Looks like I’ve been on schedule with my New Year’s Resolution to finish off some PSP games. This time, it’s 11eyes Crossover, the CS port of a 2008 eroge. Included in Crossover is Tsumi to Batsu to Aganai no Shoujo, which is the main scenario that this review will cover, and an additional original scenario with a new cast in the same setting that I’ll probably write about later on. Expect some pretty conventional chuu2 plot devices.
Ever since his older sister committed suicide, Satsuki Kakeru has lived with the realization that the world is imperfect, and spends his days living an empty life where he mostly keeps to himself and his childhood friend Yuka. Living his days without purpose, everything changes one day when the sky turns red, the moon is dyed an ominous black, and all humans other than himself and Yuka suddenly vanished. Pursued by strange monsters, they are saved by an upperclassman from their school who is also capable of experiencing the red night. They head toward the ‘source’ of the phenomenon, only to find a girl trapped inside a crystal, calling for help, and six Black Knights who guard the area.
The Black Knights want Kakeru and co. dead, and are clearly strong enough to realize their goal. However, before the protagonists are wiped out, their foes vanish and the red night reverts back to their everyday scenery. The red night is actually some sort of high-level magic, but it seems to come and go at random times and not to the will of the villains. There are a total of six people who experience the red night, the majority of who have some sort of supernatural power, and they must band together and fend off the Black Knights who attack them every time they show up, while digging deeper into the mystery surrounding the Black Knights and the girl in the crystal.
While the story structure and setting are pretty much textbook chuu2 fare with a seemingly ordinary protagonist who suddenly gets pulled into a world of magic and danger, I happen to have a massive itch for the genre so it ended up being absorbing even when it doesn’t do anything exceptionally. The setting is rather basic, but it does have enough meat to quickly absorb the reader into the mystery of the red nights and the story behind the Black Knights. There is a strong focus on various forms of magic with both Eastern and Western concepts going on in the background, but the protagonist never really steps foot into that so his battles are the least interesting to watch. The rate at which information in revealed to the reader ensures that he is never at the edge of his seat for too long, as most foreshadowing done in the plot is rather obvious and the reveals are sensical and in line with the foreshadowing.
The two major downfalls of 11eyes are its snail-paced beginning sequences and its lack of difference between its four routes. While most works in the genre tend to begin slowly with some slice-of-life before the “real deal” stuff comes in full swing, 11eyes stands out for taking a long time to even gather the characters that make the SOL segments remotely entertaining. Kakeru starts out as an isolated person who only hands out with Yuka, who doesn’t provide any interesting or entertaining conversations, and classmates Tadashi and Saori, who never have any plot relevance and tend to come off as forced rather than funny reliefs. This improves when the entirety of the main group is gathered and more entertaining characters join the conversations.
The first playthrough will take a long time, and surprisingly, answers most of the questions and reveals the truth behind all but a few mysteries. The ending is quite satisfying, and as you prepare to read through another heroine’s route in anticipation of different story development and battles, you will scratch your head as to why this other heroine’s route is the exact same thing except for a few scenes regarding the heroine in question at the end. There is a substantial amount of common scripts; the different text between each route amounts to ~20 minutes not including the ero. There is one heroine who can be seen as the true ending as she is the final unresolved mystery and comes with her own epilogue that can be selected from the main menu after clearing her route, but the story is otherwise an entirely straight path with the exact same battles, character deaths, and outcomes regardless of which heroine you choose.
The writing is the most fun to read during the red night sequences, but anything outside of that isn’t very strong. The theme of friendship is great in theory with the circumstances of the characters who form the group, but the execution could have been so much more. It’s a shame because I’m a sucker for the power of friendship. There were a couple of cool battles here and there, none of which involve the protagonist. Kakeru’s battles were quite dull, even the final boss fight. There were also some plot points revealed near the end that I wish got more detailed explanations and closures. Also, the antagonists are deeply involved with the more interesting parts of the setting, while most of the protagonists never really step into that territory and are only really focused on the red night.
