A blog for reviews… that's really not much of a blog

Foreword: And finished! I really think I was burnt out with the crappy games that I’m not giving the “good” ones a fair shot, which is the absolute saddest thing you can do as a eroge veteran/review writer. I’ll be focusing on VNs and eroge a bit more than my MMO hobbies because in my opinion, the former is more important to me.

Immediately hooked on due to the opening movie, this title was first on my priority list (along with Giniro Haruka which is now getting pretty damn painful to play), though as with any game where one has more impact overall, Re:Lief was finished first.

Overall what I could call a “decent” game, I’d conclude that this game is graphically and poetically stunningly beautiful. I love it when games include “morals” within them, which this game had, but as a critical review writer, I’m here to also point out the not-so-beautiful stuff which was really a turn-off and rant worthy in my opinion. For that reason, this review may sound generally negative, but I’d like to remind readers that I tend to exaggerate some of the negative features due to personal bias.

I DO want to mention with GREAT EMPHASIS that due to the nature of this game, as well as what my review needs to cover to properly convey my points, this review will contain spoilers. I hate to include spoilers in my reviews, but I really can’t control what NEEDS to be written in a good review, so I’m really at a loss. I mean I can write a shitty ass, vague review that you’d see on Getchu, but I’m sure no one (including myself) would want to read it.

PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN HEAVY SPOILERS! PLEASE DO NOT CONTINUE READING FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!

Title: Re:LieF ~親愛なるあなたへ~ (To you, my most dearest)
Producers: RASK
Release Date: October 28, 2016
VNDB Link: https://vndb.org/v19587
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=911416
Game Type: Slice of Life Novel with themes of sociology and life philosophy and sci-fi bullshit

Summary: Society can be such a harsh place. No matter how hard you try, an unfortunate accident, an abuse of authority, or just simply a series of unlucky encounters can crush a person’s efforts to no end. It’s even more unfair since those who are less worthy to succeed are often the ones who do, and the people who are working so diligently are kicked to the curb having to lick their own wounds.

Tryment Project is a plan for these individuals who were oppressed by the unfairness of society, and need a place to relearn and rejuvenate themselves with new knowledge. It is a place of new hope or new paths, or perhaps even new relationships. In the truest sense, the people who are accepted into this program receive a second chance. However, to the protagonist, Nitta Tsukasa, this wouldn’t be just a second chance…

Story Length: Moderate (20 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Easy
Comments: A fairly easy game to complete, most of the choices are fairly straightforward and easy to understand. There are 3 routes for the 3 heroines as well as a “True Route”, after which additional H-scenes open up for each of the routes as a humorous bonus.

Character Design Rating: 3/10
Story Rating: 6/10
Protagonist Rating: 2/10
Game Quality: High
Overall Rating: 5/10
Rating Comments: Now despite these scores, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “bad” game. It was pretty good for the most part, but the game leaves out some extremely critical things which make the scores plummet.

Contrary to the game starts with Hinako as the PoV in the beginning, she is just placed there to represent the “unfairness of society” and start off the story. The real protagonist is Tsukasa… who is admittedly pretty bland as fuck. Having him introduced in the beginning lacking impact doesn’t do well to create a good impression on this boy, and how he “acts mysterious” or is solemn for the most part directly contrasts his flamboyant or otherwise insecure personality around others when the game switches to his viewpoint. Later portions of the story show this boy’s weaknesses which further degrade his design since he’s that character who’s supposed to be making the change within the heroines, but it is he himself changed or influenced by them. Tsukasa was lastly a poor representation of readers, because obviously the readers of this story doesn’t have two bishoujo “artificial intelligence” to support them if they need a crying shoulder. Not a good way to go with a slice of life game.

It’s a personal pet peeve when a story presents characters supporting the protagonist when the protagonist didn’t really do anything in return. It works in the context in this scenario (Yuu), but still doesn’t change the fact that he’s worthless

Characters (or heroines more like) receive the same criticisms; they each have their own personality, reason, and motives for participating in this shady-as-fuck program, but the negative here is that they’re all too naive or simply lack common sense in some areas (which includes the supposedly intelligent heroines such as Momo or Ruka). The game presents these characters as people in their early 20s, but generally had the mindset of middle-school students and one of them actually looked like one seeing them boohoo for over half the game for a single failure they made in the past. There’s also the fact that the extreme lack of subcharacters or “mob characters” (such as other students in the classroom, as an example) made this game much less immersive than what it could have been, along with pretty much all the heroines actually being irrelevant to the main scenario (?!?!) for the most part. More on this later.

Story is obviously the best thing this game has to offer, presenting a very poetic overall tone to the readers though the entirety of the game does have that “slice of life” ish aura throughout. The score for story is much less than what it could have received due to two things: One, the game leaves out critical story elements as I’ll rant in the comments section, and Two, the game tries to include bullshit sci-fi elements and crush that aforementioned “slice of life” atmosphere, which was what was more desirable. Again more ranting info on this later.

