A fairy tale that starts with “once upon a time”, as all fairy tales do. Haili Lalique has lived her entire life, or at least nineteen years of it, in a cursed city known as Tokyo that confines its residents unless they wear glass on their person when leaving and make sure to return before midnight, lest they turn into glass themselves and die. Well, at least up to now! After a suspicious wizard called Kashika breaks into Haili’s room and presents to her a pair of glass shoes, her ticket to see the outside world that she’s always longed for, she sets off on her grand adventure to explore and unravel the curse, along with finding out what secrets lie behind it.
Who loves classic fairy tale retellings, because I do! For the more unfiltered version of this post, please head on over here. For a general introduction to the game and what it is about, click here for translations of the pre-release material.
Genre: Joshimuke (female-targeted) love adventure game (otome game, yeah)
Official site: Here
Type: Commercial (Regular: 6804yen / Limited: 8964yen / Digital: 6804yen)
Platform: Nintendo Switch
I’ve had my eye on this game ever since it was teased, what with the premise and all, but I didn’t really keep up with it till close to its release date (October 25). It was mostly because I had some worry about what the actual game would be like, along with how Haili would be written, so I wanted to keep an eye on what people’s early impressions of it were. They were largely positive, which took me by surprise! The biggest surprise was seeing consistent praise for Haili as a protagonist and the overall package, so I ended up caving and buying the game.
I almost wish I placed an early order for it, because I ended up waiting over a month from the time I finally placed mine to when I received it…the wait was painful as I read other spoiler-free impressions to tide me over while rewatching the PV and game opening. I got too excited tearing off the shrink wrap that I nearly cut myself when opening up the package when it arrived. (I say nearly, but I…actually did.) But anyway, on to talking about the actual game!
System menus. The user interface has so many patterns! It’s very pretty to look at.
The backgrounds generally use cool colours. Occasionally, the game adds in some effects to the screen such as floating glass shards, which look pretty, but also makes me think about those stray shards scraping someone if they’re randomly flying around like that. I thought they were all really beautiful to look at! Some of the backgrounds for the forest settings were absolutely breathtaking.
System mechanics. There are three different parameters in the game – affection (on the left), one that measures the choices made during “judgement” (on the right), and how far along the clock is moving to midnight (in the middle).
The wrong judgement can lead you to a premature bad ending, so exercise caution! There are certain judgement choices that can affect what ending you ultimately get, though those are largely reserved to near the end of a route.
The coveted skip to choice/unread text option! It does take up a weird amount of loading time – I can count up to between 10 to 30 seconds before the next scene loads rather than it proceeding seamlessly. I’m glad that this option was included, but it seems kind of wonky to the point that I feel like I’d be better off just sticking to the usual skip read option. As an aside, Period Cube (also by Otomate) that did have this option had no problems jumping between scenes within seconds, so it’s a mystery why this one seems a little broken.
The game also has a chapter select option where you can toggle parameters and start from anywhere you please, so it’s pretty easy to revisit choices and scenes. Chapters will be unlocked as long as you clear them without requiring you to finish an entire route, so it’s quite user-friendly in that regard.
The game has a lot of really neat aesthetics that reflect the fairy tale feel! The frames are very intricately designed, and choices “bloom” when selected. For a little extra flair, you can toggle “ornaments” flanking the display screen that resemble rose vines.
You can also choose whether you want to have touch options for the backlog (the flower curtain on the top left) and the menu (the bird resting on the dialogue box by the right).
Otomate had the game controls for the Switch mimic the Vita’s in terms of positioning with some slight readjustments, so it’s pretty easy to get used to.
The opening! Very sparkly and pink. Haili is very cute. The songs and soundtrack in general have a very soft, twinkling feeling to them. I’m personally fond of the one used for the judgement choices (listed under J on the official website).
Thoughts on the characters and their routes, in the order I did them in. The routes are structured like this: common route (prologue + two chapters) → character route (six chapters) → good or bad ending. On the topic of bad endings, the game has 30 mid-game ones that the official twitter handily documented here. Gotta catch them all! For whatever reason, the game itself does not give you an ending list. You no longer have to worry about trophy completion on the Switch, though, so it’s just a fun thing to do on the side if you want to hunt for them. The common route covers basic interactions with all of the capturable characters, so you can get a feel of everyone before deciding on which route to embark on.
