Can you substitute quality with style? How much storytelling does a game need to be interesting? Let’s take a look at MY]R, an abstract RPG that tries to answer these questions.
MY]R is a combat-centric RPG with a noticeable degree of difficulty, use of limited storytelling, and a rough art style. It's the first game developed and published on DLsite by takamakuran, and their second game to be re-released in English.
Booting up MY]R for the first time, you will find yourself in an otherwise empty prison. If you read your character’s profile, you’ll find that you’re a visitor from another planet. By leaving the prison, you’ll enter the world map, which is populated by polite, red humanoids, similar in appearance to you. From there, you can walk out into the forest, the mountains, the mysterious giant tower, or the jungle. There's no exposition to start you off on your adventure and there really won't be, as MY]R adopts a "show, don't tell" philosophy. Unfortunately, it doesn't have very much to show.
The storyline of MY]R would best be described as sparse. While most arthouse games hide deep layers of storytelling and lore behind symbolism, allusions, and double-meanings, MY]R simply doesn’t have enough story to last it for the entire game. As you play through the game, you'll realize that all characters you meet, including your enemies, seem to be quite unusual in nature. For the majority of the linear experience, you'll be waiting for the game to reveal just why that's the case, with occasional, teasing dialogue building up your curiosity. Sadly, MY]R reserves most of its short story for its endings. The game boasts having fifteen of these, but in reality, it's eight endings with variations depending on who's alive.
One thing the game doesn't clearly explain is that the protagonist isn't a strict avatar for you as the player. The featureless gray man is here for a reason and knows full well what he's doing. You will assist him in his quest of defeating whatever evil corrupts this planet, and inevitably walk into a surprise NTR ending. Only after doing that and becoming fully aware of everyone's intentions, you'll be able to seek a happy ending. Thankfully, as long as you save after the final boss, you can access multiple endings in each playthrough. You will need to play through the game a total of three times to see every possible ending. A text file included with the game will give you hints on how to access the routes you can't figure out.
You’ll be given no direction as to what to do or where to go, but in trying to explore the world, you’ll quickly find out that you aren't strong enough to defend yourself from monsters roaming the surrounding areas. Thankfully, there are some weak slimes you can fight at the marsh and only slightly stronger ones in the forest.
Fighting the weakest monsters will quickly become your main objective and guiding compass throughout the game. Since defeated monsters don’t respawn, this forces you to progress further into the game after gaining all the gold and experience you can get from a given area. This also forces you to manage your resources wisely in MY]R. There’s no easy way to heal yourself, but if you spend all your gold on potions, you won’t be able to get more of it for better equipment.
By murdering your way through the progressively tougher areas, you’ll sooner or later encounter a monster girl willing to join your party. There’s seven of them you can find: a cute slime girl, a forever-hungry, tomboyish harpy, a shy spider, a lewd nine-tailed fox, a demon, and two other, somewhat unfortunate characters.
Firstly, there’s a gorilla monster girl who’ll happily join your party. Amusingly, despite being literally named “Gorilla”, she’s just a black-skinned woman. It's also possible to free a mentally disabled human female from imprisonment, with her mental state shown by her awkward poses and deep dialogue consisting of variations on the onomatopoeia “Guh”. Although, this particular inclusion is arguably fully justified by the game’s plot and worldbuilding, rather than being a solely fetishistic addition.
Each of the girls’ characters lack in complexity; it would be more accurate to say that each one has her own character trope. There are regular interactions with them peppered throughout the game. Usually, they will say a sentence or two when you’re entering an important area, or after you've cleared it of monsters. That being said, MY]R is a considerably short game, so these quirks don’t have the time to become tiresome, and the interactions are paced fairly regularly, so it’s easy to grow attached to the adorable cast despite their simplicity.
It’s after you collect a full team of supporters that MY]R’s combat system begins to shine, though it's worth noting the game's mechanics are the stock standard offered by RPG Maker. Each character can use skills that work with a system of health, mana, and TP. Running out of health results in death, mana can only be regained with items or skills that cost TP, and TP is gained by either dealing or receiving damage. It's through good balancing, pacing, and diverse character playstyles that the game makes this familiar battle system engaging without the need for additional gimmicks.
Up to three girls can support you in battle at a time and each of them has her own set of abilities that grow in size as they level up. These different skill sets even feel distinct from one another. For example, the harpy can save up TP to gain two actions per turn for a lengthy period of time, while the human girl doesn’t have a basic attack, the slime is a healer, and the fox girl can convert her TP into MP. All party members in the game — even those you haven’t recruited yet — receive experience whenever you kill monsters. This allows you to easily change your strategy at any time since nobody ever falls behind.
The level of freedom MY]R offers is not only fun to have, but it may also become necessary when you’re running out of resources or trying to force your way through an area's formidable boss. Combat in MY]R is demanding, with monsters often being able to kill one of your party members in a single turn if you’re particularly unlucky. It’s easy to run out of healing supplies and you can only save in specific areas. The game constantly threatens you with the risk of losing your recent progress.
