not the obvious type and there are times when he faces desperation and despair. At first, he would do things solo, but later on he would rely on the Kurogane team more after some development. He’s more expressive and opened up as the game progressed, but still kept his usual composure throughout the game. There’s slight development on his part, but I already knew the type of character Masamune was in the beginning so I didn’t expect massive development in the end. All I can say is, Masamune is a good protagonist who can be both distant and alluring, and entertaining and comical. I very much enjoyed all scenes he was in. Though it’s a shame he’s not voiced as he would sound great with his personality.

There are four capturable heroines in Kurogane Kaikitan along with many sub characters. All four routes have different stories and fights that all interweave and conclude in the final true end, Kaikitan route. Let’s start with the heroines, all of them are in the Kurogane team.

2016-03-19-160031Murasame Fusehime is a student in the same class as Masamune and who secretly has feelings for him in all routes. Fusehime is headstrong, positive, and foolish, making her easily teased by classmates. She’s more of the ‘poster girl’ in Kurogane Kaikitan as she tries to always be there for Masamune in all routes. She’s really sunny and is the opposite of Masamune, but they work surprisingly well together, even fortune telling magazines rate their compatibility as perfect. She can be somewhat rowdy and tries to be a hero as she constantly calls herself an ally of justice. Her reason for joining the Kurogane team is to protect others and fight against evil. She pretty much stays the same throughout the whole game, same goes with all the other characters. Fusehime is a very fun character, making scenes she’s in usually comical. Her way of speech is very cute too, particularly her “Ok, Ok~” phrases. She’s really friendly and tries to help in every way possible. Unlike others who fight for revenge, she just fights for good. She doesn’t have any tragic past that makes her want to fight against evil, she wants to fight because she can and will.

2016-03-19-160734Izumi Amakuni is a transfer student and Masamune’s childhood friend who proposed to marry him since childhood. Amakuni calls herself a knight and lives by her sword, fate, and possibility, even if the possibility is 1%. I originally thought Amakuni would be annoying for her clumsy and clueless character, but she’s actually pretty fun and sweet. She is wife material, beside her cooking skills, tagging along with the protagonist, trying to satisfy him as a future wife. This route is a bit more tragic, touching, and bittersweet compared to the rest. Masamune is more protective of Amakuni after knowing her true self and past, and becomes somewhat like an overprotective boyfriend who wants her to stay out of trouble, pain, and without freedom. In other routes, he’s the type who doesn’t care about others and kills easily without a second thought, but here, he thinks before he acts, is less courageous, and just doesn’t want to get hurt in general. Masamune would reject the plead of help from others for his own protection, making him a very self conscious protagonist for a while, but later Amakuni sees through Masamune’s fears and calls herself a knight who serves to fight against evil even during rough and dire times. Masamune snaps out of it and becomes his usual self again thanks to her righteous words. This is probably the only time we see Masamune develop with a different outlook of the world. Amakuni’s route is my favorite route in the game as it dealt more with the protagonist, his past, his childhood friends, and his feelings. I feel like this route gave him more life compared to the others, even if the route is pretty tragic.

Also, during Amakuni’s route, there’s more screen time with the second Kurogane team (yes, there is another one in another school) that consist of Amakuni’s older brother, Izumi Kunitsuna, who is also the protagonist’s rival, and Seori Maya, nicknamed Rokko, both are the protagonist’s childhood friends. The other two members in the second Kurogane team are Igou Rai and Shikishima Mikasa, who both have the hots for each other in a mother and daughterly manner. The second Kurogane team often works together with the first one on special missions, and they interact fairly often with each other.

2016-03-19-160426Ishikami Kotetsu is a cutie who’s usually on her smartphone all the time, thus creating a wall amongst others. She doesn’t tag along with friends at social events since she’s usually busy taking pictures on her phone or updating her daily blog about her life to show a certain family member. So yeah, this route mainly dealt with her and that family member than with Masamune. I found this route pretty underwhelming and since Masamune wasn’t very practical here, the route was a bit boring. I didn’t sympathize with Kotetsu and that family member, and during intense scenes, I found the story a drag. Once this part was concluded in the true end, it wasn’t much at all. Also, Kotetsu is the type to space out and can be a bit devilish, somehow seducing our protagonist, but it didn’t seem very seductive at all and I have no clue how he fell for her in the first place. Overall, Kotetsu’s route is underwhelming, and she feels more like a sub character than one of the four heroines.