There is an official recommended route order, but I do what I want. If you’re interested in following it, it’s Klone → Shien → Natra or Ulen → Rindo or Ela → Kashika. Personally, my route order was Shien → Ulen → Klone → Natra → Rindo → Ela → Kashika, which didn’t have any issues for me, though I guess you do pick up on some things sooner depending on how you order the routes. It’s really up to you how you want to unfold the story! Each character route has its own mysteries without too much overlap – there might be a plot point you see addressed in a route that could be a background detail in others.
Ela and Rindo are locked characters that require having played through the game at least once by clearing either the good or the bad endings (that are accompanied by the credit roll), and Kashika can only be played upon completion of three character routes. The game even warns you about key story spoilers being divulged in these routes, so you can always back out and change your mind regarding route order if you’re going in blind!
A brief rundown on the general story: Haili chooses a guy to cooperate with in order to lift the curse, and along with that, unfold some other mysteries. …Wow, that was a lot briefer than I thought.
The game handles its character cast by putting them into groups, which are the outsiders (the people living outside of Tokyo: Shien, Ulen, Klone) and the residents (the people living within Tokyo: Ela, Natra, Rindo). Kashika is there. As a result, there isn’t much overlap when it comes to interaction between the two groups, but I guess it does help the writing to be more focused rather than being too scattered in trying to accommodate all the characters within a route.
Along with giving Haili the glass shoes, Kashika also teaches Haili a method of how to lift the curse, which is to move the clock in the watch tower that is frozen in time five minutes towards midnight. Haili can only move it by a minute every month, so this is something that helps to space out the story scenes.
Anyway, enough rambling, and on to the characters! I’ve put up some screencaps along with loose translations, but none of them directly spoil any plot-related content. I do discuss route spoilers that are whited out, but they will show up if you read this using the WordPress Reader, so take caution.
Shien Clinochlore (CV: Hino Satoshi) – I am so thankful the series gives you official romanisations for the characters’ names because they sure are a doozy. A very nice, friendly gentleman who likes preparing tea and wears an eyepatch who lives together with Ulen in a church on the outskirts of the city.
This route has a lot of Cinderella parallels, which I thought was neat with how the game adapted them to fit its own story such as finding out Shien is actually a descendant of royalty, and of course, one can’t forget the part where Haili has to run back to the city in her heels as it’s about to reach midnight, losing one of her shoes in the process. There’s even a follow-up where Shien asks her to sit down, going “I’ve been looking for the person whose foot will fit this glass shoe. Could you try it on?”.
I really like the route for the romantic progression – there’s a part where Shien is about to lean in for a kiss before hastily backing off and actually making sure with Haili that she’s okay with it before they get on with it, which was very refreshing. Haili herself also expresses interest on her end in regards to being involved with Shien, and it was nice to see the relationship feeling like it went both ways.
With this being my first route, I discovered a lot of fun things – the minutes to midnight meter being essentially a red herring (you actually bad end if you have Haili pursue it to the very end), Shien’s bad ending having 3 CGs locked to them rather than the standard 1 or 2 so I was very !?!? when the third one popped up and it was Haili strangling Shien of all things, and that Rindo emanates a lot of suspicious vibes. I do find it kind of funny it does give you a certain impression of some of the other characters before you play their routes, which can either turn out to be a good or a bad thing.
It was really great seeing Haili in action in this route – there are points where Haili assesses risky situations and thinks through them calmly, and more often than not, she’s the one leading Shien away from danger. I really liked the conclusion, where Haili takes off her glass slippers and walks out of Tokyo upon removal of the curse, and Shien going after her and they hug…I tend to zone out a lot during romance scenes in an otome game, but I thought the game did a good job at making me feel invested in their relationship.
Ulen Muller (CV: Uchida Yuuma) – Mr Cool and Rational and What Are Feelings, I Have Never Properly Interacted With A Human Being. Ulen is a researcher who buries himself in his work, so he tends to keep to himself and usually asks (tells) Shien to prepare his tea for him.
