The time every overseas eroge fan has been waiting for has finally come: Rance 5D and Rance VI have finally been released through MangaGamer. Two separate titles for the price of one, one significantly different from the other. Without fueling your anticipation any further, let’s take a look at Rance 5D first. After a brief history lesson, that is. It’ll come in handy, I promise.
“The horny guy reflected in the mirror is Rance. A cool guy.”
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 genres, Alice Soft has dipped their toes into many branches of gameplay 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 impossible to talk about Rance games without going in-depth about the protagonist himself. It’s hard to find a person in the eroge 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.
Most of the Rance 5D’s humor comes from how he interacts with other people. Imagine talking to a very angry and horny steamroller.
Getting officially introduced to Rance’s character through Rance 5D, situated almost in the middle of the whole franchise, might seem like a weird decision at first, but the game has one specific thing going for that will allow newcomers to the series to get familiar with it. That is the standalone story, which does not require knowledge of previous Rance games to be understood and enjoyed. For how much he hates to explain and overcomplicate things, even Rance himself very briefly explains who his traveling compa-… I mean, slaves and pets are and what he was doing prior to the beginning of the story.
The plot of Rance 5D begins with Rance, his cute doormat slave, Sill, and the artificial human girl with the intelligence of a dog, Athena 2.0, try to escape a dungeonous cave and return home, where the protagonist can get some deserved R&R (rape and relaxation) after all of his previous adventures. From that point onwards, most of the events that unfold in the story are pretty much fueled by Rance’s libido, entitlement and getting his way no matter what. Without getting too much into the spoiler territory, Rance’s exploits this time will take him to another dimension full of challenges, girls to “save” and fuck and ultimately to resume his journey home. Even if the story is mostly about entertaining you with no-holds-barred sexual and non-sexual violence related humor, it doesn’t shy away from getting pretty dark and serious at times. Overall, it’s effective, incredibly self-aware and enjoyable straightforward story.
Shit sometimes gets quite real.
“Gahahahaha. It’s my right as the winner. If that bothers you, then get stronger and win!!”
Rance 5D’s gameplay is a weird mixed bag of genres, with mechanics both familiar and new, even if you happen to be a seasoned fan of RPGs and adventure games. You will be spending most of the time on what the game calls an “Adventure Screen,” selecting actions that characters can do, picking up items and using them in appropriate situations during specific events. Experimenting with all kinds of items on different characters and events can yield some surprising and sometimes rewarding situations.
Movement and what you encounter in dungeons is solely determined by a roulette roll on a special grid. You can select from three types of spins. Normal spin takes one unit of time, and whichever node the roulette stops on, you get that type of encounter. Slow spin takes two units of time, the roulette will end on three adjacent nodes, and you pick one of the three. Cautions spin takes three units of time, the roulette will end on 5 adjacent nodes, and you pick one of the five. When you perform a normal spin, the color of the node you landed on is added to the center counter. If you get three balls of the same color (by landing on the same color three times in a row via normal spin), some good things might happen. Sometimes you might fight a special monster that gives you lots of experiences points, or you will find some valuable treasure. Each node or ball has a corresponding color to it that determines what kind of event you experience. It can range from fighting a monster, getting a shot at some treasure, encountering a trap or even witnessing the adventures of three very peculiar aliens and more. To advance the story, you will have to land on the numbered green event nodes that gradually appear the more spins you make.
Almost any action the player takes depletes a certain portion of a time limit gauge atop of the screen, and when that runs out, you will get an automatic game over. Managing how you move from scene to scene and calculating the risks versus rewards of using more costly spins, adding different nodes to the roulette ultimately determines if you can get through each chapter successfully. I do have to say that this approach to progression does feel like a breath of fresh air and I can’t say that I have ever seen anything like it before, despite having an extensive experience with the RPG genre. The whole thing just clicks and works really well together.
When actual combat starts, the player can do nothing more but spectate as a die is cast, determining which skill slot will be used by the player’s character and enemies. As you battle and defeat enemies, you gain experience, which you can channel into level-ups through the camp screen and the small goddess Mikan. The camp screen also lets your manage your inventory, use and equip new items, manage skill slot arrangements and swap battle positions for your characters. Leveling up not only increases your stats, but also gives you access to new skills every few predetermined levels. Stacking the same skills usually improves their effectiveness and in other cases, like with spells, adds additional effects to them, such as targeting a whole group of enemies.
