On a rainy night, a girl wakes up in a strange western-style mansion to find that she has no memory of who she is, where she was or how she got there. As she attempts to find a clue to her whereabouts, she encounters a grotesque monster before she manages to escape and runs into other people who, just like her, found themselves waking up in the mansion without any recollection of who they are. Told by the the enigmatic Master of the Mansion to "complete the Kaleidoscope", the group must hunt the black butterflies which encompasses the dangerous monsters in the mansion and collect the Kaleidoscope's fragments in hope of recovering their memories and finding a way out. But will it be hope or despair that lies beneath the mystery of the mansion?
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly
Age Rating: Cero C (Ages 15+ for sexual situations)
Date of Release: 29 January 2015
Voice Cast: Nakahara Mai, Ishikawa Kaito, Hosoya Yoshimasa, Kakihara Tetsuya, Toriumi Kousuke, Matsuoka Yoshitsugu, Naganawa Maria
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is a "Fantasy Mystery Adventure" game for the Playstation Vita made in collaboration between Otomate and mangaka Yuiga Satoru (who is responsible for the character designs and artwork), with Terashima Momoko as the directly and the scenario writers being Yuriro, Benihara Kaoru and Amemiya Uta. There are individual character CDs scheduled to be release in the next few months which will feature character songs as well as alternate endings with each character that weren't in the game's original story.As the game's genre suggest, it is very heavy on the mystery and the romance actually plays a secondary role to the overarching plot. Because of the suspense/mystery theme, if you're a spoiler lover like me, I really really strongly recommend playing this game without looking up spoilers beforehand because it'll give certain reveals more impact.
The characters are probably one of the strong points of this game. I'll admit now that I went into this game with zero expectations due to reasons I'll elaborate on in the plot section, but because of those low expectations I didn't really have an interest in any of the characters in particular in the game either outside of who their seiyuus are. In fact, to choose the first route I literally asked my friend to help me choose one. By the end though, I grew to love all of the characters, even ones with character types I don't usually like. But in any case, Psychedelica manages to pull off some things I usually hate in otome games well in a believable fashion. Why? Because it's pretty easy to empathize with at least one or more of the characters. These characters are people caught in a strange and dangerous situation and they all act like it - they might be forced to work together, they may seem to get along but they doesn't necessary mean that they fully trust each other or that they wouldn't be willing to damn someone else in their group to achieve their own purpose. After all, despite the circumstances, they're all strangers and without their memory, who knows what type of person each of them really are?
Of course, this doesn't mean that they're all about the doom and gloom. In fact I can't help but bring up a little comparison with Otomate's other survival-ish type game "Sweet Fuse", which quite a few readers should be familiar with as it was localized in English. Personally, one of my dissatisfaction with Sweet Fuse was that some characters weren't quite as well developed as others and I felt like the consequences of certain character endings were a bit lacking. Suffice to say I'm glad that Otomate did better on those issues here, because Psychedelica has some sub scenarios that lets you see these characters outside of the more dramatic and serious moments where we get to see them fool around like a bunch of teenagers and we even get to see some flashbacks as they recover their memories. All of which contribute to not only giving us a better understanding of their characters, but also see the chemistry between the characters and how they may or may not get along. Also, true to the dark atmosphere of the game and depending on your definition of 'happiness', not all of the endings for the characters are necessarily happy or consequence free. All in all, while I might not be able to fully elaborate why I love each of the characters if I want this review to be spoiler free, I couldn't help but give this section a full score because I feel that good characters are ones that leaves a big impression on you, sticks with you long after you finished the game, and leaves you with things to think about, and at least for me the characters in this game definitely delivered on that front if they can turn me from disinterested and apathetic to them to caring for them and actively rooting for them to all find some kind of happy ending.
The protagonist of the game. As the text in the brackets suggests, "Beniyuri" isn't her real name, but one of the "nicknames" she and the others each chose to use to refer to each other due their amnesiac state. Even without her memories, Beniyuri is a kind, patient, well-mannered and optimistic girl, who is unable to abandon someone in trouble regardless of the danger. In that same regard, she can be quite stubborn at times and could come across as a bit of a busybody meddler. Still, even though she doesn't necessarily have a bad attitude, she holds a certain hesitance towards, and has a tendency to draw a line against developing a deeper relationship with other people.
