Seinarukana Review

Posted in

#1 by gabezhul
2016-05-03 at 12:08
< report >All right kids, it’s review time! I have only finished two routes, but as far as I can see the different routes in this game barely add any new content, so I should be good. To be perfectly honest though, this was a title I have been looking forward to for years and I had fairly high expectations, considering that Aselia is still one of my favorite hybrids even though memories of its gameplay send shivers down my spine. Not that this game doesn’t do the same… but I am getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Let’s start from the beginning.

---The basic premise---
Our protagonist, Nozumu, is a fairly average Japanese high-schooler (a shocker, I know) living a fairly non-average life, as he is constantly being besieged by his childhood friend Nozomi and the student council president and school idol Satsuki. Needless to say, he is completely oblivious to their very loudly and clearly stated feelings, because harem comedy or something.

This all changes when the school gets besieged by big-ass black monster-dogs that inexplicably turn into sword-wielding girls (or rather, the inexplicable part goes the other way around, and the “black monster-dog” thing is never mentioned or explained afterwards). To protect everyone Nozomu and Nozomi awaken their hidden powers as reincarnated gods and Eternity Sword bearers and push back the attack, but in the process Nozomi also awakens her Spirit (for those who played Aselia: Sprits are, for all practical purposes, the manifestations of the Eternity Swords’ personalities), which turns out to be a large and extremely convenient whale-creature that takes the entire school on its backs and hops into another world to escape danger.

Thus the group begins their search for a way back home while entangling themselves in the local affairs of each world they visit and slowly uncovering the nature of the universe they are in and how their own powers and past lives play a role in it.

---Technical details---
The game is a step forwards in practically every technical aspect compared to its predecessor. The art is much better, especially concerning the character tachies. The battle sprites also look good (I especially like Narukana’s idle sprite) and the animations, while not groundbreaking, still look pretty neat.

The step forward in the audio-front is a smaller one, but it’s still noticeable. I would still recommend bringing your own soundtrack to the TBS parts, but it’s not as stock as the first game.

As far as the system and the engine is concerned, there are only some minor things worth mentioning. There are the standard 100 save slots (way too much, considering that the game is very linear and getting on a different route requires so much backtracking one might as well start a new game).
The options have all the typical settings, though I would like to bring attention to the option of completely turning off battle-animations in a menu kind of hidden within the options menu. Doing so on a second run can shave off hours from a replay.

---Characters---
There are LOTS of characters here, so bear with me for a while.

*Main characters:*
These guys are the most important players in the main plot.

-Nozomu: Our donkan, nice-guy harem protagonist. He is downright fawned over by all the heroines and he is pretty much oblivious to it all until the very end of the game. He is the reincarnation of Jirol, the god of destruction, and he occasionally has urges to destroy everything in sight… except when he doesn’t... until it becomes a plot point again… but then it turns out Jirol wasn’t such a bad guy after all and… Ugh, he is a little inconsistent is all I am saying.
Otherwise he is not a bad main character. He is nice, reasonably proactive and a little bit of a shounen determinator, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but he doesn’t really go through a strong character development, and even his biggest inner conflict with Jirol is resolved pretty unceremoniously.

-Nozomi: The protagonist’s osananajimi, with everything that implies, from the “waking him up in the morning” to “megaton punches played for laugh”. She starts out as really annoying, but as the story goes on her more aggressive tsun-tsun moments wear away and she becomes quite likable. My only problem with her character is that it doesn’t feel like actual development, instead the writer just forgets that she is childishly violent.

-Satsuki: The student council president and idol of the school who has a crush on Nozomu and pursues him quite aggressively. She was also part of the Brigade even before the start of the game, an organization of Eternity Sword wielders who try to keep another faction, the Lightbringers, from destroying worlds. As such she provides most of the initial exposition about the setting and the metaphysics within. Otherwise she is a romantically aggressive but otherwise harmless girl.

-Reime: The protagonist’s spirit, a small fairy-like girl who represents his swords, Aurora. She is cute, perky, snarky and has an absolutely amazing comedic chemistry with Nozomu from the very beginning.

