Genre: Otome/Visual Novel
Rating: 3/4 Moon
Synopsis: You are a college graduate about to start her dream job in fashion design. Taking a couple days to settle in and explore Kyoto, you take an evening walk and end up at the historical site Honnō-ji, where the infamous samurai, and first unifier of Japan, Oda Nobunaga was assassinated. A storm whirls up out of nowhere and you are thrust back in time to the very moment when Oda is about to be killed. Making a split second decision, you rescue him and he whisks you away to his castle and chaos ensues.
Game Play: After the prologue, you are able to choose from several different stories based off historical samurai. Each are unique and fun in their own way, and you read through their stories, making choices as you go, to earn either a Dramatic or a Romantic ending (all are happy endings, however, so don’t fret!)
Thoughts: I started playing this game in March of 2018 while I was on sick leave. It was an excellent distraction from lounging about my house all day and was one of many otome that I had tried at the time. What caught my eye initially was the fantastic artwork done by Yamada Shiro-Sensei, and the subject material of an historical fiction. What kept me playing, however, was the excellent translations. I had grown frustrated with the other translated games that I had been playing, as the English read as though it had been put through the dreaded Google Translate and slapped into the game. Cybird, the company that produces the Ikémen Series, has an office based in Los Angeles, and they work very hard to ensure that the story is adapted for English speakers.
Each character has their strengths and their weaknesses, and encompass many different anime archetypes, such as the grumpy tsundere Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ever-cheerful loli-boy Mori Ranmaru (unreleased in English), the teasing sadodere Akechi Mitsuhide (also unreleased in English), the yandere Uesugi Kenshin, and the domineering kamidere Oda Nobunaga. All told, there are 9 men to choose from, with at least 6 more on the way!
One of the cons of the game, in my opinion, is that the backstories of these hotties are very loosely based in history. But that can also be a good thing, considering no one dies, though some come close, and you are left with warm, fluffy feels at the end of each story. There’s no shortage of angst, though, and most players will end up in tears at some point – just to have very sweet moments with the one you’re trying to romance.
Another con of the game is how expensive it can be. Cybird releases events back-to-back and in order to get the most of it, if you’re not checking in every few hours, is to make purchases to get all of the items needed to get voice clips, stories, and collection pieces for your avatar. I did this quite a lot when I first started out, spending far too much on the game because I simply loved it. But that soon got tiring when I realized that I’d never be able to get everything without spending myself into a complete oblivion.
The game is free to play, though! And it is completely possible for you to enjoy it immensely without dropping major coinage.
Also, another fun perk of the game, is that there is a chibi-version anime that features just the men in ridiculous situations. It is available on Crunchyroll and is absolutely hysterical! Complete with a rap-battle, watermelon slicing contests, and ninja traps, it is another fluff-fest that is sure to make most giggle.
Here is a list of the characters I’ve played so far, and what I thought of them:
He is notoriously in Japanese history one of the most powerful and cruel samurai. Simultaneously he is known as a great hero in Japan because he got the boulder rolling toward unification and helped signal the end of the warring era. He wasn’t ever able to see the peace he helped to bring about, however, being betrayed and committing seppuku before he was able to achieve his goal of unification.
In the game, though, he is a very domineering personality. Cruel and heartless at first, but somehow extremely endearing in his mannerisms. This especially comes out later as he begins to let his guard down and show you his softer side. He enjoys ‘your’ character’s spunk and finds ‘you’ amusing. There is a hint of a sadistic/dom streak in him during your romantic moments, which end up being very sexy (to me, anyway). He’s supposed to be the ‘main man’ of the game, and the manga for the game that was released follows his story mostly.
The second unifier of Japan, he was Nobunaga’s retainer and took over for him after he was assassinated. He was the one that finally unified Japan, but also did not see complete peace in his lifetime because he also decided to set his sights on Korea, wanting to bring them under Japanese rule as well.
In game, he starts out as being terrifying, threatening to kill you for slapping a handsy Nobunaga. You’re saved by the man that you hit, however, and Hideyoshi watches you oppressively like a Nobunaga’s pet hawk until you become aware that he’s not only watching you, he is watching out for you. His kindness and brotherly mannerisms shine through and he is one of the most attentive and sweet characters in the game. After finishing his story, I told my sister that every person needs a Hideyoshi in their life, he is that good!
