Felshis is the follow up to Amatsukaze, and the next game in the Machina Chronicle series. It’s also the last game that Onikage wrote for, since Gears of Dragoon doesn’t have his involvement although it is technically in the series. We went from robots and high tech sex toys to a tale of ninjas avenging their fallen village, and now to an adventurer school setting in a fantasy world with dragons and dungeons. Yes it is still the same world.
Felshis starts many generations after the end of Amatsukaze, presumably the Sayo end. Ryuukoku has started crawling out of its isolationist shell, and as it turns out, humans with supernatural powers is the norm rather than the outcasts they were made to be. The game is set in Voromia Academy, the top school for educating adventurers, a licensed profession that trades instable income and dangerous situations for the ability to easily cross country borders.
The setting is a full-blown JRPG style fantasy, with multiple races like elves, part-dragon people, winged and horned races that borrow the angel/demon motif but are actually in good relations with each other, and more. 30 years ago, there was a massive war that engulfed the entire world. The opponent was a massive dragon, and it took all of humanity pulling together and people arriving from the Moon with advanced technology to defeat it. The people from the Moon, now dubbed the Luna race, transformed their ship into a giant robot in order to defeat the dragon, and are now stuck on Earth. While the effects of the war still remain 30 years later, the event has only brought the various countries and races closer together. The Luna and Gaia races mix with ease, and the robots (Machina) the Lunarians brought with them are working towards becoming human through the power of 秘石 (see Fam route in Eve). The remains of dragons, buried deep underground, are valuable resources that fuel the technology used in the world today that also turns animals monstrous. Monsters now run rampant, digging dungeons to reach the dragon’s remains, and adventurers crawl through dungeons for the same purpose.
The story follows Abel as he starts his adventuring school life. Coming from Amatsukaze, there is a huge difference in the overall setting and tone of the work. It’s probably a difference more extreme than the transition from Eve –> Amatsukaze, as Felshis is even sillier and more lighthearted than Eve. It embraces absolutely every cliche from romantic comedy school eroge, including the protagonist falling face first into a girl’s breasts on the first day of school and having his first dungeon exploration partner fall with her crotch in his face. There’s an event where the guys are trying to peak on the girls’ swimming lesson in P.E. and end up having to speedrun through a dungeon in a camaraderie formed by the desire to see girls in swimsuits (this scene also reveals an interesting tidbit about Juuzou, a guy from Ryuukoku whose last name should be recognizable to anyone who has played Eve and Amatsukaze). Felshis is so ridiculously silly at times that the third-person narration makes jabs at Abel in a way that only omake staff comments would. This is where you really appreciate the third-person narration, since the distance it puts between the player and characters cause the events to be genuinely hilarious rather than cringeworthy.
The majority of the game is a fantasy high school story that deals with school events and student-like adolescent struggles, but some ways down it starts recapping Machina no Kiseki, the game before Eve, and completely plunges itself into the series’ sci-fi roots. For someone who has played Eve, it’s like sitting through the “lost ancient civilization with advanced technology” plot point commonly found in JRPGs, except you’ve seen and experienced the beginning of that ancient civilization first-hand. You also get to see a bit of the stuff “inbetween” during an arc where the party finds a golem in the ruins of a city underground, revealing a time where humans had to live under a closed dome. Felshis also shows the grand setting from a global viewpoint, which is a pleasant contrast to Amatsukaze’s extremely narrow focus.
The cool thing about the series is that small nods between entries easily fuel your speculation as to what happened in between even if they are not directly shown. Particularly, Tierra’s route and the effects of 秘石 in Fam’s route are important in hindsight, with the latter being a key part in the scenes leading up to the climax in Felshis’ true route. Machina no Kiseki also seems to be quite important, so I guess I’ll have to play it one of these days (it’s old and under West Vision).
As for Felshis itself, it doesn’t reach the heights of Eve or Amatsukaze in writing. It expands on the setting a lot, but the core storytelling is quite rough. The individual character arcs can be pretty good and there were a couple of nice scenes involving Rola, as well as the Abel vs. Alyusha battle at the festival and the stuff later on (I got sad in the golem arc, and was genuinely hyped when a certain place from Eve shows up), but overall it doesn’t have the unity of Amatsukaze and the writing ends up feeling a lot more clumsy. Felshis tells the story of a group of students doing things at an academy with experienced adults looking after them, so in a sense the Eve/Amatsukaze –> Felshis transition mirrors my experience with Sora/Ao no Kiseki –> Sen II. You get a grander view of the setting, but also feel less focused and accomplished in the meantime. The game lasted 80+ hours due to the gameplay, but it has less actual text than the previous games (compared to normal DRPGs it has a lot of text and long scenes, though). Nothing compares to the climatic battles in Eve or the 神畏 scene in Amatsukaze, though there are some really good parts in the final chapter that are amplified if you are familiar with Eve and Amatsukaze. The climax where Eternal Gear (clicking may ruin the surprise) started playing certainly made everything worth it. I can’t deny that Felshis was very entertaining due to the system and the over the top silliness, but it’s a game that definitely shines as a compliment to Eve and Amatsukaze. As a bonus, it sheds a lot of light on the state of the world, including 武国, which had been an interesting point to me ever since its mention in Amatsukaze. Also, the heroines didn’t stand out to me as much as Galvani, the best elf teacher.