- (after Haili rings a very loud doorbell multiple times with no reply until Ulen opens the door) Ulen: Why haven’t you given up yet.
- Haili: I figured that you couldn’t hear me.
One thing I thought was particularly funny about this route is that it renders the midnight meter completely moot after a few chapters, so it’s not something you have to worry about as you go further into the story. I mean, I already knew what it would lead to after Shien’s route, but it did colour my impression of Kashika even more when he pulls some hypnotism shtick that leads to some tension between Haili and Ulen. It does make me wonder what the game wants me to think of him before I even get on his route, haha.
I really like how the route had Haili holding Ulen to his actions, such as him struggling with feelings of jealousy and being entirely unsure of how he feels and still denies that he has any interest in Haili, to which she seriously questions him about it and they talk it out. There was a part where she shoves him into a river and that was great.
The bad ends for this route can get really jarring – it was something when I was doing my first playthrough of the route and it ends with GUESS WHAT SUDDENLY WILD ANIMALS HAILI DIES akin to ROCKS FALL EVERYONE DIES it was. Yeah. Then there are the other bad endings, where Ulen repeatedly stabs Shien and drowns Haili by forcing her head underwater and it was…something. Yeah. I just need to put one whole paragraph documenting my utter bewilderment at some of the bad endings because I just kept going “WHAT THE HELL” upon encountering them. I guess that they do technically fit into the story, but can also feel like they come completely out of the left field.
Klone Spinel (CV: Namikawa Daisuke) – A sullen glass craftsman who tends to be pretty curt and is particularly good at making sweets. He holds a particular distaste for Tokyo and the people who reside in it, so Haili has to make an effort to win him over to get his cooperation. Even Kashika’s all “why did you pick him” upon selecting his route, and Haili’s all “…yeah, why did I”.
- Haili: I wouldn’t have thought that [you disliked spicy things] with how prickly your personality is.
- Klone: I’ve thought this before, but you’re unexpectedly rude.
I really liked the mystery aspect of this route, though I think the medium kind of held it back. Having played Shien and Ulen’s routes prior, I wasn’t expecting a new side character with a sprite (Karigane) to be introduced, and when you get that along with OH NO I WONDER WHO COULD BE BEHIND THESE INCIDENTS in a character-focused route, it’s…well, less than subtle, though it’s not like the game was going HEY LOOK SUSPICION FLAGS except up to the reveal. Other than that, I do like how the game subverted my expectations – there is a scene where Haili is pounced upon by Karigane when she’s by herself, leading you to think she did something completely reckless, until you find it was actually part of her plan she suggested to Klone to lure him out.
Haili is also so absolutely hardcore. When Klone needs a sample of glass from a person who’s turning into it in order to move on with his research, Haili (who got afflicted by the condition by unfortunate chance) gets Kashika to use a chisel and hammer to chip off part of the glass vines growing out from her hand so that she can give it to him. Haili is so cool. Half of my playing experience is “HAILI IS SO CUTE” and the other half is “HAILI IS SO COOL”.
This route also had the most iconic scene where Klone brings Haili to a field of flowers with Klone prefacing it as “there’s something I want to show you” AND PROCEEDS TO FOLLOW IT UP WITH “YOU KNOW, I BURIED MY FRIEND IN THIS VERY PLACE”. I mean, it did lead to him and Haili talking out about their feelings for each other, but I have to admit that it made me laugh with how blunt it was. There was also a good scene with Klone suffering a hangover and Haili teasing him with giving him water only to take it out of his reach.
I actually really like how the bad ending was written with “love” being cast as a curse and that it did work with considering the story’s themes, but it really felt like I was stepping into a completely different dimension like the story took a really shocking swerve. It almost feels like the game was really, really baiting me to pick the “don’t forgive him” option AND WHOOPS GUESS WHAT “HEY KLONE WHEN I TURN INTO GLASS MAKE ME INTO SOMETHING YOU CAN WEAR FOREVER SO THAT I CAN ALWAYS BE WITH YOU”. I do think the game’s framing of “forgiveness” was interesting in that it’s more of the “we will prioritise our own lives and how you will be punished is up to the authorities” way, because I was not very sure what to think about that being the “correct” option at first.
