Platforms: PC (reviewed)
Release: 12th January 2018
After having reviewed rather sex-focused visual novels from Mangagamer like Kuroinu Chapter 2 and Imouto Paradise 2, Sorcery Jokers is a more story oriented one. Featuring a two protagonists perspective, extensive battles and a mysterious story around magic, it aims to deliver a compelling experience for everyone. The fact its available on Steam in an All-Ages version (with a free adult patch available on their website) made me interested in the story even more.
A world where magic didn´t only become reality but also part of everyone´s daily life. For people able to use this mighty power the world holds a bright future until one stops obeying its rules, rendering him an Outcast, inhabitants of the underground. In this modern world where even magic was capitalized, the game follows two people with their own goals.
Like other 3rdEye visual novels, Sorcery Jokers features a multi-protagonist point of view, enabling it to tell the story from different angles. Additionally, it´s divided into roughly 2 big parts, the first ten or so hours and the rest 20-30. One time span is told through five protagonists, the other only through two. So let´s focus on the more exposition focused former, which is where most of the foreshadowing and initial set-ups for the coming events happen.
The first major protagonist ist Haruto, a student at a renowned magic university, as well as his littler sister Hina. Since their father is a BURST, basically the magic police, commander they both have a very strong moral compass, though Haruto´s is definitely from another world. He´s pretty much the typical “hero” protagonist, desiring to help and save every righteous human on his way, no matter if it breaks laws. Naturally, everyone around him is slowly infected with this abnormal sense of justice.
Together with him are the two students at the same academy Asahi and Riku, of whom I can´t tell much as it would spoil quite a lot early plot. Asahi is nearly as addicted to helping others and weird as Haruto because she has to overcome her trials to reach the Land of Dreams. Even though she often acts strange and speaks nonsense her cheerful personality melts almost everybody. In contrast, we have Riku a cold, defensive female student who does nothing she´s either not interested in or from which she can´t profit. Later on, Riku, in particular, begins to have a huge role and takes up most screen time from Haruto´s perspective.
These three form the “right” side how I like to call them, symbolizing the pureness and society loving party. Especially Asahi and Haruto, who may rebel against the law but ultimately couldn´t survive without laws due to their naive nature. However, these two are also the biggest character weakness of the novel, they´re simply too generic.
Anyone who watched an anime with a “hero” character instantly knows how both would react to anything. Nothing about them is special, unique or interesting. While Asahi may convince through her great writing and simply entertaining nature to compensate for that, Haruto stays a mix of hero and Shinji from Evangelion, being too weak to do or help anyone but too nice to play dirty. Really, even after finishing it, I can´t think of any unique aspect.
On the other side, there´s the Outcast Senri, nearly the complete opposite of Haruto. The only thing he´s after is reaching his goals, be it acquiring information or simply buying a can of Re:D. Similar to Riku he doesn´t see any benefit in wasting time with meaningless conversations and helping others if something isn´t benefiting he doesn´t care. However, anyone who isn´t able to impress or “leave an impression” isn´t even worth talking to in his eyes. Combined with his mastery of both physical and magical combat there´s almost nothing that can stop this calculating persona.
He´s supported by the honest, cheerful sister Fiona, Noah, of whom I can´t tell anything due to spoilers, and a quite wide range of side characters. Senri stands for everything wrong with the system, scarred by a dark past and pushed on the edge of society along with all other Outcasts. He´s also everything Haruto isn´t, strong, logical and always in charge of the situation, not someone acting like he never comprehends the situation. As a result, Senri is a character far more unique, interesting and captivating, since he has a reason for everything, often surprising the characters and myself. All in all, a person perfect to uncover the truth behind this world full of selfish people, giant gaps between Casters, non-Casters and Outcasts.
During the first ten hours, Sorcery Jokers follows Senri on his quest to unravel the mystery behind the liquified corpses. Everyday Outcasts are targeted by a hidden force, taking their magic catalysing rings, while leaving them behind as mere water puddles. From the unknown “Collector” to the almost beast-like “Hood”, he slowly understands that the reason for these murders is far bigger than a mere insane serial-killer.
His story-line, in particular, is the most interesting, finding out more and more about those cryptic names, seeing him fight the every-day struggle of an Outcast while learning about the dark side of society teaches a lot about Sorcery Joker´s world in a great way.
