The game's review copy was provided by MangGamer, the game's Western publisher.
In what has at this point become a yearly tradition, MangaGamer is back with a new freshly published Alice Soft title that I yet again have the pleasure to review. This time, however, there is a small twist to this as MG graciously allowed LewdGamer, and by proxy myself, to take a look at Evenicle almost a whole month before its official release.
Being MG's third, or if you're a stickler fourth counting Rance 5D and Rance VI separately, Alice Soft release tensions are once more running high and expectations are peaking. This is Evenicle originally released in Japan in 2015 and now making strides over in the Western world. Does it stand up to scrutiny? Let's find out.
Enter Asterisk, or Aster as he likes to be called, a young virile young man from a remote Fresh Fish Island with one goal in mind. To marry his beautiful non-blood related sisters Kyou and Kinou that have taken care of him all of his life. However, the simple act of having sex and marriage is not as straightforward in the world of Mother Eve, a powerful holy figure that set up the rules governing Aster's world. In the land of Eve exist blessings, favors, and curses granted by the power of the Eve herself. In order to be able to marry anyone one needs to have sex with them and that creates a special bond between them sealed by a magical golden ring. Normal people are only allowed to marry one person and any infidelity that ends up in intercourse places a terrible curse on the defiant person symbolized by a black ring. The people wearing black rings that have committed acts that go against Eve's will are branded Outlaws and are cursed to have all of their efforts that involve cultivating land end up in failure.
While other more complex rules are also part of the cult of Mother Eve, the gist of Aster's adventure is that he needs to receive a special boon in order to be able to marry more than one person. To that extent, the brave and constantly horny Asterisk needs to become a Knight. This special title, granted by the world's kingdoms to great warriors with significant influence and importance, is the only way for Aster to make any good on the promise to his sisters. As you can imagine, Aster's journey towards getting it on with his caretaker siblings will not be effortless or forthright, and that's mainly due to four girls he gradually encounters on his quest that will change his fate forever.
The best way to summarize what Evenicle brings to the table in terms of its story and plot without giving too much away is by defining it as a grand fantasy adventure with a rather unique premise that not only involves a great deal of world-building but also well-defined character arcs. The four girls involved with Aster, as well as a plethora of other major and minor characters, all feel like their separate entities that don't fall too hard into any pre-established personifications you might expect from a fantasy JRPG. Instead, they are significant mixes of tropes and character traits that come really well together for an emotional and involved journey. Ultimately, without giving too much away, Evenicle becomes a personal growth story for all the characters coming together on their trek towards understanding and solving each other's problems. Earnest and warm resolutions for even the most damaged and agonized characters.
If you have any previous direct knowledge of Alice Soft games, especially the Rance series, you will feel right at home with Evenicle's setting and world. Plenty of elements — like monsters, skills, magic and more — will instantly be recognizable. This familiarity also extends to how the game's tone is presented to the player and how it all comes together within the plot. Evenice sports a peculiar mix of incredibly light-hearted, goofy, and usually quite pervy moments coupled with serious exposition about the world's history, politics, geography and can be bestial, mean-spirited, and downright cruel. The tonal transitions between any of the scenes can often happen without any forewarning and anyone who isn't used to this brand of Alice Soft storytelling might get a severe case of whiplash.
At the same time, all of the story elements beyond a few sparse exposition segments that come at you quite frequently, and can quickly wear your patience thin, are handled with care and detail so following the story is never an issue. Don't expect to get lost in complex political intrigue or character drama that would make your head spin. Having said all that with a positive outlook, the general plotting of the story can get very predictable all the way until the very end of the game, and the fact that it falls into patterns of recurring events does not help in making it more engaging. Exposition segments are followed by gameplay and world exploration segments, which briefly get interrupted by a brief sex scene that feels a bit shoehorned all in order to give a player a bit of variety. This pattern of story exposition to gameplay and lastly erotic content is repeated to the eventual finale. This leaves the player with very few twists and turns to look forward to and makes the whole experience feel a tad bit too formulaic.
At its most basic, Evenicle is a turn-based exploration RPG with visual novel segments mixed in that move the story forward. Operating on basic stat systems, a few equippable item slots and freely customizable list of abilities to pick and choose from is the bread and butter of this title. Aster and his four female life companions all sport unique jobs with specific roles and abilities to handle any fight the game throws at you. There are plenty of towns to visit, equipment to buy, gold, and experience points to grind and powerful optional monster to fight and slay.
