“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ~ Joseph Campbell
Nukige, for most VN which are classified so, generally has negative conotation because of its excessive use of sex. The more extreme one even includes things that beyond sane imagination like, for example, human toilet (don’t worry, this post is completely SFW). But if you can stomach that part of a nukige, there are few titles that can really entertain you from its great plot or rich characters. I especially love an excellent portrayal of despair narrated by the protagonist and the satisfaction I get when the protagonist overcomes the odd and saves the day. Though nukige that good are few and few between, I did occassionaly stumble upon some. Euphoria is, without a doubt, one of those few quality titles that has an awesome story, yet overshadowed by the nukige part. I largely blame the marketing strategy that emphasizes the “Game” part which is truly just the first layer of the many layers you’ll uncover in this VN.
Release Date : 2011-06-24
Developer : Clockup
English Availability : Dropped, somewhat
Is this cage hell or paradise?
They wake up in a white room remembering nothing――
The protagonist Takato Keisuke and 6 others are locked up in these hidden white rooms. His childhood friend Hokari Kanae, classmate Andou Miyako, underclassmate Makiba Rika, English teacher Aoi Natsuki, same year Byakuya Rinne, and classmate Manaka Nemu. While still confused about their unusual situation, a “mystery voice” suddenly speaks to them: “A game has now started.”
In order to escape the room, Keisuke is the “unlocker” and one heroine the “keyhole”. With an assigned act, he must “use the key”.
After hearing the unreasonable and immoral requirements to win, Miyako gets pissed and snaps on the “mystery voice”. Suddenly the lights go out. The girls scream. The lights come back on, reilluminating the white room. They can see Miyako bound to a grotesque torture device.
“Anyone who quits the game will die”
Her screaming begins in tandem with the electrical current. With eyes wide open in fear, she pisses and shits herself. Everyone else starts freaking out. However, Keisuke seemed to be getting aroused by Miyako’s appearance. That was his secret, his urge to assault and humiliate girls.
However, Nemu could see right through him and knew. Nemu takes advantage, forcing the protagonist to submit to him as she brings her lips up to his: “This is a contract kiss.”
Keisuke was surprised by Nemu’s behavior but he wants to protect Kanae and decides for the sake of escaping, he will violate the others. Can Keisuke escape the white rooms and return to his normal life? Or will he hold back his own dark urges…? ―――It is you who decides in the end.
Imagine that, after a seemingly normal day, you go to sleep, thinking nothing different will happen tomorrow. Then bam! You wake up in the middle of a white room with nothing in it except yourself and a door. Obviously, you try to go to the next room, only to meet your childhood friend, junior, and other people you recognize coming from the same institution. Suddenly, a robot-like voice interrupts your conversation and explains that if you want to get out, all of you have to play a “Game”. The “Game” consists of five levels. In each level, the male participant has to select one girl to be the “Keyhole” of this level. He is then responsible to clear the level by inserting a designated “Key” into the “Keyhole”. What defines the key differ in each level, but all of them are related to sex and/or torture. Worse yet, the protagonist felt excited deep inside. Even worse yet, his classmate Nemu saw through his facade and used that fact to blackmail him. Suffering, chaos, and delight ensues. And that’s what the common route is all about.
The “Game” itself is the very definition of borderline extreme nukige. To the unenlightened, you’ll learn myriads way of torturing and having sex with someone for those who can stomach those kind of things. Coupled with a good narration and foreshadowing here and there, it is still an entertaining read. The good news is, you can skip the sex alltogether and you will not miss anything from the common route, except a look inside the mind of the protagonist when he is forced to do those things. In fact, the only important sex scenes I can think of are the ones in Rinne’s route. Also, worth mentioning is when you go for Makiba’s route because Makiba is the only one who rebels when the protagonist selects her to be the “Keyhole”, forcing him to drag her to the “Game” room. The conflict is very apparent and fascinating that I didn’t miss any of her “Game” scenes.
Guess what, I haven’t mentioned that the best part of the common route is in the end. Like any good game, the “Game” has some kind of secret boss stage that the protagonist has to clear before he can get out for real. Unlike the previous levels, you don’t want to skip this because it’s that AMAZING and you will see how awesome the protagonist is.
Finally, you enter the individual route. Here, the route focuses on the “Game” producer chasing after the lost lambs trying to get them play the “Game” again, performing some kinds of a plot you’ll find in many thriller films.
Or maybe not.
Without spoiling anything, all I can say is that the individual route is very unique and makes me say “What the fuck?” many times in my mind. You cannot help but to wonder what really happened, what’s the purpose of the game, who is the mastermind, and many things only to realize that the developer will not tell you anything. It serves well to make the readers really excited about the true route, and for me to play all routes to gather many hints separated between each individual routes. It really helps that the first route I played was Rinne’s route, which has the most mindfuckery and unexplainable mysteries even until the end of that route. Unfortunately, the quality of the individual routes varies between each other. Regardless, I still recommend to read all of them.
