It’s not often that you get an otome game with a gripping story and setting that has some thought put into it, so I was pleasantly surprised when Code:Realize turned out to be good the whole way through. Especially considering that it’s from Idea Factory, whose otome games failed to grab me before. It’s like they actually put effort into it, and managed to avoid a lot of developments common to the genre that I never liked.
The story starts off with Cardia, a girl whose entire body exudes a mysterious poison that corrodes anything it comes in contact with. In the place of a beating human heart, she has a gem on her chest that seems to be the source of the poison. The gem is called the Horologium, which is said to be able to generate an almost infinite amount of energy and was created by her father, a missing scientist said to be a revolutionary genius that transformed London into the steampunk city it now is. She awoke inside an abandoned mansion with no memories other than her father telling her that she is a “monster” who must be alone for the rest of her life, and that she must not know love. Living her days alone inside a mansion, the game kicks off with the British army breaking in to capture a “monster” created by her missing father, and Cardia getting rescued mid-mission by the self-proclaimed gentleman thief Arsene Lupin.
Cardia decides to search for her father with Lupin, who also has business to take care of with the missing genius. Their base of operations is one of the many mansions of a shady French earl who took our heroes in because they seem “interesting,” and they have to not only search for Cardia’s father, but also avoid letting the British government’s top-secret military unit (“Tasogare”) get a hold of her. Lurking under the romantic-looking steam engines of London are government conspiracies and the dark secrets of alchemy. Throw in vampires that aren’t quite like the traditional definition of vampires, and you have a setting that might seem like a mess that tries to include too much, but surprisingly works.
The common route contains a variety of operations, from attacking a train to try and kidnapping the Tasogare’s boss, to catching a bounty who plans on stealing from a black auction, to partaking in a black airship race. The individual routes each deal with a different side of the setting and enemies, all accumulating to a true route (Lupin’s). The initial four routes each have a different side of the story surrounding London to tell, managing to keep each route fresh. They range from dealing with flat, cliched villains with a textbook-level goal, to revealing a whole new background that is reminiscent of the Kiseki series of RPGs. The writers actually put effort into crafting a world that one can easily get absorbed into, and even if the story developments can be predictable, the tempo of the plot is quick enough to keep the reader engaged while leaving enough room for comedic, relaxing moments. The heroine is calm and composed, quickly becoming capable in both survival and battle.
My primary complaint falls with the antagonists, aside from the one in Saint’s route. Even when their actions are technically justified, the way they were presented was just so lacking that their monologues were anything but convincing. Memorable villains in certain eroge had goals and logic that you would call flat-out insane in your head, yet their speeches had such charisma that you get absorbed into their twisted reasoning, nodding along to their monologues as you see the world through the hero’s eyes. In comparison, the only thing you’d think when faced with Code:Realize’s antagonists is is this guy fucking stupid or what? I’ll have to give the story credit for actually thinking things out in the final route, though. And, well, thinking things out in general, instead of sticking in dei ex machina left and right.
Lupin’s route is the finale that has to be unlocked, and not only deals with all the antagonists introduced, but also shines the light on the ultimate secrets. Things happened and all, but for what can be seen as the True route, it wasn’t as grandiose as it could have been, and the final villain and confrontation fell flat. But that’s ok, it’s an otome game after all, and not a not-blooded battle-ge. The fights were also better than the usual in otome games, and the dudes all have their cool moments (although some shone more than others). It’s a damn shame that none of them have any named 必殺 moves. Oh, and that stuff would be even cooler if they had 詠唱 to go along with them! Saint, at the least, would have been pretty fitting for an 詠唱 like in Paradise Lost, given his powerlevels and theme. A certain someone he fought in his route should have had an 詠唱 too! And hell, Van needed a 必殺 with a name written in Japanese but furigana in Latin or something…
Alright, let me stop there before I get carried away.
The main heroine, Cardia, begins off like a porcelain doll: beautiful, but emotionless to the point where she doesn’t care if she gets killed. Her common sense is lacking to say the least, and she easily gets lured by shady guys into a back alley. However, in contrary to what most people believe are the protagonists in the genre, she picks up abilities at incredible speed and becomes capable of knocking out military grunts in one hit by the middle of the game. She also learns to work with machines and gains lock-picking skills, and actually uses them effectively when she’s in a pinch. Way back when I was reading loads of manga, I often came across stories where the female lead was established as strong and capable, but never actually used her abilities in meaningful ways because the story needed to make room for the dashing bishounen to show off his coolness. Code:Realize lets its heroine use her skills to her advantage, and also manages to create situations that show off the guys’ awesome sides.
Aside from that, the way Cardia evolves from an emotionless doll to a girl who can love and swear to protect the one she loves is not only satisfying, but also incredibly natural. She has her good moments in each route, but I think she was the coolest in Saint’s and Impey’s routes.
