Ever since Anim announced this miko-themed tentaclefest I’ve had my eye on it, especially after the news broke that some of my favorite artists would be contributing guest artwork to a book of illustrations included with the limited edition. With ample visual confirmation of quality leading up to the game’s release, the biggest question was how the CG would be strung together: just another rehash of Legend of the Overfiend, or something meatier in the plot department? HD dishes the dirt in our first eroge review in a looooong time…

Title: Gyakushuu Ni ~Miko no Saidan~
Japanese: 虐襲弐〜巫女ノ祭壇〜
Erogamescape Page: here
Maker: Anim
Release Date: April 5th, 2007
Genre: holistic miko invading tentacle insult AVG
Character Design / Production Art: Hiiro, bbsacon
Scenario: Sakai Doujin
Release Format: DVD, limited and slim pack editions
Retail Price: 9,240 yen (limited) / 7,140 yen (slim pack)
Limited Edition Extras: artbook, soundtrack CD
Availability: Himeya (slim pack only)

Out of the Box

With the game due out on a Thursday I didn’t want to risk the limited edition selling out before I could get to Akihabara on the weekend, so I went ahead and ordered it from Anim’s online shop. In hindsight Getchu might have been a better option for the included telephone card, but when I opened the box I was surprised to see an extra of a very different sort:

Anim's Gyakushuu Ni eroge review Anim's Gyakushuu Ni eroge review

Yes, the game came with a veritable pirate’s toolkit. Why they would ship a spindle of blank DVD-Rs with a game is beyond me, but it’s a far more useful item (and more entertaining, in this context) than a telephone card, so I can’t look this gift horse too closely in the mouth. The poster was also a welcome surprise; I doubt another online retailer would have included it.

The real reason I opted for the limited edition though was the announcement on Mumu‘s homepage a few months ago that he would be doing an illustration for the included artbook. When the full list of guest artists was released I knew I’d made the right decision, as mikolicious love from the likes of Amano Ameno and Newmen is not to be misssed.

Anim's Gyakushuu Ni eroge review Anim's Gyakushuu Ni eroge review

I haven’t listened to the soundtrack yet (aside from its incarnation in-game), but the artbook easily makes the higher price justifiable as one of the nicest extras I’ve received with an eroge in a long time (it sure beats the heck out of the senbei that Laox was handing out with Sengoku Rance). The artbook is especially noteworthy for its size, printed at full A4 instead of the standard B5 used for doujinshi and most manga serials (and roughly corresponding to the size of many eroge packages). The artbook being bundled with the game does create the slightly irritating result of it not fitting on my shelf, but it is an acceptable compromise for the gloriously high print resolution.

Enter the Game

Any proper review of Gyakushuu Ni would be remiss without mentioning the first title in the series. In the 2004-released Gyakushuu you portray Giran, a demonic sorcerer bent on conquest of the kingdom of Feliciard and revenge on Yuria, the knight protector of the kingdom who defeated him in the past. I picked up the standard edition of the game awhile back, and while I didn’t make it to the end I played through enough to see Giran’s ambition realized and Yuria defeated.

Gyakushuu Ni begins three years into the reign of emperor Giran as he journeys out to expand his empire through conquest of Wakoku, the Gyakushuuworld equivalent of mythical ancient Japan. He is accompanied by Yuria, who by this point he has crafted into a nearly mindless slave. Having fulfilled his goals of the earlier game he has lost the power of the Rashinki, a magical stone that can predict the future and assures victory; despite this he sails toward the small island country of Wakoku with supreme confidence that it will shortly fall before the might of his army.

Unfortunately for him, the tale of Giran’s conquest does not extend into the sequel. The protagonist role instead goes to Mononofu, the leader of a band of demonlike creatures known as ayakashi (no relation to Ayakashi, Ayakashibito, or Ayakashi Ayashi) who feed on human sexual energy. They have been confined to a small forest on the edge of Wakoku for the past two hundred years by a band of Hamaja no Miko (exorcist Shinto shrine priestesses) who keep a tight reign on their spread through their overwhelming magical superiority.