It’s a normal fantasy gakuenmono most of the time, but the time when it isn’t is where you need experience of the previous games to appreciate. I guess the major problem with the Machina Chronicle series as it stands now is that its setting is far too grand and ambitious for Ninetail to fully realize it through actual games (eroge, at that). The most exciting parts of the timeline are still mentioned only in passing, and you don’t see any of the giant mecha vs. dragon fight that still deeply affects the world. The stories and setting would probably be more appreciated by console JRPG fans, but the way the games are told are also inseparable from the ero (Felshis is probably the most “normal” of the bunch with 30 very ordinary h-scenes). There are many moments in the Machina Chronicle timeline that would be cool to see in an actual game, but executing them well would require Ninetail to have enough budget to hire their own janitors.
Fitting for the setting, Felshis is a full-blown dungeon RPG with a turn-base battle system and skill trees for each character. The game gives you complete control over skill point distribution, as you can reset and rebuild a character as much as you want outside of the dungeon. Building a character properly is far more important than levels, and being able to reset and screw up as much as you want is a great thing when most console DRPGs like to make you pay or completely restart if you want to redistribute skill points. The dungeons are kind of unremarkable and low budget; walking and turning is instantaneous so crawling through the dungeons in first person feels extremely awkward. You get used to it eventually, but a lot of stuff that came out before Felshis (i.e. Rance VI) give much smoother dungeon crawling experiences. But a neat thing about the visuals is that character chibis in the style of Eve/Amatsukaze’s appear on screen to perform attacks despite battles being first-person with still enemy portraits. This makes the battles much more visually engaging than most console first-person dungeon RPGs that don’t bother with player character animations at all.
The balancing is rough in places too, like the school battle tournament that ends with a difficult fight you need to win for the true ending, or level 50 enemies in a level ~90 area that give more exp than the level 90+ enemies. I guess you can say that the entire game is pretty rough, but at the same time the various systems and how they work together make it a fun game to play even if it’s rather unpolished. There’s a good variety in skills and team combinations, and it’s always cool to see a game where buffs/debuffs and status effects can be extremely deadly to the player’s benefit.
The 演出 has, understandably, leveled down from Amatsukaze because the staff probably can’t afford to be crazy with ninja moves a second time, but what really shows how rushed Felshis was is the quality of the art. The game came out in 2010, but the art looks worse than Eve’s (2006). Neither are examples of stellar art, but Ninetail’s in-house artists can actually do a lot better than their work in Felshis. Just take a look at the Venus Blood series — VB Desire (2009) and Empire (2010) look a lot better with much more polished CGs, even if the artists’ 癖 still stand out. A quick glance at the more recent Venus Blood Hypno and Gaia show that the in-house team is actually quite good nowadays. Of course, VB is Ninetail’s bestselling series so it’s inevitable that Felshis got the short end of the stick, but art that didn’t make it look a decade older than it actually is would help with sales. Since the whole series is very chuuni and reliant on flashy battle descriptions, Felshis’ art really stands out in a bad way.
The music is very well done, even if lacking the outstanding SSH tracks from Amatsukaze. I overall prefer the 和風 tracks from the latter, but Felshis’ soundtrack is definitely a pleasure to listen to.
Felshis works a lot worse as a standalone game than Eve or even Amatsukaze, so it’s highly recommended (heck, necessary) to play those two beforehand. It expands a lot on the setting and works as glue that ties the previous games together, and many good moments would be missed if you don’t have context from having played at least Eve and Amatsukaze. I’m more than willing to forgive Felshis’ flaws due to the amount of setting information it brings to the table and how much fun the ridiculously silly comedy was, but the latter is definitely a highly subjective thing. Since I like DRPGs I enjoyed the overall gameplay here more than the previous two, though I have to admit that Amatsukaze’s rock-paper-scissors system was a lot more polished.
Oh, and the ero is really normal. As in, there are no tentacles or any hardcore play. There are also only 30 h-scenes, which would be a lot were it a normal company, but is an astonishingly low number for a Ninetail game. One thing that really bothered me was how the screen actually flashed red with sound effects in the deflowering scenes, and one thing Felshis has more than Eve or Amatsukaze is deflowering scenes. Abel ends up sleeping with his senpais and teachers, yes (actually the 3P with the two senpais is probably my favorite scene). It’s funny because he’s also the most 情けない in bed out of the three MC protagonists.
P.S. Felshis loses the ability to display furigana properly and has it in brackets. Enjoy.