Foreword: Aaaaaaand finished! With school started (on Monday to be precise), I find that I have even less time to play eroge, much to my dismay. Perhaps it’s about time I left my MMORPG hobbies…
Nonetheless, we have another ensemble game! Unfortunately, it seems that even this company is suffering from the degradation in quality: this game was minimal in terms of quality, and in my opinion (and I say it reluctantly) crappy.
Really, I fell in love with Damamuko and maybe Gokigen Naname, but it’s just ridiculous how rapidly a company will fall in a course of a few years :|
Well, I’ll try to cover as much as I can… Next up are three titles I’ve been eye’ing from the August Releases (with some nukige titles), and we’ll see how that goes. AstralAir and Hello Lady is next on the list after that.
Title: ゴールデンマリッジ (Golden Marriage)
Release Date: May 30, 2014
VNDB Link: http://vndb.org/v14264
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=795844
Game Type: Romance Novel with themes of Economy (?)
Summary: They say that marriage is like the “grave of life”, but others say that it’s the “Golden Time” of your life instead. At least for Nagisa, the protagonist of this story, marriage wasn’t something he had in mind.
He is the successor to the very wealthy Tachibana family, and sincerely wishes to continue the family name with all respect to the people who adopted him and raised him as if their own. This is when he is soon challenged to find a partner: he will need to find someone who will support him for the rest of his life and stand with him as he succeeds the family.
“There’s no need for money if you have love!” That’s what they all say… Will it apply to Nagisa as well?
As fate would have it, the girls dormitory at Nagisa’s school is heavily damaged with an earthquake, so in order to renovate it, all the girls who lives there must move out… but to where?
Well, Nagisa’s step-mother is the School headmaster, and being the responsible woman she is, she invites them all over to her house!
and thus begins the story of Golden Marriage
The entire crew!
Story Length: Moderate (~15 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Easy
Comments: Nothing too big here: just need to blitz through the beginning choices until you reach the school festival, and voila, a 6-way split (provided you have the Marika patch).
Character Design Rating: 5/10
Story Rating: 3/10
Protagonist Rating: 2/10
Game Quality: Low
Overall Rating: 3/10
Rating Comments: All in all, this is a minimally rating game due to the story being relatively crappy. The game does have a good build-up during the common route, but all that effort in making up the climax is thrown right out the window with the protagonist randomly falling in love with choosing someone at a single selection menu. This is aside the fact that ensemble tries to squeeze a conflict at the very end of a heroine route, which ironically made it anticlimactic instead. (You’ll understand my disappointment if you played the game)
Character Design falls greatly due to characters seeming waaaay too “fake”, as in, the character’s personalities do not seem natural: it seems too “forced” (in another sense, too good to be true). In addition, ensemble’s going to get points deducted every time they use the “ojou-sama” character. Seriously. What the fuck ensemble. EVERY GAME YOU MAKE HAS ONE. STAP. SRSLY.
Well, the twist in this game is that it’s the protagonist that’s the unbelievably-super-rich character, except the game then goes to show you that the protagonist had experiences in the past where he would “flirt” with girls (and he even admits in game to having sex with some of them), and the girls would really be dating him for his money. That’s a good background setting and all that, but you really need to SHOW the readers that it happened: not just say it was like that. AT LEAST put a reminiscence scene in the beginning episodes involving his past.
They add these “imaginary” CGs, though
I can say “I conquered the universe”, but I’d look like a dumbass if I actually couldn’t show any proof, right? Same here. Just words are not enough in some cases, and it’s definitely how it is here.
Protagonist rating falls even more because of his unnatural design (seriously, what’s with the character design nowadays?) of being “absolutely perfect” at least in the eyes of the people around him, which ironically contradicts with his past when he was playing around with girls. In addition to this, Nagisa never does anything in the game to make the girls fall in love with him: they’re all just in love with him and that’s it.
