It’s been a while since I’ve played, let alone fully completed a moege. An ordinary school-life moege, at that too! Needless to say, this has satisfied my gakuen moege itch for quite a while and I don’t think I will finish one again in the near future unless there’s some sort of catch or interesting twist to it. If I had to describe my experience playing this, it would be like eating a wedding cake whole, by myself. At first it sounds sweet and tempting, and it is kind of fun, but you’ll be full and sick of it after eating the first level of the normally 3-tier cake (give or take some depending on the capacity of your stomach).
Uryuu Shingo’s Kagami Academy is to be merged with Yuihime Academy, an all-girls school with an elegant, high-class, lady-like atmosphere. Shingo, his little sister, and his friend are a part of the group chosen to form a test class at Yuihime, which will mix students from both schools to try and have them get along. Unfortunately, the Yuihime students aren’t so keen on their school becoming co-ed, especially Sena Airi, the school’s top student and the principal’s daughter.
The common route is well-paced in having the guys slowly fit in with the Yuihime girls, forming a fun group dynamic amongst Shingo and the heroines. The comedy, despite being typical on paper, works very well in bringing the group together. This was the most enjoyable part of the game, and persists for a bit into the individual heroine routes.
Later on, the story starts becoming tedious. The routes consist of loads and loads of icha^2 stuffed in between various degrees of tiring and uninteresting drama. While Airi’s route had well-paced character development for both the heroine and the protagonist and was generally nicely done, the same cannot be said for the other routes. Sakuno’s story was a plausible development considering her status as the little sister, but it ended up being too typical and resolved before the incest-but-not-actually-incest issue could be milked to an entertaining degree. Miu’s route was poorly paced and developed the relationship between Shingo and Sana better than with the route’s heroine herself (and it was also really long). Ange’s route was perhaps the most drama-free and plain ol’ comedy and icha^2 all the way through, but also feels rather out of place with the other routes.
In the PSP version, there are additional routes for Sana and Yutsuki. While the former was to be expected since she was extremely popular and in all honesty, should have gotten a route in the original, the latter really didn’t feel like a heroine and instead creates a strange emptiness by being entirely absent in all the other routes. She disappears past several scenes in the common route, and never makes an appearance outside her own route, which in turn makes it seem obviously tacked-on. As for Sana’s route, I liked the subplot with the little brother, but the whole “I’m not good enough to be your girlfriend” segment was infuriating.
Stuff happened, but they failed to make me care.
A fan of toothache-inducing levels of icha^2 and fluffy romance would probably enjoy this game much more than I did, and I admit that my tolerance for standard moege-level school drama is probably very low. It doesn’t help that the story is much longer than one would expect. Unfortunately, I failed to really be charmed by the characters, which in turn reduced my ability to really get immersed into their problems. While Airi was fun when being the tsun in the tsundere, I wasn’t fond of how she completely mellowed out to become a melting puddle for the protagonist. Come to think of it, most of the heroines become rather similar to each other upon turning fully dere, making them lose some of what made them so fun at first.
The protagonist himself is also an unusual case. Initially, I wasn’t fond of him for appearing to be perfect and ~not like the other boys~ according to the girls initially against the merger. Then it turns out that he really doesn’t like ruining the atmosphere, and therefore pays careful attention to what he says and does, just to please others and retain an overall pleasant mood. He changes himself to the pace of others, making him a good contrast against Airi, whose strong will and elegance naturally pulls other to her pace. This issue is dealt with better in some routes than others. It’s the most obnoxious in Sana’s route, where he appears to be a flawless guy who could do no wrong, but that’s also kind of the point given Sana’s insecurity and interpretation of him. Overall, while Shingo’s “flaw” is a neat idea, it wasn’t explored well enough to really be interesting.
Despite all my complaints, I’d have to give Mashiro-Iro Symphony for actually trying to develop its characters and being made with effort and heart. Rather than going through every single route, I recommend just picking one or two of your favorite heroines to go for. Otherwise it is extremely easy to burn out.
The visuals and audio are of high quality, with a distinct soundtrack befitting of an elegant ojou-sama school and highly appealing character designs albeit with rather obvious sameface. The coloring is really nice, and so is the composition most of the time, but there are a good deal of awkward anatomy issues in some of the HCG now that I go back and look, and also a number of off-model pieces. Breasts also look unnatural, but that’s nothing new when it comes to eroge. There are some really good CGs with excellent coloring to balance things out, and at the end the good far outweigh the bad.
In all honesty, I was probably needlessly harsh on this game and downright nitpicking in some parts. But hey, what else are you supposed to do when you play a moege you don’t care for? Lesson learnt: don’t play all the routes. If you aren’t hungry for more after two routes, you will probably just dislike the game more as you force yourself on.