A Refreshing Non-Clickathon
The normal image of bishoujo games is of a text scroll, where
one passively watches a story go by, only occasionally making
a choice every now and again. Thus, they're not even viewed
as games by many Americans, but rather as visual novels. Brave
Soul deviates from this image wildly, providing an actual
RPG experience, which, while not Final Fantasy caliber, amuses
and entertains for its length.
The game's graphics are rather basic, actually. The game is
played from a top-down perspective, with basic looking building
structure and character sprites. For the most part, it looks
like something that could be put out for the TurboGrafix CD
(PC-Engine CD). The Grandia-style map screens are well drawn
and pleasant to look at, but won't blow your mind.
The artwork, however, is amazing. Drawn by Mogudan, famous
for his "One Student Compilation" Rei Ayanami doujins,
he pours his heart out in the character art for Brave Soul,
not only using an amazing array of color, but a level of detail
not usually seen in hentai material. Characters are drawn
with phenomenal levels of detail in their clothes, and even
in their skin and muscle tone, helping to lend everyone a
unique look. The characters also fit well with their personalities,
from the timid-looking Alicia to the cool Ruby and the hot-tempered
Carol. Everyone looks the way they should, and none of the
girls have a generic look to them.
On a side note, you should check out the opening in your
media player as opposed to seeing it using the in-game "opening"
option (It's in the avi subfolder of your game's folder, as
well as on the Game CD's AVI folder). The game plays it with
some frame synch issues, but played in a media player, it
plays just fine, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful ending
Sound is pretty nondescript. The MIDI sound fits the mood,
but doesn't blow anyone's mind. The voices are nice, but they
don't sound very clear, like the acting cast was using Windows'
sound recorder. It does the job, and everyone's easy to hear,
but it just got to me. Sound effects are also very very generic,
nothing special here.
Story and Gameplay:
The game suffers from a bit of a lack of direction early on.
After completing a few trials, you're simply a Hunter taking
jobs to earn money and advance your rating. During this time,
you and your pet dragon find female companions (of which you
can have 2 in your party at a time) to accompany on your hunts.
Jobs are taken at a guild in one of the town, similar to
Arc the Lad 2, but you have to be careful which jobs you take,
as the girl you want to be with may leave if you take a job
she dislikes. The relationships are furthered through decisions
you make in jobs (Do I sell this crystal or bring it back
to the client like I promised?), and in free time cinematics
that you can see by talking to the girls while wandering around
in free time mode (similar to Star Ocean: The Second Story.).
Exploring is rather simplistic, as you have to only click
on an area to make your character move, and clicking on an
enemy will make your character attack it automatically, while
right and middle clicks will activate special moves. The others
in your party will attack or heal automatically based on their
AI script. This is one of the few black marks, as the characters
rarely pay attention to the options at the bottom of the screen
that are supposed to change their patterns. This leads to
having to wait a while to be revived, as you can't use items
while you're down.
Eventually, you'll hook up with the girl of your choice and
make love to her, and after this, the free time will be unavailable,
as you'll always go into a sex scene with the girl of your
choice. While this is certainly a good chance to get to see
some of the fine artwork in the game, being robbed of the
amusing free time is a bit of a sore. I would have preferred
to be able to activate the sex by talking to that character
while going about events with the other. But it takes a long
time before a love scenario fully unfolds, so there's plenty
of event time beforehand.
After some time, a story about a Dark Lord pops up out of
the blue and becomes your focus, but it never really earns
much attention, save for an incident involving your Dragon,
which I'm not going to spoil. The endings that you can earn
(out of a possible 8) are more about the girl you choose or
whether you go alone, than they are about the Dark Lord. It
would have been better were there no Dark Lord at all, and
the entire game centered around the women, like so many romance
stories that have come out.
The game's surprisingly vanilla in this regard. The usual
array of peepings and accidental glimpses go on in the game,
but there's not a lot of monster sex or anything weird like
that. Just some very normal, very natural soft-core shots
and hardcore sex. Which is fine by me, as it's vividly drawn.
It's a shame the sex scenes aren't animated, however. The
beautiful art deserves it.
While the game is flawed to be sure, the positive points outweigh
the negative ones. Those looking for a change of pace from
the usual bishoujo clickathons have found your game. Oh, and
don't forget to go to the Minstral Border after beating the
game once - the staff room is both hilarious and helpful.