When I read about the last part of her character description on the site, I was a little worried. Mostly because when the 'obstinate, busybody, friendly but emotionally keeps people at a distance' trope is played in an otome game by the heroine character, it tends to be taken to needlessly frustrating levels that can lead to me becoming discontent with all characters involved, but thankfully Beniyuri's actions makes sense in the context of the story and I found her development from start to finish to be believable, even when there are times I don't necessarily agree with her. She's such a strong and admirable girl, I ended up being so charmed by her that it's easy to understand why the guys fell in love with her and why they feel certain ways about certain things that happen when it comes to her in the game. The fact that she's voiced also helps to add flavor to her because you can catch the nuances of some of the lines from the tone of her voice.
Hikage is the first person Beniyuri meets in the mansion and, of course, like her he has no memory of who he is. He's calm, logical, perceptive and sarcastic. Even if he doesn't necessarily mean any harm, his blunt attitude and the way it seems as if he doesn't care if he offends someone makes him come across as aloof. Nevertheless, his ability to keep a cool head even in difficult situations makes him a capable and reliable ally so, naturally, he ends up taking on a bit of a leadership role among the group of amnesiacs.
You only need to take a look at the official site or the box art to know that he's Psychedelica's poster boy. Surprisingly enough, he ended up as my favorite character. The writers really did a great job to make him an endearing, well-rounded and nuanced character who's important to the plot without sacrificing the other love interests' significance to the story or taking away from their arcs. His seiyuu also did such a great job in portraying the different sides of him that I can't help but become a bit of a fan.
With his curt, rough way of speaking, his hot-headed and confrontational attitude, along with his brooding Yamato can come across as pretty intimidating and not exactly the friendliest of guys. True to their conflicting color schemes, Yamato is a complete contrast to Hikage. Where Hikage is calm, Yamato is brash and quick to panic. Where Hikage is the type to plan his actions, Yamato lets his emotions guide him . . . so unsurprisingly they clash quite a bit and the game gives them a bit of a rival-like role. In the game, Yamato is one of the characters that is most vocal about his desire to rush to reclaim their memories and find a way out of their situation.
Yamato was apparently the winner of the pre-game character poll, Unfortunately he didn't place on my top three ranking for this game's character but I still enjoyed his character arc and his relationship with the other characters, especially one particular relationship that I felt touched by. He vaguely reminds me of Kishinuma Yoshiki from Corpse Party so if you like that type, you'll probably enjoy him.
Cheerful and sociable with a devil may care attitude towards the dangerous situation that they found themselves in, Karasuba might seem like he's fooling around with the way he casually teases everyone (often with a mean edge to it) and shamelessly flirts with Beniyuri but he actually sharper and more perceptive than he appears. Despite the flippant way he carries himself, he's the type who keeps his true intentions to himself and is pretty pragmatic and pessimistic. That said, he makes it pretty clear earlier on that he doesn't really trust anyone in their group.
Karasuba was the first route I played and his true ending ended up being the one I felt was most realistic in terms of romance and what I felt was the overarching theme/message of the game. He ended up as a close second favorite character due to how easy he was to empathize with.
Kagiha is what you'd call the 'big brother' figure of the group. He has a soft-spoken and gentle personality, so despite his tall stature he's a pacifist and prefers not to fight if he doesn't have to. He seems to worry about and look after the group members, and sometimes plays the role of the mediator when some of the guys get a little rowdy.
While he is actually my least favorite in this game, not because I dislike him but because for me he's the type of character that doesn't stand out as much as the others, I still liked his role in the overarching story. Some of his scenes with his moments with Beniyuri can be pretty toothachingly sweet and if you like straight-laced, mother-hen type of character with good intentions, you'll probably like him. He actually kind of reminds me of Makoto from Free! too. Kind of.
The mysterious kitsune mask-wearing guy who seems to have saved Beniyuri from monsters at the start of the game. A person of few words, it's a unclear whether Monshiro is actually a friend or foe, so the other guys often advise Beniyuri against trusting him because they suspect that he could be the Master of the Mansion himself.
Another character I wasn't particularly interested in initially but grew to adore. Of course, with him being the mystery character that he is, I couldn't really elaborate about the reasons why I ended up adoring him, but I can say that I really liked his character and felt touched by his story arc.
The young rabbit mask-wearing girl who seems to serve the Master of the Mansion. Usagi sometimes appears to give the group the Master's message or offer some exposition before disappearing just as mysteriously and suddenly. Just like in Monshiro's case, the guys are wary of her and warns Beniyuri against trying to befriend her.
In the off-chance that anyone might think to ask, no, she is not a dateable character nor does she have a friend route.