Knowing nothing of this, Giran lands on the beach at the edge of the ayakashi forest only to be met by one Sonogami Shikimi, the current leader of the exorcist miko. He leers at her for a bit, she tells him to leave, he says no, and SHAZAM – she burns him to a crisp. Just like that. The rest of his army runs away, leaving a lost and very confused Yuria behind… for you (as Mononofu) to pick up, feed off of, and gain enough energy to finally challenge the miko who have been holding you prisoner for so long.

The first part of the game takes place in the course of one very long evening in which you navigate Mononofu through the forest in an attempt to a) avoid the miko who are trying to seal you, b) gather energy from wherever you can find it and c) eventually confront and defeat Shizuna, Shikimi’s chosen disciple and erstwhile successor as leader of the Hamaja clan.

Anim's Gyakushuu Ni eroge review - map view

You have a fixed number of time units in which you can move between locations in the forest as depicted on the map screen above; if you can survive this one treacherous night you’ve basically got a lock on the rest of the game.

The Nitty Gritty

Here I’ll arbitrarily abandon the plot summary and move on to some personal impressions. First off, navigating the ayakashi forest in the first part of the game is hard. If it hadn’t given me hints when I died I’d probably still be in there right now, bashing my head against a tree. Until you figure out exactly what you need to do and in what sequence a series of bad ends is likely to ensue, frustrating in a game whose genre implies that most problems be solved by TENTACLE MONSTER SMASH.

While I’m on the topic, our (anti-)hero Mononofu is a bit of a wuss. He’s a weakling at the beginning of the game and surprisingly emo later on, where he does an awful lot of moping for a guy who’s supposed to be an all-powerful force of ancient malevolence. This was compounded by the only “true” ending I was able to get, which was just flat out ridiculous and anticlimactic. From looking at the rough illustrations of other CG in the artbook I’m guessing the other as-yet unattainable ending is superior, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get there. Argh.

Issues of plot and character aside, where the game really shines is in the art department. The bbsacon-drafted scenes with Yuria and other miscellaneous characters were the best; While Hiiro’s miko designs are gorgeous, bbsacon takes the lead in terms of raw eroticism. My main criticism in terms of ero would be that 90% of Shikimi’s scenes consist of her saying “dame! dame! dameeeee!” over and over again or going on philosophical monologues about her situation, neither of which I found to be particularly arousing. My ideal formula for games like this is a quick descent from resistance into raw pleasure by all parties involved, followed by a long, varied, detailed and euphoric denouement. Despite promise early on (with the Yuria scenes, especially) Gyakushuu ni only meets this criteria half way.

The overall story of the game, much of which I haven’t touched on here, leaves me with the same impression: a lot of good ideas, a lot of promise, and execution that only met them half way. The writer took pains to provide a detailed mythology that backs up the story, but I found myself not really caring about it; by the end of the first half he’s set up a quite compelling scenario with a lot of opportunities for interesting encounters and scenes, but only takes advantage of a few of the options. And what the heck is up with Zayaa, international man of mystery? Aside from showing up a few times to lurk sinisterly in the shadows he didn’t seem to have much of a point.

If I had the game to direct over again I’d put bbsacon on art duty for the whole thing, make Mononofu more badass, make the forest section of the game easier to navigate, tighten a bunch of the plot holes, cut the stupid ending, rewrite Shikimi’s lines, add a few more scenes, keep Yuria around until the end (why did she have to randomly disappear after the first act?) and cut Zayaa entirely.

Final Verdict 70/100

Gyakushuu Ni is a decent vehicle for its beautiful and often (to me) sensually appealing art, though given the mythological background and solid plot foundation laid in the first half it could have been much more. Worth a 75-dollar purchase from Himeya? Probably not, unless you’re a die-hard fan of the genre and/or the artistic stylings of bbsacon and company.

Note: Screenshots from the game are available here and here. As this is the first eroge review I’ve done in nearly two years, any comments or suggestions on the format would be greatly appreciated. I’ll no doubt be tweaking it for future reviews.