Character Summary:

Hinako is the character whose viewpoint you receive first, being harassed by her superior at work after she fails her assignment for the second time. Having just graduated from high-school, she thought she could become independent by working, but soon realizes that her skills in the office are abysmal and eventually finds herself settling into a routine of simply riding the subway just to emulate her “going to work” until hearing about the Tryment Program from a senior.

Unfitting for a woman in her early 20s, Hinako is naive, slightly childish to a certain extent, and cheerful. Despite this personality, she has suffered a traumatic experience with “presentations” to the point she faints on the first day, but grows strong within her group of friends to the point she is able to lead them on her ideals. Hinako was really a character who fit the game’s theme of “Try Again One More Time”, along with how she herself was a dynamic character.

Contrary to how I found her character to be well designed, I found Hinako to be extremely naive and like the protagonist Tsukasa, fragile both mentally and physically. While she does have that slow (To be honest, it wasn’t that gradual) change into becoming independent, I really didn’t like how it was never Tsukasa who caused this change, but the group of friends around her or Milya (who I’ll rant about later). In this sense, I felt as if Hinako was “more protagonist-like” than Tsukasa himself, who I’ll cover later.

Ruka is essentially in the same boat as Hinako, though her story is a bit more tragic as that member who was unable to leave her current company which was crumbling already due of her own stubborn pride and hubris that she would be able to change the company for the better. Reality slaps the girl with failure as she wonders if there was something she did wrong as she also becomes a participant for the Tryment Project.

Her route is mostly about her pride in her abilities which was crushed due to said previous event, and her trying to obtain some form of accreditation by studying all the time.

However, her route (as well as Momo’s for that matter) are extremely vague. Ruka’s route ends with Tsukasa essentially having a deus-ex-machina and remembering the entirety of his past and pretty much freeing the entire population on this island using his Authority, with Ruka finding this boy in a coma in real life. Basically, the Ruka’s route is most similar to the True Route, except for the fact that Tsukasa is still in a coma.

Momo is considered a child genius, as someone who has successfully created a fully independent AI capable of returning and providing conversation, just like a normal human. While all these efforts were to follow her parent’s footsteps as scientists, she was always left alone. In retrospect, she seemed most like Kyouko, Tsukasa’s mother.

Momo’s route starts with Toto, her AI, seeming to have emotions; something she didn’t expect the AI to have. This causes the two to argue, which requires Tsukasa to step in and resolve.

Momo’s route ends with Momo leaving this island for something, and Tsukasa being left alone in this island with the incarnation of Toto who agree to “wait for Momo with him”.

This scene would incite so much “wtf” if the reader didn’t go through the last route. I’d say this is a bad thing, because the writers are essentially dependent on the readers to forget most of the bullshit that happened in this route to have that “ah-ha!” moment after finishing the last route. (e.g. If someone went through Momo’s route after having played the last route, they’ll probably see a lot more flaws than if they didn’t)

Despite how vague the endings are for the three routes previously, they are more than enough to realize a lot of things that the True Route reveals more explicitly and in more detail,. In the unlikely scenario the viewers reading this are unaware, I’ll list them below. The problem with most of these points are that they’re missing the explanation or at least vague:

  • This island is a virtual reality created by Kyouko to save her son (Tsukasa) who was fatally injured from an accident and put into a coma.
  • Previously, this “Tryment Project” did exist, but as Kyouko changed the purpose of this project to save her son (and bring in AIs to do so as well), the result was that all the participants (including the staff) were locked in this virtual reality.
  • “Authorities” are the only ones able to unlock the gateway to the real world, and are Yuu and Tsukasa.
  • “Yuu” or “Alpha” is the very first AI created by Kyouko and assigned to look after Tsukasa ever since he was bullied at school.
  • Ai is a clone of Yuu, which raises the question why the heck she is the heroine for this true route when she’s not even relevant.
  • The Tsukasa you’ve seen in the three routes are fake, meaning they’re Tsukasa’s alternate ego minus his black box past of being bullied; or in the purest sense, what Tsukasa wanted to be. The real Tsukasa appears for the first time in the True Route as he stabs his fake.

So basically, my reaction towards all this was:

Aside from the painful fact that Ai was somehow the heroine for this route (even though the choices suggest it would have been Milya instead), this true route suggests that the previous routes the reader saw were only “possibilities” and the heroines themselves are relatively worthless; the true route is essentially about Tsukasa needing to “grow a pair” and stop being a wimp just because he was bullied

Then there’s the deus-ex-machina where Tsukasa recovers from the fatal accident and no one’s obviously going to mention it because it’s one of those “unspoken rules” /sarcasm

The real problem I had by the end of the true route was that very little of the stuff that the game presents are explained (as I’ll rant in the comments section below). However, this true route does give you a very vague answer to why stuff happened in the heroine routes as it did, so I guess in that sense it had meaning.

On the other hand, Tsukasa was matched best with Hinako, so I’m wondering why the writers decided to stick with Ai as the heroine for the last route.