-Zetsu and Nanashi: The best friend of the protagonist who was also an Eternity Sword wielder and his Spirit. He doesn’t belong to either the Brigade or the Lightbringers and he seems to have his own agenda. He is accompanied by his spirit, a taciturn, snarky fairy girl similar to Reime called Nanashi, who cares about him very deeply.

-Narukana: A mysterious girl from Nozomu’s dreams/memories who, unsurprisingly, turns out to be extremely important. She is a powerful, spoiled, childish but otherwise very affectionate and cute girl with a long, long history.

*Secondary characters:*
These guys are important in their own chapter, but (unless romanced, in the case of the heroines) they become mostly inconsequential background characters over time.

-Katia: The young but mature rebel princess from the Sword World, the first place the group gets transported to. She is soft-spoken and very feminine, befitting a princess, but she also runs around swinging a giant Eternity Sword as big as she is.

-Ruputna: An energetic tomboy raised by Elementals in the second world the group visits. She is very ignorant of human society and while eager, she is a bit too blunt for her own good.

-Naya: The president/representative of the Magical World. She is a slightly inconsistent loli cat-girl. She is introduced as a deredere, but then shortly afterwards she becomes this calculating businesswoman, only to become lovestruck again, and she is pretty much the serious second-in-command of the Brigade while also having the silliest combat animation and… Ugh, she is just all over the place.

-Euphoria: A powerful little girl with amnesia. For fans of the first game: Yes, she is indeed the daughter of Aselia and Yuuto, which means theirs was the canon ending. She is non-romanceable.

-Shou: A boy the group recruits from the Future World after some… complications.

*The Brigade:*

-Salles: The leader of the brigade and a bit of a chessmaster, though the good kind.

-Thalia and Sorluska: A very serious girl and a carefree, bullheaded guy from a savage world. The two of them share a strange friendship with a lot of UST.

-Jatzieta: A carefree, flirty young woman who becomes the school’s nurse.

---Gameplay---
The gameplay, while slightly improved, follows in the same vein as Aselia’s. Let’s look at the positives first, shall we?

The first change is that each character now has a speed stat. The higher this is, the sooner they can act again in the TBS section. In case of units, it’s the speed of the slowest character in the group that is counted. Each point on the map has an IP value, which also modifies how long it takes the units to move again. Each time they do, they can move one space on the roads connecting the bases.

Bases are important, since they are the only places where they can recover their health. It also speeds up their skill recovery and allows leveling up if there are characters with the “Reinforcer” trait present. They are also the only places where Artifacts can be summoned, which are pretty much analogous to buildings, the most important of which is the mana-conversion one.

Speaking of mana conversion, the economy of this game is pretty simple. Each map has a predetermined amount of “free mana”. You get this by conquering bases and defeating enemies. The free mana from these pools up and you have to refine them using the aforementioned artifacts into “Bound Mana”, which is the actual currency of the game and which you can use to level up your units and build more artifacts. Refinement happens over time, which puts you in a balancing act between turtling down to refine Bound Mana and going on the offensive in order to get a better rank, since S and SS ranks give you access to stronger skills.

Now is a good opportunity to talk about levels and skills. Each character has four stats: Strength, Endurance, Magic and Resistance. These are percentage bonuses that are directly multiplied with the numeric strength of the skills. There are two damage types that also correspond to the stats. Material Damage is calculated with Strength, Material Defense is with Endurance, Force Damage is with Magic and Force Defense is with Resistance. So, if you character has a Strength of 200% and uses a skill with 500 Material Damage, they actually deal 1000 material damage with it. Since each level only gives a couple of percentages, it means that the right skill under the right circumstances is much more important than raw stats.

Speaking of skills, they are actually decoupled from levels. You gain relics as you play the game. They either drop from enemies or from bases, and getting S or SS rank on a mission awards you with a relic that is higher level than the ones you could normally get on the map. You can give a relic to any character and it unlocks a different skill from each of them.

