Kikaijikake no Eve – Thoughts

I finished 機械仕掛けのイヴ ~Dea Ex Machina~ a few months back and still haven’t quite recovered. To this day, I’m not sure what possessed me during those 8 days of 10+ hour reading sessions but it’s one of the coolest experiences I’ve come across in the eroge medium; I consider it a kind of landmark in my journey. I was recommended this game rather enthusiastically for some time prior to reading (thanks Moogy and Metarail) so I was decently excited for it right off the bat, but I did not expect to fall in love with it the way I did. I was hooked from the first scene, and with the exception of some technical issues on my end it never really let up.

We begin our story immediately thrust into the heart of the action with a frenzied escape scene as Masaya, our protagonist and chief researcher at Souichiro Honma Electronics, has decided to desert the company after things have gone south with the discovery that they plan to use his research for purposes he never intended it for.  Along with his AI assistant/main heroine Tierra, they manage to make a narrow escape from the building itself, but not before Masaya suffers a gunshot wound at the hands of S.H.E.’s security forces.  Just when all hope seems lost, they’re miraculously rescued from the brink of despair by a rival company in a curiously named helicopter. As fate would have it, Masaya isn’t exactly unfamiliar with this rival company and thus they begin working together to take down S.H.E.  This marks the beginning of the game and the start of a truly grand journey, one that completely blew up in scale and went in some wildly unexpected directions for me.

The surface plot itself is full of twists and turns and red herrings and it’s all quite engaging, but I don’t think I’ll spend too much time talking about what actually transpires in the game with this post; I’m sure that disappoints some people reading and for that I am sorry. But to be quite honest, if someone were to ask me what Eve is really about I don’t think that I could answer with anything less than a 1000 word essay. It’s about corporate intrigue and business rivalry. It’s about the relationship between humanity and artificial intelligence. It’s about the beauty of free will and the immense responsibility that accompanies it. It’s about compassion and understanding others.  It’s about the value of a life and the importance of living.  It’s about what constitutes a soul and an ego. It’s about the concept of family and the bond of friendship. It’s about evolution and reconciling an aging society with a rapidly approaching technological zeitgeist. It’s about building and testing some incredibly elaborate sex toys.

 

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As you can see, Eve is actually about a myriad of things that I’m not going to be able to type out here because I would probably die of old age before I finished. Normally a single game encompassing so very many disparate elements would doom it to being an incoherent mess of unfinished ideas and dropped plot threads, but fortunately this is not the case with Eve. In fact, it’s one of the major aspects that makes the game so noteworthy – Onikage Youji (the main author and the brains behind the grand setting) has the uncanny ability to take this swirling maelstrom of concepts and weave them together into one single, cohesive story that results in a truly incredible experience. I can’t say I was ever bored reading, and with this game’s lengthy script that is a genuine accomplishment.

The cast in Eve is sizable but despite this all the characters are quite fun, to put it simply.  I found myself quickly getting emotionally attached to the heroines, their personalities are charming and their chemistry with each other and Masaya is like lightning in a bottle; there are so many great moments between them that it’s hard to choose a favorite.  I suppose the nature of their occupation requiring a lot of, well, ‘close contact’ with each other helps to facilitate their bond in a way that most other scenario focused games can’t.  As evidenced by both Eve and its sequel Amatsukaze, ninetail is able to include a truckload of ero in their games and avoid having it become a real bother through smart pacing and by separating the majority of it from the main story.  An important balance to maintain and a tightrope very few games can walk so gracefully.

To get back to the topic at hand, I found it pleasurable to see how our heroines’ relationships with each other and Masaya deepened as the in-game days passed.  The tempo was just right for me and the comedy matched my tastes well making most scenes enjoyable.  In particular, the lighthearted group scenes once everyone was acquainted with each other did an exceptionally good job of melting my icy heart.  One thing I must mention before going any further, Tierra is one of my favorite eroge heroines of all time and simply a great character all around. Supportive in a way that most heroines can only dream of being and filled with a burning desire to fight for what she believes in despite her own insecurities and shortcomings, she is truly a miracle that the whole world needs to see.  She’s mine, don’t touch.  Look forward to her.

 

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As for the rest of the cast, they’re well fleshed out and decently utilized in the overarching story.  Homura and his partner Kenji for example, are part of S.H.E.’s security force and both are perfect specimens of characters who begin in small time villain roles but end as complex characters with detailed personalities.  Their intentions become clear as things progress and how they react to the events of the plot serves as clear insight to what actually motivates them, leading to some surprising developments.  Many characters in this title have a similar level of depth and their positions in the endgame may not be what you expect; I quite liked having my expectations toyed with and seeing how things ultimately played out.  At any rate, it’s rare for me to find a cast to be so genuinely entertaining and “human” (笑) as they are here.

 

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Speaking of ‘close contact’, I suppose now would be a good time to talk in depth about the gameplay aspects. Dildobuilding is what I’ve taken to calling the “SLG” portion of the game. It’s an interesting part of the overall equation, but it is also my biggest complaint with this title in general. The player decrypts sex toy blueprints, creates them, gets an eroscene in the process of testing them on a given heroine (or all heroines in some cases), and has to manage finances along with which sex toys to send to market to best overtake S.H.E.’s stock. While I must commend how wildly creative some of these toys were and I can’t stress enough how erotic entertaining this was for all of the games 80 or so eroscenes, this aspect of the game gets very old very quickly after one’s first run. The player has already seen nearly all possible scenes after a single playthrough and this leads to a long stretch devoid of content to get through to the actual story.  As mentioned above, I ran into some technical difficulties and had to skip through the common route three extra times so this got even more stale than it normally would.  In my opinion, there should have been an option to just disable it altogether after the initial clear, especially considering that even while using cheats and with the scene skip function enabled it still takes an hour or two of endless clicking to get to the route split. Thankfully it’s not totally awful and it’s overlooked easily enough if you chalk it up to the price of having an ~interactive experience~.