Sexual Content: Low

Comments: Alright. Let’s get to the ranting criticisms first before I forget about them. There’s a lot.

First is the romance. Absolute shit. People lied to me when they said it was “just a bit rushed” because it was more or less absent even when compared to nukige. It was at least a relief that this “romance” was short-lived and there was only one H-scene to break the otherwise engaging atmosphere of the story, but the mere fact that it exists (as well as how the True Route was literally Tsukasa man’ing up and coming to confess to Ai for absolutely no fucking reason), the game would have done better simply by making this an all-ages title and removing most of the romance. If at all, they should’ve had the romance start from after this game ended–I probably have more romance with my fucking pillow that I drool over at night than the characters in this game.

Character relationships were also formed a bit too rapid in my opinion as well. They literally spend maybe 2 months and by the final route heroines are saying they “know Tsukasa so well they can read his moves”

Second is the game setting. Oh, a mysterious program with a mysterious motive but on the outside helping those who failed in society take another chance? Doesn’t this sound all a bit too convenient? The mere setting was almost screaming at my face since I’ve received the synopsis that there’s something behind all this…

Which is that stupid, idiotic, and unnecessary sci-fi. Yes, I’m salty that the theme changed from a nice reality slice-of-life game where you might see characters overcoming their traumas to ridiculous theories about AIs, fictional characters that weren’t even relevant, and various story elements (cherry blossoms, piano) thrown around just to give this that “poetic” atmosphere. This might be a bias on my part, but anything “fantasy”, whether it be magic, technology, or anything fictional just bugs the hell out of me when it’s not properly introduced in the beginning. This game thought it would be cool to have it be a source of several unexplained events and deus ex machinas, so fuck you game; I’m criticizing you for it.

Why did you need to include the fantasy, game? You were doing so well without it.

Unlike Sakura no Uta and similar games of this atmosphere, the game does a very poor job with foreshadows. One route ends with the readers having absolutely no idea what the fuck happened, then the True Route goes ahead and reveals everything in the most incoherent way possible, it sounds like I’m playing this game all over again, which is never a good thing (though at least this game had the impact). It was a good trait that the readers are given that “ah-ha!” about that heroine route after having finished the true route, but even then the analysis of the heroine route is left up to the readers and made things much more vague, which raised additional questions.

Next is Milya and Ai’s design. The former character is an actual person from the real world (not an AI) named Saki related to Hinako, but her role was more or less absent throughout the entire game (in addition to her name “Milya” not having a definite explanation). The game makes many suggestions that she herself IS an AI, but the reason why Milya was added to this overall story was simply unexplained. In fact, Milya’s addition to the story gave more focus on Hinako instead and helped her look more like a protagonist than Tsukasa. As it stands, she had absolutely no relation to him either.

Same with Ai. The game makes the obvious comment she’s related to Yuu, and it’s later revealed that she’s a clone of her… but for what purpose? Why was she considered the heroine or why does she have a different personality/mindset than Yuu? The game does make the very vague implication that Ai is an AI who has “advanced” by learning from her mistakes (which is another theme this game conveys), but that raises the question of “when” such advancement occurred. This lack of explanations is reminding me of Dark Souls. At least that game had good lore goddamnit

Simply put, the writers may have had some intentions of creating a game this vague and unexplained, but as it stands right now, such intentions, morals, and lessons were very poorly conveyed to the readers. As a matter of fact, a quick look-up at the writer’s profiles on Getchu show that this was their first work, so I would highly doubt they had the experience or skills to connect all the dots they presented in the end. If at all, I’m seeing idiots on Getchu saying this game was “deep and meaningful”, and I’m just facepalming that there are people who can’t take anything with a grain of salt and somehow ignore all the bad parts of this game.

Don’t even get me started on how Yuu, an AI, gets CONVINCED by Ai, another AI who’s a clone of her. Sure that makes perfect fucking sense. Why don’t we also put two computers to play chess against each other and watch that because that’s fun as hell.

End rant. Let’s talk about some good points. Overall the poetic atmosphere was appreciated, though as mentioned previously, some of the story elements should have been elaborated more (piano/cherry blossoms). The character’s viewpoints and theory on sociology and life philosophy in the beginning was really nice though I absolutely despised how the topic shifted to sci-fi bullshit (Yes. I’m saying this twice because it really means that much to me). As it stands, characters were well designed (with a unique background/conflict of their own) in the beginning, but the later portions of the game pretty much throw that all outside the window and makes each of them worthless to the scenario (e.g. Ruka doesn’t contribute to the true route at all).

Music is something I won’t hesitate to praise this game for, with very soothing and gentle tunes along with melancholic lyrics which does do well to give this game that serious tone. The fact that the game contains moral lessons make this game one of the more valuable ones, and as everyone who played the game will mention, the CGs are quite an eyecandy for veterans and amateurs alike who enjoys this genre, so I would definitely recommend playing this game if the visual/auditory elements of a Visual Novel are more important to you.

It’s quite beautiful in my opinion.