(A look at the game's flowchart, put at the beginning of the game for your spoiler-free purpose.)
The general story of the game without spoilers is basically what was written in the summary at the top of the entry. This review like others I've written for Otome Jikan will be spoiler free but in case you want to know of the play order I'd recommend to both sequentially uncover the mysteries as well as unlock other character routes is: Karasuba or Yamato -> Kagiha -> Monshiro -> Hikage.
Now to elaborate on what I mentioned above at the start of the character section - the reason I went into this with zero expectations was because the game looked to be a dark/suspense/mystery theme, potentially horror, type of game, and the last foray Otomate went into suspense/horror was Shiratsuyu no Kai which . . . was disastrously disappointing. Thankfully, Otomate probably learned their lesson with Shiratsuyu no Kai and successfully attempted to redeem themselves with this game. Where Shiratsuyu squandered its setting and concept by being ridiculously inconsistent, repetitive and illogically jumped from one plot point to the next; making its character run around like headless chickens and doesn't really resolve or clear up anything, Psychedelica made use of it setting and characters; trying its best to keep everyone in character as they resolve the plot points they introduced without dragging things out just for the sake of prolonging the drama. The story itself feels like it's not long but it's very self-contained and I'll make it clear now: the game is more of a mystery visual novel with romantic elements and not the other way around. While 'love' certainly plays a role in the plot, the romance is secondary and, save for a few characters, the character routes aren't exactly 'routes', but more like branches, alternate endings/epilogue of the game's main story. If you've played Corpse Party or the Zero Escape series, the alternate endings kind of work a bit like that along the common route.
(This "Black Butterfly Hunting" mini game can be easy or harder than it looks depending on your shooting skills.)
For the main story, there are 7 chapters in total, while there are 39 sub episodes the game makes you play, either to unlock the next part of the main story or to unlock a character's ending branch, and in that same vein, some of those sub episodes also require you playing through certain main story chapters or endings in order to unlock them. There are a total of 12 endings - only 1 of them is an outright bad ending, while the rest can be 'happy' or 'bad' depending on how you define the term or interpret those endings. It shouldn't be difficult to get other endings after your first playthrough because you can always easily refer to the in-game flowchart and select to continue from before wherever it looks as if there's a branch in the story from any point in the game.
Some of you are also probably wondering where the "Black Butterfly Hunting" mini game comes in. You basically play the game by either rolling your cursor about or sliding your finger using the touch screen to lock on to each butterfly, before clicking to shoot with either that pink button in the screenshot or with the O button. The mini game actually appears in the story itself, but worry not! In terms of progressing the main story, it doesn't really matter what rank you get in the mini game! What this mini game does contribute to, though, is that it gives you points to actually open up the sub episodes of the game after you unlock said sub episodes and get them to appear by going through the main story. If you find your points from the mini game to be lacking at any point, don't worry, because the more you play it, the more the game makes it easier for you to get a higher score by giving you a type of butterfly that gives you more points than what you get the first time you play the game. In any case, all this unlocking might sound a bit convoluted from the way I'm explaining it, but it's honestly not that difficult to figure out. In any case, you're likely going to end up going through all the characters' routes and sub stories in order to get everything in the game.
Unfortunately, while I greatly enjoyed the story and the overarching message, I do have to admit that if you're familiar with tropes for Japanese fiction or specifically this type of mystery in Japanese fiction, there's a good chance that you can probably predict some of the plot twists because it's actually a bit of cliched. I just found them unpredictable because they weren't the cliche I was expecting it to be. Yet cliches aren't necessary a bad thing if the writers can execute them in an engaging manner and the writers of Psychedelica definitely managed to do that, because personally I really felt so absorbed by the story, the characters, and the balance between the creepy suspenseful moments, the light hearted moments, and the dramatic moments that I ended up staying all night to finish it (much to my own regret in the morning.)
I really like the art, the UI and the general visual resources of this game a lot. I think that the crazy bright colors, trippy patterns and butterfly motifs work really well when you contrast it with the dark, dreary mood of the monotone backgrounds really fits with the tone of the game and sets a nice atmosphere. While the CG image itself is still static, I also liked that there were some parts where they put in an animated effect to add to the mood/narration in some moments. Thanks to the game being on the PSV, everything also looks nice and crisp and as you can see in the screencaps above and below we do get a lot of details when we look at the graphics compared to the smaller resolution of the PSP. While Beniyuri unfortunately doesn't get an in-game character portrait, the other characters do have quite a few variations depending on where the they are and what happened to them. Not counting variations there are 88 unique CGs, and due to the limited setting, unfortunately there really aren't a lot of backgrounds.
