I ended up enjoying Ayakashibito a lot, so I decided to go and play Bullet Butlers which is by the same writer and has the same artist. I expected Ayakashibito 2.0 with a classier setting (it is about butlers and masters in a fancy mansion after all), so things ended up disappointing when it wasn’t. In fact, I’d say that Bullet Butlers lacked a lot of what made Ayakashibito good, despite some cool aspects of the high fantasy setting.
Bullet Butlers takes place in a different world where magic is abundant and countries are populated by a variety of western fantasy races. Technology has been progressing to 20th century levels, but everything co-exists with magic rather than pure scientific advancement. The world also has concrete representations of its equivalents of Heaven and Hell, as well as a god who is never directly shown but exists without doubt rather than a questionable concept.
Long ago, the No Life King who governs death went rampant and created an army of zombies and threw the world into chaos. A hero from each of the eight races (humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins, giants, lizardmen, and dragon newts) along with a nameless servant were chosen to defeat the No Life King. With the sacrifice of the nameless servant, the No Life King was defeated, and the remaining heroes went back to their respective countries with their family names eternally being associated with heroism. The heroes are known as “Mystic Ones,” and they have a holy mark on their bodies that signify this. Candidates for becoming the next hero of each race have red eyes, and must be taken into the current hero’s family and change their last name to that of the heroic family if it isn’t it already. Once the current Mystic One dies, one of the candidates will inherit the holy mark and the ones who were not chosen would cease to have red eyes. Mystic Ones exist today as figures of heroism and political power, and this system of passing on the holy mark has existed for 2000 years.
Selma Fortenmayer is one of the candidates for the next dragon newt Mystic One, and the protagonist Rick Arrowsmith is her long-time butler. She isn’t the only candidate though, since the current Mystic One’s biological son also has the red eyes and his age, military accomplishments, and experience make him a much more favorable choice for the position. Not only are the two candidates at a sort of rivalry, there is also an evil occult group that is trying to revive the No Life King and destroy the current hero system.
While the setting is certainly ambitious and has a classy 20th century English feel with high fantasy elements that isn’t used a lot, the actual plot fell flat and lost itself amidst the numerous world-building and infodumping sessions. Since there is a lot of technology that is similar to some things in the real world but with magic incorporated into it (e.g. guns that shoot magic), the writing jumps into explanation mode every time anything slightly magical is introduced. That alone is not too objectionable (I do like my different settings), but combined with too much mansion slice-of-life, unremarkable heroines, and a lot of political build-up that ultimately destroys itself with a “fuck it, none of that actually mattered, let’s just bring out the guns” development, and you get a long game with bad pacing. Battles don’t happen frequently enough, and the characters aren’t as sympathetic or interesting as Ayakashibito’s so even though there are flashy special effects, it’s hard to get fired up for the fights barring the last few in the True/Selma’s route. Plus, most of the fight scenes are lacking in excitement and chuuni-ness. It may be a personal preference, but I find close-combat to be a lot more exciting than gun fights, which Bullet Butlers prefers since the protagonist uses a gun. The action here certainly feels more like a western movie, with less shouting and emotion, more gunfires and some exploding cars.
There are three routes in the game, and aside from the true route, the rest are kind of underwhelming. They reveal a few details about some of the villains, but they aren’t that important in the long run and generally aren’t too interesting. The common route is way too long, and clearly sets itself up for the true route, so the other routes throw away a lot of the plot hooks with simple solutions and end up being too short. The true route had its good moments and some of the better fights. Unlike Ayakashibito which started off with a gripping plot, Bullet Butlers takes a long time to construct its world and tries to build up to something grand only to fall short on expectations.
Rick Arrowsmith is a half-elf and the butler to an ojou-sama who is a candidate for the next dragon newt Mystic One. He’s normally a calm, polite guy who is loyal to his master, but occasionally has his goofy moments. A pretty fun protagonist when he’s goofing up, and has his shit together when the situation calls for it.
