The Kamizono shrine has long been famous for its ability to fulfill love fortune, especially through the flowers that bloom there. One fine day, Shinozawa Mai, a miko who works part-time at the shrine, is asked by her boss to choose a flower before telling her to deliver them to a certain gentleman in their town whom he claims was blessed by the patron God of their shrine.
Mai herself is inexperienced with love but she has always dreamt of finding love against the odds like her parents. Little did she know, this simple trip to deliver flowers might very well lead her to finding her destined one . . . even if a romance with the person in question might not be entirely conventional.
Double Score ~Cosmos x Camellia~
DoubleScore -ダブルスコア- ~Cosmos x Camellia~ (website)
Company: Blue Moon
Age Rating: CERO C (15+)
Date of Release: 22 February 2013
Voice Cast: Tachibana Shinnosuke, Toriumi Kousuke, Tomonaga Akane, Kimura Ryohei, Sakurai Takahiro, Hirakawa Daisuke, Ookawa Tohru, Kusao Takeshi, Fujiwara Keiji
Double Score is a series targeted towards people who like older men and age-difference romance - the dateable cast’s age ranging from 25 to 46 and each of them are represented by a flower - which, as stated in the summary above, coincides with the premise of the game’s plot. The series is presented in the form of a drama CD series (with a second set starting in March) as well as PC games - the first one having been recently released on the 22nd of February 2013. I was first interested in this series for the premise of dating ossans - shallow, yes, but I honestly I didn’t really expect much out of this series when it was first announced because 1) a high school protagonist 2) the company that’ll be making it is a subsidiary of the same company as the Starry Sky series and they’re pretty much doing a similar marketing plan of drama CDs first and segmented games later + a special character game/cd if you bought all the games. I was then pleasantly surprised by how quirky the characters are in the drama CDs, and how they were super adorable and don't quite act their listed age - even though it was clear they were working adults. So I became more intrigued and today, I’ll be reviewing it here. Since I’m sure there are quite some people that are hesitant about venturing into this franchise and I’d like to be able to hopefully change that/maybe improve your impression of it.
The characters are definitely the strongest point of Double Score - all of them have their own quirks that make them unique and their voice actors' talents further adds to that charm - making the nuances of those quirky personalities shine and giving them life, leading you into becoming intrigued and wanting more of them . . . which is probably what the company was aiming for when they segmented the games into various installments. One of the things I admire most about this game is the character interaction and how well it does in portraying friendship/camaraderie - it's very obvious that these characters are friends who care about each other, even when they're mercilessly ribbing each other with sarcasm or expressing their chagrin at how ridiculously their friends behave. They are truly a supportive cast that points out the flaws with each other, ready to be there to encourage the main cast to work for their happiness and are willing to respect their decision - even if they might not necessarily agree with them. All in all, the game does a very good job of making the characters endearing and sympathetic to you and if you're like me and you're one of the people who've listened to the drama CDs and think you're safe from not getting feelings for a character just because in their CD didn't impress you as much as your actual biases . . . then you'll hopefully be in for a pleasant surprise.
(In fact, have some Kamizono ribbing Issei as an example right now.)
Shinozawa Mai (age 17; not voiced)
Mai is a regular high school student who works part-time as a miko at the Kamizono shrine. She lives with her parents as well as an older cousin named Chisato, and ever since she was a child, she has dreams of finding a love like her parents - who eloped against their relatives' protests and received blessings from the very shrine that Mai works at now. Mai starts off the game being in the second year of high school and yes, she might be 17 years old, but by the end of the game, and when she officially hooks up with the love interest of her choice, she’s 18 and she’s a month or so away from graduating high school.
As both the narrative protagonist and as a character, Mai shares the typical otome game protagonist trait of being a sweet, optimistic girl with good intentions. She's earnest, hardworking and considerate towards the people around her. Admittedly, one of the things I was worried about when this series was announced was that Mai would be super passive and naive, but while she is oblivious to a certain extent - I was pleasantly relieved to find out that’s not the case! Mai is a mature, responsible girl with logical thinking (although it seems she's not academically-gifted) and even if she's often picked on by her boss or teased by her peers, she's by no means a no pushover - at one point she actually fights back against an assailant despite her fears (and being a normal girl) and another she calmly stands up to a person who was talking down to her. However, while she might know what fights to pick or how to handle certain situations, she’s still a teenager - one who’s inexperienced with love, and susceptible to doubts and insecurities - especially when faced with the dilemma of falling in love with an older man whom she considers to be in another world from her. I found her very sympathetic and easy to relate too - even when she frustrated me in one of the routes, it was still understandable why she behaved and thought the way she did.
