There comes a time in the life of every man when he must own up to his mortality.
Staring at the abyss, its gaping maw open wide, it’s claws extended to reach out and grab him, he must either stand strong and keep the forge of his heart lit, or surrender and repent the folly of ascribing meaning to the void.
For me, this was one of those times.
Hitomi – My Stepsister is nominally a nukige, a sex game where the story is only an entertaining backdrop to H-scenes meant to arouse and titillate the reader. I say nominally, because well, it’s actually nothing like that! The story is a playground of the nonsensical, shifting and changing between an assault of dry boredom clearly meant to rot your brain, to twists so ridiculous and trite you recoil back and have to blink away the haze of confusion before continuing, to a kind of black comedy that will have you in tears… from laughter or pain, I cannot tell.
Look, what I’m trying to get at, and this as much as I am a man extremely reluctant to denigrate another fiction writer’s work, is that Hitomi – My Stepsister is bad. Pretty bad. No, really bad. BAD, bad.
The sad thing about it, though (and I find that’s the case with most mediocre fiction), is that it didn’t really have to be this way. The basic premise of Hitomi – My Stepsister, is actually pretty interesting. Takahiro, our protagonist, is an alienated high school senior living with his distant father, a successful company man who lives for work, but who cares little for his son beyond providing for him, and neither has nor shows any emotional depth. Then, one day, to Takahiro’s surprise, his father announces that he’s remarried to a hot MILF of a lady, and that he’s bringing her and her daughter to live with Takahiro at his house. Takahiro then has to deal with the resultant fallout, particularly since these attractive women, though nominally “family”, are complete strangers, and he can’t help but be seduced by their bodies.
This has the makings of an interesting eroge, right? Of course, since Japanese VN writers almost never pass up the chance to waste a good idea, the game, of course, goes full nukige, doing nothing with the story save for the occasional (and as I already mentioned, ridiculous) soap opera twist. Instead, Hitomi – My Stepsister is centered completely on sex – between Takahiro and Yoko, his stepmother, and also between Takahiro and Hitomi, the titular stepsister.
Now, if you’ve read some of my previous reviews, you’ll know that I’m pretty forgiving of bad writing for the sake of porn (after all, I wouldn’t be writing for Lewdgamer otherwise!) when it comes to nukige. After all, that’s why they’re nukige and not eroge. Of course, that’s only if the porn is good. If.
This woman’s cunt almost reaches up to her navel. Think on that for a minute.
Sadly, as you’re probably already expecting, the porn Hitomi – My Stepsister is atrocious. It’s not that badly written —there are no mollusks, at least—, but the art is just… foul.
Now, I’ll be the first person that say that VNs, despite being nominally visual, are mostly carried on the strength of their writing. Countless VN classics have gotten by on merely passable art while relying on their story, such as Tsukihime or Umineko; however, because a nukige is mostly about the sex, there are certain standards it has to reach, art-wise. They aren’t very high, mind you – just a certain level of anatomical correctness, enough that you can tell that the bodies on screen are supposed to belong to sexy women.
That being said, the art in Hitomi – My Stepsister is the stuff of Euclid’s nightmares. Bodies twist and contort, clitorises stay but mere inches away from merging into navels, “cutesy” anime heads look like something out of an Ancient Aliens documentary, and vaginas gape, red and fleshy, not sexual organs but mouths that with raspy breaths seem to try and fail to grab the deformed, pink sausage-shaped parasite that has eaten and replaced the protagonist’s dick. The awfulness of the art is so potent, in fact, that it takes me back – it reminds me of a time long gone, when a young boy sat before his CRT monitor, and squinting under the glare of the 480p screen, opened IE 6, boner in his right hand, and with his left slowly, painfully typed in “newgrounds.com”.
Such times are best left buried. We put up with stuff like this in the early aughts because nobody in their teens knew what torrents were and didn’t have internet more powerful than DSL, if that, so godawful flash games and terrible manga rewrites were all we had. But no more! No more! It’s 2016, the Current Year, and I won’t go back to that dark place – and Hitomi certainly won’t be able to drag me there.
“Ash cartoon durbatulûk, ash cartoon gimbatul,
ash cartoon thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul!”
On the technical side, Hitomi is almost as atrocious as its writing and art. As with many older VNs, you’re stuck with a tiny resolution (though you could argue it’s an advantage here since you see less of the art). Moreover, the sound design during the already bad sex scenes is itself pretty awful, when it exists at all. And don’t even get me started on the background music. People, there have been huge repositories of license-free music around the internet for years. Some of them are as simple as plopping down $10 and now you have a professionally composed track to use in your commercial work forever. There’s no excuse for godawful piano tinkling, and by God is Hitomi’s music pretty much something you’d hear on an elevator. Nothing quite like getting to the climatic scene where one of the (laughably deformed) characters pulls a knife only to have muzak play in the background.
If there is one thing that Hitomi has going for it in terms of production values, it’s that it’s fully voice acted, with decent voice actresses to boot. This mostly ends up being an example of misguided budget priorities, however. What’s the point of good voice acting if your art and writing are atrocious? We may never know.
I have seen deader things than those eyes in my nightmares. But now I’m awake.
Bottom line: I cannot recommend this game, and I certainly cannot recommend it at the whopping $19.99 it’s currently going for at JAST USA. It’s sad because I try to keep my reviews and previews positive – after all, I’d like nothing more than for originally-Japanese genres like VNs and nukige to succeed in the West and eventually give rise to western-made originals of great quality. But this game in particular? It’s really not worth the money.