 

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The other type of gameplay present is a card battle system; unlike the SLG elements, I actually had some fun with this. The system is fundamentally little more than RPS, but there’s just enough strategy thrown in to keep things interesting. Once I got the hang of things I actually started to look forward to the battles, and I’d even venture to say I got pretty good at them later on. The battles are not perfectly integrated into the storyline, but they certainly add some extra vigor when combat erupts.

 

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On the subject of action, something that must be addressed is Onikage’s skill at crafting highly symbolic, emotionally powerful fights with well planned match-ups; he actually reminds me just a little of Masada in this regard.  There’s something deeply satisfying experiencing a battle that’s truly engaging, and Eve has no shortage of those. I think that Onikage understands how to write those kinds of large scale fights while taking full advantage of the best parts of the whole 中二病 concept extremely well, all while avoiding triggering any cringe reflexes.  There’s plenty of subtext to be extracted with all of the bigger fights in the game, but this is best utilized in the final battles of Fam’s, and especially Tierra’s true endings.  Both are incredibly well done and rank among my favorite climaxes ever in terms of concisely symbolizing everything the work’s been building up to and delivering a red hot dose of 燃え.

 

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The writing style itself also gelled with me nicely. I was a huge fan of the all-too-rare in eroge third person point of view and the strong narration throughout. The latter especially did wonders for the immersion factor and I would very much like to see more eroge with this kind of writing. The text itself is rather dense and the lines are very long, with it being more common for the textbox to be over 80% full than not. Without going too far off the deep end into rabid fanboyism, Onikage’s flexibility as a writer is astounding.  He manages to write hilarious SoL for one scene, science fiction in the next, detailed business talks in the next, those grand heart pounding chuu2 battles in the next, and he is spectacular at ALL of those things. I can go on forever about how much I liked the writing, but I’ll just say that it’s significantly more well-written on a technical level than most other eroge I’ve read and the text remains engaging for the entire duration of the game, no matter which particular approach it’s employing at any given moment.

One of the most impressive things Eve does lies in how it introduces its setting and the principles central to it in such an accessible, almost nonchalant way. The game manages to incorporate a surprisingly large amount of science fiction tenets and ideas and does so in such a clear, refreshing, character driven way that laymen won’t find the approach intrusive and SF buffs won’t feel like they’re reading something rehashed. It shows the reader the tip of the iceberg and the basic framework of a given concept, then allows them to work out the finer details and what it means for the greater setting on their own. I personally didn’t really “get” the full scope or implications of some of the things brought up until after I had finished Amatsukaze and took some time to contemplate the pieces of the grand setting I was privy to; it really is quite something when you start to look at the big picture. To put things in perspective, there is a timeline on the old ninetail wiki (mad spoilers, don’t look it up) that fleshes out what the Machina Chronicle universe would look like in a more finished form.  It spans thousands of years across tons of games and dozens of time periods – and the entire foundation that behemoth is built on is introduced and set in motion in Kikaijikake no Eve… the game about dildobuilding.

 

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What left the biggest impression on me and what I wish to convey more than anything I’ve mentioned so far in this post is the sheer amount of love that was poured into Eve. It’s very apparent while playing that the team behind it truly enjoyed what they were doing and gave it everything they had. When I think about the game, I have this mental image of Onikage and co. sitting in ninetail’s office at 3am on their third or fourth all-nighter in a row after months of long hours, hashing out ideas and tweaking numbers trying to make this thing work at all costs – and after learning a bit about the production environment for this title and its successor Amatsukaze, that’s probably not too far removed from reality.  The very idea that someone out there had a brain capable of the thought process required to make something like this and for it to turn out to be actually good is nothing short of absurd.  The premise is simply too bizarre, the story is too ambitious, there’s entirely too much porn, et cetera, et cetera… by all accounts, this project should have crashed and burned.

And yet it didn’t.  It defies all expectation and ends up becoming something really special by virtue of the immense passion overflowing in every aspect.

I think the eroge medium exists in a kind of vacuum, free from a lot of boundaries and cliches and incentives that more mainstream media are plagued by; it provides the possibility for anomalies like Kikaijikake no Eve to happen and a place for people to actually take works like it seriously. Every once in a blue moon, you get innovative and motivated individuals in the right place at the right time who are willing to go to great lengths to make their vision a reality, and fireworks happen.  Eve is the quintessential title that represents this possibility coming to fruition for me as an eroge fan.  Of course, it doesn’t work out every time and there are plenty of disasters, but there are enough games with this particular spark alive in them to keep me coming back for more every day. It’s certainly present in games like Eve and Amatsukaze.  Games like Oretsuba and Rakuen.  Games like Harukuru, Mushi no Me, Damekoi and so many others I’ve failed to mention or haven’t yet encountered.

 

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In conclusion, Eve is a fantastic game and one of my favorite eroge to date. There’s a certain tolerance level required for how utterly insane it is and there are absolutely some complaints to be made, but I think there’s definitely something here for everyone. There’s tight plotting, clear cut themes, great writing, a wonderful cast, a very entertaining story and some good laughs along the way. I encourage anyone interested to give it a shot if they’re ready for the ride. I hope this post raised some awareness about its existence and maybe got some people excited for it.

Here’s to another year of eroge, 2016 seems like it will be a good one.

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Kikaijikake no Eve – Thoughts

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