Eroge fans have been waiting for this moment for decades now and it finally happened. Thanks to the dutiful efforts of MangaGamer, Alice Soft has officially released their first title Beat Blades Haruka overseas.
Was the first entry in a hopefully continuous string of new and old Western releases by this legendary Japanese erotic game developer worth the wait? All you need to do to find out the answer is continue reading, so that I may take you on a journey through the world of sex-powered ninja, or the titular Blades as the game often calls them. I promise there will be rape — lots and lots of it.
To preface the actual review, I believe one cannot fairly talk about a high-profile eroge company like Alice Soft without briefly touching upon their rich history. Hopefully, bringing you up to speed on why the Western release of an Alice Soft is such a big deal for hentai game fans will help you better understand my mindset going forward.
Alice Soft is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, one of the most enduring eroge makers out there. Ever since the dual release of Rance and Intruder in 1989, the company has shown almost no signs of slowing down, steadily releasing a new game every year. Combining elements of RPGs, dungeon crawlers, raising simulators, strategy and adventure games, Alice Soft has dipped their toes into many branches of game mechanics. Thanks to the almost constant effort of innovating on their products, they have succeeded in redefining what eroge can be in this day and age.
It’s hard to find a person in the erotic game community that hasn’t at least passingly heard about Rance, the shark-toothed “hyper weapon”-wielding protagonist of over 10 different games in his name. Rance’s appearance and the selfish, brutish ways he deals women he finds attractive have characterized what people nowadays expect from most Alice Soft titles: a lot of competently structured and engaging rape scenes, coupled with an epic fantasy adventure. Yes, specifically in that order and not the other way around.
You can trust my word when I say that the topic of today’s review, Beat Blades Haruka, has more than enough established Alice Soft tropes to constitute a really competent, yet simple game. I can only hope that by the end of this deluge of words, you’ll understand my excitement for more Alice Soft games and possibly even share in them.
BBH’sthree main ninja ladies. All with their own charms, all ready to be defiled.
Sex Ninja Sentai Show
The plot of Beat Blades Haruka can be easily summed up with the above phrase. To those unfamiliar with the Japanese concept of sentai shows, think of it like Power Rangers with the levels of “cheesiness” left intact, only the huge robot fights are replaced with unapologetic sexual acts; however, I would be positively bamboozling you if I said that was all there was to the story. Overarching all the silliness of a super hero-like show is a simple, but effective narrative about a group of female ninja from the Crescent Moon Clan combating the evil Noroi faction hell-bent on controlling and ruling the world through fear and despair. The female members of the Crescent Moon Ninja Clan are able to power-up their physical abilities and ninja arts through a process called Dragon Synergy. Sexual acts performed by the male leader of the clan called the Dragonian on the female shinobi give them SP or, simply put, sex power. How this makes any kind of logical sense, at least as far as the rules of this world are concerned, is delved into only at the very end of the game. I imagine that by that point, you’ve already accepted it as a mere fact.
The somewhat lengthy visual novel prologue does a good job setting up the upcoming conflict between the two groups: it’s dramatic, intense, action-packed and gives a good introduction to the hopelessly perverted, romantic protagonist Takamaru Ikusabe and supporting characters. From then on, the plot takes more of a step back in favor of the gameplay and bombarding you with as many sex scenes as possible. While I personally don’t feel this is detrimental to the overall story the game trying to tell, longer anecdotal sections would have impacted character development much better.
What we can learn most about the characters’ likes, dislikes and motivations stem from brief, bite-sized visual novel segments that can be triggered randomly as in-game days pass or by entering certain character routes upon meeting specific conditions. Even though Beat Blades Haruka is in essence a visual novel, it feels more like a gameplay-driven game rather than a character or story-driven one. Hell, you could even say it’s a sex-driven story.
Carefully planning what sexual acts to perform is a part of any successful strategy to beating the game.
Grinding Your Characters (Quite Literally!)
Soon after Takamaru and his companions are introduced to the demonic Noroi faction, the game truly begins. Having been put behind a techno-magical seal with a surprise attack, the majority of the Noroi forces will be fully released into the world in 99 in-game days. It’s now up to the player to defeat any minions that emerge from the ever-weakening seal. As Takamaru has just received a crash course in reality and his whole world as a high school student has been turned upside down, he will slowly but surely have to learn the ropes of intimacy and sex before it’s too late. Starting off with the mild-mannered, shy and gentle Haruka, working his way up through the sweet pink-haired tsundere Narika and finally getting it on with the sexually experienced oneesan Subaru, Takamaru’s sizeable endowment will not be getting much time off.