Speaking of baddies, the enemies you encounter range from standard-looking fantasy monsters, to a seemingly random mishmash of real world references, RPG tropes and monster girls, which can be added to your party if captured to serve as temporary party members. Hard to find any other title where multiple versions of Bill Gates attack you with various Windows OS iterations.
Even if you chance upon items that let you affect your combat rolls, there is not much else you can to influence the combat results besides changing which move sets will be assigned to what score on the die. Generally, your best chance at survival comes from properly leveling up your characters and skills, always making sure you have the best gear equipped. Due to the random nature of the combat system, you still may end up with a few bad rolls and misses, after which your whole party will simply be wiped out, prompting another game over screen and the need to either reload from the last auto-save point or from one of the five event triggers for specific chapters. While you would think the RNG-laden nature of this game is purely a detriment and nothing more, it does give the game an immense replayability. No session of Rance 5D will turn out exactly the same and you might just discover more quirky things the developers have hidden all over the place if you play it for long enough.
At the end of each of the title’s five chapters, your score is tallied and added up based on what kind of actions you have taken throughout the chapters and how much time you have left in each of them. You are then rewarded a corresponding amount of experience points to help you throughout the adventure. As an added bonus, two Alice Soft mascots — Alice and Dark Alice — exchange some funny banter with one another, all while Alice gives you percentage-based stats of your playthrough thus far. If you’re a huge nerd, like I am, you will enjoy small touches like that, as the whole game is riddled with them.
“Mhmm…That cloud looks like a girl’s ass.”
Even for a pretty short title, Rance 5D is packed full of varied erotic content. The developers have not missed a single beat when it comes to taking advantage of quirky and kinky situations for Rance to get his rocks off. In order to quell his boredom and libido (which rises very often), Rance will not only go through any lengths to fuck a pretty girl on his radar, he will also be inventive about it. Even if he isn’t the smartest of heroes you’ve ever seen he is certainly one with the biggest imaginations for all things sexual. Expect everything from blowjobs, bukkake baths, fingering a miniaturized devil, extreme bondage BDSM sessions, group sex, etc. The list goes on. The way all of those scenes are written captures Rance’s forceful and sometimes downright brutal nature to a tee. Alice Soft has always gotten a lot of praise from me for the way the sex plays out, and this time, I would have to say that they might be a tad bit too short for my tastes.
The most important and longest sex scenes happen in the major story-related events and are also the ones accompanied by full-resolution (though sadly not widescreen) CGs lovingly drawn by the game’s lead artist, Orion. His cute, sexy character designs and the use of bright and warm colors coupled with gentle line art was always one of the things that kept me coming back to Alice Soft and Rance titles. After you complete the game, you unlock a CG gallery that includes Orion’s commentary on all art pieces he created for the title, and I have to say, I’m not surprised he is very critical of his own work, despite how positively received it is by others. Orion seems to be the kind of artist that is never fully satisfied with his creations and that motivates him to get better all the time. That kind of mindset has surely worked for him all this time and if you followed him over the years, you’ll know he gets even better in subsequent Rance sequels.
The game’s soundtrack also deserves a positive mention. Accompanied by the dynamic rock score during battles are other tracks that lend themselves to the game’s goofy nature. I am not joking when I say that soundtrack adds a ton to the game’s humor, as it practically burps and farts its way into your body and tickles your funny bone. Traditional Japanese music combined with weird boops, beeps and even rap with English vocals adds to the surreal atmosphere present throughout the playthrough. All in all a humorous and fourth-wall-breaking package that developers had a lot of fun (maybe even too much) creating. I can certainly appreciate it for that.
Lastly, wouldn’t be much of a review of a game I like without picking my favorite female character. Best girl coming through, even if she doesn’t have any sex scenes of her own.
Empty and mind broken eyes, signs that Rance is doing is something well.
“Gahahaha. My Hyper Weapon will pierce the heavens!”
The first Rance officially released in the West, despite its many random, luck-based elements and few other shortcomings, is a solid short, great-looking eroge that tried out a few new ideas and succeeded in implementing most of them. Its standalone story nature even allowed it to be an introductory title to an expansive series of legendary games, managing to set up a good segue into Rance VI, which I will be looking at next. As a person that always tries to not fall into the deep pit trap that is “hype”, I cannot help but feel excitement at the thoughts of rejoining one of the world’s most immoral fantasy protagonists on his journey towards pussy, power, and prestige.
Rance 5D and Rance VI are now available on MangaGamer as a bundle for $34.95.