Hanamaki Ichiko’s older brother has mysteriously disappeared since a year ago, and she goes about her daily life waiting for updates on the incident until her childhood friend, Kagutsuchi Hino, suggests that they visit the very place where her brother went missing in to find out the truth for themselves. Ichiko is hesitant to accept his invitation at first, but after thinking it over, she agrees. Thus commences their journey to Okunezato, where they meet up with some new friends and learn about the secrets the town is hiding.
Developer: Otomate (translated by Aksys)
Genre: Otome game
Official site: Here
Platform: PS Vita / PC (this post covers the Vita version)
Language: Japanese / English (this post covers the English version)
First things first, graphics. The backgrounds have a very rustic feel to them. There are a bunch which are animated that helps the game feel very atmospheric. When the characters are traveling on a bus, the scenery outside the window moves, and there are times when you can see the sky distorting a little to portray the summer heat. It’s pretty neat.
The game also has a really neat way of how it displays its story selections! I like the idea of the movie reel.
The game’s opening! Aksys mysteriously did not upload it on their own channel, so here’s this instead. There are two versions of the opening, though this is the more “standard” one that introduces you to the characters. I like the song quite a fair bit, and there are some pretty cool visual effects.
Here is a trailer for the game that Aksys did put up. The music does a really good job at setting the atmosphere, I feel!
With the technical aspects out of the way, here’s my impressions on the story and character routes, in the order I played them in. A general overview of how 7’scarlet plays out: Ichiko and Hino touch down in Okunezato, meet a bunch of people, and Ichiko resolves to find out the mystery behind her missing brother. Things happen, she becomes closer friends with one of the guys, and as their relationship progresses, things also start happening around them.
The game isn’t exactly segmented into chapters, though there are eyecatches that flash in between significant scenes. It is extremely linear in that all the routes follow the same overarching plot, and the only real variation is the guy Ichiko ends up with. Depending on the guy, there are some various mysteries that come to light, so the game at least did not feel too dry when going through the different routes.
Spoilers are whited out, but they will show up if you read this using the WordPress Reader, so take caution.
Amari Isora (CV: Kakihara Tetsuya) – The resident flirty chef who can make just about everything, though his main interest lies in making sweets. I picked him over Hino on my first run because I wanted to know what the supposed secret of his is. I was extremely disappointed that it was just him confessing to having been raised in Okunezato as a child, because…the game was not exactly making that subtle? THAT REVEAL WAS SO UNDERWHELMING I HAVE TO MAKE A NOTE OF IT HERE. YOU GIVE ME THAT INTRIGUE AND LET IT FIZZ OUT IN A SAD FART. (As an addendum, that kind of applies to the game as a whole.)
Anyway, putting that aside, Isora’s route was…well. It basically culminates into Isora locking Ichiko away in a confined room because There Be Danger Out There. The flow of it was really weird in that the game had scenes where Isora yells at Ichiko that he’s doing this for her own good and being threatening to a point that Ichiko refrains from speaking out to not agitate him, followed almost immediately by a scene where Isora is shirtless and Ichiko is wow hot a what and they just…start flirting with each other? Huh? The kicker is that the game definitely wants you to think Isora’s actions are justified, because all the affection-raising options are basically to “blindly trust him” and any attempts to leave the room will lead to Ichiko getting killed. Hm, yeah, I guess that Ichiko’s at fault for anything that happens to her, just let Isora come in to save the day!
My general feelings towards 7’scarlet are somewhere along the lines of apathy, but Isora manages to induce one of the strongest feelings I have for the game, which is wanting to punch him in the face (along with a couple of other characters). On the bright side, since he ended up being the first route I played, it meant that I could ditch him forever after finishing his route. Farewell…I never have to think about you again...
Kagutsuchi Hino (CV: Shimazaki Nobunaga) – A childhood friend of Ichiko who likes cute mascots and totally does not have an obvious crush on her. One thing I cannot stop laughing about his route that for some reason, whenever the game describes Hino, it likes to make a point about his arms being strong and muscled whenever they pop up in the description. Yes, I know he lifts, thanks for reminding me.
Hm, I really don’t have much to say about Hino’s route. Things Happen, but like Isora, they don’t really feel like they’re of major consequence, so it feels very There. Hino’s route also feels very eh for me in that there’s a lot of “good” options that basically boil down to ICHIKO LET ME PROTECT YOU YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING. I guess there were a bunch of cute moments, but I ultimately don’t find myself caring much for it.
Kushinada Toa (CV: Morikubo Shoutarou) – A very reserved guy who gets flustered easily and tends to be surrounded by cats and more cats. I found it hilarious that the game kind of spoils his identity to you if you had checked out your trophies in the middle of playing. Not that the anagram was helping to conceal much, anyway.
