Kotobuki! Review

Contributed by J. Sarunski aka Unicorn


This is an bishoujo-arcade game that is approximately 60% an action-game and 40% a puzzle-game. It is divided into seven regions and each level has seven levels.

Each region is related to one of the other C's-Ware games ("Fatal Relations", "Love Potion", "Desire", "Xenon"(this one was, as far as I know, never ported to the english language), "Amy's Fantasies", "Eve Burst Error" and "GLO*RI*A") and the main bosses in these regions are characters of the related game. Also, the environments match the original games and, if a boss-character is to be beaten in a level, this boss-character is one of the main characters of the game (for Example: one of the levels of the region "Eve Burst Error" is at the deck of the "Tristan" and the boss in this level is Mido Mayako, another one resembles the office of the Katsuragi private detective agency and the boss in this level is Yayoi).

Even though, this is an action game, a small story as motivation was also made up for it: The characters of the C's-games are fed up with being erotic playthings for the players of their games. They have joined forces, built their own world and wait there for any player who dares enter, in order to punish them. Only two new characters, that never made it into a real C's-Ware game and thus always envied the now revolting characters, are willing to lend the players a hand for beating up the real C's-star-characters and bringing them back to their senses. These two characters are Pao (a somewhat rebellious guy) and Pino (a cute girl, that likes to tease the player).

At each level, the main goal is to beat all the enemies that run around in the level, in order to get into the next level. Enemies are divided into two main categories:
The first category are usual enemies, who simply are types of enemies that run around at each level and have all the same look and same behaviour. However, these enemies do not search directly for the players character, but attack him/her if the character crosses their way.
Examples for such types:
- knights in armor, that throw swords at the character
- maids, that throw knifes and forks at the character
- bodyguards, that shoot with handguns at the character
- soryuu asuka langley-lookalikes, that shoot with a handlaser at the character

The other category are boss-characters. These are the original C's-game-characters and of cause, each of them appears only once in the whole game. Each of them has it's special methods of attacking and behaviour and these usually match with their behaviour in the original game (Example: Tina and Albert are a boss-team in one of the "Desire"-levels. As soon, as Albert gets attacked by the player, Tina will run back to Albert (remember: "Aluuuuuuu!") on the shortest path and the players character should better stay out of her way.

This almost was it for the action part. Now the puzzle-part: Each level is a maze of walls and containers (and opponents, of cause). Using the weapons of the players characters is the (quite tricky) puzzle-part: They are equipped with a queue, a cueball and billiardballs (numbered from 1 to 9). Pino starts with the billiardballs 1-5, Pao has at start only the billiardballs 1-3. The higher the number on the billiardball, that hits the enemy, the bigger the damage, this ball inflicts on the opponents. In order to use them, they have first to be placed by the players character in the current level, starting with the cueball and continuing with the other balls with ascending numbers. After this, the players character has to return to the cueball (alone this can be a problem, because the placed balls are now laying at their position and block the way back, so the charcter has to find another path to the cueball) and hit the cueball with the queue. After this, the cueball starts to roll straight away from the players character and if it passes a crossroad where the billiardball#1 lies not straight ahead, but in a vertical direction, then the cueball would at this crossroad turn toward the 1-ball, hit it and vanishes after that. The 1-ball does the same with the 2-ball and so on. If a ball hits a wall, it would turn there to the right. If a ball hits an item, it would also turn to the right, but if an item is within the container, it would appear instead of the container. These items usually help to build up the abilities of the character (for example, further billiardballs), so before finishing the level, the character should first go to that item in order to fetch it. After the last ball has rolled some time around, it would stop and vanish. After this, the character may start again placing the balls and hitting the cueball until all enemies are beaten. Another problem is, that the rolling billiardballs with numbers would also harm the players character, so the character has to stay out of the way of his own attack, after it is started it (so, here is another slight action element).

After the character lost it's last life (to me, this happened quite frequently), the player has two options:
a) to end the game at this point and enter the score into the high-score list, or
b) to lose all points in the score as well as all collected special items and continue with his character in his starting state on the current level (guess, which one I usually chose. Who cares for high-score-lists, anyway, if you are the only one, playing that game on your computer?).

The music is at the usual level for themes in C's games. Because it is an arcade game, the themes do not relate to any characters mood in any situation. They simply are some ear candy while running away from the enemies and thinking about how to get them all beaten. They are nothing real special, but nice to listen to anyway.

Within play, the characters and enemies are displayed in a super-deformed-mode (maybe, even ultra-deformed, because in super-deformed-mode, the characters heads height usually has 1/3 of the height of the whole body, but here, it has 1/2 of the whole bodys height.) After clearing a boss-level, a fullscreen graphic of this boss-character in it's original form is displayed. Most of these graphics are a bit above the standard-quality of graphics in C's-adventures, some of them even better (more colors and higher resolution). These graphics are not graphics, taken from the original games, but graphics of these characters, that were espacially drawn for Kotobuki (at least, I think, I have seen much skin of Hojou Marina in "Eve Burst Error" and "Adam", but I have never seen that tattoo before).

The super-deformed characters, the special attacks ot the bosses and the rolling billiardballs are all fully animated.

User Interface:
A joystick or keys on the keyboard can be configured for controlling the players character in the game. While a level is played, the main part of the screen is filled with the map of the current level. At the bottom line, there is information about the amount of lives for the players character, the currently collected additional items and the current score. At the right of the map, there is a space that displays the current status of the boss and diplays an overview of all levels of the current region. The boss-information would be only displayed if the current level is a boss-level. In other levels, this space is left empty.

The entry "Gohoubi" of the main menu leads to an CG-gallery, where the graphics of the beaten bosses are collected and can be viewed again and a musics-collection, where the themes can be selected for playing.

My personal opinion:
This game, once started, can become really addictive. At least, it sure is a fun game, that can be used to relax while taking breaks in or between "real bishoujo games", particularly, if these games are as emotionally exhausting, as "Gin Iro" or "Kana" (not that I hate these games, on the contrary, but in order to enjoy these games, I think it would help to maintain a balance of moods, so some slight entertainment has to make up for the seriousness (or even more, sadness) in other games).

Another point is, that this game always stays beatable. Even if the characters last life gets lost at a high level, it still remains possible to again build up the special abilities of that character in order to become able to defeat the opponents at last. (Think about what would happen in an RPG if a level-1 character tried to fight against a level-40 monster.)

Also, two of my personal preferences are met by this game:
a) I really like super(or ultra)-deformed characters. They are simply giga-kawaii!
b) I much more like to meet again characters, that I have seen in other games. It is like meeting old friends, that were supposed to never show up again. O.K., this times, the friends are not really friendly, but they have also an almost perfect reason for that.

Further, the combination of quick thinking and always looking out, what the opponents are doing, not to mention, searching suitable places on the map in order to build traps for them was for me a quite enjoyable challenge. The cute characters with their funny (but nonetheless dangerous) attacks kept me away from taking the game too serious, even if this meant to start the same level with the same character from scratch again.