I have to admit I kind of forgot Klone existed at some points until I actually got to his route. He’s part of the outsider trio along with Shien and Ulen, but he has his own place of residence and job to attend to rather than hanging out alongside them, so he doesn’t show up all that much in their routes. As a result, I don’t associate him much with them. He Is There.
Natra Peony (CV: Toriumi Kousuke) – A gatekeeper of Tokyo who really likes gummies, his older brother Rindo, and is generally pretty simple-minded. Described by one of the characters as a “model brocon”, which is pretty spot-on.
- Haili: I do have something I want to check with the gatekeepers, but not with you…
- Natra: You sure can say some super rude things that you look like you don’t mean!!
With how the route is written, a lot of the development between Natra and Haili takes place at the front. The route focus slowly shifted to Rindo at the latter parts of the route, so it could feel kind of disengaging at points where it’s like…huh, this is Natra’s route, right? I guess it’s largely due to the themes of the route that led to Rindo being a major focus, so he had to be tied in in some way. I do think it presented an interesting conflict of having two people important to you being on opposing ends, whose side you want to take, along with making decisions to satisfy yourself rather than for others.
After the conclusion that lead to Rindo being a sacrifice kept within the watch tower, I thought the game would at least have some kind of reunion in the epilogue, but nope, it’s pretty much Haili and Natra chilling as they continue to find a way to free him. It just feels weird when other routes didn’t require anything like a sacrifice for lifting the curse, so I feel like it leads to thinking “is this really necessary” as a player. I can see it as a separate story that can be enjoyed on its own, of course, but it’s the kind of thing that nags at you after you’re done with the story and think back on it going “wait”.
I really had no idea what the writers wanted me to think of Rindo through this route – I was going YOU ARE A TERRIBLE BROTHER half the time and then in the ending Rindo is all by the way I lied Natra I still love you and I am here to help you now. I absolutely love siblings, but it just felt so…weird as Natra was yelling after him as Rindo offers himself up to be a sacrifice considering there was nothing in this route that bridges between that and when he was saying “NATRA, I WAS USING YOU ALL THIS TIME” other than him changing his mind somewhere through. Looking back on it, I guess it was Rindo pushing Natra to be more independent and decide things on his own, but it can feel somewhat incongruent with how Rindo was generally presented in this route.
ALSO, AGAIN WITH THE BAD ENDINGS. For the other characters, even though I thought the story flow could be somewhat abrupt, I could still see them happening within the story context. Natra’s one was a really weird swerve that felt like it went against his entire character…like, you have him still loving Rindo despite Rindo being Like That, but somehow Haili not calling out to him just completely disintegrates whatever care he had for her. I guess I could see it in the “I am literally going to be sealed away forever and you have nothing to say about it huh” way, but it’s still bewildering. It almost feels like the writers were uhhh, this bad ending is really hard to work with this character, just put in whatever works. That, and all the characters do have a yandere-esque bad ending, so I guess this one was just obligatory in terms of the content.
As an addendum, I thought it was hilarious how Toriumi Kousuke’s comment on Natra was “It’s been a while since I’ve voiced a character this loud and energetic, so I kept feeling like my throat was about to explode (laughs)”. I think the last time I heard him as a not calm character was in Trigger Kiss, with Azuma being the epitome of SHOUNEN PROTAGONIST.
Rindo Westeria (CV: Okitsu Kazuyuki) – Like with Ela, I keep thinking Rindo’s surname is Wisteria rather than Westeria…I wonder how they came up with the names. Rindo is a watchman for the clock tower who likes his cheesecake and specimen collections, and is Natra’s older brother.
I personally find it hilarious that you get to experience Rindo’s wild ride in Shien and particularly Natra’s routes, so I kept wondering what kind of impression the game wanted me to have of him before getting on with his story. I was actually going to do Ela’s route before Rindo’s, but I was just so curious about what would go down in it after finishing Natra’s that I bumped it forward. Ela’s route did contain some pretty major spoilers, so I guess that turned out to be a good move on my part.