To make things fair, the game gives you time to learn the mechanics of tougher opponents, especially bosses. As you progress through a fight, boss monsters will enter new phases, gaining buffs such as increased stats or additional actions per turn. What might have been a minor miscalculation early in a fight may become a grave mistake in its second half.
While the design and balancing of combat is engaging, it greatly suffers from a limited variety. Each area has only one type of monster, which will attack you either alone or with identical buddies. Once you win a fight against your first opponent, you’ll know the key to subjugating the entire area, assuming your supplies can last that long. Having limited save locations could have made things more interesting, but since monsters in MY]R don’t respawn, you can always walk all the way back to the last checkpoint. This makes the idea more of an inconvenience, rather than something challenging.
Clearing areas eventually becomes a tiresome process, especially since there’s nothing of interest on the map itself. You won’t find any treasures or secrets, but if you do kill all monsters roaming the area, the girls in your party will spread out and explore it on their own. Talking to them will showcase a bit more of their personality, and reveal tidbits about the game’s story, but you could easily skip the grind involved and learn everything from the game's endings.
Very occasionally, talking to the girls in these areas will present a CG showing the girl interacting with the environment. The illustrations are wholesome and cute, but whether you enjoy the art style itself will be a highly subjective matter. MY]R's art style is all made up of rough sketches, where nothing was ever properly polished, but many pieces look like they didn’t need much more polish to be fully realized. The artist does seem to have the skills necessary for their line of work. Proportions are consistent and sensible, and the anatomy is mostly well done, suggesting that the rough aesthetic was kept on purpose, to help give the game an unusual style.
This is only true of the CGs, though. Sprites used in the overworld are just plain lazy, looking like badly drawn stick figures with mismatched animation frames. While there are reasons for characters to stand out from normal human beings, there’s no justification for them to look so horrendous. The sprites’ design further clashes with the environment itself, which is made using standard RPG Maker assets. The game's areas often look like objects were haphazardly thrown about to make them busy. Visual presentation aside, the game's audio design is also unimpressive, with the game’s music also being comprised of stock RPG Maker tracks.
Adult content is one of the strong suits of MY]R, thanks to a large amount of variety present. There are 39 sex scenes in the main game and a number of illustrations within the endings. Most scenes are vanilla encounters spiced up by the unusual nature of your sexual partners. The exceptions to that are a few examples of rape, mostly in some of the endings, and four cutscenes you can initiate during gameplay, where the visitor gets too excited and forgets to ask first, but is forgiven later. The scenes don’t end until the player says so, allowing them to continuously stimulate the girl, leading her to ecstasy and causing a variety of ahegao expressions.
Sadly, MY]R isn’t without its technical problems. The game is limited to a 4:3 aspect ratio in window mode, though the game will stretch out in full screen. Rather egregiously, if you have sex with the slime girl by playing with her breasts and then touch her crotch, the game may crash. Finally, after beating the game with a secret character, she’s supposed to become available at the start of the game in future playthroughs, but this wasn’t the case for me. Instead, I had to access her by using debug tools hidden in the trees near the starting location. This is important, as you can’t access the game’s best endings otherwise.
The first playthrough of the game takes about four hours and is definitely the most satisfying part of the experience. To reach the best endings, you’ll have to play the game three times, and with no new game plus mode, this can be a bit of a chore. The game’s strongest suit is its colorful cast of adorable monster girls, and a considerably large amount of CGs, assuming the art style speaks to you. If you decide to pick up MY]R, consider taking screenshots of the scenes you enjoy, since there's no gallery mode in the game.
Additionally, after downloading MY]R, you'll find two versions of the game in the zip file: 1.55 and 1.14. For this review, I mainly played the newer version. The older release doesn’t seem that much different; it doesn’t lack any content and I haven’t spotted any differences in level design. The combat is balanced differently, though, with everyone dealing less damage and having less HP. Version 1.14 felt easier to me than version 1.55, but I also already knew how to play the game when I tried the older version. While not significant, the inclusion of this alternative is a nice touch.
MY]R captured my interest with its unusual art style and engaging, turn-based combat. After playing the game and analyzing my experiences with it, I feel that the decisions it made regarding its art direction and storytelling had potential, but their execution is lacking. Ultimately, MY]R felt dishonest and not dedicated enough to its ideas to capitalize on its weirdness. As my playthroughs went on, the art style began to feel lazy rather than stylish, the gameplay became repetitive, and the story turned out to be too short and simple to be satisfying.
You can purchase MY]R on DLsite for $9.18 (estimated from 990 JPY). A free demo of the game is also available on the store page. It’s not necessary to change your system locale for MY]R to run, but it's still recommended to avoid potential issues. DLsite has a handy guide on how to do that available here. You will also need to install the RPG Maker VX Ace run time package, which is a collection of assets that many games made in this program make use of. You can find it here.