Now you might notice that I only counted the unique CGs up there and not what's the overall when the variations are counted, and the reason for this is because the Gallery section of the game is set up in a bit of a repetitively way that puts any CG that the character appear in into their respective gallery section. So if you go to Hikage's gallery, for example, you would see CGs with him and the other characters too that is then also put into those other character's gallery in a way that makes it seem like Otomate wanted to pad the gallery and make it a little frustrating to count and seem like the game has more CGs than it actually does. And while we're still on the topic of CGs, while I'm generally happy with the art (I love the creepy yet hauntingly beautiful ones) there are a few CGs that I have to question for the choice in posing/positioning or why the developers felt it felt it unnecessary not to turn certain scenes into a CG when it really felt like it could've benefit from a CG, yet some events that I felt doesn't really require a CG got one. That said, I should probably note that given the theme of the game and the few number of CGs, there aren't really a lot of romantic or kissing CGs and while some characters got some beautiful shippy CGs, just like with the endings, not every character got a nice one out of their romance either. So that, in combination with how the gallery was set up to try to trick us into thinking there's more CGs, ended up detracting quite a bit from my impression.
Music/Voice Acting (8/10)
I like the music in this game a lot! While it might not having me shouting to the skies hoping that Otomate might release an OST for the game, they're still pleasant to listen to and felt appropriate to the specific scenes they're played at in the game. The lyrical songs, though are really nice. I didn't like the opening song at first but it's catchy and really grew on me, and I simply adore the ending song, not only because I'm a fan of Shimamiya Eiko's singing, but because the song really represents the game and its theme really nicely.
When it comes to sound effects, though, you might want to keep in mind again that this is a mystery/suspense game with some supernatural elements, so you should be a little careful about playing this game at night if you spook easily because some of the creepy ones can come suddenly like a bit of a jump scare. Those aside, I also thought that some of the more funny sound effects were nicely used to accentuate the humor.
In terms of the seiyuu/voice acting, I think the characters were well-casted and some did well for their characters more than others. You can probably already guess whose voice acting I'm impressed by from looking at the character section, but aside from Ishikawa Kaito's Hikage and Nakahara Mai's Beniyuri, I also have to add Matsuoka Yoshitsugu's Monshiro as a special mention here too because I really liked what he did with him. Monshiro might have a bit of a passive tone to his character's voice but Matsuoka-san managed to add hints of other emotions to it which helps to add flavor to an otherwise monotone character.8.8 With how much I enjoyed the game and its character and want more of it, and severely feel like kicking my past self for being too skeptical and not bothering to get the other tokutens while I can because now the game's literally sold out everywhere or some of the tokutens that I didn't get but want are put up for a ridiculously high price. I think it's safe to say that I would definitely recommend this game to whoever likes:
- A mystery type game with a supernatural elements. This game actually fulfilled one of my dreams to see an otome game with a creepy mysterious atmosphere done well. Even if the game kind of ended up being a little leaning towards human drama. Which brings me to my next point-
- Relatable and sympathetic characters. Some of them might not be particularly admirable but they're pretty grounded and it's easy to understand where they might be coming from even if you don't agree with them or even like them.
- A game where it's not necessarily guaranteed that everyone is going to get a happy ending or even survive to the end. I've noticed some people complain sometimes in the fandom that they feel as if nothing bad is truly permanent in most otome games and personally I disagree because there are quite a few of those out there and now Psychedelica joins the ranks as one of those types of games.
- A short but succinct game that isn't difficult to complete. Due to the fact that the majority of the game is a common route, it's easy to complete playthroughs after the first and eventually fully complete the game. While the game can feel a bit short after that, the game thankfully doesn't drag out conflicts unnecessarily.
- SHIMAMIYA EIKO SINGS THE ENDING SONG okay maybe this might not be universal BUT I LOVE SHIMAMIYA EIKO and I want to stress again that her song is really nice.
Who I wouldn't recommend this game to would be people who primarily want to see romance or fluff. This game does have some sweet and romantic scenes but it depends on the character and plays a secondary role. So odds are if you're looking for that as opposed to the suspenseful atmosphere and story, you're either going to end up disappointed or bored with it.
Lastly my immediate thought after playing this game was "wow, I really wish Aksys would localize it" because it sounds like something completely up their lane in terms of the visual novels they've chosen to localize so far. And if that happens, I'd be pretty happy because I really want more people to talk about this game with.