The actual battles have been changed a little as well. The skill usage system from Aselia is still alive and kicking, but now there is another layer added in the form of Combat Mana. Each skill requires a certain amount of Combat Mana to perform in battle. At the beginning each turn both sides get 2 CM points, which means that if they are using 2CM skills, they break even. However, stronger skills usually require more CM (in the case of those Red nukes, as much as 6) so the player has to think ahead and vary up their formation to let the characters stockpile enough CM to use these skills later.

Otherwise though the game plays very, very similarly to Aselia… which is actually not a good thing, as it means it is still a slow, clunky mess. More on that later.

---Story---
To put it bluntly, Seinarukana is a step back from Aselia both in terms of plot and writing.
Aselia’s greatest strength was its world building and character-development, and while there are bits and pieces of those here as well, it is nowhere near as well thought out or consistent as in the first game.

First off, the story seemingly does away with the original metaphysics of the first game, instead focusing on gods and reincarnations. It also introduces the Time Tree, spirit representations for the Eternity Swords (which they don’t do anything with, as there are only four such spirits that play any kind of role in the story), a brand new conflict between the Brigade and the Lightbringers and so on, all of which are new and poorly explained additions.

Sure, they are explored and explained about 20 or so hours in the game, but it is the kind of thing that is annoying to the fans of the original and confusing to new readers, so I have no idea why they decided to do it this late.

The story this time around also became much more light-hearted and shounen-esque, which would not have been a big problem by itself, but when one inevitably contrasts it with the story of Aselia, it comes up woefully short. In Aselia the slice of life was important because it provided vital juxtaposition to the sad and brutal wars that the protagonist was forced to participate in. Here slice of life describes 80% of the VN parts while the conflicts are toothless where seemingly no one dies outside of a few scenes designed for shock-value.

Another part where the writing suffers is the characters, and I can squarely put the blame on the sheer number of them. Once again, in Aselia there was a small core cast we spent a lot of time with and then there were the secondary spirit squads as a bit of a filler. Here everyone aside of the three main heroines are filler, and we have way more of them than in the first game, meaning everyone’s character suffers from lack of exposure and being just background-characters in skits most of the time.

Overall I was really disappointed in the writing of this story, and while it is not bad per se, it’s not particularly good either.

---Flaws---
First things first: You might have heard that the gameplay in this game is better than Aselia’s. Untrue. It is tweaked, yes, and arguably improved, but the improvement is dwarfed by the still present flaws and the incredibly clunky UI that doesn’t even have the keyboard shortcuts of the original.

If we are the UI though, there is another issue that is small but consistent and annoying: so long as the voices are playing, clicking to forward to the next line comes with a roughly half a second long lag, which doesn't sound bad, but it quickly adds up over time and is really annoying.

But back to the gameplay: leveling and unit movement are still ridiculously slow in this game. Leveling in particular can turn into absolutely tortuous on a NG+ hard run, since characters carry over their levels from the previous run. This means that if, say, a character joined at LV27 during the first playthrough while the rest of your characters were at LV25, they would be as, if not more, powerful as your main roster and immediately usable. If you level them out to the limit on your first playthrough they will reach LV30 and will carry that over to NG+, which means they would join at LV30 when you reach their chapter… while the rest of your characters would be around LV55. That is a 25 level difference that, even if you have the funds, takes 25 bloody turns to fix. I believe you can see the problem there.

Staying with the gameplay: There is no AI in this game, and it causes a weird issue: There is literally no reason to build ANY of the defensive artifacts, since they are all completely useless. Even if you turtle down, the enemy will never come to you in force. This also means you are pretty much forced to be constantly on the offensive, meaning defensive buildings will be even more useless.

Another huge problem is the total lack of new content on further playthroughs. Aselia had this issue as well, but at least there were some extra, route specific missions and big branches by the end, even if it all folded back into the main plot. Here the longest branches last a couple of minutes and even the extra missions are shared over multiple characters. There are not even any cool character-upgrades, like when Yuuto and his love interest became Eternals. Aside of the last hour or so and a couple of several minutes long scene variations the individual routes are all the same.

