What's The Deal With The Story?
When I started this blog series, I knew there would come a day where I would need to set higher standards for what I played. I knew the abyss would stare back. I knew I would be biting off more than I could chew. I knew I would be diving into a barrel of pond scum. However, I did not suspect I would experience an existential crisis about my VN blog series by the second episode. I say all of this to suggest that "Creatures Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro" is a particular type of terrible. Oh, God. Where do I even begin?
First, you're a random human whose childhood friend is a bug girl. Everyone else in the world is a different type of monster or animal, and the game never addresses why the protagonist is a human, and if him being human is "abnormal." Did I mention your sister is a bat? You're a regular guy who enjoys lecherously dreaming about fucking your bug girlfriend, and your goddamn sister is a bat! Does this revelation result in funny situational humor? NOPE! She hangs upside-down whenever she talks to you, and for some fucking reason, she has four eyes when I'm pretty sure bats have two eyes like all mammals. Again, Creature Romances doesn't bother to address any of this background information because it is more interested in doling out a cheesy romance story better fit for FanFiction.Net.
The premise of the story is about as "vanilla" as it gets. The protagonist and his insectoid girlfriend are high-school seniors and need to decide on what to do with their lives after they graduate. Kokonoe Kokoro, the protagonist's love interest, is an over-achiever, whereas the male lead is a slacker who has no hope of attending the same college as her. As a result, he's plunged into three depressive episodes until he finally realizes Tokyo is a big city and can attend a nearby "lesser" college instead of the more prestigious "Tokyo U" his exoskeleton covered squeeze plans to tend. The story comprises of five days wherein different plot elements lazily splay out to the player. I'm not joking. Here's all you need to know about the narrative structure of Creature Romances:
Day #1: The protagonist realizes he's a loser. His bug girlfriend still loves him, but he's too stupid to know it. That does not stop him from lusting over her like a playboy. Finally, there's a scene where he walks in on her using the toilet. It isn't good.
Day #2: The protagonist attempts to figure his shit out by having his girlfriend help him with his homework. That's all you do. The second episode of this game is just you watching two characters do their math homework. I'm not kidding!
Day #3: The protagonist continues to study with his girlfriend, and eventually, they go on a date. He realizes she is very different from him. Also, I think the bat-sister has a big brother "complex," but I'm not 100% sure, and I don't want to think about it.
Day #4: The protagonist realizes it's too late for him to get his shit together and calls off his studying sessions with his girlfriend. This action causes her to start crying and temporarily "break up" with our human male lead.
Day #5: The male lead's sister calls him a dumbass for breaking his girlfriend's heart, and his best friend, a skeleton monster, beats the shit out of him. This fight prompts the player to make their only dialogue choice in the game that will either result in the two confessing their love for each other, or Kokoro stabbing the protagonist through the chest.
Is There Any "Questionable" Content?
Alright, I guess we need to have an "uncomfortable" discussion about erotic art thanks to this game. Those who legitimately work in erotic art spend hours, if not days, making their works as there's a craft to erotic art that many fail to grapple. Muscle structures, texture, skin tones, shading, and other visual elements require careful consideration when working on any artistic endeavor, let alone a creative effort with bare features. As a result, it is incredibly easy to tell when someone puts in a half-assed attempt to make something "erotic." Creature Romances: Kokonoe Kokoro puts in a half-assed attempt at its art assets in general, let alone its "erotic" scenes.
What's weirder is how front-loaded Creature Romances' scintillating scenes are in the story. Both of the "questionable" scenes occur during the game's opening act, and after that, the game has nothing! I found this turn of events a relief as I found the entire game repulsive, but if you are in this for titillating images, you will be sorely disappointed, which leads me to a brief discussion about the game's structure. Everything in Creature Romances plays out at a snail's pace. As the game only has one romance option and a singular player choice, nothing in the game feels especially earned. There are a total of five characters, and none of them are anything more than your typical repackaging of anime tropes.