2016-03-19-160450Last of the heroines is Funasaka Tamane. Tamane is the cool and beautiful upperclassman that got both the ladies and gentlemen roaring for her. She’s from a wealthy and traditional family and has been raised up sheltered. Once she left home to join the police academy, she is finally free to release her inner childhood. She is a closet otaku who enjoys anime and games, which Masamune often tease her about. Numerous events and fights occur in this route, but there’s nothing really that memorable, just a few more new concepts that is added and concluded in the true route. What I found interesting about Tamane’s route is she’s the only older character the protagonist goes after. Unlike all the other girls and routes where Masamune refuses to confess or even say ‘I like you’ because he’s not that type of character, Masamune speaks out his true feelings and is more romantic toward Tamane here, surprisingly. I’m curious why he’s so bold and straightforward in this route when he’s quite stubborn about his feelings in the other routes. Several characters have noted that he has an interest in older women as he did hang out with his older sister often in the past, so that can be one reason why he’s so daring with Tamane. Their lovey-dovey scenes are adorable, and that’s the best part about this route.

The last route and ending is Kaikitan route that weaves everything together into one final conclusion. Interesting to see all the concepts they added in the four different routes come all into one. This route was a huge chaotic disarray of events combined in one, and I don’t mean it in a bad way, just a lot of the pieces flying everywhere to fill in the huge puzzle present in the game. If one didn’t pay attention in the previous routes, they would have no clue what was happening in this true end. Ok, even then, things got a bit complicated here, but somehow everything was settled and the game did end up with a pretty happy ending.
2016-03-19-161012Since this is the end and is basically the resolution to the entire game, I expected more from Masamune and action like what the opening movie previewed. Instead, this route focused on both Masamune and his rival who claim he’s not a rival, Izumi Kunitsuna. In the other routes, we see Kunitsuna often eagerly waiting to duel Masamune, and from the opening, I imagined they were going to have a massive honorable duel that’ll last several hours. Unfortunately for me, that didn’t happen. Kunitsuna and Masamune were on bad terms with each other in the past. Every time they see each other, they grow angry and refuse to speak to each other, sometimes even ignoring each other. They argue and fight a lot, and Kunitsuna would often make a scornful face whenever Masamune appears. If I had an imagination like Rokko, I would say Kunitsuna is tsundere for our protagonist, but that’s not likely (right?) Anyway, unexpectedly, they immediately become friendlier in Amakuni’s route after their angry stares and fierce tension in the prologue. In this true route, they do duel, but more than that, they work together to fight and fix everything that happen in the game. The end felt slightly rushed and there are other ways to resolve everything, but this end is the simplest. The end wasn’t breathtaking or pensive, it was just… satisfying I guess.

2016-03-19-162407The main characters and sub characters are alright, some more likable than others. There are some inconsistencies between them in the different routes, but they all stay relatively the same throughout the game. Masamune’s classmates are a fun and comical bunch that are there just to lighten the mood. The only other male member in the first Kurogane team, Okane Taira, is a huge buff man of few words often mistaken as a frightening and off-putting guy based on his appearances, but he’s a nice guy who often serves ramen to his fellow team members, but they usually order a bunch of other random foods instead as comic relief. I originally thought the second Kurogane team was the enemy, but they’re just another team that eradicates evil and fight along the first team. The second team can become a blockade in certain events, but usually they work together even if they don’t want to.

Speaking of enemies, the villains in Kurogane Kaikitan didn’t leave a good or lasting impression as they didn’t have any development or prominent story—they’re just there to wreck havoc. Obviously, we know the Kurogane team will win in the end, but it’s the dialogue and battles that are suppose to entertain players. Sadly, sometimes the villains are so weak they die like it’s nothing and some of the fights are short-lived. I don’t see the point in having such long and careful development in the prologue and routes leading to the supposedly epic last boss fight, only to end up being an underwhelming and disappointing short brawl. These last fights are to develop the girls and protagonist’s character, nevertheless, the villains should also have had some kind of development on their part to improve the story and possibly lead to a more breathtaking and grand fight.

There are other sub characters that are charming and unique. The teachers in the police academy and ghosts in the game are very likable, and I kind of wish they had more scenes, especially Yuuko who makes every scene entertaining. The group leader of the first Kurogane team, Amadera Ichigo, is revealed as a girl later on, which left me wondering if I was suppose to believe she was a male before, with her long pink hair and womanly voice. Once the protagonist realized she’s a girl, I thought, how could he not have noticed sooner as it’s very obvious. I do wish Ichigo had more scenes too since her sprite and one CG is very cute. Actually, Yuuko and Ichigo are the characters I would definitely chase after, as they’re both interesting and fun characters, and they’re very pretty.