The way this route played out is, again, exactly what I feel with Hino and Isora – Things Happen, but they never really feel like they’re of any major consequence? There also seemed to be some incongruity with how Ichiko was written – in Isora’s route, she just throws all caution to the wind and was all I WUV YOU, and with Toa’s route she actually acts much more rational going “uh, we’ve met for only two days, why do you like me at all”. I guess that Toa’s route was written in such a way so that it could segue into the true route, which I do have a better impression of, but overall…eh.
Tatehira Sosuke (CV: Sawashiro Chiharu) – A walking dictionary who will always be ready to fire off the first search engine result for anything you might have a query for. Ichiko has some pretty fun interactions when she teases him for being too serious about things, which was refreshing, though it didn’t help much to detract from Sosuke’s route feeling like I just got hit in the face with an encyclopedia dump.
The game does touch more on the plot that happens, and while the mystery was interesting, the game feels like it isn’t being subtle at all when it gives you clues to figure things out? You find out that Tsukuyomi’s been the one who’s been after Ichiko all this time, but the game has…more or less been guiding you to that conclusion. There’s a scene where Sosuke asks Ichiko to describe her brother to him, and then says that oh he kind of reminds of Tsukuyomi though I’m not sure why (and this is Sosuke going off a description of someone he has never met). It felt very…huh? Am I supposed to take this at face value? And then it turns out that you are. I’m not very sure what to feel with how some of the plot threads are structured.
Murakumo Yuzuki (CV: Shinichiro Miki) – The guy who runs the only hotel on the island and is pretty much the epitome of No Fun Allowed. Well, at least until Ichiko steps into the picture. I think that Ichiko and Yuzuki had some pretty fun scenes together, but sometimes, I couldn’t really feel the flow of things happening at all, and I was just kind of like “eh, alright”. It was pretty neat how Ichiko did step up in this route to uncover the truth behind things, and the conclusion did make me laugh, but I also just couldn’t really feel for anything that happened at all.
So, overall thoughts. When I first started up the game and was going through the common route, I had a lot of fun with it! There’s actually quite a lot of flavour in the character interactions, and it was very enjoyable seeing everyone go at it. The tips section (which basically functions as an in-game dictionary) is also very fun to read through. When the story starts branching into the individual routes, however, it feels a little like the game’s life is entirely sapped out? After finishing the game, it’s kind of like everyone’s forced into their roles to make everything “fit”, and it ends up feeling very flat to me.
In regards to Ichiko as a protagonist, she can think for herself and is determined in pursuing her goals, but the game doesn’t really give her an opportunity to do things? She can feel very There with how the game writes her as constantly spacing out. There’s a lot of things that Happen to her, and I feel that how she typically reacts is mostly justified, but ultimately, she’s kind of written into a role where there’s basically a giant target painted on her, both literally and metaphorically, and most of the time the game just has her flail on her own before her knights in shining armour step up. There are times when she decides to venture out on her own, but of course we can’t have her going off by herself, which usually lead to situations where she’s in danger and can’t do much to fend for herself. Ichiko does have some pretty good moments, but they’re mostly limited to the later half of the game. Again, I know what the point of an otome game is, but come on, let your protagonists in on the action.
On that topic, the way the relationship progression plays out in 7’scarlet feels very barebones to me. There’s a semblance of Otome (TM) moments that happen in one set event throughout all the routes, but beyond that, it doesn’t really feel like Ichiko and the guy connect all that much as the route develops? As you go through the story, you find out that literally all the love interests have this one significant incident that connects them to Ichiko in their childhood, all of which basically lead to “YOU WERE NICE TO ME IN THIS ONE (1) POINT OF MY LIFE SO I HAVE LOVED YOU FOR TEN YEARS COUNTING AND ALSO YOU ARE PROBABLY THE REASON I EXIST?”. Yeah. Again, I can get why a single experience in your formative years can have a big impact on who you are as a person, but again, please just learn how to live your own lives and find other avenues of support other than basing it on a single person! It’s just overkill!
The game has a lot of themes that deal with life, death, desires, and while I thought the execution could feel rather shallow at times, it did seem to put in some effort into digging at them a little. There are some scenes that did particularly stick with me, and the game also does a good job with setting atmosphere through the music and backgrounds. I think that it can capture tension and suspense quite well (on the first time you play through the game). I was quite fond of the side characters, who had a pretty strong presence in how things unfolded. My takeaway from this game would have been that it was somewhat bland, but it was still okay to go through and gave me things to think about (though it still wouldn’t really be something I’d recommend because everything feels so…lacking).
Until the final route came into play, that is.
The non-spoiler version of this is that the final route…completely changes how you view the entire premise of the game and undermines everything about it, or at least for me, and quite frankly speaking, it completely transformed any goodwill I might’ve initially had for the game into disdain. I was shooting off very, very angry messages in succession to my friend as I was playing it.
The spoiler version of this (whited out spoilers to follow) is that the entire premise of the game is based on the fact that Hanate (Ichiko’s brother, but of course he technically isn’t blood-related since he’s a route, Just Otome Game Things) LITERALLY MANIPULATED ICHIKO’S ENTIRE LIFE AND MEMORIES. The whole game starts off because he saw Ichiko as a kid and suddenly felt compelled to protect her, and as someone who’s sort of a reality warper, he basically influences Ichiko and her friends to think of him as her family. This continues on for how many years until his disappearance, and Ichiko goes to Okunezato to look for him, kickstarting the plot.