Then, the true route. Oh god, the true route. Again, I cannot say anything except welcome on board, mates! Time to sail to the fucking wonderland! You might be proud that you can guess some the questions presented above, but I’m 99% sure you will not guess ALL of them. Yar, yar, hah ho!
Takato Keisuke is the hapless victim of the “Game”, if not because of his hidden desire to watch girls being raped and tortured. Anyway, he is a proactive and competent protagonist. An upstanding student with good social life and good brain, he even has an admirable determination, trying to protect his loved ones foremost before anything else. That presents an inner conflict with his aforementioned hidden desire. Nemu perfectly described him as “An odd man, excited to watch girls tortured yet trying to save the very same girls from death, even at the cost of his life”. He is basically a great guy with dark desire he tried to suppress as much as possible. The “Game” only serves to bring out the beast.
Hokari Kanae is Takato’s childhood friend. She acts as the mother of the group, caring to others, even trying to convince Takato to stop selecting the girl you are trying to get into and to select her instead. Also, that’s partly because she is in love with him. Throughout the story, she offers the much needed morale support by the protagonist. Their care for each other is very obvious and natural, especially with memorable flashbacks. Takato’s desire to protect her from is what motivates him and keeps him from descending into insanity. I cannot help but to like her. She is like an oasis in the middle of the desert that I really appreciate just for being there. If I haven’t mentioned it, her route is the true route and heavily intertwines with Nemu’s route.
Manaka Nemu is the primary antagonist of the VN, in more ways than one. If Kanae is a saint, then this girl is her perfect antithesis. Sadist, ruthless, cruel, cunning, detestable, you name it, she has it. Which is why it is just Takato’s bad luck, that she is the one who found out his inner desire. Throughout the game, she loves to shove that fact in his face, forcing him to do her every whim in order for her to not spread his secret. She even doesn’t mind using others just for her own gain and amusement. For example, she really loved taking advantage of Takato’s weakness that is Kanae herself. Since she is a captureable heroine, I know for sure that she must be not as she appears to be. Even further, she sometimes sheds humanity every now and then, but is still an evil person at heart. This disparity is very visible in her route as Takato deals with his hatred and love towards her at the same time. What I don’t like is that her route intertwines very much with the true route that it really is just a part of it. But you have to finish her route first before you can unlock the true route 😦
Byakuya Rinne fills the role of the quiet and level-headed person of the group. She is dependable and always think logically in the “Game”, giving many advices and often offers unique perspectives. In the end, she really just wants to get out with her life, and hopefully those of others, intact. Emotionally though, she is pretty withdrawn. No one could really understand what she was thinking about. Undoubtably, her individual route is the second best in this VN after the true route. Not only that it has the most hints available from all routes, its amount of craziness is just too damn high, especially since it’s also the first route I read.
Makiba Rika is the resident mascot. She is innocent, friendly, and the token loli. Though to some people, she is just an annoying brat which serves no purpose to the story. And yes, I quite agree with that sentiment. But because of that very reason, she is the one who is affected the most with the “Game”. She is just a normal person. Her reaction is also the most normal to the “Game”, yet is the most interesting because she stays unwilling even until the end of the “Game”. Her innocent also makes her palpable to outside influence. This makes an interesting side-effect where her character is developed differently between each route. She is especially great in her own route and is the one who invokes the most tear-jerking out of me in this VN. But to the main story, her route and she herself contributes very little, if at all.
Aoi Natsuki is the only teacher and the most mature one. While Kanae is a personal morale support, Natsuki has the same role for the whole group. She always tried to uplift the general spirit and kept it from falling down to the abyss. Her character really shines in the true route, but is really not that interesting before that. Her route offers a unique approach than others, but the execution failed horribly because of its very quick resolution.
You only need to finish Nemu’s route to unlock the true ending. But I suggest you read all of them to make the true route even better. At the very least, if you don’t have time to finish them all, Rinne’s route is a must.
True Route > Rinne Route > Rika Route > Nemu Route > Natsuki Route
All except > Natsuki
If you avoid this game because you cannot stand nukige, even if you can skip that part, then that’s understandable. But if you do because you think this VN seems to be just another sexfest, oh, how wrong you are. I won’t say it’s as solid since there are plot holes here and there, but the mindfuckery is enough to make you not to think much about them. Revel on the twist roller-coaster, baby 😀
The Special Things:
– Mindfucking Plot
– Good portrayal of despair
– A great art, imo, the black and white feel just adds to the realism
My Verdict: VERY RECOMMENDED
I said that I wanted to read something lighter next in the forum. But to my better judgment, I’m playing Furuiro instead now, which is probably just as heavy. Oh well.