Affection for the Characters: Low

CG Score: 8/10. The lack of characters in general equals the lack of CGs/Sprites for them, but otherwise I praise this game’s artwork.
Music Score: 8/10. Love the music; as mentioned, I was really drawn to this game by the opening movie. It’s just unfortunate that the lyrics of the Opening didn’t really match up to the romance of the game (LOL)

 

Addictiveness: Low

Conclusion:

Pros:

  • Music is great and the thing which brought me to try this game out.
  • Art overall is stunning, unique, and beautiful.
  • Game includes important morals such as “Keep trying” and “Don’t give up” and elaborates on those morals.
  • Heroines are unique and colorful for the most part; it’s just that they should have had more participation within the last route.

Cons:

  • Romance is objectively bad
  • Heroines rarely make a difference for the story as a whole and seems more to be placed in the story for H-scenes.
  • Protagonist is a spineless wimp who the readers can’t relate to, making him more annoying for the readers who have suffered much more than simple “bullies”.
  • Players are likely to drop this game if the ending of the three heroine routes becoming too vague and frustrating. It’s a game that you absolutely need to complete 100% to even try to understand what it was trying to convey, and even then might incite the question “Well why didn’t they just get on with what they wanted to show the readers from the start?”… At least that’s what I thought
  • The game rushes through everything too quickly. Whether it be romance, the conflicts, or even the main details that contribute to the theme of the game (explanation of AI, theories on how said AIs obtain emotion or “learn”), there’s no effort to help the reader keep up with the information presented and the story just zips by.

So overall, this game was quite a disappointment. Yes, it started out strong, but never bothered to explain many of the things they presented (e.g. Cherry Blossom, Milya, Theory of AIs obtaining emotions) and left everything so vague it was almost a philosophy itself trying to analyze this game. Yes, the morals presented over and over by the end of the game were more clear, and while it was an uncommon way to present the same topic, doing a very roundabout way of presenting said moral “Do your best and never give up” made them include more unnecessary crap (such as sci-fi) than anything else. Yes, the game was very heartwarming indeed, but that does not cover up or become an excuse for poor story elements I’ve found in this game.

Re:Lief is a game that’s overrated in my opinion for its visual or auditory elements to the point players do not have a second thought at HOW the game presented its morals. This lack was completely a turn off for me, and prevented me from having a good time with this game.

Also, did anyone see the reason why they opted to capitalize every beginning and last letter in their words for like, everything?

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Comments on: "Once More… We Try Again: Review of [161028]Re:LieF" (10)

  1. read this vn and I kinda stalled on true route when they infodumped backstory/flaskback.
    even you said romance is bad or foreshadowing is weak, I loved this game. There’s some interesting topic that author want present here. Like relationship between AI and social in future etc. I’m fans of sci-fi and rarely meet the sci-fi literacy that want to explain to you what the effect of the technology to your future everyday life.

    • To be honest, I’m also a fan of Sci-Fi especially if it has morals such as this title! However, the problem with Sci-fi in visual novels is that sci-fi really needs to be explained thoroughly before the story gets started, such as the background or the logics behind said “sci-fi elements” (e.g. humans were wiped out by a certain virus and the remaining people were special in some way and blah blah blah). The thing with Re:Lief was that despite being that sci-fi title, it is very vague with many of its things, almost making the resolution of each route a deus ex machina (especially in the true route).

  2. […] and society”, there are no challenges made to sociology or life philosophy as it does in this game. This added to how the entire game lost that “serious” atmosphere and simply ended up […]

  3. Well, that was harsh. Without going as far as calling the game a masterpiece, I actually liked it despite most of the negatives you mention, and not just for the art and/or the music.

    I wonder if you’re talking about me when you say you were lied to about the romance, I don’t think I said it was “a bit” rushed. Whatever the case I kinda agree that the game could have been better without any romance at all. Just presenting each heroine’s perspective and skipping the romance aspect would have certainly made the game more coherent, but it is a eroge so the ero has to come from somewhere. I’m not sure a new company with no big names behind it could be expected to succeed with an all-age game from the start, I’m sure quite a few buyers were lured by the erotic art even though the game’s ecchi content is quite scarce.

    I tend to consider Hinako as a second protagonist rather than just another heroine, for her importance in the story (not just the prologue). After all, she’s the only one from which you can view events from aside from Tsukasa, and she is the most helpful by far during the true route. The prologue and its conclusion was probably the most heartwarming moment of the game. Her route is more about her friendship with Milya than her relationship with Tsukasa, which was fine me as it showed how she managed to grow during the prologue and put her experience to good use helping the friend who supported her when she was in need. Did Tsukasa really need to be the factor of change for her story to be interesting? I doubt anyone really can identify with him, especially as in Hinako’s route he actually goes back to his real self quite a bit. In many ways she is more protagonist than Tsukasa during her route but I don’t think that was a bad thing.

