For the hype that Artificial Academy 2 gets around the community, one question arises: is it a meme game?
To call a game a “meme game” is a very dismissive way to brush aside technical achievement by pointing out the game’s creative sterility. After all, if there’s nothing new under the sun that may involve robots, time travelers, and/or espers, might as well make it worth somebody’s time. Games also benefit more from being inspired from real life – one of the most memetic games was just a silly amusement park simulation with a skeletal ruleset. Successful simulations are the culmination of having an easy reference point to talk and share with friends, customization out the wazoo, and (sometimes) a limited development team that overstepped its bounds and has made something easy to make fun of.
Artificial Academy 2 embodies some of those characteristics, for better or for worse. How much you’re going to get out of this game is tied to your suspension of disbelief, and what better way to test this out than to welcome myself to the meme machine?
For this LewdLook, I will be replicating the closest thing to a game loop: make a high school student, take the bicycle around the block, and have a race. Simple enough, right?
Not pictured: the bootay. She can’t get it.
This is a re-creation of Galko-chan. In the show she originally comes from, calling her “curvy” would be a unanimous decision, with a glorious rack, narrow waist, and saucy hips, while still having a swimmer’s body. Unfortunately, in Artificial Academy 2, there are no hip, thigh, or arm sliders to give a proper hourglass shape. Instead, you choose from three pre-rendered weights (slender, regular, and chubby) and throw breasts on top of it. So, if I wanted to replicate her size in the show, I can only adjust the waist on a chubby build to give her hips. While this managed to work for Galko, there are a lot more diverse body shapes and sizes, such as Otako, Ojou, and Nikuko, that aren’t possible if one wants to go to their hometown.
The hair in Artificial Academy 2 is a lot more customizable with front, side, and back hair presets that give more patterns. You’ll have to take some creativity if you want to create some characters from other IPs, like Phoenix Wright. However, since male and female hairstyles are shared, you’re going to get some femboys and tomboys if you let the randomizer touch your characters. Not to say that you could have traps with birthing hips, unfortunately – you don’t even get a waist slider when choosing your male body type, nor any middle ground for giving them pseudo-breasts.
The personalities and traits you can put on your character isn’t as crippled. There are dozens of personalities and sexual kinks you can put on your character that fundamentally influence how they behave, mostly affecting how difficult they are to snatch once you begin the dating phase in game. The female side has a lot more personalities to choose from, for obvious reasons. Although everything else is properly labeled in English, your gifts to the character are still left in Japanese, so if you want to whip out the anal beads, you’re gonna need a guide.
Cel-shading does not complement CG art well.
Scratch that, you’re probably gonna need a guide for everything. Why? Because there’s no common sense in Artificial Academy 2 (at least in my case).
When you begin populating the school and customizing your classroom, you start off in the least likely place – your character’s room, right before the school day starts. There’s no introductory tutorial or cutscene either. You start off straight into your first class, which comes in four cycles – morning, midday, afternoon, and evening, where you can fraternize however you want between periods. However, the dialog features in this game are very hard to read, despite having so many options for dating sim elements. Almost no one in the game can hold a grudge, so if you apologize to someone feeling gloomy (that should have more nuanced feelings) you’ll just waste time choosing options the NPCs won’t understand.
NPCs are also very dumb, and inconsistent on top of it. First of all, you’d figure that since Artificial Academy 2 is on PC, you can choose the high-end models to be displayed all the time, right? Wrong. The hi-res models are reserved for dialog menus and in-game sex, leaving low-quality PS2-tier models to stare at even when nude. Tan lines aren’t as sexy with jaggies. Speaking of jagged lines, pathing for AIs is also a nightmare, where a dozen students clip through one another and head off to insane detours in the other way. Whenever a student invites the class to do something, the subtitles don’t linger from the upper left when making your choices, so absent-minded players might screw themselves out of a relationship at the drop of a hat. Even then, the pathfinding will reach the destination (in my case, the picnic benches) and run all the way to the water spouts before going back to finish the scripted event.
And that’s not even getting into favors: your odds for most options start off low, and the warming up rates are even lower. It will easily take over a month of in-game time to romance certain partners, partially due to the effectiveness of bonding options. Your partners will be confused when you hug and kiss them, even though they come out and admit they like you two weeks in the relationship. Yet, at the same time, the local otaku will beg you to see his “hyper fist”, and lesbians will scissor each other in the hallway. I can’t really say if the fan translators were at fault, but I’d believe that the programmers were pretty lazy or incompetent around getting the dating aspects.
Why is Artificial Academy 2 such a prude, taunting the player so? Well, the secret is more obvious than you think: Along with a lot of things, the coding values such as “Virtue” aren’t treated separately by sex, which causes a lot of problems if you associate virtue with virility as the pinnacle of male behavior like I did. As they say, a man is not a virgin, so having an option to make a male character in a hentai game afraid of sex is very strange. So if you want to have a good time, you’d have to set their virtue at rock bottom to make them a horny devil.
Having my second go at courting, the game isn’t as demanding when building the relationship. By the second week mashing the karaoke option every evening, the dating mechanics fall into place. And here’s where we get to the real meat of the gameplay.
Hoverhanding just got lewd.
Although there’s no real gameplay to the sex, there are a lot of ways to flick the switch. There are a couple problems with model placement and animations that cheapen the experience, but at least the performance is erotic in its own right. Having to switch to different positions to get the girl to cum, intensifying the rhythm, and having smaller details such as the hymen breaking overshadow the clipping, not to mention the several in-game options to the consequences, which can make semen extra-sterile or extra-spunky at your discretion. There are probably even more lewd items hidden under the untranslated text of the DLC that I have yet to discover.
Artificial Academy 2 has no right to be this bad – there’s clearly a working game underneath all the amateurish glitches. The dating sim elements could be just as good as Tokememi Memorial, but the clubs and variables are nowhere near as versatile. The character creation can’t even reach Dark Souls level of quality, let alone your standard MMO. Even the sex could’ve had a little more effort to make it reach subliminal quality – but, to be fair, what we’ve got right now isn’t that bad.
I’d say the best way to describe Artificial Academy 2 is like losing your virginity: on the outside, there seems to be zero redeeming qualities from the ugliness of the relationship, but once you start getting to “know” them better, you start to think back on fond memories that probably aren’t there. There’s a lesson to be learned here, and the first to learn it could probably cure the post-traumatic stress of those terrible high school memories.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to throw out some cream soda bottles out of my room.