Set near the end of the Han Dynasty, the Han reign is now plagued by corruption, hardship and unrest - including the rebellion movement by the Yellow Turban rebels. Far away from human conflict is an isolated community of Maozoku living deep in the mountains, whom are said to be the descendants of a youkai, Kinme, which raged the lands years ago. As a result, they’re shunned and discriminated by humans and given the derogatory name “Jyuuza” which makes a reference to the cats being the 13th animal left out of the 12 zodiac signs – despicable creatures left out by humans, animals, and the world alike. Among the Maozoku lives Kan U, a half-human and half-Maozoku and strives to do her best to make up for her origins. She’s now a reliable pillar of support and everyone only wishes to continue to live peacefully – that is till the day Sou Sou, an ambitious general, leads his army into their hidden village on a search for the Yellow Turban rebels. Accused of hiding the rebels, they have little choice but to be pulled into an unreasonable agreement to fight for him and defeat the rebels in order to prove their innocence. Hence, Kan U and the Maozoku are thrown into an era of conflict, and this sets the stage for Jyuuzaengi’s Three Kingdoms story.
Jyuuzaengi ~Engetsu Sangokuden~
十三支演義 ～偃月三国伝～ (website)
Company: Otomate x RED Entertainment
Age Rating: Cero C / 15+
Date of Release: 24th May 2012
Voice Cast: Ishida Akira, Okamoto Nobuhiko, Suzumura Kenichi, Toriumi Kousuke, Suzuki Tatsuhisa, Yusa Kouji, Namikawa Daisuke, Satou Takuya, Sawashiro Miyuki, Ise Mariya, Nakamura Koutarou, Hirakawa Daisuke, Itou Kentarou, Fujiwara Keiji, Katsu Anri, Yonaga Tsubasa, Hamada Kenji, Sugita Tomokazu etc.
Jyuuzaengi ~Engetsu Sangokuden~ appears like another Three Kingdoms otome game with the addition of cat ears and the few female generals – but I would really encourage people to take a harder, second look at the game. In fact, the inclusion of Maozoku and the female generals become sources of interesting (and ironic) twists in the game.
At the start, you go through five chapters of the common route before entering individual routes (this can range from 4-5 chapters). I think that the length of the common route is fair as it serves to familiarise the player with the characters and shifting power holders in the story. There are overlaps in some of the individual routes but it’s nothing a force-skip can’t take care of. I won’t deny that the historical happenings are a bit hard to understand at first, but it is based on the Three Kingdoms so if you do a quick read-up elsewhere, it should help to prompt you in the game.
Ryuu Bi (CV: Ishida Akira) is the 15-year-old leader of the Maozoku (yes) but due to his young and innocent mentality, everyone often overprotects him including Kan U and Chou Hi (CV: Okamoto Nobuhiko). Sou Sou (CV: Toriumi Kousuke) is the general which dragged them into the human conflict, and both Kakou Ton (CV: Suzuki Tatsuhisa) and Kakou En (CV: Namikawa Daisuke) are his faithful subordinates. The other characters will start to come into the picture around Chapter 3 when Sou Sou starts an alliance against Tou Taku (CV: Nakamura Koutarou). Chou Un (CV: Suzumura Kenichi) serves Kouson San (CV: Hamada Kenji), who is one of the figures Sou Sou calls upon. So is En Chou (CV: Hirakawa Daisuke), En Jutsu (CV: Itou Kentarou) and Ba Chou (CV: Sugita Tomokazu). Chou Ryou (CV: Yusa Kouji) serves Ryo Fu (CV: Sawashiro Miyuki), who happens to be under Tou Taku. To be honest, that’s not all the characters in the game but I don’t want to intimidate people. Almost all the sub-characters (except Ba Chou I believe) will constantly come in the later chapters and play important roles, not just in the common route. Everyone really performed their lines well, even Ishida Akira who had the difficult task of voicing the kid Maozoku.
Each of the individual routes can stand on their own, though if I had to I’d recommend the play order of Chou Hi, Ryuu Bi, Chou Ryou, Chou Un, Kakou Ton, Sou Sou. You unlock three sub-character routes as you go along: Ba Chou’s is unlocked after you clear Chou Hi or Ryuu Bi (I can’t remember if Chou Ryou does so too). En Chou’s is unlocked after you clear Chou Un’s bad end. Kakou En’s is unlocked after you clear Kakou Ton. You can play them whenever you like, though personally I’d recommend leaving Kakou En for last for a bittersweet aftertaste. As much as I personally disliked En Chou, I have to admit that the writing and metaphors were great.
All the main characters (and even the three sub-characters) have their notable scenes and themes. In addition, it was interesting to note how the same motif of the moon came to hold different symbolisms in each of the six routes. Putting aside my bias, I have to say that Kakou Ton’s route really shone even though it didn’t have the ‘big’ revelations unlike other routes. Both he and Kan U grew beautifully in terms of their characters and relationship, as they overcame the discriminations, and came to understand each other and stand on equal footing.
The art was beautiful, though I would say that I had minor issues with Chou Ryou’s route. By this I mean that I thought that a few of his CGs could have been done better to suit the dramatic scenes, and that one of his redrawn sprites should’ve remained that way in a section of his route (it’s hard for me to describe without going into the spoilers). Other than that, it was great and I loved the fact that they included back views of the character sprites too. The music was lovely too and just as I’m left wondering why we can't replay the CG scenes from the gallery, I’m wondering why there wasn’t a music section too – an OST album is available on iTunes (thanks Reins!).
I’ll go briefly into the system as it may confuse people at first. Besides the usual choice-making you get, there are a few other elements. First, there’s the Kainyuu system (lit. to ‘interfere’ or not) where you basically have to decide whether Kan U acts on a certain action or not – this usually happens in battle. Next is the Travel system. Throughout the course of the game, the Maozoku move around quite a bit and during each travel, Kan U can approach someone to talk to. Lastly, there is the Momozono system. In the various places the Maozoku settle in, you have a few chances to access these extra scenes which gives you a nice glimpse into the characters’ daily lives. In the screenshot, the current location is Rakuyou so I can only access the Rakuyou scenes. You also access the sub-character routes from the Momozono system but from the main menu, not in-game.
Basically all the above elements will help to add to the character’s favourability parameter. An obvious visual effect is displayed when someone’s favourability is upped. You can access the parameters from the in-game menu, as well as a list of character profiles which would come in handy when you’re on your first playthrough. Each of the main characters has a good and bad end and I can safely say that I enjoyed both types of ends.9.0 I loved how Jyuuzaengi ~Engetsu Sangokuden~ both stayed true to the original story it was based on, while also adding its own original flavours. The sub-character routes were shorter, but were all very well-written and developed. The historical layer may be heavy to digest at first, but they simplified it from the original so I think it’s still reasonable.
The only things I would pick at is the lack of a Memorial section (you can’t replay the CG scenes either), which was very unfortunate as there were many lovely scenes and memorable lines, as well as my minor issue with the art in Chou Ryou’s route. Some people may find the common route a chore to skip over though I didn’t mind it too much – just be mindful to not skip through the Kainyuu choice at parts you shouldn’t. But otherwise, all the routes have their own solid story and dynamics. The characters are full of personality and their interactions are fun to witness. I think that overall, there was a nice balance between the drama, romance and comedy. It’s one of the otome games I wouldn’t mind a fandisk for.