Takamaru the Dragonian, also known as the Japanese John Holmes.
From here on out, the raising simulator parts of the game begin. Takamaru’s day, considered one in-game turn, is divided into three phases: morning, afternoon and night. The first two phases are reserved for building up your ninjas’ and Takamaru’s stats, while nights are exclusively reserved for combat operations like slaying Noroi ninja grunts and Kainin (special officer-like enemies), as well as invading Tetra Sealer castles that appear one by one as you progress through the game. The success of training your ninja is dependent on six-sided die rolls, of which you have a limited amount per turn. While the stats affecting your female companions are standard RPG fare, Takamaru’s Libido and Brutality stats are a whole different story entirely. Libido directly affects the amount of dice recovery every new day and Brutality indicates how badly Takamaru’s mind is affected by all the violent/depraved sexual acts he has committed or witnessed.
Making Haruka, Narika and Subaru more powerful is directly tied to performing varied sexual acts with them. For each action taken, you will be rewarded with sex scenes, an appropriate increase in stat points and, of course, sex power used to learn new skills or perform ninja arts during combat.
Carefully managing stat increases and training while balancing your steady libido increase during the day phase, followed by going into combat to dwindle enemy forces is the crux of Beat Blades Haruka. Badly allocating your skills, losing fights and letting more and more Noroi minions roam around town uninterrupted will eventually deplete your Peace Points to 0, forfeiting the game.
The amount of things to manage seems like a pain at first, but anyone should get used to it reasonably fast.
Actual combat is handled in an even more simplistic fashion. You and the bad guy face-off in turn-based RPG combat and use a small set of skills to clean each other’s clocks. There is very little difference between each of the three ninja you will be using for combat skill-wise and, in all honesty, only their most SP-expensive skills are truly unique in how they work. Despite how downright elementary the combat is, I still had a fair amount of fun with it. Characters emote their moves like their lives depend on it and even through the minimal amounts of animation, attacks feel like they pack quite a punch.
Replayability is something that the game has in spades, and for good reason. Getting to any of the game’s many routes requires careful management of not only the overall amount of Peace Points and Brutality Points you have, but also Love Points, which are acquired by making specific choices during events that occasionally appear between select phases of the day. Once you figure out how much of a certain stat you need to access a specific route, the whole game revolves around even more micromanagement. If you’re considering getting more than one ending in a playthrough, I strongly encourage you to save your game frequently before specific route-defining points or before any of your PPs or BPs sways too low or too high. There is no way to get all the endings, route-specific sex scenes or even meet all the Kainins on your first playthrough. In order to get the full Beat Blades Haruka experience, more than a few playthroughs are highly recommended.
Beat Blades Haruka made me mad happy about rape.
The Light and Dark Sides of Sexuality
Finally, the part you’ve all been waiting for and the one I’ve been dying to tell you about the most: the sex. The sex is the strongest aspect of Beat Blades Haruka, no contest. Frankly, considering that both the game’s gameplay and story are so tightly bound together with sexual elements, middling sexual content would have likely ruined the whole experience. Luckily for me and you, prospective future owner of BBH, Alice Soft pulled out all their years of eroge development experience to bring you a game chock-full of porn – really well-written porn at that too.
When discussing the pornographic material found in the game, it’s important to divide it into two very distinguishable categories: the positive, more bubbly and romantic side, and the brutal, unforgiving and manipulative side. Playing through the game normally and aiming for any of the love routes will let you be witness to a story about love, camaraderie, the gradual exploration of one’s sexuality and kinks. Prevalent vanilla sex with a few softcore fetishes and teasing mixed in for good measure is the core of the experience if you prefer playing “paragon”, so to speak. Takamaru, being the hopeless pervert even before he learns he’s a magical sex power generator for girl ninja, is living out all of the fantasies with Haruka, Narika and Subaru. His gentle and considerate side comes through the best even when he’s realizing his wildest dreams, always caring about if his partner is feeling good and enjoying themselves as well as he is. If you’re into some heartwarming loving that has consent oozing out of every pore while still scoring points for playfulness, the love routes are where you want to be.
