Aksys’ latest foray into localized otome visual novels provides a variety of interesting romance options in an equally interesting setting. If you enjoy otome games and have been craving something new to read through on your Vita, Period: Cube might be exactly what you’re looking for.
As you start the game you learn that the sixteen year old Kazuha lives a relatively normal life, despite being left without any memory of a chunk of her childhood due to a car accident. Kazuha gets a little worried when her older brother Shiki stops sending her daily messages however (such as those asking how her day was), so she decides to visit his apartment with childhood friend Hiroya in tow. In Shiki’s apartment the pair find a computer left on the log-in screen for Arcadia – a game Shiki and Hiroya play. Shiki himself is nowhere in sight.
Coming back the next day, Kazuha registers to play Arcadia, creates her character, then finds herself transported into the world of the game. Yes, that’s right! The premise is very similar to that in .hack or Sword Art Online.
Within Arcadia reside two opposing factions; Angels and Demons. In order to free themselves from within the game, players must clear a difficult dungeon known as the Ark. Unfortunately, only players who are of the same faction as the person who clears the Ark will be freed. Naturally, this sort of division only furthers the tension and rivalry between the two groups. In addition, a cloud of fog known as the Jaws of Death has slowly been eating away at the edges of the game world, decimating everything it touches.
To even further complicate things on a personal level, Kazuha has been granted the power of the “Almighty” which is said to be a valuable tool in conquering the Ark – making her a hot commodity. With a time limit set for the deaths of everybody on the server, and everybody on the hunt for Kazuha, it seems like the perfect time to find true love.
There are seven suitors available to interact with in Period: Cube. Six of them have full routes, with one of these requiring the player to unlock it first. The final route is (unfortunately) only half of a route since it branches off halfway on the path to Astrum’s endings. They’re a great group and all of them have perks and unique personality traits.
One of the best inclusions to the story are Special Quests; tasks that Kazuha will complete with the help of others, that then allow her to log off the game for a period of time. During these periods she often meets with the main man of whichever route is being played. Allowing Kazuha the ability to log off is a welcome addition to the classic “inside a video game” story, and enables the player to see another side to each of the guys. Astrum is a haughty Angel who in reality is a jealous and jumpy nerd. Radius is quiet and collected in Arcadia but in the real world he’s a famous idol. The duality introduced in each of the characters – how they act in both the game and the real world – creates some really interesting scenes, and helps the characters to be multidimensional.
Although I enjoyed each of the guys for the most part, not everything is perfect. For one, although each of the suitors is well-designed and gorgeously illustrated, they all have the same thin body and medium-length side-swept hair (barring Demento who has long side-swept hair). I would have greatly appreciated some more diversity in the designs of the characters, especially since some of the non-suitors did have different builds. What I wouldn’t have given for a Sirent ending!
After a couple early choices in the game you will be locked into a particular character’s route, meaning no careful balancing of affection points to pursue someone specific. Once you’re on somebody’s route, you’re stuck on it – which makes playing the game a less stressful experience in a way.
Unfortunately (or fortunately if you want a darker otome title), a few of the guy’s routes strayed down some pretty disturbing territory. I understand this is fiction and it provides a safe place to explore dark fantasies but Period: Cube goes a bit too far for me to be able to recommend every route to every player. There’s an entire scene explicitly meant to be an allegorical representation of rape, and Demento’s route in particular feels quite abusive. If you can overlook this, great! Enjoy the route. If you’re more sensitive to such things however, then please give playing Period: Cube a bit more thought.
Mechanically, there isn’t much to discuss when it comes to actual gameplay. Period: Cube is a fairly pure visual novel, and therefore the game is entirely made up of pressing the X button or touch screen to advance dialogue – aside from making a few choices here and there. Although the game is set inside an RPG, there aren’t any real battles. The few times an RPG style battle menu is presented on screen, it is in reality just a fancy way to have the player make another choice.
Each route is quite short and can be finished in four or five hours depending on reading speed. This is both a positive and a negative, as routes can be beaten quite quickly – but the game also never quite spends enough time with each suitor to fully flesh them out. The whole game can be completed in about twenty-five or thirty hours.
Two features in particular really stand out in the game; the rewind function, and the history flowchart. At almost any point in the game it is possible to open up the past dialogue menu and scroll up to a specific, recently-viewed scene or choice. By pressing X and confirming, the game then rewinds to that particular scene. This makes changing answers during a critical moment super easy!
Each suitor has both a “Good” and “Merry Bad” ending to conclude his route. The Good endings are generally predictably good, while the Merry Bad endings are achieved by finishing a character’s route with sub-par affection levels – and present a very bittersweet conclusion to the tale.
After attaining one of these two endings it’s incredibly easy to open up the flowchart from the title screen, return to the final chapter on a particular route, set the character’s affection to its maximum or minimum for whichever ending you have your eyes on, then reach it within a few seconds. This makes getting every ending in the game a non-issue, which is much better than having to sit and fast-forward through huge chunks of the game just to see different endings as many visual novels require.
Visually, the game is an absolute treat. Environments have slight movement. Character portraits are not only gorgeous and colorful, but also appear to breathe with life. Menus are cohesive, and the font used in the game is crisp and easily readable. The CGs in the game are mostly great with one glaring exception—90% of the kiss CGs are terrible.
Usually kiss CGs are the “reward” and emotional payoff for completing a character’s route. In Period: Cube however, all but two of them look as if Kazuha and her chosen man are awkwardly hovering near each other’s face; their mouths agape, grazing a single lip across the other. There’s no passion, no lip-locking, and no payoff. The two characters who actually DO have good kiss CGs are – unfortunately – not the best. It’s truly sad that the artist is obviously capable of drawing a good kiss scene, but made the choice to draw half-assed kisses for most of the final CGs.
There isn’t a lot of background music in the game, and because each route repeats many locations and events, a lot of the music is also repeated. Two tracks that stuck in my head include a piano-led piece that plays during emotional scenes, and an intense track that is featured only briefly in one of the pivotal scenes in the game. The original Japanese dub is the only option in the game, though lucky for us it’s very well-done. Libera and Astrum in particular have VA jobs that stick out as being well-done.
Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ is a decent otome game. I don’t think it’s as good as Code: Realize or Hakuoki, but if you’re craving a localized otome then this might be something that interests you. Its fast pace allows it to be enjoyed rather quickly – though on the flip side it leaves little room for character development. It looks and sounds gorgeous, but it also has some gross scenes coupled with sensitive situations that might not be for everybody. Clearly it has its (possible) downsides, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it if it’s in your wheelhouse… and it’s a nice warm up for all the other otome titles on the way.