Next is the shounenisation of the story. Most battles are all about willpower and friendship and sudden power-ups out of nowhere, both on the side of the heroes and the villains. It also adheres to the stupid sorting-algorithm-of-evil bullcrap, where there are no less than four individual “wham” moments where a new villain shows up and threatens the heroes’ achievements, including the final villain who is a mustache-twirling person of mass destruction whose entire philosophy is “I wanna eat the world, what are you going to do about it?” and shows up at the end out of nowhere.

Finally a bit of a nitpick, but one that needs mentioning: While the graphics have improved, the game lacks CGs whenever it comes to the new strange worlds the characters are entering. This might not have been that big a deal, but the writing also lacks good descriptive narration to make up for it, so there is absolutely no feeling of wonder or discovery in these adventures even though there should be! Oh, there is an ancient regal castle? Who cares. Giant tree towering over the world with people living in towns carved into its branches? Meh, who has time to describe that?! Let’s talk about elementals for the sixth time instead. Oh, look, an entire magitech civilization on giant floating platforms! Oh, but that’s not the important part. The important bit is that here magic is science. Did we mention that already? Because it is. Magic. It’s science. Magic science, if you will. Or science magic, we can work with that too. That’s what this place is all about, pay no attention to the actual jaw-dropping vistas. -.-‘

---Final Verdict---
-Graphics: 8/10 – Improved, but the lack of CGs pulls it down a little.
-Audio: 6/10 – Better than the first game, but not by much.
-Protagonist: 7/10 – He is a weird case. I would give him 0.5 takerunits, with the caveat that it primarily comes from a denseness that puts even Takeru to shame.
-Heroines: 7/10 – The main ones are okay, the rest are a bit one-note.
-Sidecast: 7/10 – There are a lot of them, and while they are fairly flat, they can still be amusing from time to time.
-Story: 6/10 – Confused, derivative shounen-crap and a distinct drop in quality compared to its predecessor.
-Game Mechanics: 5/10 – Improved, but still a pain in the ass.
-Fluffiness: 9/10 – Mostly slice-of-life with absolutely stakeless battles and shounen “love and friendship saves the day” plot-twists.
-My favorite route: I cannot say, considering how little additional content said routes have.
-My favorite character: Reime. She had a positively amazing banter chemistry with the protagonist that none of the actual heroines could even approach.
-Final Score: 7 – A disappointment.

---Parting Words---
I freely admit I might be biased here. I loved Aselia, so this game had big shoes to fill, but instead they went off in a completely different, and in my opinion inferior, direction. The gameplay is still clunky and slow, the story is a confused idiot-plot with too many antagonists and stakes that are at the same time too high and completely inconsequential. To be perfectly honest, I regret playing this game a little. Not because it was bad, but because it was definitely not good enough for me to waste 40 hours of my free time on it.
#2 by pramit
2016-05-17 at 19:52
< report >i was excited, but after playing for some time i am left disappointed. The writing is bad as you said. I feel like the concept of this vn had so much potential, as some of the characters. But its wasted on the lazy writing meant for children(who wont be playing this game because it has h scenes). Also, he takes a entire school with him and with many students. WHy? what role does those students serve in this vn except for tying down the protagonist(which they completely fail at because the protagonist just goes off to do his own thing anyway without concern for the wishes of the students). In the entire vn, we only see two students who are normal people and one teacher, and did they put them there just to annoy me as i read the story? Frustrating.Last modified on 2016-05-17 at 19:59
#3 by siliparion
2016-05-18 at 09:13
< report >I can forgive the generic shounen crap, even if it's out of place. The extremely late route branching is significantly harder to swallow however. Not to mention that Euphoria, the game's heavily advertised link to Aselia, is just kinda there and doesn't do anything, taking a back seat to overdone harem cliches.
#4 by noitrus
2016-05-27 at 21:53
< report >Well the game is a bit inferrior to the prequel story-wise. And it really feels it's panned out too much. However I have an enormous complaint for no option to skip battles in replays. The battle system is great, for the first and maybe 2nd time playing, but it very soon becomes completely boring as #$%^. I wanted to try out different endings and route details with other heroines even though they are rather linear, but being forced to pour hours of repeating same battles over and over again is sickening. Turning off battle animations is just not enough, I really wish there'd be a way to bypass entire battles altogether, this is after all story driven RPG.