    I finished Momo’s route first and the ending didn’t make me go as “wtf” as you mention, it’s actually one of my favorite. I found it to be a pretty interesting representation of a relationship with someone whose capabilities far exceeds your own. Tsukasa says in this route often that he likes watching her rush forward on her own and that he’s unable to walk beside her, but will be here for her in case she feels the need to slow down and rest. Her ending is pretty much that : Momo going out to save the world while Tsukasa trusts in her and waits for her return. Now, that doesn’t make for a very proactive attitude which I can understand annoys you, but not everybody can be geniuses and even geniuses sometimes need something to cling to from time to time. Not saying that’s what it’d be actually like, just an interesting idea and something I can work my mind around.

    I think you’re a little harsh on the protagonist. He’s certainly no hero and maybe forgoing the romance would have been better as he’s certainly not a charmer either, even in his “idealized” version. While not explicitly mentioned in the game I strongly believed that Tsukasa was suffering from some kind of autism (at first he would barely speak…) so blaming him for not manning up against school bullies is honestly cruel. The fact that his first attempt at expressing himself through music ends in catastrophic failure can understandably cause quite the trauma, so his hesitation to break up his shell I found was at least justified, if a little irritating. That he both manages to break away from Yuu’s embrace and then eventually decide to face the outside world was something I found commendable.

    I tend to agree with you about Ai whose setting felt lacking at best. Just her name itself was enough to make me realize the island’s secret on my first run. If I read things correctly, Ai is Yuu’s copy but without her memories of the time spent with Tsukasa. What that means for the character is that she doesn’t have Yuu’s strong desire to protect Tsukasa from the outside world but instead “should” view him pretty much like the rest of the Tryment other participants : as someone who is meant to go back with his scars healed at some point. Now, that would be fine with me but Ai seems to have kept her feelings for Tsukasa anyway (why?), and Tsukasa then goes straight to confess to her (wtf?? if anyone it should have been Yuu…). Since this “romance” has barely any impact on the game’s story and its message, I just discarded as another clumsy attempt at adding more ero to the game but I guess that didn’t go that well with you.

    Finally, I’ll just say that I found the game touching as it managed to make me think a bit about things I usually don’t. I do tend to play quite a lot of visual novels so the whole “it’s okay to retreat to your comfort zone for a while as long as you’re trying to stand up afterwards” was nice to hear. Not that I stopped playing eroges anyway, ahah… I actually liked that the game doesn’t try to spell out everything that happens and leaves things open for interpretation or for the reader to fill the gaps, because when it does it go into details it ends up rather clumsy like with the sci-fi stuff. As a “food-for-thought” game it succeeded at least for me. Sorry you didn’t like it.

    P.S. : I remember reading something about the capitalization but can’t find it back. Something about “the end (i.e. graduation) is just a new beginning” being the whole theme of the Tryment project. Honestly, I found it pretty irritating but I can be quite the grammar nazi.

    • Glad to see you disagreeing with me! I was definitely hoping for someone to have the opposite opinions as I do on this game, and would have been thoroughly disappointed if there wasn’t.

      One thing I’d like to mention before we debate is that as a human being myself, I tend to have my own preferences and biases that I have a hard time avoiding when writing reviews. I make every effort to not let them affect my opinions, and the result is that I develop various “standards” of what I (and many other people) expect from an eroge.

      One of these standards is the protagonist being influential in at LEAST one way, shape, or form (the more the better). Tsukasa as the protagonist absolutely needed to have an impact both on the readers and the heroines since he is considered the center of the story with everything revolving around him. When he’s powerless or otherwise just not that involved as seen in game, there is no reason for him to become a protagonist–heck, RASK could have just as well made Rihito a protagonist.

      And that brings me to my point that unvoiced protagonists are supposed to be that character that readers can relate to. Rarely showing his sprite and only partially voicing Tsukasa implies that readers are expected to see the story unfold in his point of view (despite having his own monologues), and it doesn’t really matter what else producers say; this won’t really change in the eroge/VN medium. What else can you expect when you literally give the readers the same viewpoint as one of the characters?

      Following that “being able to relate to the protagonist” and further diving into your comment that I was harsh on Tsukasa, I should note that growing up in Korea myself, bullying is a commonplace and very much a serious thing which causes some students to commit suicide. It happened to me and unlike Tsukasa, I dealt with it by retaliating. Whether that was a good decision is up for further debate, but even at my age I knew becoming depressed and crawling up into a ball wasn’t going to help any bit, and while expecting Tsukasa to do the same is not fair on him, having bishoujo AI to be on your side unconditionally also isn’t something that all bullied kids will have. To be extremely rude on my part, I would say that you have a form of stockholm syndrome for Tsukasa that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Autism is a well-thought hypothesis, but considering he was able to properly communicate with Yuu the first time around, I’m thinking this is an unlikely theory.

      It’s fair that you commend him for “breaking away” from his comfort zone, but this literally happens in 10 seconds. One moment he’s having sex with Yuu, the next he somehow regains his sanity and jumps out… That’s lacking in transition in my opinion, and I mentioned this by commenting the game takes things too fast. I believe Tsukasa DID make his efforts to stand out by applying to be the class rep, but failed (for some reason), and was ridiculed further. Again, another crucial event for the protagonist, but not well elaborated.