Bale Hawter is Rick’s talking magic gun who grants him use of one-of-a-kind special powers at a cost. He is also easily the best character in the game, being a trigger happy gun with the voice of a street thug and a tendency to make vulgar comments. Not only is he a reliable ally in battle, he is also great foil to the calm and serious Rick, who is fond of threatening to throw Bale into saltwater. Talking guns are always great, and they are probably my favorite aspect of the story.
Selma Fortenmayer is the main heroine, and a candidate for the next dragon newt Mystic One. Ever since a particular incident from her childhood, she has become a “Lacker,” meaning that she is unable to fully transform into her dragon form and can only spread dragon wings from her human form. Being young, inexperienced, and a Lacker (which are often discriminated against by other dragon newts) on top of all that, she is very unpopular a Mystic One candidate. In private, Selma is a teasing ojou-sama with a strong emphasis on the teasing aspect.
Valeria Foster is an elf mage-in-training who looks like a loli despite being the same age as Selma. She is from a former noble family and Selma’s long-time friend. With a sweet and friendly personality, Valeria is generally pleasant to be around and subject to plenty of teasing. Her unwavering resolve makes her rather likable, even if her route was lacking.
Watarase Yuki is Valeria’s human butler who wields a bastard sword. She graduated from butler school at the top of her class and became Valeria’s butler three years ago. Despite her abilities, she is actually a doting butler who sticks to her ojou-sama like glue, and easily panics. Being a skilled swordsman, Yuki could have had a lot of awesome, hot-blooded fights, but alas her potential was not realized and her obsession with her ojou-sama got old fast in the slice-of-life scenes.
Alfred Arrowsmith is Rick’s twin brother who serves Sid Fortenmayer, the other candidate for Mystic One. He is perfect at everything he does, loyal to his master, and prepared to become enemies with Rick under any circumstances. Honestly, I found him terribly boring.
Luda Grefind is Alfred’s prideful talking magic gun and serves the same function as Bale. While she sounds much more refined and serious, she is the same thing as Bale and has some of that trigger happiness. The two guns are at heads with each other, naturally. Despite usually being full of harsh words, Luda has her deredere moments (mostly towards Alfred), and is the best girl. Tsundere gun >>>>> main heroines. 銃なのに萌えるよ！よ、嫁にしたい…
There are a large amount of sub characters that are also pretty fun to see. Overall, I’d say the supporting cast is much more interesting than the main heroines, and one of the most entertaining characters to watch is a certain eccentric hobo-looking guy with a death scythe. Hope is also hilariously flamboyant and makes the slice-of-life scenes good, but doesn’t get a lot of screentime. The heroines don’t get enough cool fights, and the dudes usually end up taking the spotlight in the important battles. Of the three main heroines I like Selma the best since she is a teasing ojou-sama and has her cool moments in the political battlefield. She also gets the most cool moments.
I didn’t like 中央東口’s female character designs before, and I like them even less here. Honestly, the dudes are better drawn than the girls. There is always something wrong with how he draws boobs unless they are flat. Thankfully most of the CGs look better than the standing portraits (since there are more CGs of dudes than girls), but unfortunately the latter are what you are seeing most of the time. Enjoy your large foreheads.
As expected of Propeller, there are lots of flashy animated special effects like magic circles and gunshots. There are also a lot of CGs and cut-ins, and overall a lot of things that make the experience more cinematic.
Music isn’t really to my taste aside from one or two tracks used in climaxes, and maybe one of the sentimental tracks. Like usual, stuff fits the atmosphere but isn’t particularly memorable.
Bullet Butlers had an ambitious setting, but the plot and emotions are lacking, and the fight scenes are flashy but lack the “burning” feeling. I got more fired up for the opening sequence than I did for the rest of the game. The pacing was slow and the plot was all over the place, trying to build up on too many plot points and failing to pull off the epic finale that it tries to hype up for. Talking guns made up for it, but they clearly needed more moments in the spotlight. The heroines are overshadowed by the support characters. The overall cast was alright, but not particularly likable outside of muh talking guns. More things need talking weapons.
Also, the PSP port is the shittiest port I’ve had the honor of playing. The Ayakashibito port played great so I wonder what the hell happened here. Not that it matters because no one else cares about ported galge anyway.