Even if all of this seems very standard and simple, there is a certain charm to find in all of it. Even if Evenicle doesn't set out to do anything unusual with its turn-based combat or exploration gameplay, it does employ a few cool ideas to make the adventure fun and enjoyable. Firstly, characters have a set number of skill points, which's total number they can be increased by either leveling them up past a certain threshold or by experiencing love events, showing additional character development, gradually unlocked as Aster fights together with his wives and fills up a special Love Gauge. Skills either acquired from chests in the overworld or in dungeons, leveling up, or simply fighting monsters long enough have specific skill points cost, and you will be unable to use all of them all the time. Mixing and matching appropriate skills for hard encounters to counter the strengths of monsters while exploiting their weaknesses adds a small layer of strategy to the combat, which a very welcome addition.
The are plenty of optional things to do in Evenicle that is all documented in a handy compendium listing 100 landscapes to find that reward you with lore and an item for every 10 acquired, flirting encounters with Aster and his four main squeezes that further expand on their loving relationships, a list of powerful optional enemies known as Megamonsters, and last but not least capturable Gal Monsters that not only reward the player with a brief erotic bondage image upon capture but can also be used as equippable items with different effects. Every bit of additional content is more than welcome as it's entirely possible to see everything the game has to offer in a single playthrough, and upon beating the game once there is not much else to return to unless you went out of your way not to do anything supplementary.
Evenicle's musical selection contains a whopping 47 tracks spanning several different genres and styles all befitting particular moments in the game. Whether it's a goofy, ridiculous comedic scene, a battle to the death against the forces of evil, having sex with your wife or witnessing untold carnage, the music is always there to compliment all of the elementary game parts. Calling it memorable would be a stretch, although there are plenty of very chill tunes you can relax to and very few of them will have the potential to grate on your psyche the more you hear them.
Much like other past and even with the more recent Alice Soft titles, the OSTs are usually on a larger side for an eroge. Despite that, there is a prevalent problem in all of them that meet this criterion. The overuse of particular few tracks creates an illusion that the game's collection of music is much smaller than one might think. While this may seem like a nitpick, I believe there are so many decent to good quality songs in this small package that they deserve more recognition during gameplay instead of being sidelined in favor a few repetitious ones.
Evenicle's world, both in and out of combat, is deceptively colorful and unusually bubbly looking if you consider some aspects of the story the game puts forward. Yaegashi Nan's art style greatly contributes to that overall positive image, but the other two artists involved Hagiya Masakage and, Alice Soft's staple, MIN-NARAKEN also work their magic to present both the characters and the world they live in as cutesy as possible.
All of the game's overworld, exploration, and combat sections are rendered in simple 3D greatly reminiscent of some early PlayStation 2 JRPGs or early to mid-2000s free Korean MMORPGs. You may think that's quite lackluster for a game released in 2015, but Alice Soft makes it work and considering how the rest of the world is presented it's stylistically fitting and unintrusive. If anything, this kind of presentation, whether due to budgetary reasons or something else, gives the game a distinct personality that's in-line with a lot of previous Alice Soft titles. Especially, considering how many elements from their other titles are incorporated into Evenicle. Everything's easy on the eyes and that plays a significant part in the game's erotic content.
As with every Alice Soft title I have played thus far, with an official localization or otherwise, the erotic content is not only the cherry on top, but the whole cake. Aster's adventures with his wives and all other pretty maidens he encounters are jam-packed full of sex, lust, depravity, and general sexiness. When I say "jam-packed" I do mean that sex is squeezed into almost every venue of the game. Like I mentioned previously when I briefly described the story, Evenicle works on patterns that eventually all circle back to doing the nasty. Sex serves as a sort of segue to both further parts of the story as well as more RPG gameplay. The plotting of Evenicle will always find a way to introduce more sexy times to the player, the more you play it the quicker you'll be able to tell when a scene like that is coming as the game throws them at you at very regular intervals.