Before going into this route, I kept wondering how the writers would make it work, and clearly they thought the same BECAUSE SURPRISE, BET YOU WEREN’T EXPECTING HAILI TO GET HIT WITH AMNESIA. Honestly, I really am not sure if this route would’ve worked otherwise, because I feel like with how Haili was in the other routes she probably would not done what she did here if she didn’t get incapacitated by the story in that manner. The front part was generally “well, cool, but when is this going to come crashing down“, and when Haili gets dunked with amnesia after she finds out Rindo collects corpses, it was pretty much “NEVER MIND, GO BACK“. Maybe I could have accepted it if Haili was faking amnesia as a survival instinct, rather than actually being afflicted with it.
I do find Rindo a fun character in other story segments, but his route itself felt like it was a doing a disservice to him and Haili when it was trying to facilitate romance scenes such as “I FORGIVE YOU FOR COLLECTING CORPSES BECAUSE I LOVE YOU” after he’s all “yeah my past doesn’t exactly excuse me from what I did”, along with the vaguely implied fact that thanks to Haili ~ accepting everything ~ made Rindo reconsider his life choices and being all “Hm, maybe I am making a Big Miss Steak”. I mean, I get it, there’s a huge overarching theme with Haili’s acceptance leading the characters to change, but I was really not fond of how it was executed here. I did like the ending and the ideas it had in mind, but the journey there made it hard for me to digest.
The development in the second half of the route made me keep questioning if it was an extended bad ending messing around with me or part of the story, which is an unfortunate yes to the latter one, and as such I really could not get into it. I guess the game tries its best when you get Rindo straight up confessing to Haili after a couple of chapters regarding the real reason behind her memory loss among other things, but I was still wondering if he was faking it or being sincere and it was really hard to empathise with him when the story kept going YEAH HE HAD AN AWFUL PAST. IF YOU HAVE TO RESORT TO AMNESIA TO MAKE THE ROMANCE HAPPEN RIGHT AFTER DISCOVERING SOMEONE YOU KNOW COLLECTS CORPSES…MAYBE…DON’T?
It just led to me going THIS FEELS REALLY FAKE, WHEN IS THE GAME GOING TO HIT ME WITH THE BIG BAT ALREADY. If you ever want to feel like you’re in a survival horror, Rindo’s route is great for making you really feel that “is this going to get Haili killed” doubt every time you pick a choice. I have to admit that there was one point I voluntarily picked an option that would obviously lead to a premature bad ending because it was very tiring to deal with largely for what I mentioned above. I think it’s probably for the better that I ended up playing Ela’s route after his so that I didn’t get stuck with this impression of him for the whole game.
Ela Amarlic (CV: Hanae Natsuki) – I keep thinking Ela’s surname was read as Almaric, and knowing that it’s Amarlic keeps making me think of garlic. Ela is a librarian within Tokyo and is a childhood friend of Natra and Rindo (kind of like a tag-along younger brother to the two of them, as well). Looks fairly mature for his age (nineteen, which is the same as Haili), but has a somewhat teasing side to him, which took me by surprise.
This route kept making me think that it was a route where you get to date M rather than Ela, and it’s hilarious in hindsight when you find out that Ela is M…thinking about it, I guess I never picked up on that possibility because I really like siblings. (Also funny in hindsight: “Ela, what is M’s real name?” “I’m not at liberty to say!”) It does make sense in that you never see Ela and M together though you do as a player get to listen in on their “conversations”, and even more so when you wonder why there are choices that raise Ela’s affection when conversing with M. To a more observant person, this would probably make it very obvious. I just thought M was really into Haili or wanted to act as a wingman for Ela. …Then I remember that the game itself labels Ela as an “imposter” in even the promotional materials, so I guess it wasn’t being exactly subtle, either.
After you know about Ela’s relation to the story, it’s hard to not feel bad every time the game still gives you the choice of moving forward the needle or not. Something I thought was interesting about the bad endings here is that the game really does put it in the hands of the player, particularly at the part where Haili can either confess or withhold saying anything about her link with the astrolabe. (This does not include the one you can get at low affection near endgame where Ela goes on a paranoia spiral and violently strangles Haili with a ribbon she gave him as a present.) I could really feel that “it’s all your fault” that seeped through in the resulting ending…also, wow, getting that CG before the credit roll made me go “WELL, WE SURE DID MESS UP”.
