Would Nintendo’s action-adventure series benefit from features popularized in modern action RPG’s? Would a sprinkling of erotic content make it better? Let’s take a closer look at a game that tried just that: Juuyoku no Jousai.
Developed by Fullfrap and published on DLsite, Juuyoku no Jousai is an action-adventure RPG mixture of design sensibilities from both the Legend of Zelda and Dark Souls series. The developer has been active since 2011, but only their two latest titles received official English releases. The game is set in a fantasy world and features a slightly plump, incredibly large-breasted, adventuress heroine, typical of Fullfrap’s titles.
Juuyoku no Jousai begins with the nameless adventuress breaking into the back of a large fortress and, right from that moment, the player is left in control. The first dungeon functions as a tutorial, dotted with messages explaining the basic controls and mechanics. For an introduction to the game, though, the dungeon isn’t easy. Monsters hide behind every corner and can hit quite hard. On top of that, a huge orc boss guards the dungeon’s final treasure.
Whether you win or lose the final battle, the orc will eventually grab the adventuress by her ankle, drag her across the floor, and rape her. By the time she comes to, she will find herself in a temple, staring at her own body. From there, the player will exit to the town of beginnings, where a priestess will explain the game’s proper premise: the adventuress is already dead. It's possible for her to resurrect herself, though, if she defeats the monster king Boldia, who resides deep within the fortress.
To reach Boldia, you will have to clear three dungeons marked on your overworld map, defeating the guardians who reside there, in order to unlock the gate to Boldia’s fortress. The dungeons are numbered and have to be done in that order, as the first two hide items necessary to progress further. The first item is the power ring, which allows you to pick up heavy objects. Aside from removing a few roadblocks, it’s used for simple math puzzles, which exist for some reason. The other item is the magical board, an object that allows you to create walkways between two points at the same level of elevation. This one is much more interesting and facilitates most of the game’s exploration aspect. You can grab these items at any time, but can’t finish the second dungeon without the power ring, or the third without both. There are also three optional dungeons, and these too require that you first get the ring and the board.
Juuyoku No Jousai doesn’t contain much in terms of a storyline. After you speak to the priestess, the only other story cutscene awaits you at the end credits. This makes combat and exploration the two main pillars that your enjoyment of the game depends on; thankfully, these two aspects have been very well-executed. Both the overworld and the dungeons are jam-packed with hidden treasures. For as long as I played, I kept finding new weapons and rings, and I know that there’s at least one item I’ve missed; however, I will note that the side dungeons are exponentially more interesting than the main four. There’s a general trend in the game, where the mandatory content is significantly easier and less inventive than the optional challenges, which isn’t inherently a bad thing but it made me wish that more dungeons followed the design philosophies of the game’s side content.
Combat is arguably the main selling point in Juuyoku no Jousai. You can equip either two weapons or a weapon and a shield. At first glance, there’s quite an armory to pick from, including swords, axes, spears, two-handed blades, crossbows, and magical wands. Sadly, weapons within a given category are reskins and static upgrades. They swing in the same way and at the same speed, but differ in their strength and reach, with no extra gimmicks assigned to them. There’s never a question which is stronger, somewhat limiting your choice. Despite that, there are still many different builds you can make, focusing on swinging one or two weapons, poking at a distance, or mixing spells with your swings. Your specialization is further defined by which stat increases you take when leveling, something that you can only do with the help of the priestess, whenever you return to town. There are also rings, of which you can equip up to three, each provide typical passive bonuses, such as damage buffs or faster stamina recovery.
Fighting enemies in Juuyoku no Jousai is violent and demanding. Your two defensive options are blocking with a shield and the dodge roll. When you block with your shield, you lose stamina, and if you lost more stamina than you had, you’ll have to wait a long while to recover it. The roll consumes stamina as well, though not as much. You can’t cancel out of a weapon swing animation to block or dodge, and the dodge has a short startup animation on top of that. This means that you can’t mash your attack button, and you have to observe your enemy. Monsters telegraph their attacks for ages before they actually swing, so while avoiding their hits isn’t too difficult, expect to lose a good chunk of your health if you do get hit.
The biggest flaw in regards to combat in Juuyoku no Jousai is in the lackluster design of enemy monsters. There are slimes, skulls that shoot fireballs, and a wide array of humanoid foes; however, all humanoids attack in the exact same fashion, while some simply have more health or hit harder. Once you learn how to defeat your first enemy, you’ve learned how to fight most foes in the game. This ends up drastically reducing the game’s overall difficulty, and makes combat feel repetitive after some time. The same can’t be said of the game’s five bosses, though, each of whom has a selection of unique moves and offer a more demanding fight.
The art in Juuyoku no Jousai follows Fullfrap’s art style from his previous games. The design of the heroine is pleasing and the game itself looks colorful and lively. The top-down perspective is unusual at first, but I got used to it much faster than I expected. Despite the limited angle, characters look distinct and interesting, though, there are some recolored variations among enemies, which is always lazy. Each dungeon has its own color palette, making it easy to recognize where you are, but they can still feel a bit too similar despite that.
Each location in the game has its own song. They're all pleasant to listen to, but nothing to write home about. I think I’ve enjoyed the sound design more for its nostalgic qualities than anything else, as it strongly reminded me of old console RPGs.
Sexual content in Juuyoku no Jousai comes in many forms: static gallery images, animated cutscenes, and sprite-based animations. The art style of the illustrations is average: they use some interesting angles and the anatomy is good, but nothing in them stands out as interesting. The animated segments are reminiscent of flash animation, in that they’re smooth, but have limited movement and not much happens in them. I’ve enjoyed the sprite animations the most, as they’re short, expressive, and interwoven with the gameplay itself.
While exploring levels, you will find monsters with hearts floating above them. Getting hit by them triggers an animation, one from the front, and another if they grab you from behind. There’s no downside to getting caught by them — not even a loss of health — making them something of a collectible. There’s a total of eight illustrations, five animations, and seventeen sprite animations. Completing the game unlocks access to all of them, even those you may have missed in your playthrough.
As a player well-acquainted with modern action RPGs, my first playthrough of Juuyoku no Jousai took me three and a half hours. If you aren’t as familiar with the genre, it may take you an hour or two more than that. Additionally, after completing the game, you can start again with a new loop — also known as New Game Plus. When doing so, you'll go back to the beginning and lose all key items needed for progression, but keep everything else. With every loop, monsters become stronger and gain extra health, but the bonus they receive isn't large enough to catch up to the player, and nothing else changes. There’s a total of ten loops, after which the monsters stop growing in strength, but you can continue to play as many times as you want. Just keep in mind that if you kill a friendly NPC, they won’t respawn in the next loop.
I’ve enjoyed Juuyoku no Jousai a lot. The game is just short enough that, by the time its shortcoming became apparent, I was already done. As expected, though, my enjoyment slowly waned over the repeated playthroughs done for this review. The game’s NG+ system is nowhere near robust enough, weapons and enemies lack variety, and there’s little story to speak of. At the same time, combat is highly satisfying, and the level design will be absorbing enough to anyone hungry for secrets. Whether the content to price ratio is in the right place is something you’ll have to judge for yourself.
If it captured your interest, you can purchase Juuyoku no Jousai on DLsite for $12.16 (estimated from ¥1,320). I highly recommend playing the demo first, especially if you don’t own a controller, as the game was clearly designed with analog movement in mind. The game will crash on launch unless you set your system locale to Japanese, so you'll have to be sure to set it up. DLsite has a guide on how to do so available here.