Starless: Nymphomaniacs’ Paradise is a rather odd title. For everything it does right, it unfortunately has several things that set it back. Fraught with design issues, it can drag on quite a bit and what little plot there is chugs on at a snail’s pace. Often repeating itself, it can start to become somewhat of a chore to finish. The monotony is broken up with interesting bits here and there, but players will likely skim (speed read) through the first half of the game. I know I did.
Starless opens with the protagonist, Yukito Sawatari, mulling over which car to purchase. He is fresh out of school and has just gotten his license. While looking for part-time work, he spies upon an ad that mentions an immense sum of money as payment for services rendered. The job has no details, other than mentioning being a household servant for two weeks. What this entails doesn’t matter. Yukito sees the money, 4,000,000円 (roughly $33,600 US) , and jumps at the chance.
Upon arrival he is greeted by three lovely looking women, who then submit him to a vitality test: stripping him naked, forcing him to masturbate, and observing his sperm for any defects. After he passes the vitality test, he is informed his old clothing has been burnt and is given a rather skimpy male maid uniform. Completely unaware of what he has gotten himself into, he is overjoyed and ecstatic to pass the job interview and start working. This is where the game turns rather dark. Forced to carry out the whims of the Mamiya family (Marie, Marisa, and Marika), Yukito finds himself in situations he’s less than pleased with. The story involves some incredibly dark themes throughout, including torture, rape, and further unspeakable things revolving around humiliation.
Only one or two characters are remotely likable, with the main character starting off innocent before watching his psyche spiral down into depravity. While initially a virgin, Yukito soon adapts to some aspects of his new lifestyle, even going so far as to be turned on by things that he previously found disgusting. Apart from Yukito, there’s only two other males: a snot nosed little brat with mummy issues and a blonde haired, well-hung trap. While the Mamiya women are quite beautiful, sadly only one of them has any redeeming qualities personality-wise. You’ll likely get bored with them very quickly.
There are times where the story goes absolutely insane, but it only leaves the realm of reality once or twice in regards to the elasticity of a vagina, or the size of someone’s penis. Mostly, the game is grounded in reality — an incredibly harsh and unpleasant reality — but reality nonetheless. Despite the outrageous aspects of the story, there’s very little substance to the plot. It’s quite predictable, offers little of value to enrich the ecchi content, and only serves to drag what should have been a shorter game into roughly 60 hours. The game also features several different endings, based on one’s playthrough.
Like the story, the gameplay is rather bare. During the first half of the game you’ll be a passenger in the incredibly slow railcar that is Starless. There are no important decisions, and for the most part every choice gives the same outcome. The second half is when things start to pick up. Despite being a tad more interesting, and dotted with important decisions, there’s still not a lot there. You will come across two or three really important decisions, and depending on what’s chosen, a different ending will play; nearly all of them “bad endings”.
The story is progressed by clicking on the text. This will cause the audio track to play out, and progress to the next bit of dialogue; if you wish to skip through parts of the game faster, however, the scroll button on the mouse works well. Every bit of dialogue can be repeated, as the game keeps a log, but unfortunately the game will occasionally have a fit about what sentences can be repeated and where. Really frustrating. Starless can also be saved at any time, and features a plethora of save slots. It’s advised to save fairly often after about roughly day eight, as this is when decisions will start to matter and affect the ending. Most scenes can be skipped if you’re searching for a particular ending, or just want to see them all; however, often the skip button freezes up. In these instances, the mouse scroll button will be almost just as fast.
In regards to the bad endings, getting one can be as simple as the butterfly effect. Should you choose to look through a keyhole or choose not to cum inside a particular girl, this can have drastically disastrous effects on your playthrough. The important decisions also aren’t really highlighted in any way — barring one or two — and this is further mired by the number of decisions in the game which affect nothing and trick you into thinking they matter.
Visually, the game is stunning. The art is gorgeous, with all of the characters appearing anatomically correct. The women are beautiful and the men virile looking. The detail on each piece is impressive. Sweat on people’s thighs, cum leaking onto the ground, or even just the gloss from Marie Mamiya’s lipstick. It all looks perfect. The colours are vibrant, and for the most part it’s fairly varied when not in a sex scene or a filler part; and there are lots of filler parts.
While the art itself is top notch, it is sadly reused constantly. You’ll notice as you play that you will see certain images a dozen times. This is further compounded with the fact that the game often recycles base images, reusing it in a slightly altered way. An example of this is during the sex scenes, when everything in the image remains the same apart from a slightly altered facial impression, or the small bit of cum dribbling down someone’s leg. This would be less of an issue if it was noticeable, but half the time you won’t even notice the scene has changed. It eventually gets to be a little like playing spot the difference, and if you’re like me, you won’t even realize you’re doing it. You’ll just have this nagging feeling something seems off.
It’s a real shame that the game reuses the same images so much, as they are really well-drawn. There is a downside to this; however, in the less enjoyable parts of the game. There is a tonne of scat (if you have the uncensored patch), and it’s all accurately drawn, with the exception of Marie Mamiya’s odd-looking, green faeces. The poop looks unpleasant, and depending on whether the player is into that, it may disturb them. Even for people who aren’t bothered by scat, Marie’s alien looking poop may be unpleasant, and turn one off.
The cum looks like cum. It glistens realistically and appears to have the right viscosity and off-white colouring, with the exception of the really thick stuff later on. Characters are bathed in the stuff — often from head to toe — as it dribbles down and out from certain different orifices. Some characters have deliberately nasty looking cum, especially some of the older characters towards the end of the game. There’s the occasional shot where it looks kind of like cheese, but those are few and far between.
Aurally, the game is pleasant to the ears. The voice acting, while not in English manages to convey the correct emotions for each scene. Whether it be moaning in the throes of ecstasy, fear, or screaming at the top of their lungs, the voice acting enriches the scene. Sadly, the main character has no voice acting whatsoever, so even if one can understand Japanese, they are still forced to read the subtitles at the bottom of the screen.
The music ranges through a few different genres, going from acid jazz, somber and atmospheric, and even some eerie piano-driven rock during the darker, creepier scenes. While the actual instrumentation is quite enjoyable to listen to initially, it does begin to grate towards the end of the game. There’s only roughly five or six tracks throughout the whole game, with one or two reserved for specific scenes or endings. It’s quite a shame as the composition of the music is quite intricate and well-orchestrated, but like the rest of the game, there just isn’t enough there to keep one occupied.
Overall, Starless: Nymphomaniac’s Paradise isn’t a bad game. It’s clearly aimed at males, which is fine. The one main thing I had issue with was the sex scenes. In a game where essentially the flimsy plot exists to drive forward the game and get to the good naughty bits, I found myself far more interested in the plot. This isn’t even due to all the filler in-between the sex scenes, but the H scenes themselves. Assets are reused, and often when you think the scene is over they’ll pull out round two, and force you to sit through it all again.
In a hentai game, I shouldn’t be ho-humming the sex scenes, just so I can get to the next bit of exposition in a not exactly stellar, but coherent plot. Maybe I’m the problem, I don’t like being made to feel helpless, and used. The game is all about domination and humiliation of males no less, which is fine. That can be pretty hot as well, but I guess I have problems relating to or wanting to see sex scenes with characters that hold no interest or value to me. Apart from one or two characters, most are horrible human beings, or they’re boring cardboard cutouts of people, giving off an uncanny valley feeling. I personally can’t figure out who this type of game is for, but I’ll give it one thing: it does a brilliant job at making you feel as useless and trapped as Sawatari-san.