Posted by: Leek | July 30, 2013

Eroge in Review: Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi

In the large bundle of articles I should be writing, I’ve yet again drifted over to the escape lane. While I won’t say I’m not motivated to work on my other articles, there are times when motivation to do something else peaks over the rest. In my free time I’ve finally been able to touch my game library outside of fighting games. And that leads us to where we are today.

Now as much as I’d like to talk about the following game in full detail, I really can’t. As I said the first time, I call this article a review but it’s really difficult for me to straight out write reviews. I tend to get bored really quick so once again I’m just going to highlight points and convince you to play it. I will also swear by my heart not to spoil anything that would kill this game. And honestly, I’ll get to the reasons why spoilers will totally kill this game for you. So this overview is basically for you to read and gather whether you really want to pick up the game. And it’s so you can avoid all those other sites that are just going to spoil all the fun for you.


Hello, God? It’s been awhile.

Assuming you don’t live under a rock, then there’s very little chance you haven’t heard of eroge maker Nitro+. While they’ve been gradually sponsoring different projects more in relation to the bigger market (anime), they’ve still been turning out games every so often. I can’t say I’ve appreciated much of their work since they started their joint projects with 5pb. As far as their solo work since then I did enjoy Muramasa, Sonicomi was a cute gimmick, and Axanael was painfully forgettable. Honestly beyond those I really had lost the real drive to give a care about their works. I can’t say I was originally drawn towards Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi (Totono for short) but I began to catch word on the waves that it might be worth playing. So I figured it might be time to give Nitro+ and Vio (as a scenario writer) another chance.

I’ll admit I’ve been on a bad streak of not finishing eroges. I felt almost certain that Totono would be another addition to prove that syndrome. But like Sumaga and Muramasa before it, I blazed through the game as fast as humanly possible. It’s been a few years since I found myself so enraptured by a game’s scenario and really started sorting through all the small details on replay after replay. Which is impressive because Totono is far from a long game. It really won’t take you a long time to clear but there’s a part of you that will have to keep looking back at certain segments once you play more of it.


Your picture perfect (former) childhood friend.

So what is Totono actually about? Unfortunately, Nitro+’s “Alternative ADV” genre is about as clear as mud in describing what you’re getting. For the larger picture it’s best to look at the entire game as a romance drama. You play as the ordinary guy. You pride yourself from going from day to day without being noticed by anybody and avoiding any and all situations in the class. That balance is eventually upset as you become involved with two girls who stand on polar opposites of the class. Suddenly your day to day, average life hang in peril as you’re forced to maintain your class status while falling into the classic love triangle. Sounds, well, average right? It would be a little more if it weren’t for the wrench in the equation.

One of the two girls is your long time childhood friend, Miyuki. Or, at least, she WAS you childhood friend. In the main character’s desire to retain his ordinary guy status he parted with Miyuki as she has become the most popular girl of the class. The desire of every guy and friend to almost every female, Miyuki fits so perfectly in the stereotype you expect. So what about her polar opposite? The second of the pair, Aoi, is the girl nobody in class talks to or even recognizes. You run into Aoi by chance on the rooftop where she claims to be trying to get in touch with God. As you speak more with Aoi you see that she considers life nothing more than a game. She continues to insist that she can update the world at any time, save and load, and is not meant to be an accessible route. Oblivious to seemingly normal things, Aoi continues to function as if she was an actual character in a game and tell you regularly assure you the world is nothing more than a game.

As you can imagine, trying to navigate a friendship between the two girls is far from a small task. Couple this with the main character’s obnoxious best friend who has his own dreams revolving around Miyuki and you have a very small but lively cast of characters. And despite the drama it slips into as the romance starts, Totono is a really hilarious and adorable game to play through. It still does the normal, day to day, school setting very well as you get daily snippets of your best friends failures and triumphs. At the same time you watch Aoi’s slow progression to becoming “normal” as she slowly becomes not just a rival but best friend to a hostile Miyuki. But Totono is far from just that. In reality, that’s only scratching the surface of what the game is after.


Ring ring ring ring ring

So is it a depressing, tear filled game? I had mentioned the base of the game is a romance drama so you’re guaranteed to feel like a jerk at some point. But I can’t confess that I wanted to burst out into tears at any point (my mind might have been too shaken up or I played too fast). So, if you hate tear jerkers then you don’t have to worry so much. I won’t lie though, it will twist your heart. Even if you don’t cry you’ll definitely feel something after completing the full ending.

I had somewhat mentioned that Totono itself is a very short game. And, to be honest, it’s really easy to miss events, CGs, and the like when you play the game. Why? The game itself doesn’t necessarily have a specific way to be played but does require that certain flags be sparked for the sake of story. So it is definite you will see a certain route before the other or be forced into various routes after certain points. But it’s really hard to know what sparks what until you figure things out more. And you may become more and more aware of things as you continue to replay the game. Actually, the more replays you run before triggering major routes is probably for your own good.

With that being said, I will give you three points of advice for playing.

A) Do not spoil yourself on anything at any cost. Close your eyes, cover your ears, and yell at the top of your lungs. The more you know about the game’s story, the less fun you will have as plot unfolds. It’s the whole reason I’m keeping my plot descriptions in basic correlation with what you’d find on the main site.

B) Do not use any guides to get through the game (you shouldn’t need them anyway). The game actually rewards you for trial and error. Playing based on your own wit and, moreso, heart will merit a lot of fun for you and chances are you’ll get an amazing (and unique) experience because of it.

