Surprise! Fuzzy’s back from the grave! I had a brief respite from work and got in some eroge time! While everyone else played the arguably better releases of April, I chose to continue the site’s tradition of Cation reviews with Aero’s blessing. As many of you know, Pretty x Cation 1 was painfully average or a traumatic letdown compared to Lovely x Cation. Some players have probably sworn the series off for good.
However, when I saw the new heroines, the new artist, and E-mote, I thought maybe…just MAYBE…the developers did better this time. So is PxC2 a story of redemption? Or does the cycle of hatred repeat? A little of both!
Spring is the season of new beginnings. Your parents have left you to work abroad in France and you move to the lakeside town of Sakimiya, where your mother once lived. While it is a great for those who love the outdoors, it is much less convenient than living in the city and you don’t feel comfortable at all.
Passing by the harbor, a woman who was fishing strikes up a chat with you. She tells you that falling in love is like fishing: you have to cast out into the unknown and it requires assertiveness and patience. She suggests that since you’re new in town, it’s a good time to try something new, like love.
Where do you start when you don’t have any experience? Will you be able to change yourself and find your dearest lover in this town? Full of both anxiety and excitement, you feel that your first love will soon begin.
[From Micchi’s Blog]
Good opening! I’d rank the opening better than PxC1, but lower than LxC1-2.
Gameplay and progression are nearly identical to PxC1, so rather than explaining the setup and system for the fourth time, please refer to our joint review for the details. Stats requirements, items, H-bonuses, text messaging, lovely shots, walking talks…coincidental heroine stalking. Nothing has changed, nor did I expect anything else. The freshness of these features wore off after LxC2. I think PxC would be no worse for wear if they removed the dating sim gameplay. Like PxC1, the Lovely Call system wasn’t great this time either as most of the voices had awkward timing and tone. However, the overall voice acting was still good.
The protagonist is another blank slate whose hobbies will match the heroine you’re pursuing; this time around they are books, fashion, music, or wannabe cooking. Despite the more attractive character designs, I still had low character expectations coming in. Surprisingly, two heroines were LxC quality and the other two were PxC quality. Batting 50/50 is better than last time! While the writing and execution was spotty at times, the overall scenario was better than PxC1. What made PxC2 work for me was the developers compensated for the lack of proper routes and character arcs by putting more effort into the slice of life atmosphere. In my opinion, the theme that ties together the slice of life is PxC2’s subtitle: “I wish I could be with you forever.”
Like many eroge, each Cation game has a subtitle; LxC2’s was “Love which continues eternally.” Yet PxC2 was the first time I thought there was more to the subtitle than gibberish English. In PxC1, you spent a lot of time together with the heroines in and out of school, but it was mostly routine, generic, and unmemorable. PxC2 takes the reverse approach by highlighting the constraints in the relationship without the cheesy melodrama. So in the better routes, what the subtitle means to me is “We can’t spend every moment together, so let’s cherish the time that we have.” The screen time of the relationship is no different than the other Cation games, yet the scenario for PxC2 made me conscious of the time element and constraints.
The first constraint is that in the common route, and in a Cation series first, the protagonist gets a part-time job. Working in food service at a local restaurant called Café Lakeside, the protagonist now has to balance school, work, and his relationship. The selected heroine also makes a deliberate effort to spend the night (or several days!) at the protagonist’s apartment on several occasions…sometimes with no H-scene! They want to spend time together, so rather than going on a date, they just “hang out” or flirt; some of these scenes play out really well with E-mote. If anything, I was so content with the slice of life for some heroines that I wished the scenario took more risks with character arcs and drama. Nevertheless, the Cation games have a mixed track record with this stuff so I can see why they still played it safe.
I know I’m reading way too into this theme, but here’s an example of what happens across the routes. One day in Chitose’s route, she stays at your apartment, but you have to leave for your shift at work. On your way out, she embraces you because she’s sad you couldn’t see each other till the evening. Or sometimes she shows up when you’re shift’s done just so you can walk home together. These situations might seem clingy or mundane, but in a good slice of life/romance, these little moments (with E-mote’s help) strike the heart strings. I’ll mention more examples for the appropriate heroines.
CV: 藤森ゆき奈 = Fujimori Yukina
You’re classmate and a generic bookworm heroine that also works part-time at her family’s flower shop. She’s not technology savvy or trendy, instead, she likes keeping to herself. You meet Honami several times at the library or quiet places outside where she’s reading books; sometimes she’s so absorbed in reading that she’s oblivious to her surroundings. Honami reminded me the most of the PxC1 heroines…meaning an average experience. There’s some brief drama when she becomes self-conscious of comparing herself to other girls, but overall it’s a plain Jane experience just like her character.
CV: まのめるか = Manomeruka (白月かなめ= Shirotsuki Kaname)
This is Suzuka. Wait…need to change focus to the below picture.
