Hitomi My Stepsister Review

Contributed by Webmistress LadyPhoenix

Hitomi My Stepsister is a very difficult game for me to review. It is a game that falls squarely into the grey area between what I personally enjoy in a game and what I recognize as quality. Hitomi is a very dark game, with themes of rape, domination and submission, emotional trauma, and abuse. I personally do not enjoy games with themes like these. They disturb me and make me very sad. However, these themes do have a place in some storylines, and Hitomi is a very high-quality expression of these ideas. Therefore, despite my personal distaste for the subject matter in Hitomi, I am still forced to admire the game on its many merits. Those who enjoy a good dark, psychological storyline will be very impressed.

Graphically, Hitomi is very nice to look at. I was particularly impressed by the backgrounds, which are very well-drawn and vivid, with lots of attention to detail. The characters are appealing and attractive, although Hitomi herself seemed to have a bit of a vacant look to her eyes. Due to the character's past, I am not sure if this was intentional or not, but it is a bit unsettling in any case. The gameplay interface was very suited to the game's atmosphere, and very attractive. When choices were available, they would overlay the game window in a shadowed red text, instead of appearing inside the text box. This gave the experience a more attractive and artistic feel. The translation was also exceptional. There were no nonsense phrases at all whatsoever, and only a rare typo. I only wish more bishoujo games could equal this quality.

The voice actresses performed well enough, although no one particularly stood out as exceptional. The music was wonderful, lending tons of atmosphere to what was happening. Many of the pieces were very haunting, making an upsetting scene nearly cry-worthy. This is one of the few games that inspired me to listen to the music in the jukebox section of the Extras area after finishing the story. Usually a distant third in the sound department, the sound effects were particularly good here. There were a large array of sounds that lent more of a realistic feel to many of the scenes, adding a whole extra layer to the experience.

One of the extra features provided in Hitomi merits a few words. I was particularly impressed with the flowchart that was an option in the game menu. It was a very nice-looking flowchart of the game's story paths. Some may call it a cheatsheet, and it can definately be used as such. But it is not thrust upon you, and it is easily avoided if you don't wish to look at it. The flowchart lays out all the story paths for you as you play through, lighting up each section with a small graphic as you complete that section. It also shows where critical story choices are, and after you make the choice, it shows which choice leads to which path. It was a wonderful tool for me during my repeat playthroughs, as it eliminated a lot of the annoying guesswork that many novel-type bishoujo games suffer from.

We now come to the most important part of Hitomi - the storyline. The premise of this story is that of a young man's father remarrying, bringing a new mother and sister into his life. There is an attraction between himself and his new sister, and where it goes from there is up to you. There are seven endings, and they range from extremely dark and twisted, to what I consider the 'true' ending of redemption and love. There are three possible love interests. Your new step-mother, Yoko. Your step-sister, Hitomi. And your high school crush, Yuki.

I was very impressed with the story of Hitomi. It is very dark, but plausible and realistic. There are many dark-themed bishoujo games that have very little basis in reality, giving a very shallow reason for the horror of what is happening, if they give a reason at all. Not so with Hitomi. The characters all have a strong background and reasons for why they do what they do. Sometimes there are very bizarre happenings, and sick and twisted logic, but it is realistic logic from the mind of a troubled person. The consequences of the mental sickness and abuse is also frighteningly realistic. Don't be surprised if you find someone's mind snapping completely from the anguish overload in a story path or two.

The story remains consistent throughout the story paths. The reasons in the past for the mindsets of characters is the same, even if you approach and discover them in different ways. It doesn't initially seem so (Hitomi keeps its secrets well), but all the characters are very well fleshed-out, with many depths to them. The only exception to this is your high school crush, Yuki. I found myself wishing for more development into her personality and more explanation as to why she is how she is.

To sum up, Hitomi My Stepsister is a wonderful game and valuable addition to a bishoujo collection - but only to those who appreciate a good dark story and enjoy delving into the more evil and twisted parts of the human psyche. If you are easily upset or disturbed by images of rape, abuse, mental domination and the like, you would best look elsewhere, as Hitomi is realistic enough to be very upsetting. But for those fascinated by the darker side of humanity, it doesn't get much better than this.

Overall Score: 8.5 out of 10