If the art is terrible and the characters are about as exciting as reading your junk email, then at least the wacky scenarios and story are here to save the day, right? NOPE! There's a recurring gag that Kokoro is a terrible chef, but beyond that, this plays out like the most rote dating sim I have ever seen. You instead watch compelling scenes like the characters finding shortcuts to the quadratic formula. Nothing in this game takes advantage of its bizarre premise, and the translation is questionable at best. I have a personal theory that a sorry college grad was paid something like five cents per line to machine translate this game. While I am not fluent in Japanese by any stretch, it was hilarious to see the Japanese voice acting go on for minutes, only for the English translation to summarize the dialogue with four to five words. If you want the best example of the localization team being out of its depth, there's a scene where the male lead refers to his girlfriend's chest as a "voluptuous soft-looking pair of melons."
Does The Art Make Me Feel Like I'm Pouring Bleach Into My Eyes?
When I reviewed PacaPlus, I mentioned how the game didn't have enough bizarre situations that leaned into its wacky premise. That's very much the case with Creature Romances but ten times worse. In the case of Creature Romances, there are no "fish out of water" moments where the male lead being human is played for laughs. In fact, if it weren't for the awful static images standing in front of you, there aren't any scenes that reinforce the characters being monster people or the game's fantasy setting. I guess I liked how Kokoro's antennae would move to match her three emotional states. But beyond that, I honestly thought this might have been the ugliest game I have played outside of Bad Rats: the Rats' Revenge.
There are, at best, three cutscenes in the entire game. All of these cutscenes are static images that feature art that looks nothing like the rest of the game. Hilariously, these cutscenes at least look like something I'd upvote on Newgrounds if I were drunk. Nonetheless, you can feel the cheapness of Creature Romances emanating from your computer screen when you boot it up. Everything from the nigh unreadable font choice to the questionable background art makes this game feels like it was made under duress. At best, I at least do not immediately suspect Creatures Romances is one of those "fake games" that attempted to abuse Steam's trading card system.
The lack of distinct locations repeats my earlier issue of the game being cheap. With only around five to six places to play around with, the story isn't able to do anything other than showing the male lead not knowing what to do after graduating high school. That might sound interesting on paper, but rest assured, this game does nothing with this premise. Speaking of which, this game is $3 on Steam and will only take about two hours to complete. While that seems "appropriate," given what this game sets out to do, there's nothing to go back to once you've completed it once. I understand equating a game's worth to a dollar-to-hour-played ration makes people squeamish, but
Should You Play This Game?
You know what? I want to take back an earlier statement I made about this game. Obviously, I am not going to accuse the developer of committing actual fraud. However, there's something about all these cheap-ass visual novels with one-note gimmicks that feels "fake," and I know I am not the only person who feels this way. Shit, if you are up for a good laugh, go to Steam and check the recent releases in the "Visual Novel" section and then contemplate if humanity is worth saving! Certainly, there are outliers, and I hope to tackle the itch.io bundle in a future entry. Still, the visual novel genre, in general, is flush with developers who are not willing or able to further the genre or format further. That's a flaw in any part of the video game industry, but with visual novels, the lion's share of games are soulless works that sound like they were made during a Mad Libs session.
And before you ask, no, you should not play this game. Creatures Romances isn't even one of those bizarre visual novels you can play and riff as if it is Tommy Wiseau's "The Room." Honest to goodness, the high point of the game is watching the game's bumbling idiot protagonist getting the shit beat out of him. Before that, you have to watch two hours of the characters just pantomiming anime tropes you've already seen before! This game is an aberration. It has no shape, form, or taste. The addition of an insectoid girlfriend in Creatures Romances fares no better than adding a cup of water to a glass of water.
Don't buy this game. And more importantly, Even when you buy these games as a joke, you are perpetuating low-rent garbage flooding a genre that has so much more to offer. On top of that, because people like me continue to have an appetite for bullshit, indie devs who want to work with this medium are having a harder time getting noticed. As Jeff once put it, "Just say no to ass games. Don't let them do this to us. Please!"