C) If the game seems to be telling you to do something, do it. Really. Do it.

Even if the game does somewhat hold your hand up until a certain point, it does drop you off the cliff eventually. So be ready to be dumbfounded at certain points. Like I said in my points, trial and error. It’s an “alternative ADV” in that it’s meant to appeal highly to those who have played a large amount of ADVs. The more you’ve played, the more the game will get into your head and, to be honest, it’s really damn fun. I won’t lie, the entire game itself is really kind of a gimmick. But a well executed gimmick is nothing to complain about.

The beauty is it’s a game that is really custom tailored to you. I think when anybody picks up this game the experience will be different. There’s also a lot to catch so I’d love to see what other people manage to notice that I overlooked. But I really commend Nitro+ for giving such a very different (albeit mind boggling) game that you honestly have to beat. There’s hardly a feeling of “beating” a lot of eroges but I think you get that satisfaction when you “beat” Totono.


Miyuki has a picture perfect swing too.

So here’s the point I think that people want might to throw in. Yes, the character designer is the one and only Santa. So for the Sonico/Daiichi fans who might have been thinking, “Gee, Aoi and Miyuki look pretty close to Sonico and Suzu”. You’re not crazy. In fact, Furi’s bizarro self is basically in there as a side character. Not that I’m banging on Santa for carbon copying designs into a new game at all as I’m fairly sure it’s far from a coincidence. Either way, it’s hard to complain. And, I really didn’t feel a need to complain at any point. I just felt that it might worth pointing out just so I can avoid the “Isn’t that the same guy who draws Sonico?” question. All the artwork (characters designs and backdrops) are really great and great on the eyes for that matter. In the CG section they have all the backdrops for you which probably isn’t a huge talking point but I do think they are really nice to look at.

The music for Totono was also passed off to Hironobu Hirata again which I also have no real quarrel with. I believe he’s becoming the favored composer for Nitro+’s project for a reason and that’s because his soundtracks always turn out solid but never too obstructive. I won’t say it’s a incredibly stand out soundtrack but even outside of the game it’s great to listen to. Actually, you can even preview it on Georide’s Soundcloud page. Otherwise, I really loved it. The music always fit the mood well and I really fell in love with the opening after hearing it a few times over. My only regret is that they didn’t let Swinging Popsicle actually perform the opening or ending. Because as much as I love Hirata getting work as a composer (he deserves it) I miss him getting to do more with his actual band.

Being such a small cast, the voicing itself is hard to raise a complaint about. Especially with a big company like Nitro+ funding it, there was no real chance that there would be any troubles. And really, the cast was well chosen. Your ever wild best friend is given the best voice to fit the job and I’m sure a many will recognize instantly who he is being voiced by. And, of course, the two heroines are top notch. The atmosphere is never ruined by an badly voiced lines and if anything a lot of scenes were well amplified by how great the voicing was. But, like I said, it was kind of a given. Had Nitro+ botched getting a short, small cast game voiced then I would have been dumbstruck.

As for the ero rating, I’ll admit that even being a short game there’s really not that many ero scenes. Perhaps because the main attraction is the scenario and the lack of actual chances to fit them into the plot, one might say that there isn’t the amount you would expect even with only two heroines. Still, all the scenes are integrated well and don’t suffer from the awkward, “Why are we having sex all of a sudden?” vibe that plagues many a game. I also have to give it credit for Totono having one of the more disturbing (?) scenes in the history of eroges I’ve played (lock your door). At the least, I could say it managed to catch me by surprise when I thought the game itself had done about everything to try and get the better of me.


Just a lost cat.

In general, I’m not sure what will happen to Totono as it ages. It’s not necessarily a contemporary heavy game but it’s hard to say whether people are willing to call it more than a gimmick. It really doesn’t have any future because it needs to be enjoyed as a game. There are a lot of scenario heavy games that have been converted to anime but Totono is something that simply can’t escape it’s source format. It needs the power to give you the freedom of choice and rely on your personality so it can properly have an affect on you.

But I really hope there is enough voice that Totono gets attention. I believe it has every right to sell copies and get put in the books. In reality, I really wanted to write this so that maybe more people will put it into their libraries.

Overall
Totono is, to me, a once in a lifetime experience. For anybody who’s played a good number of ADVs, VNs, eroges, what have you, then I think there’s worth in giving Totono a try. And if you do play these types of games and are into romance stories then you’re definitely doing yourself a crime by not playing Totono. It really does a great job of playing with a certain type of mindset and games that do that in the ADV genre are few and far between.

It’s a short game and the fact it’s burdened by relying on it’s gimmick might sacrifice a bit of it’s ability to be replayed. And that’s probably the only real troubling part of Totono. Chances are after you clear it once you won’t think to jump into it again unless it’s just to retrieve more scenes and CGs. But I feel that after you’ve seen the scenario once then you suffer from the inability to react similarly to your first playthrough. And that’s the sad downside to the game: the magic can be really easily ruined. But I wager it’s worth it if you can slip past spoilers and give it a try yourself. I really don’t see anyone regretting playing this game. And I think the curious enough mind will play it at least one more time to make more sense of what occurred before the plot unfolded.

So my final stance is if you have the ability to grab a copy of Totono, play it. I believe Vio did a great job with the scenario of Sumaga to somewhat create a unique scenario that really made trial and error fun. And I think Totono just built upon that idea and made trial and error twice as rewarding. So gear down and get ready to pick your brain a bit.

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