THIS is Suzuka (the game points out her rack on several occasions). A third year student at another school who is also your co-worker at Café Lakeside. She loves fashion, shopping for clothes, and hanging out at the arcade/sports center. At first glance, Suzuka is similar to Hime from LxC2: spunky personality, tomboyish yet still feminine, and works as a waitress. She not’s a blatant copy of Hime and has enough quirks that distinguish her. If anything, Suzuka is more adventurous, enthusiastic, and affectionate.
I’m surprised how much I enjoyed Suzuka’s route. While the challenge to capture her is not as high as Sera or Wakoto, there’s a nice sense of progression as you try to get closer to Suzuka before confession. Post-confession, the events and the relationship are great because despite being independent and a go-getter, she always tries prioritizing the relationship and having fun together. Tying back to the constraints in the relationship, Suzuka goes to a different school with a longer commute, so you always get up earlier to meet her on route or try to land the same shifts at work at night. These interactions also have more weight considering the inevitable fact that Suzuka will graduate this year.
CV: 八尋まみ = Yahiro Mami
A first year kuudere (or is it dandere? Shimakaze?) that loves listening to music. Like the protagonist, she also recently moved to the town. However, she has no interest in learning more about the town and she doesn’t enjoy socializing. You bump into her at the music store and school, yet she doesn’t even say her name until you’re well into her route.
Maybe some people like this kind of heroine, but Azusa bored me. She treats you like dirt, then post confession, you’re like her catnip and she fawns over you. This turn of events isn’t always bad in eroge, except her resistance to interacting with other people also narrows the screen time to mostly you and her…and she has no personality and little character development. A boring character with a figure below my strike zone is a double whammy.
CV: 雪村とあ = Yukimura Toa
A biology teacher at your school that’s candid and popular with the students. Chitose is a town local that loves the outdoors and cooking. You meet her several times in and out of school in the common route as she initially worries about you as a transfer student adopting to the school and the town. At the start of her route, you find out she lives in the same apartment building! Horrified by the terrible diet of a lonely bachelor student, Chitose gives you secret cooking lessons at home and things develop from there.
I have an unabashed bias for older/teacher heroines, so I’ll refrain from gushing too much. Suffice it to say her playful/childish side mixed with her serious side is a perfect blend of sweet and salty tastes. The buildup to confession is good and after confession, Chitose takes the initiative in breaking down the constraints of the teacher/student barrier out of school. She’s eager for you to learn about her and vice versa so that you’ll treat each other as equals despite the gap in ages and social status. As a teacher, Chitose usually leaves early and comes back late, so you work around each other’s schedules and responsibilities to maximize your time together. She also visits your room often since you both live in the same building. Out of all the Cation teacher heroines, Chitose is definitely the best to date. ALL HAIL SENSEI!!!
Route Rankings: Suzuka = Chitose > Honami > Azusa
For better or worse, the E-mote system is gradually becoming more common in games. Initially, I feared adding the E-mote system was a desperate gimmick to “improve” the game. Several games have mindlessly implemented the system; the end result was talking bobble heads with…bobbling boobs. Much to my surprise, hibiki works takes full advantage of E-mote to develop choreography and expressions that complement the heroines’ voice work. Boob slider aside, character movements and reactions were almost as detailed as character sprites’ champs like Clochette and Minato-soft. And yes, I turned the sliders to maximum…no regrets.
One bug that popped up a couple times in each route was that for some lines of dialogue, the heroines would lose their anime “glass eye” and look hypnotized or yandere. I believe they have already or will patch this bug.
I was quite happy to see Asami Asami (W.L.O., Artemis Blue, etc.) doing the art, as her character designs are more distinct compared to Oryo. The art is a major improvement over PxC1, but I still like Iizuki Tasuku better. I wouldn’t mind playing another PxC with Asami Asami as the artist. Now bring in Alpha too!
10 scenes per heroine. Unlike the generic ero-snooze fest of PxC1, PxC2 rebounds on the ero-front. Although not quite LxC2 level, the scenes were longer, cgs were more detailed, and better ero-dialogue. While the setups weren’t original, the scenes matched the progression in the relationship; only one route had an H-scene immediately after confession. Append scenarios will come out each month like before. However, in the May append, only 1 heroine had a bonus H-scene unlike 2 heroines per month in past games….hopefully this isn’t a permanent cutback.
If PxC1 traumatized you, PxC2 won’t restore your faith in the Cation series. However, if you thought PxC1 was okay/mediocre, PxC2 is a better game that recaptures some of the good parts of LxC1-2…but not quite the same level yet. While LxC2 is still the benchmark, I enjoyed most of the slice of life and romance in PxC2. Overall, the development staff has learned lessons from PxC1 and hopefully they have nowhere to go but up.