Foreword: Wowwwwwww, this game was heavy. Heavy in not only story content but also with social philosophy and even in feels. In fact, mark me down as one of the people who expected something more similar to Semiramis, the previous title that Caramel Box produced.
I generally appreciate Caramel Box because they include darker themes in games which is a blessing with all the cheery school-girl crap that sickens me to my stomach. It’s even a freaking bonus that the trap protagonist is also badass. I mean, I’m sure you guys have seen trap-protagonists, but have you EVER seen one BADASS?!
Let my review do the rest of the explaining. Here’s Last Cavalier!
This review contains Major Spoilers! Please read at your own risk!
Title: 機関幕末異聞 ラストキャバリエ (kikan bakumatsu ibun Last Cavalier) [Rough Translation: The Story of the Edo Era: Last Cavalier]
Producers: Caramel Box
Release Date: December 25, 2015
VNDB Link: https://vndb.org/v18145
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=868891
Game Type: Fictional War-themed novel set in past Japan
Summary: Wars are fought due to differences in beliefs; no one is right or wrong. Those who despise change and those who welcome it. Those who welcome new ideas and those who insist on old traditions.
War naturally follows a Call to Arms, and this is what Isa announces to her family and friends in a small town, that there is in need of “Shouki” (瘴姫, Battle Princess), or maidens who utilize a special stone called 鬼瘴石 (Kishouseki; Battle Demon Stone) to extensively amplify their physical abilities in battle.
Soujirou is an orphan who was taken in by Isa and Sei at an early age and raised under their care. He did not want to stay behind while his “older sisters” were taken into war, but as only females are recruited into this group called “新撰組” (Shinsengumi; Newly Chosen Group), they decide to deceive him as a female with the name “Soushi” so he can also come along.
Soujirou’s decision to follow his sisters to the dangerous battlefields will predetermine his fate for the future.
Yo, why so serio*punch*
Story Length: Moderately Long (25 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Moderate
Comments: There’s a total of 6 “endings”, and each ending is differed only by one or two choices, so it’s actually quite important to pay attention to the choices you’ve made throughout the game. Love this subtlety that Caramel Box places into the games. This trait was also present within Semiramis (their previous title), so I’d like to encourage them to continue this design.
Character Design Rating: 5/10
Story Rating: 7/10
Protagonist Rating: 8/10
Game Quality: Low
Overall Rating: 7/10
Rating Comments: So as stated in the beginning of the review, you have a protagonist who is pretty cute. He’s also relatively weak-hearted in the beginning, but after a while, becomes so badass that even I’m amazed at his transition. This transition isn’t “sudden” by any means either, so this was definitely a plus. Unlike Semiramis, Last Cavalier has the protagonist BE very protagonist-like, instead of having one of the heroines be more significant than him. In a way, this was very effective design, but I may have wanted at least one scene with Soujirou a bit more hot-headed. One thing I found weird was that Sourijou was only partially voiced in the entire game (meaning he was sometimes not voiced during scenes), but always voiced during the H-scenes.
Looks freaking girly here
But smiles “beautifully” as he slashes at his enemies. Scary!
Story rating is also pretty high, as expected of Caramel Box. Great flow and pace of the entire story and while it may be difficult to understand (due to the names of various organizations, individuals, or even the normal phrases being written in kanji), the game does have a glossary for those not so familiar with the terms or phrases the character uses. It’s just that in my personal opinion, how the stone is only usable by females was retarded. There’s a HUGE explanation for this as well, and while I can definitely agree there was thorough planning involved for this element, I personally thought it was a cheap excuse to display another trap protagonist.
Character Design ironically falls the most, as they seem to shine less with the protagonist being the center of all the action and perhaps even power. Romance was the least thing that this game had, and it would have been better if the game simply took out all the romance; even some of the H-scenes were pretty unnecessary.
Character Summary: I’ll actually divide this up into the 6 endings, because of the fact that some endings have more than one heroine involved. I love it when games have “bad routes” that don’t involve some form of rape or simple black screens; they even make implications that they’re challenging the readers to determine if the route is “good” or “bad”.
Let’s get started with Shuri and Tokio. These two are originally enemies in the sense that one wants to embrace the new ideas from foreign countries while the other firmly believes in traditional tactics and is pretty much a patriot (difference in beliefs). In reality, Tokio pretty much makes several attempts to assassinate Shuri in the beginning of the game, which ends in failure to Soujirou’s protection. This leads her to actually calm down and debate with Shuri, since Shuri is considered a genius and can be useful in many ways if convinced. However, Shuri makes a comment that forces Tokio to either kill her or join her side; that the patriot doesn’t even know what side she’s on.
The duo’s route involves Tokio essentially pledging loyalty to Shuri after being convinced herself, and how Shuri utilizes various tactics or tools from the foreign lands to their own advantage in this civil war. This route is where most of the kishouseki element is explained.
This would be Iori, one of the most powerful shouki who’s probably a bit cuckoo in the head
And Ryouma, the half-foreigner who believes peace can save the country
The next route I’d like to talk about involves Iori and Ryouma, who are paired up as another possible route. In my personal opinion, I actually liked this route the best. I seem to have a thing or two for yandere characters (except Yuno; she’s just fucking crazy), and Iori was just that; a yandere character who was originally an enemy, but as Soujirou interacts with her a bit, she literally turns 180 degrees and refuses to separate from him. To boot, Iori is high versatile (able to take on any role) and an extremely powerful shouki. Contrast this to Ryouma, a half-foreigner who doesn’t like wars and fighting and wants to embrace peace. Her general mindset is that Japan shouldn’t be fighting with itself when foreign countries are advancing to be more powerful enemies (difference in problem solving mindset).