Bullshit. (Oh, and he also falls in love for no reason too)
Lastly, Ensemble really needs to ditch the economics shit. Their company name is ENSEMBLE, you know, as in the group of MUSIC? Where the fuck did all the money talk and economic theories come from anyways? They might as well change their name to something like “Profit” or something (although that’s kinda shady in itself) /rant
Character Summary: Right, character summaries. I’m probably just going to repeat what it says on Getchu anyways, but oh well.
Touko is first, and the beginning scenes show her waiting for Nagisa… so she can go into his house to use the bathroom. This strange girl is then shown to be an otaku; loving video games as much as the next guy. For the reference, she’s a “childhood friend” character.
Despite this strange characteristic, Touko seems to be extremely skilled when it comes to something we all know as “investment” (At this point, I found it funny that if you translate Touko’s name and the word “investment” into Korean, they’re the exact same characters), and proves this throughout the game.
Perhaps because of this skill, she is also the one who provides anything from small games to vital information to the group.
While I found it favorable that Touko “acts” the role of Nagisa’s fiancee to keep the other girls away, I really didn’t like her route in general because it was all about how Nagisa suddenly finds this “childhood friend” to be irresistibly cute.
Next is Rei, an interesting character, honestly, in the sense that she becomes involved with Nagisa after seeing him in a magazine to be someone ideal for her. She flat out transfers to Nagisa’s school and calls him out: saying that she’s willing to marry him for his money, since she wants to further her skills with her Viola. Obviously, Nagisa refuses, but Rei’s not really the one to give up that easily.
Being one of the ones to evacuate to Nagisa’s house, most of her route shows Nagisa being dragged by her to enter in the Music Concour.
Rei’s route was pretty much shit because it flat out says the girl was out for Nagisa’s money, but suddenly changes her mind within a course of a few weeks to the point she is now in it for him instead: she doesn’t care really about the money. In this sense, she fits the game’s quote “As long as there is love, then there’s no need for money”, but with no transition, Rei might as well be another crappily designed character.
Next, Kasumi. This character is shown to be one year younger than Nagisa but his “senpai” at the restaurant that he works in. It is immediately shown that Kasumi is very poor, and struggling to make ends meet as she raises a younger brother and sister. (At this point, I was reminded of Otoha)
Kasumi’s involvement with Nagisa starts when Debtors suddenly ambush her, showing her a paper that proves that her parents borrowed an enormous amount of money (approx. 50,000 USD), and she must now pay it in lieu of them. Obviously not having any money, Kasumi is forced to sell her body to protect her siblings.
What do you know? Nagisa comes along and BAM! He pays the entire debt in a single sweep.
Now, as Kasumi feels more affection towards this person who saved not only her, but her siblings as well, she then finds out that the person she loves is living with girls all over the place. Using the debt as an excuse, she forces herself onto Nagisa’s house, so she can somehow “repay” Nagisa.
Generally speaking, I really love this kind of setting: a very rich character falling in love with a very poor character (regardless of the gender). The game even shows that there was at least some reason for the characters to feel affection for each other (I like how I’m getting excited over the minimalistic elements). The crap smeared out when the game abruptly ends the route altogether by saying Kasumi is an ojou-sama, and her parents are actually alive.
…What the fuck just happened…? (that was my reaction)
Then we have Ruri, Nagisa’s senpai both in school and at work. Very honest and with a strong sense of justice, her first encounter with Nagisa was when Nagisa was being threatened by someone after he flirted with who was apparently the guy’s girlfriend. While it was the girl who made the approaches, she had turned around and stated that it was Nagisa who forced her to do things she didn’t want to do.
As the guy was about to attack Nagisa, Ruri had stepped in and taught the thug his lesson. This had left a good impression on Nagisa.
As it turns out, Ruri is actually the child of a family well known to be relatively volatile; aka, equivalent to the Yakuza. This explains her great physical abilities. Ruri’s route mostly involves her conflict with her father, but again, this was way too short. Despite this, I guess it was better than the other routes in the sense both Ruri and Nagisa play their roles as expected…
Last main heroine is Yukariko, and I apologize Miyabi-sama (Yukariko’s CV), I really hate your voice because it sounds so DAMN fake. I mean, when I hear a loli character’s CV, I can pretend to imagine that it’s actually a young girl voicing the character, but I can’t imagine your voice to actually be as it is: It really sounds like you drank some helium gas before you started recording, and all the H-scenes you voice sound the same. ALL OF THEM
With my rant and complaints aside, let’s now complain about the character herself.
