Originally a PC eroge, it got a Vita port with some rewritten parts, new CGs, and removal of ero. I never actually played the PC release, so I can’t make any comparisons. Writing a review nearly a month after finishing it is also a terrible idea.
Nanami Yukito acquires a new job at a tea shop called Forest of Fairytales, run by storybook author Furumiya Mai, only to receive a wooden box delivered to his workplace. Inside the box was a girl named Saki with unnatural red eyes and silver hair, dressed like she was in Alice in Wonderland-themed cosplay, and asking him how many loops it has been. Upon his confused reaction, she explains to him that his Wheel of Fate has gone mad, he is fated to die in seven days, and all those involved in this particular “wheel” are in danger as well.
The whole concept of “fate” is that everyone within the “wheel” shares a certain amount of fortune. If someone’s fortune decreases, another’s increases. The game incorporates the setting into a unique gameplay mechanic where the player is able to see Yukito’s and each heroine’s fortune amounts, and can manipulate them through choices. The choice system is also rather innovative, in that rather than selecting from a few specified options, you get access to a huge bank of keywords acquired throughout the story. When the time comes, you can throw out a keyword to steer the conversation in a particular direction or see differing scenes. Depending on the situation, the game will also let you get by without using a keyword. Sometimes the keywords lead to alternate scenes/bad ends, sometimes they only alter the fortunes of certain characters, and at other times you cannot proceed until you use the correct keyword.
I suggest trying to play at first without a guide, although it can get rather frustrating because it’s an automatic game over if Yukito’s or one of the heroines’ fortunes drop to zero. Letting someone’s fortune drop to zero equals letting them die. The only form of saving is the autosave at the beginning of each scene, so there is no save scumming allowed and you can’t just save and reload repeatedly to make the optimal choice. Instead, you get the option to jump back to parts of the story you have already seen, at the cost of some of Yukito’s fortune, to redo your choices. Letting a heroine die will send you back to the beginning of the current group of scenes (with the heroine’s fortune recovered), and letting Yukito die will send you to the beginning of the game (with his fortune recovered, as well). The frustration comes from having to keep jumping back to the scene you were at before someone dying, as it can get annoying quick. The keyword system can also get pretty difficult, if only because even if you know approximately what you should make Yukito do, you could convey it in several trains of thoughts, with maybe one of them that actually involves the keyword the game is looking for. Either that, or I’m just too dumb for words.
As you may have guessed from how the system works, the game is mostly linear in its story progression. Mostly, that is, as there are occurrences where you have to jump around and go back to a point in the past to proceed. Perhaps “linear” was a terrible way to describe it, because the progression of time is more circular rather than linear, for Yukito at least. It’s a loop game, after all.
While the first loop is long and filled with slice-of-life scenes that are hardly enjoyable, it also establishes relatively quickly the danger Yukito is in and that someone is after him. It plays out like a slow, cliched horror where you know someone is after you at night, but never physically confronts you. At the end of the first week is when the story picks up its pacing and also takes an unexpected turn. It breaks almost all the things it set up in the first loop, and spells out Saki as the main heroine so clearly that it becomes difficult to view anyone else as a romantic interest, as Yukito becomes an “ends justifies the means” guy in order to save her.
Since it’s a loop game, there are no routes for the other heroines like Hitoha and Wakana, but rather, loops dedicated to them. In the Vita version with the ero removed, any romantic relationships developed with the other heroines are depicted as one-sided from the heroine’s side, with the protagonist only having Saki on his mind and mostly seeing the others as tools and stepping stones for him to reach her. The usually “romantic” moments like kiss scenes bring upon discomfort as you know what Yukito is really thinking. The unexpected take with making the childhood friend and kouhai into disposable plot devices was acceptable, until the end where the game introduces fluffy, romantic endings as if the protagonist had genuine romantic feelings for them. It felt rather half-baked, as if they had to include such endings for them because this is an eroge.
On the flip side, unlike Hitoha and Wakana, Saki and Mitsuki got the better ends of the stick as far as writing and relevance go. The downfall for eroge featuring one true heroine tends to be that the main girl sucks, which fortunately is not the case as far as Furuiro goes. Saki is initially bossy, brutally honest, and speaks with a a speech pattern closer to a yakuza boss than a high school girl, but is also sharp and logical, and as strict on herself as she is on others. While bossy heroines are hardly a rarity in eroge, Saki is highly consistent and retains all of her traits even when going “dere,” creating a very natural development of relationship. She may be strict, but she is also level-headed and doesn’t just lash out at him for everything he does. A good example of her character is when Yukito walks in on her in the bath: she admits that it’s her fault for not replying when he knocked on the door, and calmly requests him to leave, rather than sending him a flying item with yells of “pervert!” like one would expect. She is also a formidable ally, and manages to avoid many of the typical traits associated with her character archetype (which, in itself, is an early spoiler). It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this a Saki-ge, because rather than the true heroine, it wouldn’t be wrong to see her as the sole heroine.
Mitsuki is the delinquent senpai who loves her little sister and is always at the butt of siscon jokes. The story does some cool things with her. To avoid going too far into spoiler territory, I’ll just leave it here that she is more akin to a second protagonist rather than secondary heroines like Hitoha and Wakana. Also ended up being a better “bro” than the two guys who solely existed to fill the “bro character” roles. I almost considered playing the PC version too, just to see how they handled her ero-scenes.
While the story is gripping and an interesting ride, the writing is rough around the edges and fails to inject enough emotion into the text for the player to synchronize with Yukito’s feelings and thought processes that led to some of his actions. The bloody scenes are tacky, and the abstract sci-fi and metaphysical concepts fluctuated between neat and shady as hell. Eroge featuring loops and time jumps tend to the same concepts in a similar way, although using the concept of Qualia is quite unusual and could have been more skillfully executed. The Alice in Wonderland themes were stuffed in for the sake of being there (and for Saki’s character design). The pacing is all over the place too, and there is this one tediously annoying part where you get booted back to the beginning and have to redo a bunch of scenes because the game takes away a huge chunk of the flow chart. Skip read text still works, but skipping is slow and you still have to make your keyword selections. There were several points where it went dangerously close into trainwreck territory, but I guess it worked out in the end.
Visuals & Audio
Music is not that great, and it’s been like a month so I don’t remember much about it except that it failed to leave a lasting impression. Let’s just leave it there for now.
The character designs looks great…at first. Everyone looks pleasing to the eye, until you meet Hitoha and her atrocious palette choice and casual clothes. Few of the actual in-game CGs look as nice as the cover, and most of the eye-pleasing CGs are reserved for Saki. The artist(s) also need a lesson in perspective, since almost all the good CGs are good because they use a frontal view. Saki and Mai got the best character designs. The newly-added CGs for the Vita version look nicer than the rest in comparison, but there were used in pretty pointless places that didn’t really need one.
I was planning to be harsher with this game, but I enjoyed it decently enough and it’s been a month so I remember the good parts more than my complaints. It lacks polish and has lots of room for improvement, but also does enough interesting things for me to want to see the author write more eroge. The system was frustrating but also kind of a cool idea. Since it’s basically a Saki-ge with a dose of Mitsuki, how much one likes the main heroine is probably proportional to his enjoyment of the game. Saki leaves a bitter first impression, and fans of deredere heroines will probably be severely shafted because Mai isn’t one. I mean, the two most important heroines are ones who react calmly to Yukito walking in on them in the bath/changing.
There’s also a mysterious heroine with red twintails, also known as the best hair. Red twintails >>>>> blonde twintails, but few share my sentiment.