Like you can expect from me hyping it up so much during the whole length of the review, what's actually there in terms of sexual content is premium quality with a few hitches here and there, but I'll get there once I'm done praising the game's pants off. Expectedly from a story about marriage and love, even if it's to multiple girls, the sex scenes spread throughout Evenicle can be a bit on the vanilla side of things, but that doesn't mean there isn't a healthy variety of fetishes included in and beyond them. Aster's bedroom affairs with his wives will usually come down to him exploring his feelings with them culminating in very heartfelt loving, that is, more than not, coupled with one or two specific fetishes. All the scenes keep focus and they are virtually the same length. Long enough to get the player in the mood, but not too long as to make everything seem like padding.
Alice Soft wouldn't be Alice Soft, however, if they didn't introduce some of their flagship rape, abuse, and other more hardcore things into the mix. This is where those decades worth of experience for the developers come into play. Not only for variety's sake, anything that has to with forceful sex is written in an incredibly visceral and direct way you can almost feel the suffering coming out of the screen. A mix of arousal, despair and procreative fluids is what I've always admired this developer for, as strange as that may sound to most anyone. There are very few writers out there with the gumption to portray events as horrible as this as they are without any moralizing or painting them over as something they clearly aren't. As I don't want to spoil the fun for anybody by providing too many details, which you can already find out by just looking at the fetish tags included in this article, I can only say that scenes of this nature were endlessly fascinating for me and kept me wondering to what point will they actually be escalated. Things went further than I expected to my boundless satisfaction.
All the sex portrayed in Evenicle, whether loving or gruesome, is complemented by excellent voice acting for both the male (except Asterisk) and female cast. Everyone's performances are already praise-worthy during normal story segments, but sex is where everyone really brings their A-game. Moans of pleasure, trembling voices close to orgasm, screams of both pain and bliss; you name it, it's all there and it sounds fantastic. I certainly would not have nearly as much fun with the game if not for the great voice actors and actresses bringing forth their best efforts to give me eargasms on top of their regular solid performances.
It's somewhat impossible to talk about the game's sexual content without mentioning the three different, but all fantastic in their own right, artists that worked on Evenicle. Yaegashi Nan of Senran Kagura fame adds a distinctly soft and bubbly quality to all of his character designs and that also comes through effectively when nudity and sex are involved. You won't find girls this curvy, rounded, cute, and attractive in most any eroge. The other aspect of his art in Evenicle that's most notable is his ability to draw different sized breasts that appropriate to specific body types. Nan, mostly known for his bombastic boob sizes, shows off a good range of artistic skill making sure that all characters look great and accurate no matter the cup size.
However, even for how prolific Nan is both in the mainstream and in the porn game industry, he does sometimes make mistakes and this very title has a few very easily noticeable ones. Some of the sex scene CGs Nan drew will have questionable use of perspective and angles making some of the characters look like deformed, though still cute, blobs of flesh and facial expressions. The other issue is with the genitals that sometimes sport odd proportions and sizes that are inconsistent between CGs. The latter issue might be due to how particular art pieces were supposed to look like with mosaics over them in the Japanese version of the game. Things like this would be significantly hard to see behind that kind of censorship.
Nan wasn't the only person that contributed their artistic talent to Evenicle. Hagiya Masakage was responsible for the designs of all the Saint characters and their respective sex scenes. Long-time Alice Soft artist MIN-NARAKEN this time had a minor role in designing a few characters of lesser importance, like shopkeepers and the capture and bondage CGs for all Gal Monsters available in the game. Not overshadowed by Nan's talent, both of them did good work with their roles and, in some instances, I would even say I prefer a few scenes drawn by Masakage with his own distinct art style that has a clear-cut focus on detailed genitalia and shapely mammaries.
Evenicle delivered everything I expected it to the moment I delved into it. That is to say, it did exactly what I predicted it would but nothing beyond it. At first glance, that may sound a bit harsh but, in Evenicle's case, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. What Alice Soft offered me in terms of story, gameplay, and character development was solid, executed with visible know-how and decades of experience backing it. Fans of hardcore RPGs may find themselves a bit unimpressed with how safe and simple the combat aspects of the game are. Others may end up shaking their heads at the somewhat predictable plotting and story. However, the group that clearly comes out on top here are people that expected plenty of varied sexual content, which oozes out of Evenicle's every orifice. It's just a bit of a shame all of these aspects don't work as well together as a single entity.
If you are the type of person that isn't too bothered by the issues I mentioned above, you should get a decent amount of enjoyment out of Evenicle as it should provide a decent over 50-hour romp for your hot summer evenings.
You can now grab the title over at MangaGamer's storefront for the price of $44.95.
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