Iori and Ryouma’s route starts with Iori’s honest remark that “Bakkfu” (One of the sides of this civil war) should essentially discard their name. This would allow the two sides to stop the war and perhaps even cooperate to make progress, but as obvious as it is, this is almost the same as admitting defeat and that’s pretty much not an option for the prideful warriors. However, Ryouma actually takes this idea and brings it up on the table with ideas of her own.
The route was highly climactic in the sense that as obvious as it is, there are individuals who are absolutely disgusted with this plan and make all attempts to kill Ryouma.
The 3rd pair is Kazuha and Sano, who are also quite different; this time, in respect to personality. Sano is shown at the beginning of the game as someone who is pretty much a guest for Isa and Sei at their home. Personality-wise, she is very lax and even lazy to a certain extent, often drinking too much alcohol. On the other hand, Kazuha is a girl who was saved by Isa and Sei in the past (just like Soujirou), and joins the Shinsengumi to repay the favor.
While Sano is already friendly with Soujirou, this isn’t the case for Kazuha, who doesn’t have a good impression of Soujirou as someone who is close to her “saviors”. This causes Kazuha to act coldly to him or even fight him at times, his strength and honestly soon remove the remaining doubt that the girl had for him.
Kazuha and Sano’s route follows the same story as Isa and Sei’s routes, but seems to involve the trio actually leaving Japan during this crisis and moving North to what we know now as Russia.
The remaining three routes leave quite an impact. In fact, it is shown that at the end of all of these three routes, Soujirou dies. It is basically after his death where the respective heroine “lives on with his memory” and brings about the conclusion and varies slightly based on this.
Isa is the Commander of the Shinsengumi and pretty much the “older sister” for both Sei and Soujirou. Quite the serious character, but actually has some comical sides such as pushing all the secretary work to Sei or being ridiculously lazy at other times. While not explicitly stated, Isa seems to hold a strong romantic affection for Soujirou, but suppresses it for Sei.
Isa’s route involves how a bounty is placed on Isa. While Soujirou is in recovery from using the powers of a Shouki, Isa is captured and set to be executed; this is when Soujirou plays a role in rescuing her in her route.
Sei, despite being an older sister to Soujirou, is actually quite childish, being quick to anger and shown to have a sweet tooth, her liberal expression of romance to Soujirou is not rare, and other characters sometimes comment that she’s overprotective of the protagonist.
Like Isa’s route, the Shinsengumi is split apart. What’s different is that Isa is actually executed, and Soujirou learns of this later from Sei, who quickly realizes that she’ll be alone in this world soon (since Soujirou will die soon). After Soujirou’s death, Sei takes his sword and participates in the capturing of the foreign battleship, and I find the successive scenes quite climactic since Sei essentially fights against guns by splitting the bullets with Soujirou’s sword.
It’s just that for both Sei and Isa’s route, there’s just way too little story until the game ends. In essence, it seemed like a “bad route” because of how short it was compared to the former 3 routes.
The Last Route is almost definitely one that can be considered a “bad route”, but strangely also had the most “feels” moment. In this route, Soujirou is also on the verge of death, but receives a confession from Kou (this girl was the chef for the Shinsengumi). The route ends with a very detailed and melancholic/poetic ring questioning the meaning of life.
The game pretty much leaves the heroine alone in this world. All these feels man.
Sexual Content: Low
Comments: So in my opinion, this game was very well designed. Each of the heroines were very colorful, unique, and definitely not some copy-paste from another game. The darker environment with the protagonist’s death in some routes was something that made this game more superior than others, and while some people may not be too fond of trap protagonists, he was more protagonist-like unlike the previous games or even in compared to protagonists in cheap charage.
I honestly didn’t really have that great of an expectation for this game; Semiramis wasn’t that great, so one can’t really blame me. But the mere setting of the game, climactic battle scenes, and life-and-death elements made Last Cavalier a very enjoyable game, and while I do have some bias for one of the characters, I don’t think it’ll be an exaggeration to say that it’s possible for some of you to find your own “favorite character” from this game.
Iori fans? No? ANYONE???
Though I WOULD like to comment that this game was very difficult to understand. It’s quite unlike the charage that was being produced, and this game would require the readers to have at least a bit of knowledge on Japan’s history. Even I had to search up Wikipedia a couple of times for some of the references. Simply put, I would recommend against picking up this game if your Japanese isn’t at least at the level of a native speaker.
Affection for the Characters: Moderately High
CG Score: 6/10. Sorry, I have a huge bias for Norita’s art. I know the faces are similar, hands are derpy, angles are retarded at times, and the sprites were heavily lacking in this game. But I can’t help myself :(
Just like how that cup of sake should have fallen out at that angle
Music Score: 7/10. Last Cavalier managed to hit my preferences on the music: string/wind instruments plus traditional melody? Yes please. A few more soundtracks would have been nice though.
Addictiveness: Low. Unfortunately, this is not a game that one would normally come back to.
Conclusion: An unexpected but good game from Caramel Box that I really enjoyed for its setting. While relatively hard to understand, this game should be on the list of individuals who enjoy the non-modern day setting as much as I do, along with those who enjoy seeing the protagonist being powerful and influential.