While you only get a few small glimpses on the dark side of BBH’s adult material in any of the fluffy love routes, going the complete opposite way down the path of brutality and cruelty leads you into a whole different show. If you decide to let your ninja lose battles against the Noroi Faction, intentionally or otherwise, they will be raped. If your ninja lose to a generic type of enemy, they will be raped off-screen after a small text prompt, whereas losing to Kainin yields an original full-length, thematic sex scene. The rape scenes are graphic, to say the least. Each one is striking in its own way, described and voiced to such a degree that the despair your ninja girls feel as they’re violated is almost palatable.
Getting enough Brutality Points is an easy gateway to even more depraved content in the game. Making your ninja lose enough times gradually turns them into mind-broken sluts, craving any kind of orifice penetration 24/7. There are even specific endings for those that love to see prim and proper maidens become cumslut toilets for men with less than acceptable hygiene. Deciding to give in into your dark desires opens up the Brutal Routes, which in turn unlock even more warped sexual encounters you can put your Blades through. The grim Brutal Routes also culminate in some grim endings, that despite how tragic and gruesome they are, made me smile from ear to ear. This is about when I realized the game was actively corrupting me as it was its own fictional characters. An unintended effect, surely, but I sure as hell won’t lie and claim I didn’t enjoy it.
The measure of how good an eroge can be is something I usually determine by how well it can get you interested in the content you aren’t playing the game for. I’ve read and seen a lot of different material focused on forceful sex before, and I can’t say I really enjoyed the concept or the execution of it all. Beat Blades Haruka, however, did something to me, from which there is probably no going back. It made me enjoy fictional rape and actually get quite turned on every time I punished and humiliated my underlings using Takamaru as my proxy. I acquired a rape fetish and I have Beat Blades Haruka to thank for it.
The first Kainin rape scene had me almost instantly looking forward to more.
Of Technical Aspects and Pointy Chins
For all the praise I can give Beat Blades Haruka, I can still find a few aspects that aren’t as pleasing to the eye or the ear. With the title having been released in 2008, you would expect a wide-screen HD game, but this expectation couldn’t be further from the truth. The whole game is in a 4:3 letterbox, making the game look much older than it actually is; in fact, I daresay it’s downright antiquated.
Whereas the art in the CG work deserves high accolades, for the level detail and shadows especially, some uncensored parts with genitals look completely out of proportion. I know female Blades are trained to use their bodies for various sexual acts and some “wear and tear” on their vaginas is to be expected, but Haruka, having no prior experience before Takamaru popped her ninja cherry, is sometimes drawn with a vagina as wide as the Channel Tunnel connecting France and the United Kingdom. Luckily, apart from the incredibly pointy chins the characters sport that could be used as a novel type of ninja weapon, this is my only complaint about the game’s art direction. I still have nightmares after watching Canon so many years ago.
My minor criticism of Beat Blade Haruka’s will seem like nitpicking compared to what I have to say about the game’s sound design. Putting the very cool, rocking opening song and its instrumental rendition aside, the game’s soundtrack is quite uninspired and minimal. The very few tracks the game contains sound like most generic music you’d hear in any cheap run-of-the-mill visual novel. As BBH is a very long game, having to listen to the same groaning and goofy soundtrack will eventually grate away at your nerves and you’ll want to replace it with anything else; even nightcore remixes of anime openings. Fortunately, the fact that none of these personal issues were able to significantly spoil my enjoyment is a testament to the game’s quality.
Beware how you approach the mouth of any Blade lest you want your jugular pierced their chin.
There is absolutely no way Beat Blades Haruka isn’t worth the asking price of a bit under $35. It has an immense amount of visually appealing and audibly diverse sexual content, and even if the gameplay portions are nothing too unique on their own, the combination of a few simple and distinct mechanics available in other genres make the whole package incredibly enjoyable. Personally, I’m eagerly awaiting any future official releases of Alice Soft games, as I know they’re capable of creating eroge masterpieces. I wouldn’t want the spring of my youth ending without first sampling the sweetest forbidden fruits the eroge industry tree has to offer.