One thing I thought was interesting in this route is that Ela’s the one in the role of the “caged princess”, even accompanied by the “evil mother”, with their own set of circumstances. Haili’s the one who invites Ela to see the world outside with her, going so far as to even make and give a mock invitation to him. The prince inviting the princess to the ball! I thought that Ela and Haili had really cute interactions, though I did think he could be a little clingy at times, laughs.
Playing this route after Rindo’s was weird, because every time Rindo was being a good friend to Ela and helping him out by probing around regarding his confinement and having fun banter between him and Natra and being a largely pleasant presence in assisting Haili, I kept thinking “oh…thanks…but I keep thinking about the corpse collection you have in your house that will probably never be addressed in any route except yours, which was it own can of worms“. I feel a vague survival instinct bubbling up every time the game pans to Rindo’s house.
Kashika Galle (CV: Sugiyama Noriaki) – The suspicious wizard that breaks into Haili’s room. Generally pretty carefree and has an otter friend named Campanella. I love how Haili reacts to everything Kashika does with a healthy amount of skepticism, such as this scene early on when she runs into her best friend Eris while accompanied by him:
- Eris: Who is he?
- Haili: Um, well…
- Kashika: …
- Haili: …well, I wonder?
- Kashika: If you don’t properly introduce me, she’s going to think I’m a suspicious person.
- Haili: You are the very definition of a suspicious person.
I think it’s kind of funny to get on this route, because if you had played all the routes prior to this, you…really don’t go in with a good impression and my sole thought throughout was “Kashika, you better have a good reason for this, and even then, I hope Haili pushes you into a river for it”. I think the game itself also knows that you expect things to come crashing down, so there was a sudden flurry of Otome (TM) scenes in the front and then you have Kashika going “BY THE WAY, I LIED TO YOU ALL THIS TIME”. Again, it works for the story flow, but it can feel somewhat abrupt.
Haili is definitely at her peak here when it comes to exchanging banter with Kashika, with iconic scenes such as “wow, Kashika, you’re kind of old-fashioned for a prince, but I guess that’s to be expected with a 200 year generation gap” and “no, no girl your age would just have an axe in your closet”. She really just goes for what she wants here, which honestly made this route very enjoyable when she constantly calls out Kashika on his actions.
There was one part that I thought was particularly hilarious where Kashika thinks “what’s wrong with self-satisfaction”, and I have no problems with that sentiment, except that the context that it was used in was in regards to literally ending the world, so it was “yeah, that kind of is a problem”. Go out there and achieve your dreams no matter what it is, be it ending the world or becoming the world’s best baker. I did really like how Haili yells at him that he needs to Get It Together, and that she can help him if he wants to change, but ultimately he’s the only one who can save himself.
I did think there would have been more to Kashika’s route, but it was pretty much just him nursing a grudge for 200 years and…that was it. I mean, you know that Kashika wants to spread the curse – literally all the other routes tell you as much, so the only thing his route does address is the “why”, along with some other story elements you probably might have picked up on. It’s not that it didn’t work with how the story progressed, but I did feel like they could have added other elements to it? There were some interesting concepts that feel like they weren’t fully maximised, so it can feel somewhat shallow as a result.
One thing I really liked about this route is that Haili’s the one who does the final narration that leads to the conclusion. “Now, my prince. The curse has finally come to an end. Our happy ending is just about to begin.” It was fantastic in that Haili is the one who truly does bring everything to an end…but I guess it’s kind of funny with how it contrasts with the bad ending if you make the wrong judgement choices. I was interested in seeing how the bad endings developed while keeping them in line with the characters’ personalities, but sometimes it’s like stumbling into a closet full of skeletons, going “oh, cool, I’ll excuse myself”, and then gently shutting the door and going back to the good ending.
The game has a set of extras with 10 episodes of all the characters bantering about silly things and pondering over the hard-hitting questions, such as “what would you do in a zombie apocalypse” and “are you a sadist or a masochist”. It’s a great way to end off the game. One of my favourite conversations:
- Shien: How would you kill me [if I became a zombie]?
