Valentine’s Day is over, but there is always time to look for the purest form of love. I’ve personally never played or paid too much attention to yuri titles, but I do enjoy some girl-on-girl action, so I gave Sacrament of The Zodiac: The Confused Sheep and The Tamed Wolf a fair shake. The game was developed by Kuro Irodoru Yomiji and was distributed in the West by Denpasoft. The title is quite short and did give me strong feelings for the characters because I am a sap after all, but in the end, it left me with feelings of disappointment.
The game begins by immediately showing the main characters kissing, as well as the monologue of Arissa Mokose — one of the two main characters Sacrament of The Zodiac — stating that she experienced love for the first time, just a mere five minutes within meeting Hitsuji Suou; the other main character. The game then flashes back to five minutes earlier; Arissa, an extremely religious girl who is blessed by the goddess to be one of the 12 bearers of a stigma, is doing her daily prayer to the goddess in the cathedral on campus. She is interrupted by Hitsuji, a slightly taller girl who came to the nameless academy as a transfer student. Hitsuji is very shy and initially wants to ask Arissa some basic things, but confesses her love for Arissa shortly thereafter. Arissa, who is oblivious to the very concept of love, is confused and asks for clarification, to which Hitsuji responds with a kiss. Indeed, this all happens within the span of five minutes and you have to wonder: Just what was the point of the jump-forward-jump-back device?
The story explores the hastily-built relationship between Arissa and Hitsuji, as they both jumped into the romantic ordeal without knowing how love really works. Hitsuji asks her childhood friend on the phone for advice about what the next steps are in a relationship. Arissa, meanwhile, gets help from a girl in another class named Saginomiya, who is faceless and introduced for absolutely no reason other than to make the story go make a slight bend. This brings me to the biggest problem of the plot: there is absolutely no hardship in the characters besides Hitsuji’s jealousy and fear of losing Arissa. Saginomiya, who somehow gives a fuck about Arissa and Hitsuji’s relationship, aids them by giving advice on how to get rid of Hitsuji’s jealousy. In the context of Sacrament of The Zodiac, 12 bearers of stigmas coming together is a rare thing, and having a relationship with a bearer of a stigma can be very problematic. This is ultimately a pointless attempt to build suspense that the girls might get caught doing gay things with each other, which never actually happens: they are never busted and everything works out without incident. At one point when they’re partaking in some yuri action, someone knocks on the door, momentarily halting the sex scene, killing the mood for both them and myself. This ends up being absolutely unimportant and they resume their lesbian endeavors immediately, after which it is never to be brought up again. The whole stigma and zodiac side plot is completely ignored and goes nowhere, which seems very strange as it is brought up very often in the character conversations.
Right after the intro sequence and opening movie, you are introduced to a new mechanic in the game: You can switch the perspective of the game between Arissa and Hitsuji, showing their thoughts in that moment. You can switch between them most of the time by clicking the panel with their picture next to the message box. This is an important feature to use because you can’t switch all the time and some thoughts are kept to themselves unless you advanced through the story while keeping focus on one character. Additionally, keeping a focus on one character just before they separate will show you a scene with the focused character having a monologue or a conversation without the other protagonist present. This means that you can replay the story multiple times to see what each character is thinking and experiencing. In a way, one can see the mechanic as a unique way to implement multiple routes without actually doing so. Besides that particularly nice feature, Sacrament of The Zodiac sadly only has one choice in the entire game. This choice may seem meaningless and does not directly impact the ending, but it does unlock one additional sex scene. This is actually really strange since the choice made doesn’t even hint that it influences the story whatsoever.
This title doesn’t have a lot to show in the art department, since only two characters are ever shown. The sprites are depicted with a few different facial expressions, but they are nothing special to look at. Agekichi, the game’s artist, seems to be able to make fine sprites in other titles, but it seems to have been done with less interest in Sacrament of The Zodiac. Additionally, the CGs aren’t rich in number and aren’t of the highest quality. Awkward and dull positions don’t do much for the player to ignite their fiery love for yuri. The backdrops also fail to stand out much, with a bunch of standard, medium quality images that are never brought up in the story beyond “We’re here now, so let’s go there!” The only dynamic aspect about the backdrops is that the lighting changes to a soft, sunset orange hue whenever it’s late in the day.
The best part about the game is perhaps the music; I get more easily sucked into a story if it has some music that really works with the emotional dialog. It is a pretty good soundtrack, but it could have used a bit more variety. I did, however, really enjoy the use of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in the cathedral. The voice acting is okay; nothing terrible, but nothing that truly stood out as memorable. Mostly soft voices were used, and sure they were cute, but not distinct enough for me to really notice who is talking. One small, albeit glaring issue was that the audio for Arissa’s lines has a very high pitched beep in the background. As for the sound effects, they also leave a lot to be desired. For example, the effect used when playing with pussy, whether it’s licking or fingering, resembled the sound of someone stirring brown beans in sauce on an electric stove more than it did the sound of sex.
In the end, Sacrament of The Zodiac didn’t give me a good first impression as to what yuri visual novels are like. The lack of real hardship in the plot, a lot of context and special terms built only to be absolutely ignored, and a conclusion that leaves you wondering why the hell you cared, ending like nothing really happened. The sex scenes were certainly erotic but weren’t of a high enough quality to really get me going, which is really a shame. The whole game feels like it was just hastily thrown together, with lots of mediocre elements and a story that tries hard for you to care, but ultimately fails. I finished the game in about 10 hours though that’s mostly because I am a slow reader, and I’m not sure if it’s worth the asking price. If you really love yuri, you might get some more enjoyment out of it than I did, but I felt it left a lot to be desired.