The main group of 6 is a standard, but enjoyable bunch, with the exception of Yuka. The antagonists had potential, but only one of them got adequate development. Side characters were mostly forgettable and failed to really make an impact, but the best character design belongs to one.
Our protagonist is Satsuki Kakeru, who has heterochromia and wears an eyepatch over his golden right eye. He lives his days vacantly, only really bothering to interact with his childhood friend and the grand total of two people who actually try to initiate conversations with him. He quickly grows out of this state once the plot starts going, and instead becomes a hardworking guy with a strong resolve to protect Yuka under the red sky even if that’s all he can do. His constant desire to improve himself makes that part of him quite likable, but he lacks the shining moments a chuu2-ge protagonist needs, and path to gaining power wasn’t very satisfying to watch. A decent guy, but fails to land a lasting impression.
Minase Yuka is Kakeru’s childhood friend who is obviously in love with him since the beginning. When it comes to this type of plot, the childhood friend character usually plays a special role as the symbol of the protagonist’s formerly peaceful daily life. In Muv-Luv, Sumika was associated with the original world that Takeru came from, and it was dreams of her that kept him going. In Dies Irae, Kasumi was the “sun” who represented Ren’s precious nichijou that he wished would continue forever, but sticking to her resolved nothing. Yuka’s presence inspires Kakeru to grow stronger and survive through the red nights, but she is also one of the worst childhood friends I have had the honor of meeting.
Throughout the story, Kakeru opens up to others, makes friends, and generally becomes more pleasant and social. While this should be a good thing, Yuka only wants to return to the days when his world consisted of only him and her. On the very first red night, Yuka said that she would be fine with a world where only he and her existed, and she sticks by that to the end. She resents Kakeru’s development as it only seems to distance him from herself, and his increase in social interactions are seen as others stealing him from her. Yuka is not only a remnant of Kakeru’s vacant life, but her true thoughts reveal that she entirely rejects Kakeru’s growth throughout the story. She dislikes his desire to grow stronger (even if it’s for her sake) as that means he has to interact more with another girl. When he decides to face the red night seriously, she only wishes for him to return to their days before and give her undivided attention.
While Yuka’s character may be understandable and perhaps even realistic given her circumstances, her lack of development and ultimate accumulation into a rage-inducing act made it difficult to forgive. I thought she was going to get better when she, too, began to desire for the strength to protect her beloved Kakeru, but that lasted a short while and never went anywhere. Her general uselessness in battle until her powers awaken as a deus ex machina, overall lack of contribution to the group and selfish fixation on Kakeru don’t add to her likability in my eyes. Perhaps she would have made a rather interesting and fascinating character at the hands of a more skilled writer, but the level of character writing only goes as far as a B-grade eroge.
Kusakabe Misuzu is the senpai who saves Kakeru and Yuka during the red night, and the first other human they meet. She is a skilled onmyouji from the Kusakabe clan, and has strong pride in her lineage. She possesses all five of her clan’s sacred swords, acquired through fair victory over their original owners. While her strength is genuine, this also proves to be a tough time for the Kusakabe clan when a mere teenage girl has all the sacred swords. The branch families constantly send shikigami after her out of contempt, and she ran off from the main house to Kakeru’s town to gain some peace and quiet. There is no question that Misuzu has plenty of issues regarding her family, and she holds similarities with Kakeru in that her life was feeling aimless until the red night dawned and she gained a reason to fight.
Being the strict and composed leader of the group, she is also stubborn and full of pride when it comes to matters outside battle. So of course, Misuzu is adorable when flustered. In contrary to her cool upperclassman image, she is unknowledgeable about the outside world that doesn’t involve Japanese mythology or magic, and has the air of a clueless ojou-sama at times. Best hair color (red hair is the hair of heroes!) + cool exterior but kind and delicate interior + swordsman + best fight scenes + flashy incantations pretty much guarantees her the spot of best girl in my eyes. It can’t be helped, all my weak points were hit. Swords and incantations are excellent. Although magic is prominent in the background and central to the plot, Misuzu is the only one in the main cast who really uses recognizable magic as an onmyouji.