Absolutely perfect to the point it’s ridiculous, with her design to be a heroine who “steps out of her boundaries” and becomes a “naughty girl”, yes: exactly in that sense.
So let me get this straight, ensemble. You’re trying to advertise a character using “gap-moe”, and you seriously do that by making one side “Yamato Nadeshiko”, then the other a “slut”?
THERE’S OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING WRONG HERE.
And really, Yukariko’s entire route revolves around this, so I was just dryly laughing as I held down the CTRL key through the H-scenes, and as with any other “Perfect Senpai” archetype heroines, the conclusion was relatively predictable.
Marika is seemingly a subcharacter that suddenly appears in the common route. Despite how she is displayed, she doesn’t get a route without the Marika patch.
Even then, the entirety of her route is pretty much
1) Reminiscence of how Nagisa was the only boy she came in contact with
2) How much she loves him (because it’s so natural for you to fall in love with the only male you’ve ever met)
3) Her dreaming about having sex with him in the bathtub
4) Nagisa “agreeing” to take her as a partner if she waits for him (outside of the dream, though)
Seriously, that’s the entire route, no joke.
I want my 10 minutes spent playing her route back
Sexual Content: Moderate
Comments: This game is seriously a mess! I actually had good impressions from the “romance leading into Golden Marriage” or whatever they advertised on Getchu, but all the romance I got was the two characters suddenly transitioning from friends -> husband/wife with H-scenes in the middle over the course of what’s not even a few months.
Episode 0 opens up with its patch after you clear the game, and it’s actually about the meeting of Nagisa and his step-mother, Elvilla. It shows the personality of Nagisa’s parents, and drives the message clear that Nagisa has both the blood of royalty and of a wealthy family. It still doesn’t show Nagisa’s teenage years though. Also pretty damn stupid how it ONLY OPENS UP WHEN YOU CLEAR THE STORY. Episode 0 my ass.
WHERE’S THE SPRITES? OH MY GOSH YOU JAPANESE EROGE MARKET STOP IGNORING SUBCHARACTER SPRITES!
The lack of subcharacter sprite simply shows the lack of effort put into this game, and makes it harder for a reader to imagine the scene realistically. It’s also really ironic how a VISUAL NOVEL doesn’t have these VISUAL elements in them. Really, not adding sprites is like implying that the subcharacters aren’t that important, but if you’re going to at least use them in the last scene (designed to be climactic), then you better damn well give them one
The ultimate irony is that ensemble DOES give a sprite to this mysterious subcharacter named “Liner” or something like that. He appears in some of the heroine routes, but doesn’t seem to have much significance, nor does he seem to have any role either.
So simply put, ensemble gave sprites to characters that do not seem to have much significance while not giving ones to the subcharacters that might have really needed one.
And I still hold a grudge that they ended Kasumi’s route so abruptly
Affection for the Characters: Very Low
CG Score: 4/10. While the CG itself was relatively good, there are several weird body proportions here and there. The real flaw is the complete lack of SDCGs
Music Score: 3/10. Even worse, in the sense that Rei’s route (which involved her playing the Viola) had no exclusive tracks to show that she was playing the Viola. “Maybe we can trick the readers if we just used a dramatic BGM instead!”
Like hell you can.
Addictiveness: Low. I can’t see anyone coming back to this game unlike the other games produced by ensemble.
Conclusion: Again, this game is a mess. With all the crap being produced nowadays, this is your typical “charage” with a forced climax attached to the end so the company has the excuse of calling this a novel. Humor is actually non-existent here (or at least of low quality to the point all the laughing I did was at how horrible it was). Characters seem awfully fake, and if there was anything remotely good about it, it’s the CGs.
Time for the new releases. Hopefully, at least one of the titles turns out good… Otherwise, at least I’ll have my month’s worth of nukige…