Issei is an old friend of Mai’s cousin. They were friends from school, so naturally, Issei knew Mai since she was younger and he views her as a younger sister - as well as a benefactor - due to how she helped cheered him up when he was depressed about his father years prior to the game and encouraged him to be strong. Mai also views him as a kind older brother figure, but due to that same situation with his family, neither of them has seen each other in the years leading up to the present. Currently, Issei works as a business man from the Public Relations department of an IT company called SNT. He’s supporting his family (which consists of his mother, 3 younger brothers and 1 younger sister) in his sick father’s place, and for him, his family is a priority above anything else. He is represented by the Cosmos flower.
As you’d expect of someone who has to shoulder his family’s responsibility and puts them as a priority - Issei is a responsible, hardworking type of guy who might be a bit too serious for his own good. This doesn't mean he’s a robot, though, because not only does he have a sarcastic/passive aggressive faux-happy sense of humor (which is just pure gold when delivered by his seiyuu) and he can be extremely adorkable when he’s embarrassed. When it comes to his romance with Mai, he starts out awkward, but adorable… before he realizes what his feelings mean and logically tries to put distance between them. His struggles with those feelings lead to a lot of drama that frustrated me but they were all completely understandable due to a) society’s view b) the type of person that he is. However, at the end of the day, Issei is a very passionate and dedicated person - both to his family and the person he loves.
Todaka Yousuke (age 32, cv: Toriumi Kousuke)
Todaka is Issei’s colleague at SNT, although technically, they’re from different departments (Todaka’s from sales) they’re currently working together on a special project for the company. He seems to be acquainted with Mai’s boss, though the game unfortunately doesn't go much into his background. He is represented by the Camellia flower.
Personality-wise, he’s a big flirt/tease - which means yes, he’s popular with the ladies and the opposite of Issei, meaning that he comes across as the irresponsible, unreliable, sketchy sort that only likes to play around and laze about whenever he can. It might be true that he is those things to a certain extent, but, at the end of the day, he knows when he has to serious it up, not to mention that he’s pretty good at smoozing the clients for his work. He’s also a good bro and is ready to have your back and cheer you up if you’re going through a tough time. When it comes to his romance he may not be a stickler for society's rules but he’s . . . . . . a master of denial. Not in the same way Issei is, so it’s less frustrating to watch, but also hurtful at the same time if you’re empathizing with Mai. However, when all’s said and done, he’s just as passionate as Issei in regards to dedicating his feelings to the person he loves.
Mori Kengo (age 17, cv: Kimura Ryohei) - Mai’s friend and classmate who very obviously has unrequited feelings for her, he works part-time at the SIESTA bar/cafe.
Aihara Miki (age 17, cv: Tomonaga Akane) - Mai’s bff, she likes to tease Mori and has the uncanny ability of appearing at the most opportune time to be an obstacle in his crush towards Mai, but otherwise she’s a wonderful supportive friend.
Kamizono Kyouga (age 31, cv: Sakurai Takahiro) - He’s the Kamizono shrine’s priest and Mai’s boss. He’s also another of her cousin’s school friend.
Saiga Rui (age 34, cv: Hirakawa Daisuke) - Mai’s teacher at school, he’s also acquainted with Mai’s boss and group of friends.
Seiya (age 34, cv: Hirakawa Daisuke) - The #2 host and the manager of a host club called Lady Magic, which Todaka often takes his female clients to. He's apparently twins with Rui.
Shirosaki Rio (age 29, cv: Ookawa Tohru) - The #1 host of club Lady Magic. He’s a not-so-secret otaku and is friendly with Todaka.
