I finally got my hands on this new Japanese boys’ love visual novel, this time officially translated to English and sold by MangaGamer (this title being their first BL project). I have not paid 40 bucks for a visual novel before but it was totally worth it.
The best thing about the game is – hands down – the protagonist Haru. He is a complete airhead, forgetting names, places and even his things, while maintaining an incredibly positive attitude towards everything. He’s also a little perv, constantly coming on to the other characters. Haru is charming and hilarious, and the funniest protagonist I’ve ever played. I seriously laughed out loud many times at the silly nicknames he came up with as well as his ‘hmm?’s when he was once again lost. Of course, Haru is also terribly cute.
The story begins when our still nameless protagonist pushes “an old man” (‘Pops’ for Haru, originally ‘Ossan’) away from an approaching car and gets hit by it instead. Pops takes our amnesiac hero under his wing, eventually employing the youngster in a bar he owns. The staff of this bar comes up with the name ‘Haru’ and eases the new guy into his responsibilities.
These guys are of course also the possible romantic interests of Haru, who doesn’t discriminate when it comes to sexual relations. While Haru is quite a lecherous bastard, the routes are still rather set in stone, there’s no harem action. (Being greedy with the choices usually results in no-end or bad end.) But there’s definitely action. Yep, NTY! does have a lot of sex. A lot. A lot of it. While I can quite easily recommend the Nitro+CHiRAL titles to people who aren’t into gay sex, I wouldn’t be so sure with this title. While I do think the plot is very interesting in itself, the sex scenes make up a large portion of the game and I’m honestly not sure if people would find the story that fulfilling if they for example just skipped those erotic scenes.
But there is that bigger plot. It’s not just Haru and the other pretty boys why I gave this game almost a perfect score. The story is great – surprisingly serious and disturbing actually, especially considering how cheerful and ridiculous everything seems to be in the beginning. In fact, this turn is something that has put some people off. Personally I love a bit of a contrast in everything, so I rather liked the whole weirdness of it. The story contains violence but most of it is not presented graphically.
There are four romanceable characters in the game. Pops, aka Kouichi, is a somewhat older gentleman that helps Haru and runs the business. Maki is a muscly guy, who doesn’t speak much, and is the boss and the cook of the bar. Ryu is an elegant bartender with impeccable working ethic and no tolerance for goofing around. Haru is initially guided around by the youngest bartender, Hiroyuki, who is all around normal and a nice guy.
There is a recommended order for the routes: Hiroyuki -> Maki -> Kouichi -> Ryu. I went according to this because it was pretty much what I had been thinking of in the begin with. Hiroyuki’s route is the one with the least spoilers, and the one that changes the least for the second playthrough (oh yes, there are extra lines and scenes for a new play on every route). On the other hand, I’m not quite sure about it being the best first route, as it’s the one most disconnected from the bigger plot. If a person wishes to get more hints on what’s to come, they should pretty much pick any other route. In the end I don’t really think the order really matters, as the different routes actually spoil each other very little, they just reveal different things of the whole and tie up some of the minor stories differently.
I intentionally saved the best route for last, so to speak. It’s not like I knew what I’d get with each route, but the initial impression of the guys had to be ranked somehow. And while I don’t always fall for the icy megane type, when I do, I fall hard.
Umm… What was I writing about? I got distracted…
Yes, Ryu was awesome. I also really liked how all the guys were very different, including their erotic scenes. Everyone had their own thing going on, though none of them warmed up to Haru immediately. In addition to Ryu’s route, I really liked Maki’s, as he forms a wonderful dynamic with Haru. All the routes are good though, they definitely grew on me even when I wasn’t very interested initially. I also read others mentioning the same thing.
Maki and Kouichi are rather muscular types for regular yaoi, there has been talk about this game trying to appeal to bara audience. They’re also somewhat hairy (though body hair can be turned off from the menu if one prefers so). I’m a bit like Haru myself – I don’t discriminate – I liked all of the guys with or without muscles or hair. Initially I was a bit sad that the most appealing character seemed to be the protagonist himself, but I ended up loving Haru so much as a playable character that eventually it was a non-issue. I was also slightly disappointed by not being able to romance some of the side characters like Renren, Bunbun and Pheromone Aniki (haha with the names again).
The gameplay is very simple. Basically the player is given a few choices to pick their romantic interest and additionally the ‘no, thank you!’ flag will appear in the top left corner, serving as a yes/no button to the current situation. The other prompts in the game are optional sex scene things (I smiled every time the game asked if I wanted to take Ryu’s glasses off). The simplicity of the gameplay makes it very easy to beat even without a walkthrough. The player also gets a hint mode after finishing a character route, as well as scene replay after finishing the true route. There’s also a very nice addition to be able to record any spoken line during the game into your own collection (this happens by pressing the little blue square-like thing before the speaker’s name).
The art style is very nice. It’s not the most beautiful thing in the world (like it was in DRAMAtical Murder) but it’s very appealing, and the character expressions are great. All the conversations are voiced over and at least the main cast is excellent. I vaguely remember that some of the female voices were not that good but just like in most BL games, they have rather minor roles. In the sex scenes there was some excessive slurping going on sometimes, and one of the guys was a bit too much of a screamer – at least to my tastes. (I know some people actually prefer these things that way.) The sex scene graphics are completely uncensored which is nice, I never understood the concept of the mosaics.
NTY! is a must play for any BL game fan. It is a quality game and one of the funniest games I ever played. Despite of its upbeat coating it still is like most of the BL games out there: rather violent and disturbing. So a cutesy love story it is not. Initially I was thinking about perhaps not tagging it with ‘dark’ but I’ll just go there. Anyone who finishes all the endings should agree with the dark undertones.