On the other hand, Haruto´s and friends route is … uninteresting, to say the least. 3rdEye establishes this hero character, along nearly as uninspired ones like Asahi, without any reason other than telling a generic mix of Slice-of-Life comedy. There are some neat twists towards the end, almost able to transform him into a promising protagonist, but everything he does in the first part is foreseeable. His interactions with Asahi and Riku are even worse because they circle around him being able to melt their distrustful outer walls. Didn´t see that in almost hundred other visual novels and animes.
Haruto is probably Sorcer Jokers’ biggest problem as well, especially after his “transformation” in the second part. He actually went from generic pussy to generic edgelord and back. I won´t spoil too much, but he suffers from some terrible truths midway through but instead of becoming stronger, growing out of his weak role, he simply started to mix his previous self with an attitude edgy teenies normally have. Considering the sheer meaning of the twist not only disappointing but also incomprehensible.
Remaining as useless as before, only able to talk big, yet never able to back it up, bombarding the reader with cliché-y lines like “I´m not allowed to have feelings anymore” Haruto is a protagonist so annoying to me, I needed four attempts to finish any route he´s in. Throughout the whole plot he never has any meaningful development, never learns and isn´t able to comprehend even the most basic behaviour. Combined with the already foreseeable events of his route, due to Riku and Asahi being nearly as bad, the sheer focus of 3rdEye on him, is exhausting.
Luckily, in contrast, the other cast members and especially Senri´s route can compensate for these flaws. Due to the great writing of both dialogues and characters, even a lewd, flat persona like the female Outcast Ageha, who never contributes anything except jokes, is surprisingly entertaining. Their timing, ability to switch between funny or serious, everything about them seems natural, sympathetic and entertaining.
As previously said, Senri also possesses the abilities to surprise the reader with his plans, rendering him a far more captivating character. He´s the sort of badass you would expect in such a story but is able to offer a far deeper character in the second half, when he spends more time with Noah or Fiona. Where Haruto can´t reach anything by himself, only relying on friends or beliefs, Senri is so much more than just a lone-wolf, able to sympathize in a realistic way, always able to understand the true meaning behind someone´s actions.
Last but not least the greatly advertised plot, which is, honestly, pretty comparable to Haruto. Starting out strong with the establishment of an interesting society, the unconquerable borders dividing it and social struggle of both Outcasts and “normal” humans, oppressed by Casters in many ways. Sadly, Sorcery Jokers throws all these opportunities to tell a story about humans trying to survive or simply have a good life away in favour of a generic conspiracy. Masterfully hidden during the first part, it quickly begins to show his true face full of clichés towards the second one.
I read and saw many tales of evil individuals trying to take revenge and gain power through deception, 3rdEye´s visual novel isn´t an exception and certainly doesn´t bring much new to the table, especially since it lacks any kind of choices. A tale so non-reliant on magic, the central unique element, I question why it´s there in the first place and don´t even get me started on the end, where they just invented some random things to bring everything to a close.
Yet, many action movies don´t have a great story either, so luckily Sorcery Jokers can offer some quite great action. Even though a visual novel is not the most dynamic medium, the CGs, many SFX and good writing do a great job conveying a certain feeling of speed, threat and tension. Naturally, a lot of CGs are recycled, leaving a somewhat bitter side taste, along the lack of any CGs portraying injuries or torn clothes but otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed them.
Sorcery Jokers is Mangagamer´s first FullHD release as well, meaning every picture is sharper than in most other novels. Since the art style is at least for me very appealing, despite the occasional weird lighting or proportions, it´s doing an exceptional job at portraying emotions and characters. I also really like the voice actors and music, able to underline the atmosphere. Given, Sorcery Jokers isn´t breath-taking in the technical department, except the FullHD resolution, but it fits right into the character-focused experience.
Sorcery Jokers has a lot of flaws, suffering heavily from its generic story mixed together with a focus on the foreseeable, annoying Haruto. I often stopped reading for minutes just trying to understand his actions. Still, I enjoyed the experience somehow, due to the genuinely entertaining cast, writing, battles and captivating Senri route. 3rdEye is able to compensate for many problems and deliver a decent visual novel after all, with occasional spikes in quality for better or worse. So probably the perfect fit for anyone wanting an entertaining, high-quality experience at a time without many.
[A Review Code was provided by Mangagamer]