Arsene Lupin is the main guy. He’s the one with the unlockable final route, and has the only route that truly solves everything. He proclaims himself a gentleman thief who steals for justice. A master of disguise and strategic retreats, he’s got a maxed out SPD stat. He is after Cardia’s missing dad, who seems to be central to a terror plan he is investigating. Has a rivalry with
Sherlock Holmes Herlock Sholmes, a master detective who seems to be capable of predicting his every move. This is played more for jokes than anything, as Sholmes often ends up as an ally.
Lupin is, as he claims, a gentleman who says main hero-like things and has absolute confidence in his ability. It’s easy to accept him as the main hero, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he manages to be the most popular as well. I wish they went further with the concept of justice that came up in his route, but I guess they didn’t really need to since there were more pressing matters at hand.
Abraham Van Helsing is based off of a character in Dracula, but in name only. He’s known as a human weapon, and was touted as the victorious hero in the Vampire Wars that ended two years ago with the massacre of the Vampire race and murder of their leader, Dracula. His introduction happens with him bursting into a lively event area, toting guns and firing shots like the hero of a Hollywood action movie. Later it is revealed that he only uses fake bullets that don’t kill anyone. Normally he is blunt and not very social, but eventually reveals a softer side. I’m glad he didn’t end up as a super template tsundere, but more of a subtle one. He’s also got the most appealing looks IMO. Dem glasses are cool. Also probably the highest ATK stat.
His route is the darkest in the game, providing enough suffering to make up for anyone that’s too happy. I’m glad they had one route that went that way, although you can’t help but feel terrible for the guy. There’s loads of angst thrown at the player, but the game doesn’t do it in a way that becomes irritating. Things turn out fine in the end, but he didn’t even get to kiss the girl.
Victor Frankenstein, or Fran for short, is the protagonist of the alchemy RPG Atelier Fran ~The Alchemist of London~. While his battle stats are low and he lacks physical endurance, he can synthesize medicine and bombs that are of utmost importance in battle. Like the typical Atelier protagonist, he is pure moe and — wait, he lacks a hat! Protagonist status withdrawn! He was the top alchemist for the court, but is now branded a terrorist because he has knowledge that the queen absolutely does not want to be leaked to foreign countries. He’s got a peaceful character, but can get fired up when synthesizing drugs. Is also super helpful in battle, throwing around explosives in test tubes.
Anyway, Fran is a qt and best boy. His route is also quite good, and he gets some really good moments in the the climax. I thought he shone there more so than any of the other heroes in their respective routes. More importantly he is qt.
Saint-Germain is a shady French earl who owns the mansion the party lives in. He appears to be gentlemanly and elegant, but very mysterious. It’s dead obvious that he hides his true powerlevel along with a bunch of secrets. I mean, he lets a bunch of abnormal characters live in his house simply because “it’s interesting,” and it doesn’t take long to see his adeptness in fighting.
As for his route, I initially hated it because it started off creepy as hell and went in the direction I definitely did not want to see this game going. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long, and the justification makes sense and you’ll end up actually feeling sorry for the guy because none of this is directly his fault. The latter half of his route actually ended up being one of my favorite thanks to its revelation of a huge setting that holds loads of potential for a very 中二 side story. This guy belongs in Kiseki or something. It’s too bad that most of the battles happened off-screen, and seeing the other 使徒 in his route would have been cool. Cardia was great in this route though, lock-picking like a boss (how I wish I learned those skills, my roommate locked himself out and the locksmith charged $135 for 10 minutes of work…) and standing up against one of the most powerful antagonists in the setting.
Impey Barbicane, like the guy from the novel he’s based off of, is a man who aims to reach the moon. He’s actually a genius engineer, but you would never be able to tell from his super casual personality that is more like a silly guy who tries to pick girls up on the street with a 1% success rate. He’s the guy driving the car, the helicopter, and the airship, and also the one who upgrades and maintains them. He seems to be on a search for something.
His route reveals the least and should probably be done first, if only because it felt somewhat duller than the other routes despite being just as eventful. The revelation about his identity felt unnecessary, but I liked his backstory. Reaching for the moon is 100% ロマン, and I’ve liked the theme ever since reading Himawari. Impey is the main comic relief, and it was great how Cardia was the most calm and composed here to balance it out.
They really went all-out here, with a bunch of lively tracks and beautiful CGs. The art is very polished and consistent. As expected of Idea Factory, a company that remembers to output nice stills and concept art even when their games have shit gameplay.
What catches my eye more than the characters, however, are the backgrounds. HNNNNNG DETAILED STEAMPUNK BACKGROUNDS HNNNNNNNG. Seriously, the details and colors are really nice. I could stare at the streets all day. The sci-fi places look great too.
Idea Factory outdid themselves here, I thoroughly enjoyed the game. The text was kind of..mechanical, for the lack of a better word. However, the story is well-paced and the characters are a fun bunch. The heroine is great, the heroes are likable, and the setting has several layers to it. The romance is nice too, without overpowering the main plot. I was afraid the steampunk setting would entirely go to waste, thank fucking god I was wrong.