      I more or less agree with you that Hinako was like a second protagonist (and in my eyes, THE protagonist) in the game. I liked how her viewpoints gave the reader that sense of transition and growth that you wouldn’t have seen otherwise, though to be fair this should have been elaborated or taken slower.

      Momo’s route was also the one I finished first, and I’m speaking purely from the perspective that the reader only finishs her route. How everyone including Momo simply disappears and Toto manifests into a solid form without any form of explanations is not a good way to end the route (then there’s “fake snow” which is only used to depict the surrealism of their environment, but again, remember that we’re assuming reader only went through Momo’s route). There are no foreshadows here nor any implications of what happened. You may argue that “Well you need to finish the last route to understand…” but that was exactly the point I criticized in the body of my review.

      Thank you for your analysis of Ai! I saw nothing within the game which explicitly suggested Ai lacked those “memories” that Yuu had, nor the reason she was created in the first place. However, I’d like to take your words with a grain of salt and mention that Ai likely KNOWS of Tsukasa and Yuu’s interactions from beginning to end; she just has a different MINDSET from Yuu that needs to have arose somewhere (which was my hypothesis that she underwent multiple “mistakes”, received “feedback”, and “learned”). Like you, I also thought the romance was pretty shit between Ai and Tsukasa and more fitting between Yuu instead.

      I can definitely understand why “vague” games such as this will tickle the fancy of other veterans such as yourself for the reasons you’ve pointed out. I also enjoy it to a certain extent as well, but the limit to the vagueness is when the game becomes excessively vague to the point it seems to simply lack effort. Look at how unexplained Tsukasa is, the extremely vague design of Milya/Saki, or how the game suddenly shifted from a nice slice-of-life (which I would have enjoyed) to sci-fi AI theories and all about Yuu/Ai. Consider the fact that the moral that you found to be a good addition to this game would have been sufficient WITHOUT all the sci-fi fantasy. This “lack of effort” is also suggested by the fact this is their first work for the scenario writers, and unless they’ve been writing bestsellers in the past, I’m going to assume they’re not too skilled with writing, and it’s the lack of experience that the game became very vague than them actually making it intentionally vague for the readers.

      Yeah, that capitalization was kinda unnecessary and didn’t have any meaning. Re:LieF also sounded like “Re:LIFE” which could mean “doing your life over again”, but guess English wasn’t the producer’s forte XD

    • Sorry for the slow reply, I’ve had this prepared for a while but I’m not satisfied with it. I planned to review and write something better but can’t think of anything else to add for now, so I’ll just post it as-is. I’m probably not the best person to play the game’s advocate as I have a much, much easier time pointing out flaws than points I actually liked.

      It seems we have different ideas on what is required for protagonists in this medium. I don’t actually expect them to do much, especially in eroge in which my main interest is the girls and their story. So long as he doesn’t blatantly trample on the heroine’s feelings (which is why I really dislike donkans…), I’m willing to accept pretty much anything ranging from simple hetare to psychological trauma. If anything, a weak protagonist can sometimes give some heroines the opportunity to shine even more, through their devotion or their ability to make something out of him in the end.

      I was actually disappointed to see Tsukasa lose his voice when the story switched to his perspective. That marked a clear break from the story as it unfolded from Hinako’s point of view, and made the game start to feel a lot more like a typical eroge. I’m glad that the heroines remain predominant during their own routes, and that Tsukasa is only central during the final stretch through the game. As I said earlier, I would have happily thrown away the romance for some more detailed development on each heroine’s idea about how to live in current society and what they learned during the project.

      I suppose I was lucky during my education and didn’t have to suffer much bullying (a little bit in high-school). Still, Tsukasa’s case seemed a bit more than that. It’s been about a month now since I played the game so forgive me I don’t remember the details exactly right, but Tsukasa only started speaking back to Yuu (then Alpha) after several weeks/months of her constantly trying to catch his attention. At that time, she was no bishoujo AI but merely a computerized voice coming out of a computer screen. Having her/it as his only friend and family (his mother being absorbed in her work and socially awkward, and his father remaining pretty nonexistent) is certainly not a situation I’d consider enviable, but I guess it can be depending on your situation.

      Despite how short and incomplete it is, I liked Momo’s route. It contains a lot of hints to guess the actual situation : the patterned responses from the island residents, the inability to communicate with the outside, the everlasting cherry blossoms, all of this screamed to me “computer simulation”, and Toto appearing at the end as a full-fledged bishoujo made it almost a certainty. Sure, the events as the writer imagined them can only be fully understood after playing the true route, but that gives readers the opportunity to create their own hypothesis. As for me, I had the false idea that Tsukasa was also an AI all along, his mother being an AI scientist and Momo saying several times that they were “the same”. This wouldn’t have been possible without the sci-fi setting, and even if the eventual explanations were lacking at best, I can’t deny it helped maintain my interest for most of the game.