My opinion on the story is mixed and I thought it could’ve been handled better. The game is very linear and the prologue is very lengthy, the entire game is probably 50 to 60 hours to complete. The story goes day by day, eventually skipping a few days later on. I started on Fusehime route first and the story goes about their daily lives, Valentines Day, and then the climax. This is the template for all of the routes beside the Kaikitan route. I did wonder when was the game going to end since it looked like it was going by really slow, where the prologue begins in the month of January, and each route begins in February and ends in early March. There are times where certain characters had real long discussions of certain topics that felt like a big drag, but comedic scenes were able to make up for it. I initially believed Kurogane Kaikitan to be a serious action packed VN, but it felt more humorous overall, and hey, I’m not complaining. I was kind of rushing the game in the beginning, but after the second route, I took my time and the scenes became fairly fun; I grew fond of the game’s quirky humor.

As for the game’s system, it’s very user friendly and it’s a breeze to plow through. What I liked about Kurogane Kaikitan is the very few choices and how linear it is. After the prologue, it’s basically smooth sailing after that. I didn’t even need a guide as there are only 17 choices in the entire game; the prologue and Fusehime’s route has the most choices, while the rest only had one or two. Also, there’s only one end for each route and then the true end, making the game very easy to complete. I don’t even have to think when picking choices, sometimes it doesn’t even matter what I pick, because I will still end up completing the route anyway. The choices are basically there for fun and you can pick whatever you want. I like that freedom of choice that doesn’t deter away from the route. I also like how I don’t have to deal with bad and normal ends as most of the ends are happy. What also made this game a breeze to finish is the option to skip to the previous and next choice.
There’s also other functions in the game that are quite comical and enhances the user’s experience. There’s a tutorial area where Rokko and Mikasa teaches the player about the world, Kurogane, and some of the important concepts in the game. If one were to continuously enter the tutorial area, they say something different each time until the 10th time. There is also a short scene between characters if you were to return to the title screen during gameplay. Also, depending on the day you play, say, Valentine’s Day, White Day, or other special occasions, characters say a small phrase when starting up the game. There are a lot of small interactions and additions from the characters that make this game very fun.

What made the action packed scenes more thrilling is the music. Kurogane Kaikitan has 30 tracks, usually accompanied with exhilarating and staggering electric guitar, and there are also rock, jolly, and some soothing tracks. There are a few tracks with a traditional Japanese feel to it. In some scenes, some of the tracks sound like it was sync’d with the transitions and special effects that made me go “Aww yeah!!” especially during intense battles. I would say the music is pretty well done, it’s not super amazing or sensational, but it’s good. Each are distinct and notable and played well in their respective scenes.

The art isn’t as good as I thought it’d be. Ok, I didn’t think it was going to be good in the first place anyway so I wasn’t very disappointed, but I’m still saddened. The sprites already show how inconsistent the art is, and as for the CGs, it really can be improved, possibly needing a make over. Kurogane Kaikitan has 74 CGs excluding variations, there are times where some CGs have a totally different variation. Some of the backgrounds in the CGs are just a paint of color with no life, some are stale and are just there because a scene needs a CG. Sometimes the protagonist has a face, sometimes he doesn’t. Some of the characters’ poses and faces in the CGs are a bit awkward or copied. The art is inconsistent and I wouldn’t really call it shoddy, but it can look quite amateurish and unrefined. There are a few CGs I am satisfied with though. Overall, I’m not very pleased with the art even with my low expectations.

2016-03-19-161104Kurogane Kaikitan has the typical shounen type of story and isn’t mind blowing and not too engrossing or anything, but some of the fierce fights, fun characters, and hilarious scenes are pretty well done. Beside the story being somewhat random and complex and the art needing improvement, the best thing about Kurogane Kaikitan is the character interactions and comedic scenes. As you may have noticed, the word I’ve constantly used to describe Kurogane Kaikitan is “fun.” Yes, this VN is very fun. The story shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and really, the humorous scenes are great and easily brush aside the imperfection the game poses. I didn’t expect to be laughing out loud numerous times when I expected a very serious chuuni action packed battle VN. In the end, the game is enjoyable and entertaining even if it’s lengthy. Personally, I liked how long the game was for its price, and Minato Station could possibly have made it even longer if they wanted to go more into detail of specific concepts and mysteries. It would have been better if they lowered the number of terms and concepts since it didn’t really matter that much and some of them barely had any exposure. Speaking of going more into detail, there is actually a short FD, Kurogane Kaikitan -Ichigo Ichie-, that includes more scenes of Ichigo and others in general, but personally, I don’t think it’s worth the price. I am glad Minato Station is willing to expand more on Kurogane Kaikitan since it looks like people didn’t really consider giving this game a try at all, because either they’re waiting for a PC port with ero scenes, or they’re just not interested in a non-H galge no matter how original it is. Personally, I, too, would have liked some erotic scenes to spice things up. Either way, I would recommend Kurogane Kaikitan for those who want a fun time with some decent fighting scenes.

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