Platform: PS Vita (reviewed)
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release: 28th May 2017
Disclaimer: Review Copy provided by Aksys Games
What better time can there be, to discover how great Otomes can be, than with the release of another promising looking one, Period: Cube. An Otome set in a MMO, which traps its players in its world … Didn´t hear this before. After utterly bad adaptions of this overtold setting, like Sword Art Online, I was interested to find out, if there´s still hope for good story-telling and character development. Yes, there definetly is!
Kazuha is an ordinary girl, never interested in games nor played any of it. However, when her beloved older brother Shiki suddenly disappears from his university, she decides to search him. Accompanied by her childhood friend Hiroya they quickly discover a connection between Shiki and the mysterious World V of the popular MMO Arcadia. To find out what happened to Shiki, they decide to log into World V and suddenly get sucked into the mysterious fantasy world. From now on, they are trapped in the World V, along hundreds of other players, with the goal to clear the giant Ark, as the only way to escape. Yet, the inexplicable events don´t end there, Kazuha, the girl who never played any video games, seems to be the key to everything. Can she and Hiroya reveal the secrets of World V and find Shiki or will they die, together with everyone else?
While the overall setting may seem very familiar, it´s a generic trapped in a video game one after all, Period: Cube tries to spice things up by adding new aspects to every aspect of the game. Instead of an experienced, overpowered “gamer”, we´re thrown into the role of Kazuha, an unexperienced girl caught between the war of the two factions of Arcadia. Additionally she seems to possess the power of the third legendary sword, the Almighty Amadeus. Unfortunately, it stays an attempt throughout the whole game. Rather than telling a captivating story, Period: Cube decided to fully focus on its characters and Otome aspects.
Throughout the whole game, I never really cared about the actually story, except its beginning and ending, since it never makes the attempt to invoke my interest. New characters appear and vanish as fast as they came, if you don´t decide to fall in love with them, the solutions can be seen miles away and the whole mid-part just feels like it´s hanging in mid-air. Especially the end just feels very rushed, revealing everything in a heart beat without any climax or much build up. It simply never lived up to my expectations.
Luckily there´s one thing it really nails, an aspect able to carry the whole game, I´m talking of course about the characters. Unlike Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds, Period: Cube focuses on a way smaller cast, around 2-4 main characters, depending on your story-line. The results are far more characterized persons, everyone still has their one main character trait but the excellent writing can successfully convey their different peculiarities and moods. Combined with their real world personalities, which you will meet occasionally and are completly different, provide additional insight in the past or motivation of said persons. By giving each one far more screen time, you get to know them and their quirks, even tho they can be a bit of a cliche, Kazuha in particular, happily takes the role of a shy and insecure girl. Yet, Period: Cube decided to lock the majority of its interesting character stories behind a handful of “routes”, to decide what characters you will meet.
These routes are determined by your decisions you will make at the beginning or later. To keep track with the available and already taken routes, Period: Cube features a nice overview tree, detailing when and how the paths can be accessed, along with an affection meter for every character to visualize the effect of your decisions on each of them. The sheer amount of available routes, that can drastically change the story and relations, add a huge replay value, due to the unique insights they can provide. Even so, the game´s decision-system suffers from the same problem as Telltale´s or Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds, it´s too linear and doesn´t offer much freedom.
Due to the fact, that you will mostly determine your route in the first 30 minutes and can´t influence it after, leads to a huge range of options, to simply increase or decrease certain affection levels and not to change the story. Especially because certain routes, like the Astrum one, only offer 1-2 interesting persons, while the demon routes nearly explode with likeable and deep ones. As much as I enjoyed romancing my way through two playthroughs, I just can´t really understand this difference in characters between these two main routes.
Artistic-wise Period: Cube is one of the most beautiful Visual Novels I´ve ever played. Filled with bright colours, vibrating over the screen, gorgeous images and character portraits, it successfully creates an own artstyle, I´ve never seen before. Where other Visual Novels choose a mundane or known anime-like style, it bombards you with great sceneries and creative designs, perfected with the right amount of special effects. I think it´s clear, how much I adore the artstyle. Often I just looked at the portraits or backgrounds and was stunned by the amount of detail, be it lighting effects or designs, that was put into it. The soundtrack itself is also quite good, always underlining events and dialogues in the right way, even tho most of the tracks will repeat themselves pretty quickly, due to few tracks of it.
Overall, Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ might not be as good as Hakuoki: Kyoto Winds but is definetly not far away. It´s lacking story and telling, are easily overshadowed by the great characters and realistic romances created by them. Instead of a huge cast it focuses on only a handful characters, spread across different routes, to create a huge amount of different and memorable playthroughs and experiences.
When I first read about its setting and story, I expected nearly nothing and what I got was an amazing written Visual Novel, great characters to romance and one of the most beautiful experiences I had with Visual Novels / Otomes.