Hirohara Yukiko is an underclassman who happens to be the new employee at Kakeru’s part-time job and has a seemingly endless supply of energy. She is cute and funny, and happens to be the moodmaker of the group. Her tendency to be silly persists even in times of danger, creating a dissonant scene. The truth is, the always-joking, endlessly-energetic Yukiko is but a personality created by a form of self-hypnosis that takes form when her glasses are equipped. When the specs come off, the real Yukiko surfaces as a merciless killing machine whose sole emotion appears to be a silent murderous intent. Although a dangerous ally, she is no doubt an invaluable asset in battle. Her unstoppable energy and motormouth combined with her interesting past makes her my second favorite heroine, even if her involvement in the final segments were disappointing.
The interesting thing with Yukiko is that if you’re not going for her route, she will end up with Takahisa. In fact, she and Takahisa have a certain chemistry that just isn’t replicable with Kakeru, and their mutual understanding combined with Takahisa’s very genuine feelings make them a much better pairing than with the protagonist. Even in her route, it is ultimately Takahisa who helps her get over her issues with her past and her conflicting personalities, and it feels strange when they don’t end up together.
Tachibana Kukuri is arguably the true heroine, with the most mysteries and an additional epilogue to explain them. She is a mute third-year student who communicates with a sketchbook and has no memories of the first 13 years of her life. Her defining feature is that she looks exactly like Kakeru’s older sister before her death. Then there’s also the matter of
her Persona the materialization of her soul into the shape of a bondage angel named Abraxas, which has healing powers and the ability to form chains. She uses it to fight in battle, but nobody knows how it really works.
While Kukuri is mysterious and arguably the most important to the plot, it is difficult to get a feel for her true character since her communication is limited to her sketchbook and there weren’t many scenes from her point of view. She is established as the kind senpai, but is otherwise sort of vague until the end.
Tajima Takahisa is the final member of the main group, and is also the only other guy. He has control over fire, but his power is rather basic compared to the combat-trained and infinitely-reviving Yukiko and Misuzu’s magical swords. He’s also skilled at fist-fighting due to constantly getting into fights around town. While he is pretty much a delinquent who hardly ever shows up to class, he first meets Kakeru by saving him and Yuka from a bunch of street punks and calls himself a hero off justice. He is always found eating something (and his sprites actually change according to the food he eats, and there are a lot of variations), and is also a pervert as expected from the male friend character. He has a long and complicated relationship with the school’s sleazy nurse, but eventually falls for Yukiko.
The music is, on a whole, quite good. The OST is more on the dynamic side, and both the sentimental tracks and battle music are fitting and well done. While they may not be particularly memorable since the entire game on a whole doesn’t do much to be exceptionally distinguishing and the music only serves to reflect that, they are very pleasant to listen to. The only track I don’t like is the “suspenseful” music that plays during some parts of the red night, and it ends up much more annoying than suspenseful.
The art I found to me too moege-like and not fierce enough for the tone of the VN and most of the scenes, but the character designs for the girls do look quite nice, if generic. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for males (most noticeable in their standing portraits), especially the middle-aged ones. The proportions for adult males look all sorts of off. Loads of CGs are reused for battles, but that’s pretty much expected of the genre. Backgrounds are standard fare.
I can’t say I didn’t enjoy 11eyes, even with all the things I had to say about it. It was typical, but fun and scratched my chuuni itch. I liked most of the main cast and took enough interest in the setting and antagonists to thoroughly get invested in the story. Highly likely that I will play the fandisk. Those looking for different plot development between the routes will be disappointed, but if you’re tired of 燃えゲ with multi-route mysteries that like to give your preferred heroines the bad/early routes, you’d probably appreciate the fact that every heroine gets the same, complete story.