- Ulen: A single headshot.
- Shien: Thank you.
- Klone: Why are you thanking him.
Every single otome game should have these extras. The character interactions are supremely fun.
Overall thoughts. There are parts of the story that feel like they could have been better structured – you can more or less tell Rindo and Kashika are varying shades of shady as you go along, so when it comes to playing their routes, you’re pretty much waiting for the other shoe to drop while the usual otome hijinks take precedence in the beginning. I guess it’s interesting to see in a way if going into the routes will reverse the initial impression you get of them.
I like that the game explores different story aspects between routes which keeps them fresh, but they don’t work very cohesively together when thinking of them as a whole (especially in Natra’s route, where it really lends to the feeling of “was there no way to solve this like how the other routes did?”). The conclusion of the game does discuss the nature of branching stories, so I guess it’s something worth thinking about whether or not if it’s a good or a bad thing depending on personal preferences. I personally didn’t have much issue with it because exploring varying perspectives is one of my favourite aspects of the visual novel genre, rather than routes being painted with the same stroke.
As the game draws a lot from fairy tales, some of the developments can feel somewhat “simplistic” or lacking depth to them (some rely quite heavily on allusions), but I guess they work for moving the story along. I think that there are a lot of things that work for the story progression throughout routes, but when you think back on it, it does make you go “huh…it feels like they could have done more”. Ultimately, it’s an interesting ride, but I can understand if people find that it doesn’t leave too much of a lingering impression. I do have to admit that some of the bad endings stand out to me way more, haha – I can’t stop laughing how someone described it as “Handsome men being driven to the brink of madness and despair really is the greatest…ah, no, it’s not that I particularly like bad ends”.
I thought how the choices were structured were interesting – a lot of the “stupid” decisions in the game are actually left entirely up to you as a player to act on rather than it being forced on Haili as part of the story. There are a lot of points where you can make choices where the “correct” one is obvious so it’s like, are you as a player willing to commit to making Haili do decisions that you know are a bad idea, especially the ones regarding the moving of the needle? Haili herself is unaware of the ramifications, but you as a player are after having went through the other routes and endings, so it’s not like you can’t make an informed decision by the time you know (but I guess that would be a lead-in to illusion of choice, laughs). But you can make the choice! Except that you’ll have to be prepared for how it ends.
The major ones that stand out to me are in Ela’s route, where you can choose to have Haili confess to him or not regarding her involvement in the astrolabe, and to either trust in his words or Kashika’s at the final moment. You most likely know at that point that Kashika is up to no good but not Haili, so the only reason you’d pick it is to see what outcome you’d get. I guess it’s interesting to consider the player-versus-protagonist view, because in a story, you can see all the what-ifs even if it’s the result of a very conscious bad decision you made as a player for the protagonist to act on that they wouldn’t usually do.
Speaking of which, the bad endings for the game are…well, to each their own! They didn’t bother me much, but I can understand how it might affect one’s view on a character to see how wildly they can swing from how they are in the bad endings compared to the good endings. The way the yandere-esque elements are added to this game feel almost obligatory, so I kind of regard them as an alternate dimension thing, but I can understand if people have difficulty divorcing them from the characters’ inherent personalities. Conversely, if you like yandere-esque bad endings, congratulations! I think the best comment I read regarding them is “it’s probably best to enjoy them in a context completely separate from the main story”.
I definitely feel like there was a lot of effort put into making the individual routes stand out, and I found it easy to get absorbed in each one I played. I really liked following all the stories each route had, along with the character interactions! I think it works really well as a fairy tale, but when it comes to a visual novel medium, I feel like it makes you expect there to have more “depth”. There were parts where I feel like it could have used more padding or beef to it, but I think that overall it was pretty appropriately paced. Not particularly mind-blowing, but serviceable, and generally pleasant.
