by Stephanie H., Staff Writer, Inside AX- Anime Expo
Koihime Musou, one of the newest eroge visual novels translated by MangaGamer, first caught my interest when I read the tagline: A Heart-Throbbing, Maidenly Romance of the Three Kingdoms. As an avid fan of the original Chinese historical novel written by Luo Guanzhong, I just had to check it out. I was very interested to see how BaseSon, the developers of this visual novel, would interpret the events that happened in the wars depicted between the legendary feudal warlords.
You play the role of Kazuto Hongō, a young man who attends St. Francessca Academy. In a wild turn of events, he awakens to find himself in a world resembling that of the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Said to be a “Messenger of Heaven”, Kazuto soon becomes the head of the Shu faction right when war starts to break out. However Kazuto (and I myself) quickly realize that there are a few slight differences from its novel counterpart. The most notable difference is that almost all of the male characters have become female. Through the eyes of Kazuto Hongo an exciting and memorable alternate retelling of the novel will unfold as the Han Empire slowly crumbles and an age of feudal warlords begins.
Koihime is first and foremost a mix between visual novel and strategy game. The visual novel aspect is standard fare with much of the storytelling being told through static images and backgrounds. The character sprites are beautiful and excellently drawn in addition to the decent amount of expressions made to suit each character. The music present in Koihime Musou is appropriate to the theme as I can recognize the oriental flair in many pieces which helps to set the mood. However one major drawback is that voices in this particular release of Koihime Musou are absent. It may put off a few players, but be assured that Koihime Musou will eventually get a voice patch…only once 2,000 copies of the game are sold, as indicated in MangaGamer’s staff blog post. In the meantime you’ll just have to enjoy the visual novel without them.
In terms of the strategic gameplay aspect, all of the wars fought in Koihime are done in a strategic rock-paper-scissors like fashion. Each battle starts off with showing the players the name of the battle, a hint, objectives, and the number of soldiers that each side will start off with. The player will then choose a general, a strategist, and then allot soldiers to the Light Infantry, Heavy Infantry, and Archer divisions. Then you and the CPU will take turns selecting what division will attack and what formation you will take for the turn until the battle ends. Each formation’s attack or defense is dictated by a division. For instance the Spearhead formation’s attack is equal to the amount of light infantry that you have, and the defense is equal to the amount of heavy infantry that you possess. In addition, each formation will have a formation that it’s weak against or strong against just like rock-paper-scissors, so it’s crucial to select the formation that would counter the enemy’s formation.
For the most part the visual novel is divided up like so: Introduction Phase, Battle Background Phase, Battle Phase, Conclusion and then Home Base Phase. Introduction Phase is where you are introduced to the current situation in the battle between the three kingdoms as well as the current dilemma that you are facing. The Battle Background Phase has an ample amount of reading as you look at what actions each side takes prior to the Battle Phase. The Battle Phase is self-explanatory: you take part in one or two battles using the strategic rock-paper-scissors style system. Then you learn of what happens after the battles in the Results Phase. Finally you are taken to a screen in the Home Base Phase, where you can choose what characters to interact with. It is also the phase where you get to learn more about the characters in-depth and where you will get your character development.
My first play through of Koihime Musou took me about 20-25 hours give or take. There are four possible endings that I know of that can occur, making this a pretty long visual novel with 50+ hours of gameplay or more. This includes the “harem ending” that you can only get once you’ve cleared all the other endings. The replay value is there with 15 different girls from the Shu faction that you can woo. During one play through it is possible to have relationships with five girls at once since you can choose two general characters and three other characters to interact with in between battles during the Home Base Phase. I caution you if choose to do the aforementioned: you may end up with a severe nosebleed of massive proportions.
In a way I feel that the battles are a bit more emphasized than character development. But character development is still there, it may just take you a while to get to it since the scenes mostly occur during the Home Base Phases and at later parts. The overall story is decent considering it takes inspiration from Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The battle system proves to be a double-edged sword: it adds an interesting element because it blends in well with the feudal Chinese theme, however I found it to be a little boring or predictable at times. The first few battles are really simple, and later on once you find the pattern in the formations it becomes all too easy to win. I did have to retry once or twice for a few battles near the end, but I found myself wishing that there was a way to skip battles so I could get to the visual novel parts.
Overall the visual novel is still definitely worth a play for fans of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and for eroge visual novel players alike: the artwork is stunning, there’s a good amount of story to be told, and who wouldn’t want to have a sweet forbidden romance (or two) with beautiful ladies?
- More than 50 hours of addicting sim-style gameplay, with multiple endings
- Colorful cast of characters with unique personalities inspired by characters found in Romance of the Three Kingdoms
- Solid original soundtrack that fits the game really well
- Great production value
- No voice acting (at the moment!)
- Character development may seem non-existent or slow
- Battle system may seem like a bother to those who only care for visual novel parts
- Characters have true names and common names. The common names are pronounced the Japanese way leading to some confusion for those familiar with the Chinese pronunciation. EX: Guan Yu -Yunchang is Kan’u Unchō in Koihime.
NOTE: You can find out how many more copies of Koihime need to be sold in order to get voices via MangaGamer’s twitter feed.
For more information about the game, please visit MangaGamer’s official Koihime Musou webpage (18+).