Picture this – you wander the streets at night, looking for some fun, and eventually you make your way to a fancy bar you frequent. There, you cross paths with a stunning woman who looks more than a bit interested, but it turns out she is way more than you expected – and way more than you can handle.
This is the basic premise of Secret Agenda, a short, one-shot femdom VN from indie developer GDI Doujins. This is the first complete game released by GDI outside of a couple short game jam titles, but it’s competently made, with original art and full VA. It’s a nukige, so there’s not much plot to go about, but what there is (and the way the prose is handled) is interesting enough to have fun with for a couple of hours.
Meet your conquering beauty. You’ll never learn her name.
The plot of Secret Agenda, written originally in English, puts you in the shoes of a nameless, handsome charmer who goes to his favorite bar looking for a drink and a girl to spend the night with. Here he meets the (also nameless) female protagonist of the story, a dark-haired beauty dressed all in red. The entire story is told through the second person by your seductress, so you are told in her sultry voice exactly how she charms you and fools you into thinking you’ve gotten her to spend the night with you, when in fact she’s the one who’s been looking for you – the predator as opposed to the prey.
The plot isn’t really very complicated, though it does contain a nifty little twist at the end which I will not spoil. The main angle of attack (and the reason this is a nukige and not an eroge) for Secret Agenda is the experience of being seduced by this woman in red, and the intense immersion as she addresses you, fully-voiced, in the second person and describes all the things she is doing to you. This is a tack not many VNs take, and it’s certainly quite original.
The impact of the scenes is conveyed less through sight and more through sound – vocal sound.
I’ve mentioned the voice work, and it really is this game’s greatest strength. The art is definitely competent, don’t get me wrong – perhaps a bit on the rough side at points, but that owes more to the sort of soft, “painting-like” style it follows rather than any unintentional mistake. It’s the voice acting, however, that really clinches this work. The voice actress has a voice sexy and sultry enough to make the dead rise from their graves, rotting boners in hand, as she handles the dialogue with aplomb, even when the prose lays it on a bit too thick for my taste.
As far as sound design goes beyond the voice acting, though, I found Secret Agenda a bit lackluster. The music, in particular, was this sort of strange blend between wannabe-70s-jazz and old porno music, and it will probably grate on you as it did on me if you don’t really like trumpets. There’s also no sound effects for sex or anything of the sort like there are in some other VNs, so don’t expect it (though one could perhaps argue that sex sound effects in most VNs are often so ridiculous it’s perhaps a better idea to skip them).
Options-wise, Secret Agenda has about what we’ve come to expect from a nukige VN, which is again, basically nothing. You’ve got options for windowed and fullscreen, music volume and text speed, but not much more; however, like some other original English visual novels we’ve reviewed on the site, Secret Agenda was, unlike the great bulk of Japanese-original games, made by people who have actually, incredibly, unbelievably laid eyes on a monitor with a resolution larger than 600p. The windowed mode is at 720p, and scales up to 1080p for the fullscreen. This is something we take for granted for regular game offerings, but it’s altogether so rare for porn games, and resolution is altogether such an important aspect for a visual medium like gaming, that it’s really worth not just mentioning, but also congratulating.
The least surprising screen in the entire game, but hey, 1080p!
It’s not like there’s nothing to criticize about Secret Agenda, mind. It’s very short, it doesn’t exactly have a lot of (read: any) replay value, and the second-person prose is, at times, a bit strange. While very original, there’s a reason why most writers don’t write in second person, and that’s because it’s usually difficult to pull off. The dialogue never quite veers off into truly purple territory, and it’s mostly competent throughout. Some parts, particularly during the sex scene, will have you chuckling or rolling your eyes just because of how thick the story’s laying on the seduction. Still, the voice work is so good that these snags hardly matter, since the woman in red’s voice is so delicious that she could make a toothpaste commercial sound erotic. There’s not really any forgiving the music, but considering the indie budget we’re working with here, it’s a minor defect, really.
Bottom line, if you’re at all into even light femdom, you’ll definitely enjoy Secret Agenda for its take on the genre and its innovative prose. If, like me, you’re the kind of person who thinks women belong in the kitchen, you’ll probably still get some enjoyment out of it, as the story, though short, is interesting enough. The voice work is a joy to listen to, and the art is competently drawn. I’ve mentioned in prior reviews that the quality of H-games is so over the place that just having a consistent stream of competent, well-rounded titles is arguably more important to the health of the scene than the occasional masterpiece. In that regard, a title with as much care put into it as Secret Agenda is really deserving of appreciation.
If you feel like trying the game out for yourself, Secret Agenda has a tentative release date of May 1st 2016, so stay tuned – we’ll update this review with more information as it comes.