      I suppose my tolerance for vagueness (intentional or not) is higher than yours, and I enjoy open-ended stories where the reader is left to interpret the events as he sees fit rather than be spoon-fed the solution immediately. If anything, each heroine’s ending made me want to play the game’s other routes ever more, eager to complete the puzzle and compare my answer to what the author actually intended.

      About Ai, I’m pretty sure it’s mentioned several times that she lacks the memories of Tsukasa and Yuu being together. That’s why she can’t play the piano and doesn’t know the musical piece they composed together. I believe Yuu said she created her as a copy of herself to help manage the Tryment project. I suppose she somehow knew from the start that as her current self she would be unable to truly support Tsukasa, and needed another perspective to properly grow. As I said, her setting is lacking at best, and having the arguably weakest character be the true route heroine certainly wasn’t the game’s best idea.

    • A late reply is better than no reply. It’s great to hear your opinions, though I won’t hide my disappointment that you are unable to advocate for this game as much as I would have hoped you could.

      Personally, this is why I separate “character score” from “protagonist score”. You can have an outstanding crew in terms of heroines, but the protagonist sucks so much it’s not fair to rate the game “good” or “bad” (Prime example would be Hatsuyuki Sakura). I think we would STILL agree, however, that the protagonist has to be focused on to a certain extent within the story and contribute to it as well (So if there’s a conflict X that’s part of a main story, the protagonist needs to be related to it in some way… I mean why the heck would you include said conflict or have the guy as the protagonist if it wasn’t?).

      The main problem I had with Tsukasa was again, Rihito could have easily replaced him as the protagonist and/or the fact that Hinako was more protagonist-like than him. All that made Tsukasa a protagonist in this game was pretty much his past and his mother creating AIs specifically for him; there was nothing that he himself did to make him seem like a protagonist. The game MADE him a protagonist simply by presenting him as such. Good protagonists in games always make a name for themselves whether it be through talent, effort, or perserverence (even if it’s the writer “making” them act as such).

      (To be honest, I would have really appreciated someone like Yuu “robot version” even if she wasn’t a bishoujo AI. Just having someone to talk to is such a relief when you have problems and it took Tsukasa those weeks/months to realize it)

      From what you’ve shared with me, I have not yet heard of your opinion on the sci-fi that this game presents to have Yuu and Ai be depicted. We are in agreement that more development, detail, and focus on the slice-of-life themes (sociology and life philosophy) would have been nice, but you also seem to be more lenient or approved of the sci-fi element which likely made things more interesting for you. What do you think about how a game wasn’t even realistic but contains “slice-of-life” themes? I found it contradictory but I would like to hear what you think.

      With all bragging aside, I half-suspected a “virtual reality” the moment I heard “island with no ways of communication outside” even in the prologue, aka Hinako’s PoV (The latter almost always means the former). Considering I’m a potato and I was able to immediately come up with such a conclusion means players much sharper than me can figure out the “truth” even faster. The problem with this is then the story essentially becomes “did I guess correctly or not”. Momo’s route doesn’t really give any clear answers aside from pointing out more of the obvious, and the reader is pretty much forced to play further JUST to have that sense of relief that what they predicted was true.

      I see how the various hypothesis that can be made was something you found to be favorable, though in my eyes the more important things (such as what the true route explicitly explains about this island) were way too obvious while the less important but critical information to support those more important things (Milya, Ai, Tsukasa’s past, Sci-fi) were left too vague. I can proudly say that I absolutely hate vague games whether it be this one or Favorite titles, but that’s just because the writers become very cunning in the sense they can twist and turn logic, paradigms, and reasoning because they left things vague in the beginning. It’s kinda like the kid who says “Mom, I said I’ll clean my room, I just never said when!”

      Ai’s design was just more of a negative than a plus. The lack of information (see how even you also need to make conclusions from implications), her involvement (she literally just joins the group of friends for what, a week?), and her influence (she convinces her original copy about her mindset which is somehow different?) just makes the game feel rushed or the writers didn’t feel like elaborating on her any longer, and that’s another reason why I’m so critical about other things as well. If I can’t trust my scenario writers to properly design a heroine, I shouldn’t trust them to trust the rest of the story either.

    • I’m sorry I’m unable to live up to your expectations. The thing is, your complaints are all valid and I’ll be the first the admit that the scenario and a few characters have very serious issues. I repeat myself, but I don’t consider the game a masterpiece, yet I liked it nonetheless. The game’s story managed to pique my interest more than the average game would, which combined with the beautiful art and peaceful music made for October’s strongest release in my eyes.

      I have mentioned it a few times already, but I found the game to be good “food-for-thought”. What I mean by that is that the game situations, themes and characters made me draw parallels to the real world and my own experience, and reflect on them. As an adult myself, I could see part of my current or past self in Hinako (life on autopilot, feeling crushed by the system, search for a vocation), Ruka (losing myself in studies, stubborn, prideful), and even Rihito’s (I play games too much…), which made relating to these character much easier than your standard ero-teenager or perfect heroine with just a quirk. Listening to each character’s philosophy of life, as well as watching it evolve during the course of each character’s route, was interesting in and of itself, and something I wasn’t expecting in this medium.