Sano Fumiya (age 31, cv: Kusao Takeshi) - The infirmary teacher at Mai’s school, he’s also the third member of Mai’s cousin’s group of school friends.
Sakito Takuto (age 31, cv: Fujiwara Keiji) - The owner of the SIESTA bar/cafe, he’s the last member of Mai’s cousin’s group of school friends.
(Pictured above is when Mai's asked to help with researching the amusement park attractions.)
The general plot is exactly as written in the summary at the top. This game technically doesn't have a common route since the routes split earlier on when you make the decision between the Cosmos (Issei) or Camellia (Todaka) as the flowers Kamizono wants Mai to deliver. Nevertheless both route shares many common events, and has a common theme of Mai helping her love interest with something - whether it be their project, teaching them how to be a better housekeeper or otherwise. This plot may seem generic, but the execution more than makes up in keeping the story interesting.
(Other things that you can unlock in the Album section includes a Music collection, an Art Gallery, Scene Replay, and an Ending List.)
The story is told through the POVs of Mai, her two love interests, and we’re also treated to the supporting cast’s POVs, which unlocks in the Extra section of the Album as you progress through the story. These extra POVs gives you insight to the various situations in the game as well as various perspective of the story, all of which has a good balance from humorous, heartwarming to heartbreaking in addition to the romance. The game starts from late in Mai’s 2nd year at high school, ending around October of her 3rd year (then on to around February in the epilogue) and it’s paced just right - it’s not too short that it leaves you wanting and it’s not too long that it makes you wonder when it’ll end. The game has a total of 12 endings, 2 good endings and 2 bad endings for each character, and 1 good ending and 3 ‘bad’ endings for the Double route . . . which serves as the OT3 route. These endings are determined by the double score system which keeps track of your Love and Trust parameters and the ending requirements can be a little tricky to figure out without a guide, you can easily figure out which choice leads to filling which parameter through trial and error - since the flower at the right hand corner of the text box lights up blue (trust) or pink (love) depending on which parameter went up. Like so:
Although the guys don’t really act/look their age (I would’ve assumed they're in their early twenties if I wasn't already aware of their real age beforehand) the age-difference issue definitely plays a major role in the drama for this game, and it’s treated in a believable way - all the main characters consider it and deal with it in a way that’s true to their personality. Some people might think it’s magically resolved in the end since admittedly some of the endings seems rushed, but I don’t feel like that’s the case - the general public is obviously going to still side-eye the 14-15 year difference coupling, it’s just that the characters decided to say screw it and go for it/the supporting cast is . . . well, supportive as I've mentioned above and are aware that Mai is a mature girl capable of making her own decisions for her happiness. Again, I would be spoiling if I bring up more examples, but this is probably a YMMV thing according to comfort levels, and it’s something that could probably be debated, but personally I think they handled it all nicely. Another thing that I liked about the POV changes is that it also allows you to view the difference in perspective between a teenager and an adult, especially when it comes to the romance. Mai's inexperience naturally leads her to view things idealistically, while the guys, especially Issei, are more experienced and have more things to consider (like the rules of society) before they can make the jump. This contrast and how they adapt to their feelings and reach out to each other serves as an interesting subject to read, and personally I was impressed by it.
That said, although I do believe that most of the ending was wrapped up nicely, the abruptness of some of the other endings, was the reason I didn't give this section a full score. I'm also admittedly bitter that for some reason the ??? section refuses to unlock for me even though I thought that I certainly completed everything I could - it seems that this isn't a problem that's restricted to me either and some Japanese players have reported to be experiencing the same problem, so I assumed it's a bug that they'll probably fix . . . however it appeared to be that you could get it unlocked only if you not only completed all the endings and gallery, but you also have to had selected all the choices in the game before too. This new section is called 'Congratulations' and it has two extra scenarios for both Issei and Todaka featuring their daily life.
Admittedly I do find Issei’s siblings and Mai's face to be awkward looking in some of the CGs, BUT speaking more generally, I’m very impressed with the art/coloring and believe that it fits extremely well with the atmosphere of the game and blends nicely with the interface. There’s 146 CGs in total, including the chibi cut-in stills, although a good number of them are variants of the same CGs just with different poses/expressions/backgrounds . . . all of which were beautifully rendered and remain consistently of nice quality throughout the game. However, if you’re looking for more unique CGs you would probably be disappointed since there are honestly only 36 in total . . . which might feel a little cheap, especially if you consider the fact that this game costs more than Hana Awase which actually gives you more unique CGs.