Asellia had the exact same problem, however it was so much shorter and therefore easier to pull through.

Oh well excluding the things I ranted about above, the game is still quite enjoyable, and I liked it.Last modified on 2016-05-27 at 21:54
#5 by shad905
2016-06-06 at 13:19
< report >Well, different strokes for different folks, I suppose - I give this VN 9/10 - definitely one of my favourite games. Game mechanics - 9/10 as well, - I find the gameplay amazing. Sound - 10/10, - VA is outstanding as usual, I absolutely love the music in this game too. One thing I must agree with is the story - 7/10, - drop from Aselia's level. If not for the story I'd give this game 10/10
#6 by sanahtlig
2016-07-26 at 19:07
< report >I've posted my own review of Seinarukana.

Seinarukana is an ambitious visual novel / SRPG hybrid that should appeal to fans of anime-style JRPGs like Ar tonelico and Agarest War.

In-Depth Review: Seinarukana + Info Hub

Review highlights:

Pros:

* Classic JRPG storyline mixing comedy and high fantasy
* Streamlined battle system with decent depth and no grind
* Good value even at full price
* New game + adds replayability
* Choose the heroine Nozomu ends up with
* All major characters except protagonist fully-voiced in Japanese, some good BGMs


Cons:

* The game is less impressive in 2016 than it was in 2007
* Like many JRPGs, the characters and writing lack maturity
* Stereotypical harem protagonist
* The gameplay doesn't have the depth, especially in customization, of some mainstream JRPGs
* Route branches aren't sufficiently different to justify a second playthrough
* Combat becomes monotonous after a while, especially on subsequent playthroughsLast modified on 2016-07-27 at 01:35
#7 by shad905
2016-09-16 at 05:29
< report >sanahtlig: "* Route branches aren't sufficiently different to justify a second playthrough" - True route can only played in subsequent playthroughs though - at least that is sufficient, I thinkLast modified on 2016-09-16 at 05:30
#8 by sanahtlig
2016-09-16 at 06:01
< report >As I explained in the review:

Narukana's route is likely the True Route and unlocks on the second playthrough. The general community consensus seems to be that Satsuki and Nozomi's routes are the most developed and relevant to the setting of the initial five routes. Narukana's route provides some additional backstory on Nozomu and Narukana's past, but the experience doesn't differ dramatically enough to justify another playthrough (unless you really like the game).
#9 by loctar87
2016-09-16 at 07:41
< report >Gabe, you just aren't reading deep enough into the story. The real twist is that in the beginning when Nozomi awoke Monobe for the first time, he consumed and killed everything in the school except Nozomu and Satsuki. The student and minion life-force is how he gained all his various abilities that no other spirit has, and why he is so large. Having literally consumed the people in the school, "Monobe" is indeed an ironic name for him. Nozomi, realizing the great sin she's accidentally committed, uses Monobe's powers to cause everyone near Monobe to see illusions of all the dead students and teachers. This explains:
-Why we never see graphics of most of the students. They aren't really there.
-Why the students are eager to support the protagonists in everything, including going to war for no real reason.
-Why the students seems to feel no real danger and are always super optimistic despite being powerless.
-Why the students never seem to do anything but comic relief.
-Why Monobe is super-powered compared to the other spirits.
-Why even after dozens of minions attack on the school in the beginning, everyone appears unharmed and the minions are gone after the protagonist wakes up.

So you see, this is not "light-hearted and shounen-esque". It's a terrible tragedy cloaked in a veil of superficial happy illusions by a guilt-plagued mass murderer! :PLast modified on 2016-09-17 at 00:24
#10 by gabezhul
2016-09-17 at 06:30
< report >^You know, it is kind of telling that as silly and over-the-top your idea sounds, it would have still made the story more interesting than it actually is. -.-'

Seriously, it's been only four months and at best I could only tell you the broad strokes of the story if you asked me. It's that forgettable.
#11 by siliparion
2016-09-17 at 08:03
< report >I hereby consider loctar's idea as canon.

Reply

You must be logged in to reply to this thread.