      The sci-fi elements served much of this purpose as well, as they also made me questions things outside the scope of the story. Tsukasa’s relation with Yuu made me wonder about what I myself feel with I play “icha-icha” moege (xCation games, Gin’Iro Haruka, etc…). I am also in a way staying inside my comfort zone while I could use the time to go out and meet people, or simply try new things out.

      Considering how easily accessible virtual reality is getting, I think an AI girlfriend such as Yuu is something that isn’t too far off showing up in the near future. Having it play such an important part in the game made me consider its implications, and I liked that the game refrains from any judgement on the matter. Tsukasa eventually has to part with Yuu and return to the real world, but the game doesn’t diminish her importance in his recovery either. The same idea can be seen in Hinako’s reaction when she learns she “only” overcame her trauma in virtual reality. I thought these were interesting points considering virtual reality is being studied and already showing results in psychological or neurological treatment.

      I suppose any story with similar themes and with the same peaceful, calm ambiance prone to let thoughts wander would have worked all the same. In the end I most likely spent less time caring about the characters and their plights, and more time thinking about entirely different things, but I can’t deny that it’s the game that managed to present the situations and ideas that triggered them. That’s something few other games have managed to do recently and worth a few extra points in my book, or at least enough to not penalize the game for the multiple flaws in the storytelling.

    • That’s quite some interesting points you make, especially since the “VR” theory that you have was something I didn’t even consider!

      In that sense, making the game vague was indeed the right idea. As it stands as quote-unquote “Food for Thought” game, Re:Lief really works well. It’s just that as a visual novel or an eroge, it falls greatly due to various things (okay maybe the art/sounds saves this a bit).

      The relate-ability to characters is exactly what I wanted to see more in this game, admittedly, which was why I became so salty once I found out it was only really used to develop more sympathy for them while moving onto a different theme and the main heroines not having much screentime/contribution in the true route. I really wish the true route showed the characters maturing from their problems like they did in their own respective routes (Hinako-Confidence, Ruka-Humility and dependability, Momo-…I dunno. Maturing in general?) and THEN moved onto Tsukasa’s problem. I can definitely agree many readers will be able to relate to some of these problems but find it a bit upsetting how the game resolves these issues without much happening overall.

      As someone of a healthcare field already, your theory about VR being used for healthcare is a very intriguing thought, but that would cause another long discussion we wouldn’t be able to share readily. Though to be fair, I’d like to mention that Ai wasn’t really that much of an improvement from an “AI girlfriend” if you really wanted to argue for that XD

      Now I’m actually curious that you’ve mentioned that you’ve never really experienced some of these “moral” topics on the Visual Novel medium! As a Veteran, this is such a shame! There are many games out there which try to convey philosophy or cover slice of life! I HIGHLY recommend asking around and trying these titles out for yourself (I’m actually working on a “Joyjason’s All-Time Best VNs list” that’s going to be released around the end of this year, too!)

    • Agreed that taken as a pure eroge, Re:LieF fails pretty badly with pretty much non-existent romance and being so light on the ecchi. It’s also light on the happenings and more of a contemplative game than anything, watching the heroines introspect and figure out things themselves rather than have shocking events left and right. To give a little bit of context, I started reading it after spending about a month in hikikomori-mode playing Persona 5 (200 hours in a month…). The calm ambiance was exactly what I needed, and the gentle push to get back to reality was also welcome. No doubt that helped in my valuation of the game.

      I remember reading an article recently about virtual reality helping some people suffering from complete paralysis in recovering at least partial use of their limbs, through “training” in a VR environment and by moving with the help of an exoskeleton. I also vaguely remember reading other stuff about VR being used for therapy sessions or to treat some simple phobias. Not being in the medical field myself, I’m afraid I can’t really provide any details without sounding like a fool but if that tickles your interest I’m sure you can find some of these publications on the net.

      Of course nothing yet about an AI “girlfriend” though AI companions is something that surfaces from time to time, and I’m seeing an increasing number of “talking pillows” being sold as goodies these days. I have a friend who worked in an university that made a human-sized talking robot in Japan (forgot the name, Uni was in Kyoto) and it was very interesting, though it’s been years now so I don’t remember much.

      To be honest, I haven’t played many games that deal with moral topics in a more than superficial manner, and practically none dealing with adults and/or work. The few I have have tended to be all-ages VNs rather than eroge : Key games for the most part (Angel Beats, Little Busters!), and a couple of Nitroplus games were also pretty interesting as well. For what I’ve played, eroge morals rarely go beyond “try your best” or “don’t give up” which is a message I’m honestly pretty tired of hearing. Re:LieF’s and its “it’s okay to take a break, as long as you don’t stand in place” felt like a breath of fresh air.

      In any case, I’ll be looking forward to that list of yours.

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