It was…quite baffling that the game, after giving you this information, somehow expects you to feel sorry for Hanate’s loneliness to have to resort to, I don’t know, KIDNAPPING A GIRL AND COMPLETELY CHANGING REALITY TO SUIT HIS OWN NEEDS, and I could not connect to how distraught Ichiko was at the thought of him possibly dying to save her at the end because how much of that is actually her own feelings or just influenced by Hanate? For a game that likes to go on about people’s wills motivating them to come back from the dead, how much of Ichiko’s thoughts actually belong to her? Did she truly want to search for Hanate on her own, or was it because of Hanate’s influence on what she thinks of him? Have I been following her story and thoughts all along, or was it all Hanate that caused her to think this way? Is Hanate trying to fish for sympathy from you as a player through Ichiko by what she thinks of him? In a meta sense, I guess this something interesting to think about, but the game presents it in a way that oh no, Ichiko Very Definitely Feels Something For Hanate as if they forgot the fact that Hanate…literally hijacked Ichiko’s memories to begin with…? You can’t just tell me that oh, even if he Did influence her thoughts, this is all her own feelings? The problem here is that even if Ichiko did feel something for Hanate, how can it even feel genuine when you know Hanate’s been the one who more or less manipulated her emotions? And even if Ichiko does forgive him for doing what he did, am I supposed to just forget that he was hanging over Ichiko like a shadow for the bulk of her formative years because he was lonely or something and had to ~ protect her ~? Excuse me?
It’s not as if the game couldn’t have done something with that too – like, if Ichiko now knows that her life was originally under Hanate’s influence, it would actually make the other routes much more significant in that Ichiko is breaking away from him to pursue her own life (and romance), accepting that her brother is likely lost to the world and moving on. Hell, they might’ve been on to something if this was the actual premise of the game and the idea of it was Ichiko gaining her own independence and agency throughout the story. I guess that that’s the idea of the final route in a way, but the game just pretty goes whatever and has Ichiko say lines like NO MATTER WHAT YOU DID YOU ARE MY BROTHER (EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ONLY BECAUSE YOU MANIPULATED ME INTO THINKING SO). And precisely because the game chooses this route for you to conclude the game on (due to the enforced route order), you can very…clearly tell that the game does want you to sympathise with Hanate. Not on my watch, 7’scarlet.
I am going to be completely blunt that the “to say goodbye is to die a little” at the end was incredibly obnoxious to me. LIKE, MAYBE THIS WHOLE MESS WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED IF HANATE DIDN’T JUST SUDDENLY DECIDE TO TAKE ICHIKO FOR HIMSELF? IT IS YOUR FAULT? WHY DO I NEED TO CARE ABOUT YOU? I think that the game might’ve at least gotten me to feel more for things happening if they didn’t give Hanate a backstory that basically…completely undermines Ichiko, and by extension, THE LITERAL ENTIRETY OF THE PLOT (or have his route even be a thing to begin with), but unfortunately, it is Like That. I would’ve taken the fact that the mystery isn’t fully solved if his route didn’t come into the picture, because honestly it does the game more of a disservice with it being added in. On the bright side, reading the letter in Toa’s good ending that unlocks when you clear the true route does somewhat mitigate my feelings on the very unfortunate implications of Hanate’s route since it felt like it was closer in heart to the themes of the game, but my impression of the game had soured too much by then for that to salvage it.
Overall, I thought that 7’scarlet was a decent game that had interesting themes, but that’s only if I disregard the final route as something that existed and it had ended off on the “true” route. If I were to talk about 7’scarlet as a whole, my exact feelings would be that if I could set my Vita on fire while the game was still loaded into it, I would. There were already some frustrating points, and the final route was just the cherry on a very terrible cake. I am eternally grateful my friend lent me this game rather than me buying it because I feel like I would be very compelled to throw it at a wall if I saw it among my other games. I do unfortunately own the Japanese version that I put on my backlog, but I am probably going to set myself free from it.
I think that if you’re interested in mysteries, the game isn’t…bad, per se, but it also guides you to think in a certain way to a point where it’s like, is the game trying to make things very obvious for you to pick up on, or is it meant to be a red herring? Things like that. Admittedly, when the game has major reveals I’m always not sure whether to think of it as genuine or a fake-out due to how they feel like they don’t really carry a lot of impact? There’s a very muted “oh, things are just like that” feel to them. I guess it really depends on how you end up feeling when the denouement happens. It mixes mystery and romance elements together, but I feel like it doesn’t really do a good job of both? While there were some aspects of the game I liked, there’s just…a lot of things that brought down my enjoyment, and I just feel nothing but complete apathy to it. I guess the one good thing is that I’ll never have to voluntarily play it ever again.
To sum everything up: