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

Foreword: Happy New Year everyone! I actually started this game quite recently and have a lot of good things to say about it, and I also refrained from publishing TWO reviews that have already been written, purely because they’re more negative and I want to start every year with a positive one and I don’t want to seem like a pessimistic asshole wait I’m already one

I want to start off by saying this game was fun. No seriously. It was really fun in its purest definition. So fun in fact that when I wasn’t playing it, I was itching to get back on to play it! It was THAT good

Despite this, it does have some flaws that other friends warned me ahead of time, so I’ll be explaining all of this below. Let’s get started!

Title: 千の刃濤、桃花染の皇姫 (Sen no Hatou, Tsukisome no Kouki) [Thousand Blades and the Royal Princess of Tsukisome]
Producers: August
Release Date: September 23, 2016
VNDB Link: https://vndb.org/v15708
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=901861
Game Type: Dramatic Action Visual Novel with Mixed Themes

Summary: The Imperial Nation was quite happy with their Empress (Suotei) who was fair and just. It was really only after the invasion of the United Nations and the mingling of their culture with the Imperial Nation’s when things started to get out of hand, and with the death of Suotei, their current empress, a traitor to the nation takes over with a puppet empress Hisuitei (my Tera Character’s name; bonus points if you know where I got it from) and drives out the Suotei’s daughter who was the last of her bloodline.

Soujin is a man with amnesia who participates in the committee of Samurais who dedicate their lives to the loyalty towards their empress. He spots a terrorist who tries to assassinate the empress and chases after the terrorist only to find that this “terrorist” somehow overturns his loyalty to serving her instead.

Soon she claims she is the last bloodline of the Empress, and the Hisuitei is actually a fake. This “real Empress” who calls herself Akari then receive Soujin’s help in rebelling against the traitor who ruined the country, as well as prevent future calamities to come.

Story Length: Moderately Long (25 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Very Easy
Comments: One main storyline with branching routes for each heroine, this is one of those games that makes it rather sad players ask for a walkthrough.

On the other hand, I want to comment that this simplistic path diversion was a good choice specifically in this game so the readers aren’t really distracted by the stories and instead was able to immerse themselves into this “novel” like they were supposed to. Great Job on this part August! (Even if it’s that you just got lazy kek)

Otherwise, short side-stories open up after you clear a heroine route, as well as a route for the three female subcharacters.

They’re mostly for laughs, similar to how Aiyoku no Eustia had joke episodes open up after you clear the game

Character Design Rating: 8/10
Story Rating: 6/10
Protagonist Rating: 8/10
Game Quality: High
Overall Rating: 8/10
Rating Comments: Right. So comments

Characters are what this game extremely worth playing, as colorfully designed heroines with great humor which quickly attracts your attention to their every detail. Each heroine remained relevant throughout the entire main route (note how I say “main route” and not the entire game), and the previously built humor as well as their descriptive explanations worked to mutate into affection for the readers.

… Mutate into affection?

This is especially true for some characters who act as the ones to offer the plot twists within the stories as the game makes specific and sufficient reminiscence scenes to give the viewpoints of even some of subcharacters as well as the heroines themselves, and the entire game reads and feels like a novel from various viewpoints. The only complaint I’d make was that said plot-twists were rather poor in the sense it lacked proper foreshadowing, and it almost felt they appeared from nowhere.

Story would really have been better than what I gave; it’s just that while the setting, climax, and overall atmosphere was beyond excellent, August just HAD to ruin it entirely with stupid elements such as the integration of futuristic and modern things such as “tablets”, “idols”, or “advanced technology” from the United Nations. It should go without saying that while I had so much fun playing the game I was equally as disgusted that the aforementioned elements were included purely because it wasn’t really important and they also broke the immersion or the game’s background as that “old Japan setting”.

I mean, why did they need to do such a thing? They could have as well easily used “messengers” or some sorts.

In reality, that was the biggest thing that really kept this game from getting a near perfect score (10/10); the fact it failed to consistently keep a single theme throughout. While fluid in transitions, the game was essentially divided into three “arcs” if you will, each with a different antagonist which the characters fight against. More info on this later.

Lastly, it should be noted that all the heroine routes that split off from the main story were pretty shitty. The “common route” if you will contains a lot more about them while their own route was mostly filled with H-scenes and a boring finale, which was another thing that dropped the story score quite a bit.

Protagonist was quite resourceful, powerful, and stoic for the most part, his design falls mostly due to the writers failing to properly follow-up with his characteristics in the end. His design is overall excellent because other than said follow-up, his background was properly foreshadowed and the reasoning/explanation for his actions are all clear and thorough. The main problem with him was, as with most eroge in the modern days, was that his stoic and formal mindset greatly contradicted his romantic interest in heroines and subheroines in their respective mini-stories. (aka, romance sucks in this game like all the other games out there)

Soujin was pretty badass, though I would have appreciated a bit more subtle foreshadows about his identity (the game almost rubs it in your face about it)

Character Summary:

As the “terrorist” who tries to assassinate Okonogi early within the game, Akari is obviously hinted to be someone of royal blood and important to the story. Her rage against this traitor is so great that readers question both her own sanity and why the heck Soujin “instinctively” moves to protect her. Lots of hints make her background as the last royal bloodline almost explicit, which isn’t as such for other characters such as Hotori, who thinks Akari is an impostor.

What I appreciated about Akari’s design was that despite her background and how she seems to be that super-potent character, the game focuses primarily on how she is a “poor leader”, which was a very interesting way to display a competent and headstrong “royal” character.

As the central heroine, I was rather disappointed that her affection for Soujin was amplified greatly during the common routes but never utilized as a dramatic element (e.g. love triangles) in routes for other heroines (it simply disappeared). It’s hard to explain, but her route was also rather poor, since it had to switch from “getting her revenge” to “Saving her country” without much good transitions, kinda like how Aiyoku no Eustia went from “Living in a dystopia” to “Armageddon”. Again, this is something I’ll be explaining in the comments section down below.

Hotori is the girl who appears rather early in the game introduced quickly to be someone close to Soujin and with much affection toward him. She is shown to know him even before his amnesia, and having to endure the pain of Soujin completely forgetting about her after a certain event. Even stronger than Soujin in terms of combat capabilities, it’s not surprising that she intimidates pretty much everyone with her rather solemn atmosphere, and comes to the absolute surprise of both the characters in game and to the readers that she has a “part time job” as an idol purely so she can earn funds for the Samurais

Her story mostly involves the appearance of Akari and how Soujin’s complete devotion to the girl incites Hotori’s jealousy. She feels that she cannot pursue Soujin despite her much contribution to his wellbeing because of a crucial fact about female Samurais (which was quite retarded, mind you), and like Akari’s route, Hotori’s story is mostly about regaining her confidence as a leader.

Kotone was quite the charming character who had a bright atmosphere which made her stand out from the rest of the cast who were more formal than anything. Very humble about her abilities as a priest, this was purely due to her background and not representative of her actual skill which far surpasses the abilities of peer candidates; she herself is simply unaware of her own potential.

Originally meeting Soujin and Hotori’s group of Samurais when they assaulted a transport of Spiritual Blades, Kotone has the ability to “sharpen” and hone these special blades which amplify a Samurai’s physical abilities, which made her existence priceless to the group, AND was further enhanced by how she is a capable healer and highly knowledgeable about spells and rituals as well.

I thought Kotone was that character who didn’t receive as much spotlight as she should have, since she contributes so much but is assumed to be worth much less than what she really is. However as with every other heroine, her romance was quite poor.

Kanami is a girl who appears early on writing a Diary to her “older-brother” and is the puppet Empress to Otonagi. She herself is actually a female samurai, but after she was split away from her family, Otonagi took her in and demanded that she take this role as a “female empress” which was, to the Samurai Families, the greatest of sins. However, she performs this role and becomes the “Hisuitei” that citizens come to adore purely because she wants to meet her older brother again, and Kanami displays her utmost loyalty to her brother many times throughout the story with her very brave actions.

It should be obvious, however, that her surname gives away her identity as Soujin’s sister. This design was quite interesting in the beginning considering Soujin himself has amnesia and does not remember his younger sister, who is now the empress of the Imperial Nation.

Kanami was similar to the other heroines in the sense only her character was really developed and not her story. Obviously, there’s no reasoning for her almost-excessive affection towards her step-brother, nor any background story for how they became siblings. She was admittedly more fit to being a subcharacter instead, but I know a lot of galge players would have wanted an “imouto heroine” for reasons >.>

One of the commanders of the United Nations army, Elsa is shown to be a foreigner with little knowledge about the Imperial people’s life-style and would rather just keep it that way as she is the daughter of the General of the United Nations army. Going through the story and observing this rather haughty character may fill the reader with contempt, but the game is quick to reveal that this heroine is one full of justice and love for citizens to the point when she finds out she was raised with corrupted money stolen from the weak, she revolts for days and starts to question the loyalty she once had for her father and her country.

Further actions from her father start to anger this character even more, and finally snaps when her father almost blatantly admits to pretty much not giving a shit about her. From this point on she provides all the support she can to the Imperial Nation seeing how she admired Soujin’s way of life as a Samurai

As with other heroines, her route is pretty bland in the sense there’s nothing else happening aside from “…and they lived happily ever after”. I guess the presence of “bonus episodes” saved this a bit, but as it is the readers will likely feel a bit of bitterness towards Elsa even when she “switches sides” because it happens almost too rapidly.

Persimmons, which was one of the elements used in the game actually had no explicit meaning. I think it was like that for peach blossoms as well, which was strange.

Sexual Content: Low

Comments: Wow. That’s pretty much the only comment I can really make. I know August makes some pretty serious shit which looks all innocent and cute on the outside, so I pretty much expected the similar here. The catch was that the outside wasn’t so cute this time, giving this game both the quality and the atmosphere similar to Aiyoku no Eustia, one of August’s games which I rate VERY highly (actually scratch that; it’s my favorite August game).

Like the previously aforementioned title, however, Sen no Hatou does lose out a bit on the “transition of events” portion, where the events that happens in sequence doesn’t seem to be related to each other. This “choppiness” is seen as one scene involving fighting with the United Nations and the next involving the past 2000 years ago. While the game’s main scenario is absolutely splendid and deserving of my praise, this choppy transition (it’s actually not choppy; just inappropriate or incoherent) was likely due to the need for accommodating multiple heroines of various backgrounds/themes and was something that broke player engagement. This is why you should be making a kinetic novel August. Please make a kinetic novel. I’m begging you. I’d fucking preorder your game without a second thought if you made a kinetic novel.

In reality, this is the main flaw that prevents this game or other games from August from scoring super high or even making it on my top 10 (Aiyoku no Eustia was so freaking close; easily in the top 20 if I compiled a list for that). Unlike the predecessor, however, I found that this game also suffered another flaw in the sense there’s no real “heroine route”, and instead all the important stuff is placed within the “common route”. This is why you need a kinetic novel. Wait I already said this?

Though to be fair, if this game was a kinetic novel with Akari being the heroine, players would likely complain about not having their favorite heroine not having a route.

The goods though? Too much to list to be honest. Great foreshadows on both heroines and the protagonist, though said foreshadows were a bit too obvious at least for me. Colorful heroines with humor which really immersed readers and encouraged engagement to the story, the animations as well as August’s usage of sprites within background images gave this game the visual depth while the auditory department was filled with impactful and orchestral soundtracks allowing for high climax scenes. While other producers like Smee, Lump of Sugar, Navel (to a certain extent) are falling, August has been rather consistent with their quality of games which really makes it worth to follow their name, though I sometimes wish they get other artists because seeing almost the same artist for years is making the art look monotone.

The “fun” really stemmed from climactic battle scenes, in my opinion

Affection for the Characters: Moderately High

CG Score: 8/10. Bonus points for the animations, but they’re still lacking “normal CGs” to a great extent.
Music Score: 7/10. I’m quite a sucker for these “ancient” themed music with string instruments. The opening and ending music is quite good and one of my favorite tracks is titled “鳥木 – ウボク -” (But I’m too lazy to extract stuff. Sorry!)

Addictiveness: Moderately Low. As a rather straightforward game, I can’t really see myself coming back to this as I might with Aiyoku no Eustia. I think this is more of a personal preference than anything else to be honest.

The humor alone’s worth coming back for!

Conclusion:

Pros

  • This game, in my purest definition, is fun to play. I mean that’s what we’re here for, right?
  • Protagonist is voiced, fully competent, and foreshadowed “decently”
  • Characters (both heroines and subcharacters) are very well designed and the main selling point of this game.
  • The animations in this game add to the visual element while the music adds to the auditory. Both really tie in with my first point to make the game “fun”.
  • The entire game is rather serious for the most part, with the occasional right amount of humor so the game doesn’t become too depressing

Cons

  • The introduction of “modern” elements such as idols and tablets were not only breaking immersion, but also not important.
  • The game has problems with transitioning between scenes, often requiring abrupt scene changes or incoherent successive scenes just so they can accommodate all the heroines
  • “Heroine Routes” are highly lacking, making them only worthwhile just to complete the game and to open up the side-stories.
  • As with all other games released recently, the romance element used as an excuse to display H-scenes sucks.

Overall, Senmomo was one of the better games of 2016 and took me by pleasant surprise. While it wasn’t the best game out there, it’s still a game I’d recommend to readers, but heavily warn in advance that there are kinks and rather lacking heroine routes which may come off as disappointing to readers who were expecting a bit more from a project that took well over a year to produce.

In its purest form, Senmomo is a good and fun game, though I should mention that this only remains the case for perhaps the beginning while later portions of the game seem rushed with additional antagonists and less explanations. It makes the game seem like a kinetic novel (because there’s only one solid route), but that wasn’t the case because there were branching routes for each heroine, and that was something in the grey-zone I didn’t particularly like; I would appreciate it if August can either stick to having multiple good routes like a charage or making a strict kinetic novel.

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Comments on: "The Empress, Her Sword, and Peach Blossoms: Review of [160923] Sen no Hatou, Tsukisoume no Kouki" (7)

  1. […] left quite a bit of impression on me, I would first off say that as with a previous game I played, Senmomo, this game was actually rather fun. As that mystery game where you are required to use clues and […]

  2. About Hisuitei : could it have something to do with the little lady in this blog’s background, drawn by a certain Izumi Tsubasu? I’m afraid that’s all I can think of.

    I’m not surprised you liked Senmomo, as you really seem to favor kinetic novel types of games and don’t seem overly troubled by the lack or meaninglessness of choice in a Visual Novel. I’d say Senmomo is a close to a kinetic novel as you can get, as there’s only one proper route considering how quickly expedited and poorly developed all heroine routes but Akari’s are. I tend to be on the other side of the spectrum, attaching probably too much importance to choices and their consequences when I’m playing a game. Then again, I knew the structure of the game before starting it, and thus I can’t say I was disappointed, but the game didn’t positively betray my expectations either.

    The various “routes” hardly last more than an hour and most of that is filled with the first ecchi. All the plot points get resolved in the most lazy and abridged way possible, or not even resolved at all in Hotori’s case. There are some fun parts in some of them, I really appreciated how Kanami went half-crazy and stood up to Elsa in her own mini route, but it’s all too short to even begin to compare with Akari’s treatment. Moreover, the game ships Akari and Soujin during the “common” part so much that choosing anyone else feels like a small betrayal. As it is, the various heroines get a treatment I would consider okay for a sub-character, but certainly not for a main heroine.

    While on the topic of heroine routes, I’m really not fond of placing all the ecchi and icha-icha in side stories that I probably will not look at : it shows a certain lack of confidence in the relevance or importance of these scenes. Since they’re unlocked when the story is already concluded, and three out of four of these scenes are mostly there to fill the ero-quota, it makes me wonder why August doesn’t just try to release their games in an all-age version that would be more suited to the atmosphere and battle theme of the game. As you pointed out, there’s very little in ways of romance, even with the main heroine Akari, and taking out the ecchi scenes entirely wouldn’t have hurt the game at all, at least in my opinion.

    Structure-wise, I didn’t appreciate the overuse of perspective change, every scene, multiple times, all the time. Especially in games like this that contain at least a small part of mystery, I like to try and interpret events using the protagonist’s knowledge, and having everyone keep spoiling their feelings, their actions, their motivations, just served to draw out the story more than it helped me get engaged in it. Thanks to that, the plot points are oh-so-obvious to the point that there is little surprise as the story unfolds. It’s only when the game doesn’t abuse this perspective change that I could see some form of unexpectedness : I was waiting for a Tenchou betrayal the whole game, but alas… I’m surprised you found the plot twists to come out of nowhere. I’m not going to spoil them but there were a lot of hints scattered around. Maybe you read the game too quickly and missed them?

    As main story of the game went on, I found myself progressively distancing myself more and more from the character’s plights as the scale kept getting bigger. I can sympathize with rebels against an almighty invader, but when it starts involving immortals and superpowers… Some blatant plot holes left open didn’t help (for instance : Hotori and Kanami grew with Soujin, yet don’t find it odd he was never a child and didn’t age?). The battles between samurais and tanks/helicopters, while visually pleasing thanks to the great art direction, felt surreal and impossible to relate to. The game is never boring, but by about the halfway point I was mainly just following along and didn’t feel it very engaging. Thanks to that, I suppose the ending and its abundant use of Deus Ex Machina didn’t bother me too much, even if its happy end conclusion feels forced and cheapens both Akari and Soujin’s resolve.

    The game does makes a fantastic use of sprites and background to give life to scenes without using a full CG for them. The special effects during the various battle scenes were also very well done and integrated, there’s clearly some effort and talent that went in there. I’ve been very negative to try and balance your review, but don’t get me wrong : I liked the game and found it pretty good. It’s a fun read, but I doubt this will turn out to be a title I will remember much of in a few months or so.

    • DING DING DING! Bonus points for kzel! Yep it was Hisuitei = Izumi Tsubasu. I’m genuinely surprised you were immediately able to notice (feelsgoodman).

      I fully share your opinions that some visual novels are really better off without the sexual content. Most of the time the romance between the characters are scarcely described, and that’s what the producers use as a “reasoning” to add in the H-scenes, but as you already know if the former is lacking, that means the reasoning for having these H-scenes is also lacking. Likewise, I found the extreme lack of heroine routes quite disappointing; I personally think each heroine really had some potential for additional story (e.g. Hotori’s inability to conceive, Kanami’s sin, Elsa’s problem with her mother country, and Kotone’s … I dunno)

      Regarding plot-twists, I was talking more about Okonogi’s “betrayal” or Maki’s “resignment” not actually being one. Both were utilized so each subcharacter would be able to help their respective heroines grow, and to be perfectly honest, I was rather disgusted with said design to a certain extent; it almost makes the game not really have an antagonist (at least for that portion of the story).

      I can definitely agree that the game spilled things too early, but that was more for the purpose of having the reader sympathize or see things in the heroine’s point of view (as a charage may have). I really wouldn’t say there was any “mystery” within this game in the first place for the readers to solve, so I guess that was why I wasn’t bothered with the blatantly obvious “foreshadows”.

      This “increasing of scale” was also present in Aiyoku no Eustia and was my main criticism for both games. Had the scenario writer created both games with purely Akari’s (or Eustia’s in the predecessor) route being the main game and NOT having to accommodate the extra heroines within, there would have been a much better transition to this sudden jump from a rebellion to saving their country (e.g. Senmomo could have had an “intermission” where everything’s peaceful and something triggers all sorts of calamity to fall on them). As mentioned within the review, I wasn’t particularly fond of helicopters or any form of advanced machinery within this older East-Asian setting, though those animations made it pretty cool

      Thanks for trying to balance me out! It really shows me that I understood the game fully and competent enough to write an unbiased (lolIwish) and objective review

    • Okonogi’s false betrayal was fairly obvious, as the game mentioned numerous times how odd his actions were, and how he was letting the rebellion fly (and let Akari and Soujin out of the palace after their first encounter). It was pretty obvious he was just playing the villain to make Akari stand up to the throne. Same goes for Maki (was Maki the bear-samurai? I can’t remember) and to some extent Mutsumi, who I remember saying quite a few times that they want Hotori to stand up as the full leader of the samurais, and will do what they need to for this to happen.

      By the way, what are those two reviews you haven’t posted yet? I’d guess one of them is probably Gin’Iro Haruka, what about the other?

    • The problem with Okonogi’s “betrayal” was that while the game does make some suggestions at how unnatural his actions were (e.g. characters talk about how loyal he was previous to the betrayal), the game spends too much time hinting that he indeed betrayed the royal family with a lot more bad things that he did such as the establishment of a fake empress, “cooperation” with the United Nations, suppressing of his own people, his own words of killing the Suotei, and much more.

      Let’s be honest; at least 8 out of 10 people who plays this game will take it for granted that Okonogi’s betrayal was true because of the above, and that’s why I said it was a “plot twist” and not something that’s ridiculously obvious.

      Likewise, Maki Kazuma does not have a good relationship with the Inou family in the first place, and he’s been repeatedly silenced when he wants to take action. It’s only natural that his departure was imminent (and betrayal not too obvious) after being suppressed by a girl not even half or even 1/3 his age.

      Both Kazuma and Mutsumi do not explicitly say Hotori needs to be the leader of the Samurais, but rather “take her father’s place” as the Inou family head. The only reason why Hotori has control over Kazuma was because the Inou family won over the Maki family during the little “contest” hundreds of years ago.

      One of the two reviews IS Gin’iro Haruka, the other is a game I regretted picking up as soon as I did (lol). Also started on the December titles, so I’m trying to complete those as well.

  3. Because aiyoku no eustia i been following august quite some time altho I don’t really like Daitoshokan ,senmono actually is not bad(half way) hatori route is too short for me which I find really disappointing And during sword fighting scene is dam epic imo.

    • Very much agreed! Daitosho was actually more of a disappointment for me as well after Aiyoku because there was very little “behind-the scenes” things going on and the gimmicks really didn’t match up with the otherwise realistic atmosphere of the original story.

      Glad to see someone enjoyed Aiyoku as much as I did though!

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