The third unifier, and the one that got to see the peace that his two predecessors helped bring about. He started the Tokugawa era in Japan, and his descendants ruled Japan for a few hundred years when he took over after Hideyoshi passed away.
He is portrayed as a short, grumpy man with a chip on his shoulder – with good reason. Very loyal to Nobunaga, he longs to see the country unified, and has something to prove. This man’s insults and sarcastic jabs are some of the best jokes to come out of the game, and when he blushes it is absolutely heart-stopping! ‘You’ end up living with him in the first part of his story, and through that are able to see how squishy his insides actually are. His is one of the more tragic backstories, and one of the most historically accurate.
Oh, how many stories and legends have come from this man! He was quite an accomplished samurai, and while historically it makes no sense as to why he’s a full grown adult allying himself with Nobunaga, his presence in the stories definitely enriches them, and is another that has excellent one-liners.
He’s fiesty, flirty, and fierce. Bloodshed is not something that he shies away from, and another tragic backstory is in the cards should you choose to woo him. Toward the beginning, he declares that if ‘you’ are to get in his way, he would not hesitate to kill ‘you’. But as you get to know him, it’s not that he gets softer, but rather you both come to better understand each other, and the world in which both of you exist. Compromise is basically the name of the game here, and the way he calls you ‘kitten’ or ‘lass’? Um, yes please!
Historically, he was not very well liked. As Hideyoshi’s vassal, he was seen as a bit of a tattle-tale, and was so socially awkward, it’s still talked about to this day in Japan. But he was a man as loyal as they come, and had it not been for his social ineptitude, Tokugawa would not have been in power so soon after Toyotomi died.
However, Cybird took the epic historical social faux pas and made him into an absolute angel. (The main character’s words, not mine, though he definitely fits the bill.) Always cheerful, completely oblivious to most things that don’t come from books, this bookworm is such a cutie that I just wanted to carry him around in my pocket. But just because he’s innocent, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a very seductive and alluring side to him. And when he wears his glasses? Oh my…
With Uesugi Kenshin, known in game and historically as “The God of War”, we get into some darker territory. In real life he was an absolute beast on the battlefield, and his clan gave Nobunaga no end of trouble. And so it is in the game. He is Nobunaga’s main rival, and through a series of odd events, ‘you’ end up living with him, far away from the rest of the Oda forces.
This guy is a straight up yandere, and to be honest, he doesn’t really strike my fancy. There were elements in his story that made me cringe, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t popular. On the contrary, according to the fan-groups on Facebook, he is one of the more sought after guys. Without giving too much away, there was an incident in his past that simply broke him, and made him into the ferocious God of War that he’s known to be. His story with you is one of the more tumultuous and emotional, going back and forth between not being able to keep your hands off each other, and being held at sword length away – sometimes literally.
In the past, this man and Uesugi Kenshin were lifelong rivals, and it’s one of my favorite bromances of legend to read about. When Shingen died, it is said that Kenshin wept because he would never again meet such an honorable foe on the field. They had quite a frenemy relationship, and had their goals aligned politically, they likely would have been able to have been the best dynamic duo in samurai history.
In the story, after Nobunaga bested Shingen, he was forced to flee his hometown and shack up with Kenshin. Their personalities could not be more different. Where Kenshin is said to absolutely hate women, Shingen notoriously loves them, and is very much that smarmy, smooth little shit that makes you blush in spite of yourself. You end up being his hostage, but this isn’t really a story of Stockholm Syndrome, or a Beauty and the Beast situation – though, when you see those pecs, ‘beast’ can be a very accurate descriptor for the man. To me, Shingen is the best of Masamune and Hideyoshi combined into one perfect package. (He’s one of my favorites, can you tell?)
After Shingen comes his vassal Sanada Yukimura. In history, Yukimura was a bona-fide badass. He was able to survive more or less intact as an ally for Shingen, against the rest of Japan, and then survived through Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and into Ieyasu’s reign, made a name for himself and earned respect across the nation. Not an easy feat for someone who had previously been on the ‘losing’ side!
