Rance 5D and Rance VI have finally arrived in an official manner on Western shores. Alice Soft’s flagship eroge series has been on the lips and minds of both fans and casual observers of the adult gaming industry for a very long time. Let us take a look and see if the great hype behind the second officially released title of the saga is deserved.
Both Rance 5D and Rance VI came to us as a very much needed Christmas present to top off a very satisfactory year for all things eroge. As you might probably expect from all this build-up, the review will be a positive one illustrating all of the strengths of the game, but at the same time exposing flaws it meanders towards. One thing is clear though: Alice Soft has always been making games they themselves would want to play. True to their own formula, Rance VI is one of those games.
A good place to start analyzing the sixth main series entry is at its story, which is surprisingly deep this time around, with many twists and serious turns. After his last adventure in another dimension, where he saved Rizna from eternal imprisonment, Rance goes forth to the Kingdom of Zeth to once again seeking to replenish his empty money bags. After offending a high-ranking minister of Zeth with his brash and hot-headed tendencies, the green warrior gets thrown into an arena for slave camp, from which he is busted out by an anti-government organization known as Ice Flame. From that point, Rance finds out about the internal problems plaguing the prosperous Magic Kingdom of Zeth. It turns out the society of Zeth is heavily divided and unequal between people that can use magic and those who, for various reasons, aren’t able to. The non-magic users are treated as 2nd class citizens devoid of virtually all rights and are treated like slaves or animals. If that wasn’t bad enough, there are several factions within Zeth, and even beyond it, that want to seize the country and model it to their liking.
Sounds fairly standard for an RPG plot, doesn’t it? While that may be true, the themes of prejudice, classicism and what lead up to it are explored in a really believable and realistic fashion. As you progress through the story, you will witness many acts leading to the eventual societal collapse of the kingdom, to the point that you could easily find parallels in our own history. Alice Soft did not hold back in showing the darkest depths humans can go to in an environment that fosters discrimination. All this and more in a game about a guy that calls his penis “Hyper Weapon” and his sperm “Imperial Juice”.
People die when they’re killed.
How does Rance play into all of this intrigue? Even as a force to be reckoned with, especially in the sense of combat, Rance does whatever the hell he pleases and contributes to changing Zeth through coincidence by following his own sense of entitlement, lust for revenge and, most importantly, lust for hot women. Luckily (and funnily) enough, his desires just happen to be in line with the forces wanting to change the unequal Kingdom of Zeth from within. I don’t want to spoil the story too much, but you can be sure that some of the forces manipulating Rance’s antihero desires don’t necessarily have the good of the people in mind.
Rance VI’s narrative isn’t just about the downfall of Zeth, however. Even if you don’t particularly like Rance characters and his vile, selfish ways, there are still other means of enjoying the story. The crippled and traumatized Urza, the female leader of the Ice Flame resistance, goes through a very compelling process of recovering her will to live and reigniting her desire to create a new and better Zeth bringing equality and justice to everyone. One of the few things you least expect to find in a series like Rance are heartwarming moments, but they really are there and when they happen they do hit you hard like a Japanese truck hits a manga protagonist.
Plenty of characters, both new and old, have their own arcs they go through together with Rance, adding more variety and flavor to the overall story. Shizuka’s quest for revenge, Rizna’s desire to change her oversensitive body back to normal, Maria’s uncertain feelings towards Rance and many, many more side story events that ultimately bring you closer to the characters, making you appreciate them all the more.
The staple of every Rance game is the completely unapologetic and usually crude humor loaded with pop-culture references and other elements diehard nerds giggle at under their breaths. Rance VI is, of course, no exception. Situational humor, Rance’s overall behavior towards anyone, amazingly silly and out-of-place-looking technology and a slew of in-jokes by the developers shows that VI can be equally as goofy and serious with its themes. Those sensitive to quick tonal changes could be put off by how quickly the game can go from stern talk of genocide to wisecracks at the drop of the hat, but I suppose that comes with the territory that is Rance. Know what you’re getting into before starting this adventure.
This scene is followed by a gruesome murder of a member of minority group. If this isn’t Rance, I don’t know what is.
Apart from your standard visual novel segments triggered by events, Rance VI at its core is an old-school dungeon crawler RPG. Traverse dungeons, defeat enemies in turn-based combat with your party of a maximum of six characters gaining experience points to level up at specifically designated screens and collect loot by either finding chests in the levels or by exploring specific percentages of the whole map. What makes the game stand out a bit are Adventure Achievements or battle points, which award you progressively better loot in the form of special orbs (to be later used at the camp), gold pieces and armor and weapon buns to make your shop-bought equipment more powerful. If you have a keen eye and explore the map enough, you may even encounter special heart-shaped events that increase your Friendship level with your companions. After a certain point, you will also be able to catch monster girls with the aid of Tamanegi, but that’s a story for another paragraph.
The most important screen is the camp screen, as this is where you will be progressing the story and accessing events. In this screen, you will be spending your hard-earned orbs to view events that progress the story, give your characters news abilities at specific FR thresholds and sex up your female companions. When combined with the fact that he doesn’t have a level cap, Rance’s sexual prowess lets him power up and further increase (up to a certain limit) the level cap and the stats of all the women he sleeps with, as well as his own through masturbation. Yes, given enough time and by jacking off alone, Rance could potentially become the most powerful being in the world.
