I was very surprisingly sucked into this game so I feel compelled to write something. It’s very rare that I come across an otomege with the structure of a scenario-driven eroge with (almost) forced route order and a long 伏線回収 type of true route (though I must admit that I am far from familiar with his genre). I’d be willing to go so far as to say that Shuuen no Virche is the game I would recommend for people interested in the genre coming in from general ADVs or eroge who wouldn’t mind playing something with a primarily male cast, as it reminded me a lot of the plot-driven eroge I’ve played and I think I even ended up appreciating the final route better because of this.
The game has a dark fantasy sci-fi setting, set in a politically isolated island where people die with no exceptions before they become 23 due to a mysterious disease. With knowledge provided by a traveler who came from outside many years ago, the country has developed some sort of cloning and memory transfer technology that allows someone to clone themselves and transfer their memories into a new body at the cost of losing their strongest emotions (which tends to be love since this is a setting for a romance game after all) and also getting into a mindset where death is cheap (as long as you’ve got money and remember to take your data backups). You’ve got a country where marriages are more like a contract of alliance for mutual benefit rather than from romantic love…which I guess isn’t too far off from real life because I don’t know a single person beyond the age of 23 who has feelings of this romantic love thing as a high priority when looking for a partner and isn’t miserably single or simping for a 2D girl and a 2D girl only. (maybe I am the problem here…)
The protagonist is Celes, a girl who seems to accelerate the mysterious cough of death of the people around her and also managed to burn an orphanage when she was younger, bringing her infamy as the shinigami. Tired of people dying just by being around her, the game starts with her trying to kill herself. I probably sound like a terrible person but I love it when the protagonist is depressed and dead inside. I prefer Getsuei no Kusari’s Megumi who was more depressed in a nuanced kind of way and had the appeal of “oh god she looks like she’s going to kill herself” every time she politely smiles, but Celes is pretty cute too. I think she ends up being a really nice protagonist by the end of the routes.
Compared to the usual SF eroge I’d say this game has more of a fairytale-like presentation and the technology is more like the kind of overtechnology you’d encounter in a fantasy jrpg that unveils its lost high-tech civilization roots in the last quarter of the story. There’s also some SF twists that are very meme if you think about it with the basis of real life science and are better treated as fantasy, but I hand wave it since I view science fiction in many cases as just an extreme admiration for fantastical elements while playing with cornerstones laid by real life concepts to propel it into something more fantastical than pure fantasy by branching from familiarity. People ruin computers for me in fiction every other day and I just roll with it, so it’s about time biologists get that feeling too.
The structure of the story is quite cool, in that the character routes are initially forced into a bad ending. Doing all the final bad ends unlocks the true route, and getting the true ending for that unlocks the good ends for the character routes. I think it’s a cool way to do it, and a nice way to make the character routes feel relevant again instead of being complete throwaways that exist to give you a few pieces of information for the true route. I’m also a fan of how a particular character is allowed to just go beyond the point of no return as a common part of his route, and even his good ending respects the results of his actions and only makes it an emotionally satisfying conclusion rather than a logical good ending.
I think the game is good at revealing information at an interesting rate and having engaging things constantly happen. All three of the initially available routes are pretty neat on their own and reveal enough cool stuff to not feel like you’re getting blueballed with romcom or romance instead of story reveals. Perhaps I’m too used to the kind of eroge where the initial heroine routes are just romcom/ichaicha with a piece of the setting information revealed at the end of the route, but I find the branching pretty good in this game since you get a good look at the different pieces of the story with each route. The characters also have pretty interesting things going on with them if you enjoy suffering porn and edge (which I probably do). Generally I found the game an engaging read even when I wasn’t into the heroine♂ in a heroine kind of way.
Of the character routes I did Mathis → Lucas → Scien → Yves, which I think worked out well. Mathis’ route is dank since I would never have expected them to do this kind of thing in an otomege, and it works out well for setting expectations of what kind of edge the game is going to be as well as being the furthest from the core of the main story. Lucas’ route is also quite cool and is something I would never expect to be allowed to be done in a regular romance game these days so it’s refreshing. The game allows him to carry out his worst potential decisions which is great. I think these two characters only get their real salvation in the true route which is, I guess, very reminiscent of a certain kind of eroge. Scien is…a massive chad. It’s kind of insane how much of an overpowering genius he is depicted to be, but hey he’s technically got 80 years of knowledge stuffed into a 23 year old’s physical brain and was already a genius back in his og body for making a breakthrough in something that had years of research built up upon it. I think my favorite aspect of him depicted in the game is how he straddles a very fine and stretched out line in terms of research ethics compared to the average person, being a genius who decided that losing your strong emotions isn’t a real issue that needs to be fixed in the cloning and memory download process.
I think my favorite is probably Yves though, his route is the penultimate route in terms of plot and feels fitting for it (hence being locked behind the first 3), but it also spends ample time exploring the construction of his character and why he is trying to be a benevolent Protagonist which is why I ended up finding him really moe. He has the most 熱い lines of dialogue during the climax, and I’m particularly a fan of how he doesn’t feel the need to tell the protagonist to be happy or change her, just inviting her to let him suffer with her. Destroying everything he had built up to that point in his life for the sake of one girl that everyone else agrees is functionally the devil is pretty moe. 博愛の男は、もう死んだ。indeed. I also believe Yves’ final ending is the best way to end the game on as an experience.
There was some kind of fuss about a side bro who is gay for Yves (understandable tbh), but it’s such a minor part of the story (there isn’t even NTR or anything) and there’s less focus on BL elements than yuri in eroge that have lesbian characters who like a heroine so this causing a fuss only works to remind me how comphet people can be. I’ve gone through several eroge where one of my favorite characters is a lesbian who will just never be the protagonist’s heroine so I don’t really feel anything about it.
The true route has Ankou who was great in every scene up to that point, but more importantly it really brings out the feeling of an eroge final route where the pieces all come together very well. I wasn’t initially too interested in the true heroine (male) myself but after doing the final route I have to say that it had to be him. It reminded me of several other games all at the same time but wasn’t exactly like any of them so it ended up staying interesting all the way through. It’s just a very fun (wild ride) and romantic 伏線回収 final route with a satisfying ending.
The setting can get pretty meme when thought about with a real life science background but I think it uses and plays well with the pieces it lays out, which is all I really care about. The 伏線回収 is interesting and the game does go out of its way to explain the root causes of its events in a way that fits together in the final route. I think the only thing that was bothering me was how often it would jump into a monologue flashback immediately after revealing a new piece of information to the player, but fortunately the flashbacks are not too long. It’s obvious that this is a commercial product with a decently sized team behind it because I rarely feel that a scene is too long or that I’m sitting in an insanely extended flashback that probably didn’t go through an editor. I tend to mind those less than most people but frequency is more of an issue here since I’m a fan of Galleria’s approach where it is up to the player to remember the pieces of foreshadowing from hours before to properly pog, focusing on the characters’ reactions to this interaction instead. This game would do the thing where someone reveals their identity and then immediately jump into their backstory monologue.
There’s a lot of sci-fi elements to be memed about in the game but imo the thing that requires the most suspension of disbelief is how Mathis could translate a foreign language book using a physical dictionary on the spot in a few hours. This is like the translator’s Hollywood hacking.