Haili placed third in the character poll, and I thought it was interesting how a lot of the reactions I saw that mentioned having yet to play the game said that “wow, if a protagonist is so beloved in an otome game, then surely it must be a work up to par”, with even those that had played the game thinking it was somewhat of an expected result. If I’m not mistaken, Haili might be the highest placed protagonist out of all of the character polls Otomate has run for initial releases so far – the closest other protagonists have come is fourth place (Futaba from Trigger Kiss and Jed from Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk). Cardia ranked fifth in the first game for Code: Realize but was ranked third in the subsequent fandiscs. I love the published comments that are all “I’m so jealous of all the guys that get to be with her!” and “It’s an otome game, but it’s the first time I thought that I don’t want to hand the heroine over to any of the guys (laughs)”. You go, girl.
I was very hopeful about Haili upon stepping into the game, and I was pretty satisfied! After having played the game myself, I’d say that her position is well-earned. Haili is very refreshingly grounded in her reactions and has a lot of fun interactions with the characters, such as her first reaction to Kashika breaking into her room to call for her brother, and arguing with Natra over which of their brothers is cooler than the other. She has a surprisingly good head on her shoulders and is a very active driving force in the story when it comes to her pursuit for information. “Even though her role is that of Cinderella’s, she’s more like everyone’s prince!”
The art for the game is really pretty. I really liked some of the compositions for the CGs. There’s 100 of them (13 for all the capturable characters sans Kashika with 12, and 10 grouped in “other”) and 70 variations if I counted right, so that’s a total of 170 if you put it together.
The Switch as a console: not a fan. Comparing it to the Vita, it’s considerably heavier and bulkier if you want to use it as a portable console, and I find that the battery also drains quite fast – going by my liveblog timestamps, I can get in a maximum of maybe 2 to 3 hours playtime before I have to plug it to a charger. I guess it’s not something you have to worry about if you connect it to a television, but it ultimately boils down to personal preference.
Transferring screenshots is extremely troublesome – rather than just hooking up the Switch to a computer and doing a data transfer the old-fashioned way, you either have to use image uploading sites as a proxy or get a memory card to move between devices. TO ADD TO THAT, THERE IS A SCREENSHOT LIMIT OF 1,000 IF YOU’RE NOT USING A MEMORY CARD. THANKS, NINTENDO. Taking screenshots is probably the most painless thing I like about it, though – just one click and you’re all good to go, even with recording videos!
The physical bonuses for the game are really neat. The booklet that comes with the limited edition version of the game provides character profiles, character design drafts, and some goofy conversations between the characters discussing the CGs, like how you have Haili commenting on Ulen crying with “Everyone, Ulen too is capable of crying! He’s human like us!”. On an somewhat related note, my favourite PR for the game that the official twitter put out is “Every boy will definitely cry at least once!! Of course, there will be a reason for their tears!!“.
I wrote a little on the limited edition booklet here. The most interesting developer commentaries included in it are the reasons behind the characters’ names.
I also got the Stellaworth booklet which is the size of a mini novel – it’s 88 pages long and details epilogues that happen after the good and the bad endings in the game for all seven capturable characters. I wrote a little about it here, albeit informally.
I’m pretty happy that I’m (probably) ending off 2018 with this game! It’s almost like a callback to last year, when I took my first actual foray into the world of importing otome games with Kyoukai no Shirayuki (another otome game themed around fairy tales directed by Koide Yuuri). It feels almost nostalgic…I was really, really excited about Cendrillon Palika that I actually started writing up my thoughts and impressions between routes, rather than leaving it to when I finished the game. I hope the game’s done well for Otomate…I’d at least love to see an art book for it, or more new illustrations for the characters. I had fun with it, and that’s all I really need!
I think it’s a game worth playing if you ever do have a Switch. The characters and interactions are all very enjoyable, and I feel like it’s easy to come off the game liking at least something about it! I found myself interested enough in it to pursue it to the very end within a little over a week of buying the game. I also love fairy tale themes, so that was a bonus for me. I particularly liked the music for the game which were really good at setting the moods. I do kind of miss collecting Vita trophies with the move to the Switch, but I guess I will no longer have to mourn over those that take great pains to achieve, laughs.
A couple of Hailis I drew before getting the game because I was really excited for it. If anyone out there wants to talk about the game with me, I’m all ears.