Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows Review – Beautiful
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed)
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release: 30th March 2018
After I overcame my prejudices against Otomes, I quickly began to enjoy them a whole lot. That´s exactly why Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows caught my interest, as a collection of both the original game Guardians of Rebirth and the fan disc Future Blessings, bringing them directly to the PS4. Since I absolutely adore steampunk, the art style alone was reason enough to be interested and god was I lucky.
We play as Cardia a young, beautiful woman trapped in her father´s mansion. Only able to remember the last two years, her life is dominated by one sentence: You´re a monster.” Everything that touches her skin melts in an instant, leaving her no choice but to abandon society forever, until her father may return to save her. Yet, when imperial soldiers try to “kidnap” her, a man named Arséne Lupin comes to her rescue. He as well wants to find Cardia´s father and so begins a story of friendship, mystery and love.
Even though Code Realize is set in a steampunk interpretation of England and London in particular, the main plot never really makes use of this setting. Instead, the game focuses more on a character-driven story, mixed with occasional events only possible in a more fantasy inspired environment. Naturally, Cardia´s unusual body is one aspect of them and probably the driving force behind the whole scenario as well. How can you hook your reader better than with an unusual, intriguing set-up, like the fact anyone metals when touching the heroine? Especially due to the rather slow pacing at the beginning, as a result of the huge character cast that has to be introduced, having such a strong base helps in keeping the audience´s attention.
Not to say the plot is uninteresting in itself, no. Typical for visual novels, Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows is luckily on the strong side. Circling around both the mystery of Cardia´s father disappearance and her role in the whole world, we follow the huge cast of characters (mainly consisting of men of course) through 13 chapters. Either being chased by a mysterious organization, who want to kidnap or kill Cardia, to third parties, the government and ultimately a wide range of locations. While the first 5-10 hours serve as an introduction to the steampunk world, which frankly isn´t that much different except in design to the normal Victorian universe, the other two thirds fully exploit the story´s potential. Despite all the Otome kind of stuff like the ridiculous amount of cute boys, the actually pessimistic take on loneliness, resocialization and love when one comes in contact with others for the first time in life, is very interesting in itself. Mixed with the captivating chase of both Cardia and her entourage during their search for her father, the most famous scientist of this country, the plot could always keep my attention. In particular due to those really dark, sad tones mixed into the formula every now and then. Sadly, at least I, found the resolution and aftermath somewhat lacklustre or, well, foreseeable? Given, I never had to count chapters until the end, as I was just so enthralled by the world, that the end might have come too soon to actually achieve something.
Speaking of felt time, a reason why Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows is a long read but never feels like a one, is probably the train. A seemingly easy narrative device, like having the group travel to their destinations by train, can create some of best pacing I´ve seen in visual novels. Primarily, it serves as a great excuse to quickly change sceneries, yet, provide meaningful, short character exposition arcs on the way, without having to artificially skip too much time. Naturally, if a game is able to pack enough punch for each character, that speaks volumes about its writing style. Obviously, it´s pretty great, I really adore the fact how naturally Cardia comes across, despite some cliché lines.
On the other hand, the characters are often not much more than your typical Otome stuff, mostly carried by the great writing. For example, the majority of them is introduced with their main characteristics like the “childish mechanic” and then exploited for dozens of hours, before they´re given any depth. The initial more cliché ones, in particular, seem to struggle the whole game, trying to gain depth, flaws and believability but can never quite reach the point where I forget I´m playing an Otome. In my opinion, there are just too many protagonists because the game wanted to serve everyone a fitting husbando and so you either like or dislike probably the half of the cast for the whole game, or begin to adore them due to their amazingly written dialogues at times. In exchange though, you get characters like Lupin, who rely more on a darker past, motives or even surprising twists to carry their persona. While a number of interesting people join the party on your journey, the ones with a more human, selfish tone always seemed like the most fleshed out. Probably because they fit so well with the overall tone, rather than existing solely since it´s an Otome.
Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows also features the fan disc Future Blessings, which basically provides a super extended ending, with ending routes for each character, as well as a fully-fleshed out ending for the whole of Guardian of Rebirth. A very neat addition to being honest, yet, not able to change anything at the existing problems the game has, merely letting you spend some more time with the (almost) loveable cast if you so desire.
Choice-wise, Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows doesn´t reinvent the wheel. Presenting a visual novel with a healthy amount of choices every few hours, that primarily serve as point boosters for the desired husbando. However, it does a surprisingly good job at camouflaging the little impact they actually have on the main plot. After I tried different choices for a few times, I noticed just how little changes in the bigger picture, making it almost feel like a kinetic one, if not for the Otome part.
Otherwise, the overall design suffers from the typical Japanese problems of overdesign too. Just look at some characters and tell me they aren´t overdesigned with all their little clocks, wheels and details. At times, it felt like the steampunk theme wasn´t chosen because of its interesting ideas but to implement big fucking wheels everywhere. Despite those criticisms, which won´t be shared by many I suppose, I really like the art, city design and the more simple characters. Everything feels somewhat unique, new or interesting in its own right. Combined with a lovely soundtrack, the overall presentation of Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows is pretty neat.
I didn´t have high expectations for this visual novel, as I mostly chose it for its theme and interesting looking designs. Luckily, once I really got into Code Realize: Bouquet of Rainbows and all the things it story has to offer, the whole experience really clicked with me. From the likeable characters, heroine, mysteries or action sequences, everything is both captivating and great in their own rights. Okay, it´s not a revolutionary Otome but definitely one of the best of the genre.
[A Review Code was provided by Aksys Games]