In game however, he would be my least favorite. It’s not that he is without his charms, he certainly has them. It just that I can’t get passed this type of tsundere-charm that he exudes. Rather than quipping sarcastically like Ieyasu, he results to basic insults – like ‘dummy’ – that then turn into terms of endearment. He’s a conflicted man, as you don’t go to stay with him, and you find that through your flirting and crushing on each other you are on opposing sides of the war. It’s all very Romeo and Juliet, with silly humor mixed in. I did enjoy his route’s storyline, and he is one that is very popular among the Facebook throngs – so maybe I’m just missing something.
And finally, last among the released stories, is Sarutobi Sasuke. Sasuke is the one character that is not an historical figure. He is from the future, like ‘you’, and was swept up in the same storm ‘you’ were, but only was plopped into a timeline 4 years earlier than Nobunaga’s attempted assassination. During that time, this little nerdy genius became a ninja under Kenshin’s command – and I say nerdy because he’s an astrophysicist that is studying the wonders of the wormhole that sucked you and he both into the Sengoku era – and he is a complete fanboy when it comes to meeting all the historical samurai. Especially Ieyasu. He loves Ieyasu. I unfortunately have not yet had the time to play through his entire story – but it is hilarious. He has a sweet charm, even though he’s very stoic – a classic kuudere – and his stoicism belies a heartfelt passion that only a fanboy can exude. So when his attentions turn to you, it is very, very nice.
Next in line to be released is the poor, misunderstood, sadodere Akechi Mitsuhide. His story is to be released in January – and it is already out in Japan. By all accounts from my friends who play the Japanese version, his story is one of the most sad. He, like most of the other unreleased characters, also appear in every one else’s stories with some role or other. He also has already endeared himself to many, many fans of the game with his sure-to-be tragic secrets and sensuously teasing nature. It’s pretty safe to say that his route is the most anticipated one – and I’m looking forward to it very much.
One of the other “original” characters yet to be released is Kennyo, a tragic Buddhist monk who has strayed far from his religious path in the name of revenge against Nobunaga. And, to be honest, Nobunaga kind of deserves it. In most of the routes he is the ‘villain’ – but he seems to be simply misunderstood. He has a soft spot for stray animals, and judging from little side stories that have been released, one of those strays very well could be ‘you’.
Motonari, Yoshimoto and Ranmaru
Then there are the 3 that were just barely introduced in Sasukes’ story. They were not part of the original lineup (those are all the characters already reviewed above), so there isn’t a whole lot of information on them quite yet. What little we have comes from Sasuke’s story as well as the PS Vita game that Cybird released of this game (only in Japanese). We have Mouri Motonari, Imagawa Yoshimoto, and Mori Ranmaru (no relation to Motonari). Each of the last 3 men are endearing in their own ways. Motonari is a pirate, first of all, and has a devil-may-care attitude and a penchant for chaos. Yoshimoto is a quiet, artistic soul, who values culture and creative endeavors over fighting, but is still a bad-ass in his own right. And last but not least is sweet little Ranmaru, who is known to be working for both Nobunaga and Kennyo in a dangerous game of cat vs cat and he seems to be the mouse.
As you can see, there is a LOT this game has to offer – and I haven’t even begun to go over how collections work. There is so much to experience in the game, and if you are interested in lovely stories, a little bit of history, and laughing and crying while playing through a visual novel – I wholeheartedly recommend this game. I can’t in good conscience give a ‘full moon’ rating, though, simply because of the cost/value ratio being so astronomically in the ‘cost’ column. But again, it is possible to play it completely free – you just will miss out on bits and pieces that aren’t important to the plot, those pieces just enhance the experience.
Even with the expense though, it is one of my all-time favorite games and I have very cherished memories playing it. It also is the game that got me back into drawing and inspired me to continue on my original dream of being a mangaka. I am also not the only one it has inspired to delve into creative endeavors – and many people have begun writing and drawing because of it. It is certainly worth a look if you’re the least bit curious!
Disclaimer: I am not writing this for any monetary gain or advertisement for Cybird. All of these opinions are my own. ^^