So! Mashou Megane came out last week and I just finished it so here are some thoughts. I’m bad about spoilers so this probably has spoilers:
First off, the game is extremely short for its price tag. Like, so short I’m shocked that people aren’t throwing a tantrum in the Amazon reviews right now. It took me a few days to get through but that’s mostly because I’d spend most of the day being distracted and clicking through a few lines here and there. I think realistically it’s prooobably a 10-12hr game… with a 7,020yen pricetag. The demo is like 95% of the common route (there were some extra scenes or at least I think there were but maybe I just didn’t remember the demo very well). It’s almost certainly shorter than Bocchimusume and definitely shorter than either half of the Jooubachi games.
Personally, I don’t really have a problem with short games. I actually prefer it to something padded with a bunch of boring shit, but I do have to say I felt a bit misled by the pricetag. Not really like I feel like it was a ripoff, but it set up certain expectations to the point where I legitimately had a hard time believing the first route I went through could have been over when it ended because it was so quick.
I think my main issue with the length is just that the game felt a little hollow in some respects. I’m not even sure if that’s quite the right way to describe it though. Each route basically consists of Karen picking a world to hang out in and then she spends the whole route just like hanging out in a room with the route guy, having miscellaneous interactions with him until his unfortunate past comes out, and Karen comes to accept that she doesn’t need to rely on the glasses.
So, like, the actual content of those interactions and the character development therein, imo, was totally fine and even pretty good at points, but the fact that there was no real like… plot? driving each route forward made things feel a bit empty. Like there’s no outside anything going on. No one is really trying to *do* anything in particular at any point in time, Karen just stumbles onto things by accident or happenstance. I think part of it is because of the small scope of the cast. Each route is very isolated and features only the love interest and then one or two minor supporting cast members and each fairytale land is basically completely empty and dead. Which I guess is sort of a point they have going but it’s a bit dull? Anyway, basically I felt like the game really could have used some kind of central plot running through each route to give these character moments something to hang on. As it is, it feels sorta almost like an outline (with some great scenes in it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not quite there).
There were ultimately some things that were left unresolved that felt a little awkward, because it probably wouldn’t have taken much to actually resolve them. Like in Cidre’s route they don’t even address the real world again. Karen doesn’t even make an explicit decision to stay in the fairytale land which felt pretty contrary to the themes set up in both Peach and Doutei’s routes. And then there’s Oujisama. He starts this whole thing and he shows up in both Doutei and Cidre’s bad ends where he’s sorta taking the form of like… idk her indulging too much in this fantasy/escape from reality/whatever type thing, but then in Peach’s bad end his presence isn’t even suggested and there’s never really any resolution to that thematic element. All it really would have taken was a couple lines at the end of Peach’s route and then maybe an epilogue once all 3 routes were complete. Like one scene would have been plenty to make it not feel incomplete.
Also there’s the issue of a bit too many anticlimactic reveals. This is gonna sound weird given the content of the bad ends, but it almost felt like they couldn’t bring themselves to fully commit to the fucked up set ups for most of the cast. Like Doutei is actually a total softie who can’t bring himself to really punish anyone (and he’s not even a fairytale character and the land he resides in isn’t even a fairytale!), which is sorta whatever but then with Peach it turns out the bestiality thing was all a deliberate ruse too. I guess Cidre actually bangs corpses, so they didn’t backtrack on that at least. They do keep it like REALLY tame in the good end routes which sorta makes me wonder if this was a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too situation (keeping all the fucked up shit in the bad ends so it’s wholly avoidable, I’ve seen a few JP players comment that they skipped the bad ends because they don’t have the stomach for the weird shit). Peach’s route had more the tone I was expecting with some weird shit going on in the background. I think this stuff would have been a bit less of an issue had there been more of a central plot though.
They did do a pretty good job with the other unifying… plot elements? aside from Oujisama though. Namely the whole thing with the origin of the children (I’d suggest saving Peach for last so this actually feels like a building reveal btw) and the situation with Peach’s “grandmother” (though they didn’t really do anything with that in Doutei’s route––I was kind of expecting another twist where like maybe they were Kazuma’s parents but I don’t think that was ever suggested by the text, woulda been interesting though!).
Anyway, I feel like that just seems like a big list of negatives, buuuut I actually generally liked the game. It has a lot of positive qualities too. Karen was pretty fun. Her growth as a character is pretty believable for the most part, brevity aside. They handled the sexual assault situation in Doutei’s route surprisingly well (they do get over it eventually but it’s actually something that the characters deal with and address, weird!).
Glasses-Karen is a total riot (her VA is much better utilized in this part of the role––I think the only lines I ended up saving were from her actually). I do still like how the glasses really aren’t a get-out-of-jail-free card and she’s just as much of a dumbass with them on (she’s just an aggressive dumbass!).
All the guys are likeable––which I absolutely was not expecting. I thought I’d hate Peach, but he was quite enjoyable! The art’s great––some wonky shit here and there, but overall really strong, especially the sprites. Facial expressions are a real highlight (though maybe that’s just something I’m personally particularly fond of).
And of course the bad ends. Like holy shit talk about a balls to the wall, batshit insane, one-way ticket to crazytown. I’m sure there are some eroge for dudes out there that top this shit, but it’s all extra shocking in the context of an otome game. I’m sure a lot of people will just find this stuff deeply disturbing and uncomfortable, but I guess I’m a sick asshole because I was like cackling with morbid glee through the bad ends. I dunno if I could honestly recommend the game if you can’t enjoy the fucked up ends because it’s not nearly as fun without them (then again maybe it’s because I’m the type of person who finds the fucked up shit extremely entertaining that I feel that way). I’ve gotta give Pil-VAMP some serious props for going there and seemingly giving 0 fucks (well, at least in the bad ends).
Anywho, I guess ultimately while I think it could be better and I wish there was a little more… something… I’m not really disappointed? I was thoroughly entertained and I’m really curious to see what Pil-VAMP does next to be honest. Some aspects felt less than fully realized, but it didn’t feel like a rushed, unfinished hackjob like Pigeon Blood did. I’m more or less okay with the game as it is. Definitely not a game for everyone though!