(This is probably the limit of how much the game can zoom in to the sprites before it starts to blur.)
The character portraits/sprites share the same nice quality as the CGs and blend in well with the rest of the artwork. The characters are given a wide range of expression and costumes coinciding with the season the game's currently in or what state the characters were previously in (eg. drenched in water, etc.) The downpoint, however, is that sometimes, when the game zooms in too far, the character portraits become a bit blurry and not quite as sharp. Nevertheless, these sprites are a treat to look at, and I'm pretty impressed with the thought the artist and developers put into making one for pretty much any occasion.
The background, however, aren't quite as impressive and served to deduct from the point of the overall artwork. It isn't that they're bad, they're pretty nicely detailed . . . however they're nothing too noteworthy and I don't feel like they're as atmospheric as they could be. There was also a glitch at one point of the story where it should've been nighttime, but briefly the BG switched to the evening.
Another strong point worth mentioning in the artwork are the accompanying items, such as the food or the dolls. Especially the food . . . they all look so delicious that they could very well make you crave at whatever time you're playing if you aren't careful.
Music/Voice Acting (10/10)
The music in this game might not be anything particularly epic ala Rejet’s games, but it's surprisingly nice and can be pretty catchy that you’ll probably find some of them stuck in your head even when you’re not playing. There’s a good range of BGMs - all of them pleasant to listen to and they are always timed to play at the appropriate moments- none of them sound out of place. The same goes for the sound effects of the game which serves to enhance the atmosphere or add to a humorous situation.
Most of the score in this section, however, comes from the voice acting. As mentioned in the character section, the seiyuus did a marvelous job at bringing the characters to life - especially seiyuus who play the two main characters and Mori's and Kamizono's seiyuus. Tachibana Shinnosuke did a particularly brilliant job at conveying Issei's various sides and inner struggle, Toriumi Kousuke impressed me with how he balances the nuances of Todaka's personality, Sakurai Takahiro completely sold Kamizono's character to me due to how well be portrayed his eccentricities, and Kimura Ryohei who voices Mori made me feel for him in his few serious moments of the game (as primarily Mori's role is to provide humor at his expense.) That isn't to say that the other seiyuus are any less impressive, because they all obviously brought their A game to voicing their characters, it's just that personally, I found those four to be the ones that stand out the most.9.2 I think by this point it's painfully obvious that I greatly enjoyed this game. I went into this game with mediocre expectations and I came out pleasantly surprised as I was thoroughly charmed by it. Which begs the question: Was it worth my money? Yes, it was. It's about the same price as a Starry Sky game (3,759 yen for the limited edition and 2,499 yen for the regular edition to be exact) but in contrast to the Starry Sky games where I typically only cared about 1 character per Season (with the exception of Autumn and Winter) I found myself loving both of the love interests, as well as the entire cast in general. The story is also very engaging and kept me wanting to read more, even when my eyes were tired and pretty much my only complaints were the ones I mentioned in the sections above.
So I would highly recommend this game if you:
- Enjoy age-difference romance. This is the most important part even if the guys barely look their age because, as I've mentioned above, a major factor to the dramatic moments in this game deals with this issue.
- Want a nice, engaging story of a respectable length that might not be super heartbreaking, but still enough to tug at your heartstrings. In that regard, the length of the game also makes it a good interlude to play in between other games that might be longer or more depressing.
- A heroine who is easy to empathize with, and might not be physically strong, but knows how to hold her ground and stick up for what she believes in.
- An endearing cast of quirky characters and a good portrayal of friendship.
The downside of getting into this series, however, is that unfortunately it's segmented into 6 games (with a special game you can only get if you buy all 6,) and this one is only the first. So in the chance that you're interested in certain characters, you might end up having to wait into next year for their game to come out, or if you're interested in Kamizono, you'll probably have to find a way to get all six games AND send the proof in to get it from Japan. Which can understandably be very frustrating.