If you play through the game normally, not staying in a few places just to grind levels, you may find yourself challenged by some of the monster setups later on in the game. If you play like me and want to kick the game’s ass from here to the Moon, however, just leveling Rance up considerably makes the whole game a cakewalk. Unless you want to breeze through all the encounters the game will throw at you, be careful how much you level your party up. While it’s rare for most other eroge to feature, Rance VI actually contains a good amount of some post-game content, with bonus dungeons and even additional story events that wrap up all of the major unresolved plot points from the main storyline. They extend the gameplay by a good few hours and gives you a decent amount of extra difficult challenges if you aren’t over-leveled.
Just your typical enemies in any Rance game. Nothing weird or unusual here.
The artist known as Orion is back once again for Rance VI, supplying his distinct, detailed and cute style to all the main story event CGs, as well as all the sex scenes involving Rance and the heroines. His art style is once again polished, with good linework and usage of colors. Having a lot more time to work on single art pieces for the sixth major installment, unlike with Rance 5D, allowed him to create some really great POV shots that not only serve to showcase the intensity of some action-packed scenes, but also lend themselves well to showing the protagonist’s roughness during sex scenes.
Orion is not the only artist that loaned his talents to making Rance VI a reality. Specifically supplying art to the sex scenes with gal monsters, which I will talk about in detail in the next section of the review, are Chomoyama and MIN-NARAKEN, both with explicitly different styles from Orion’s. If you ever had the pleasure of playing any eroge title from the 90s, you will immediately feel at home looking at their contributions. The smooth and plump curves, innocent-looking facial expressions corrupted by pleasure and longing for sexual release encapsulated in their styles are a good fit for Tamanegi’s sex slave training scenarios.
I’m of the opinion that almost all good games will have memorable soundtracks. Rance VI, with its rocking melodies and mood-setting beats, proves that point. The music is fast and intense during combat with regular enemies and bosses, fittingly becomes more upbeat and silly in humorous situations, and slows down considerably when something eerie and serious occurs. For longtime fans of the series, Rance VI also features a few character theme renditions you might already remember from past titles. Despite how short and simple they are, Sill and Shizuka’s themes are always a pleasure to listen to. While this may seem like a nitpick, I feel that some tracks the game provides are a bit overused. Considering that the OST is fairly big, mixing the music up a bit more would only play towards making the overall experience more enjoyable.
If there ever was one image to sum up the Rance series, it would be this one.
As expected, sex in Rance VI is abundant and comes in varied, fun packages and even adds to the gameplay mechanics on more than a few occasions. Since sex is Rance’s main driving force throughout all of the games he’s been in, in Rance VI you can expect him to go after most of the cuties encountered in Zeth and get into their pants by any means necessary. Believe me, by “any,” I really do mean any. Lying, manipulation and force are his tools of the trade and it’s through them that he usually gets his way.
Anything involving Rance having sex is usually very straightforward, as the shark-toothed menace himself does not experiment very often and is usually is just more than happy to stick his Hyper Weapon in, shake his hips around and fire off a few shots of his Imperial Juice. Done and done. It’s thanks to encounters with the likes of Tamanegi the Trainer that Rance at least considers trying something new this time around. Speaking of the delightful Tamanegi, he deserves a part of his own in this review.
Someone please give this man a medal.
If you’re tired of the usually brief sex scenes with Rance, you will surely enjoy the novel assortment Tamanegi brings to the Rance VI’s fray with his sex slave training endeavors. Tamanegi, an accomplished archeologist by trade, has a very peculiar research hobby: he wants to create the ultimate female sex slave, using all kinds of technique that even government interrogation specialists would be jealous off. Rance meets Tamanegi when the latter has exhausted all research possibilities on human females and to further his ventures he decides to study gal monster (monster girls) subjects and see how they will respond to his methods.
As I explained a while back, both Rance and Tamanegi have the ability to capture over 40 unique monster girls encountered in combat. After that’s done, each one goes through a unique sex slave training. This is where Alice Soft had a lot of fun in inventing sexual scenarios. Each of the gal monsters is broken down in a multitude of ways until they become an obedient sex slave responding to a unique handpicked stimulus. You will get events where one girl is taught to get off on the feeling of abandonment, another will get aroused by the vibration of her own weapon firing and some will even feel sexual release by masturbating with her own severed limb. The way Tamanegi breaks down his subjects to the most basic of sexual instincts is described with a tremendous amount of detail. Not only are those scenes a fascinating look into the psyche and triggers of our own sexual urges, they also provide a much-needed diversity to the game’s sexual content. I highly recommend going through the effort of seeking out all of Rance VI’s monster girls to experience those scenes on your own.
Tamanegi’s methodology sometimes requires the use of what you can consider “unorthodox” techniques.
To me, Rance VI feels like a rough diamond. It’s a bit unpolished, with some grime here and there, but it still feels rich in almost every facade. From the art direction, through the sound design, engaging story, fun and simple gameplay and ending on bucket-loads of great erotic content, Rance VI is an exemplary eroge and what I would expect from industry veterans of almost thirty years. For the amount of content bundled together with Rance 5D, the sixth Rance installment is more than worth your money and time. It’s a blast to play and if you decide to pick it up based on my review or through other means, I trust you will enjoy it as much as I did. I would also recommend it to any prospective developers seeking to develop erotic games in the future. Even for a title released over fourteen years ago, it’s still one of the best examples you can give when it comes to integrating sex with enjoyable gameplay.
P.S. I’ve hidden the best girl somewhere in this review. Good luck finding her.
Rance VI, together with Rance 5D, are now available on MangaGamer for $34.95 as a bundle package.
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