Monday, March 25, 2013

Love is Not Bound By Rules! Review

After a long otome game hiatus, I jumped back into the swing of things as a member of Yurin Highschool's student council in Koi wa Rule Shibararenai!

KoiShiba Wallpaper!
I stumbled upon this game by chance looking up Black Wolves Saga (don't ask me how) and decided to give it a try. I broke free of my usual art/storyline snobbery to play a cliché, boring, and unoriginal school dating sim.

Or so I thought! Love is Not Bound By Rules! or Koishiba!, has easily become my current favorite. The heroine, Manabe Aya (name can be changed), is the niece of the school chairman, and he apparently controls your school life. At the start of the new school year, he kindly informs you that you're going to be the new manager/advisor. Everyone gathers to talk about it, with everyone but the principal saying yes. He's quickly overruled and you assume your position. Now, together with 5 handsome bishounen, you decide on the various school events and trips. The game begins in May, and ends in December.

Game Mechanics: In addition to making dialogue choices to advance the story and get close to other characters, there is Deliberation mode (making up names~), where you can accept or deny various school and special events, and Free-talk, and Intervals in between months. You can obtain CG images from various school and special events. Each character has a normal and good ending.

Characters: ♥♥♥♥ 4/5
The characters in Koishiba, for the most part are good, but aside from Habasaki and Asagiri, I'm fairly neutral about the other characters. They were all unique, quirky and interesting, but some more than others. Habasaki had two separate personalities. If he ate something spicy, Habasaki Satoshi turns into Habasaki Kyou. If Kyou ate something sweet, he would turn back into Satoshi (the candies represent their personalities pretty well). Asagiri Atsushi was extremely odd and had a new "obsession" (My Boom?) every other day. Midou Touya acts like a playboy, but he believes that everyone has a soulmate of sorts, and is looking for his. Narukami Hiro is the sucessor to a large company (and already operates a few). Sakaki Eijiro has a scary face, and is surrounded by a lot of bad rumors due to a misunderstanding.

I found myself skipping through Narukami, Sakaki, and Midou's routes quite often because I got bored.

However, in KoiShiba! You can clearly tell which otoge character type they're supposed to be, but they do a good job of moving away from the usual mold. I like the direction they went in with their characters, and how they played around with the stereotypes.

There are also extra characters in the story that only appear in individual routes, however, I wish their could have been more interaction with them.

Storyline: ♥♥♥♥ 4/5
It's hard giving an accurate review on the storyline because it's not completely linear. Before October, you can change the storyline/path through accepting or denying certain school events. In deliberation mode, there are 2 possible events, and you can either accept the first one, or deny it for the alternate path. In addition to this you can choose special events. Depending on which Free-Talks and special events you choose, you can see the storyline for different routes.

The game has a good amount of humor in many of the events and I found myself laughing out loud while playing. The individual paths had more emotion than I expected. I found that Habasaki's individual route was quite sad for a school life game. I was actually pretty shocked. I was expecting happy, cheesy, doki-doki, rose-colored school days, and they didn't do that. Despite being an otome game, the focus wasn't actually on the romance in the individual paths, with the exception of Asagiri (there's an extra surprise to make up for it).

My only complaint is that after the first 2 play-throughs (rejection route, and acceptance route), the first 5 months are extremely boring.

Music: ♥♥♥♥ 4/5
I like a couple of songs in the game, specifically the piano ones. The music does a pretty good job of enhancing the scenes as it's supposed to, and the only songs I find annoying are the songs that take place during the deliberation, since you hear it so often when completing the game.

Other: ♥♥♥♥ 4/5
Deliberation Mode needs it's own section...

  • Deliberation mode gets repetitive since you do it every month for school events, and every single time for special events.
  • If you do not accept the school event (very annoying during a rejection route), it will ask you if you want to overrule the decision every single time. There is no way to remove this.
  • If you have enough Charisma Points, you can easily accept it events without deliberating at all.
  • It does not tell you what special events you have already done in other routes.
There is a Skip-All mode and Skip Read Text option available from the start of the game. By default, it's set to Skip-All, but you can do both in Skip-All mode. Pressing the R button once skips read text, and holding it down skips everything. I prefer to leave it in Skip-All mode.

Charisma Points carry through play-throughs if you continue from the finished save file. They can go up to 99,999 pts.

If you've seen a particular event or scene already, a dialogue screen appears asking if you want to skip it. You usually don't obtain love points when you skip scenes. It really speeds things up.

Certain special events change the characters' clothing or the appearance of the school itself. The downside to this is 100% completion of the gallery and character viewer is made much harder.

You can view which scenes you have seen, or get an idea of what you missed in a character's route by going to Scene Replay. The first part goes in order by month, so you can pinpoint the month you need to redo.

Overall: ♥♥♥♥♥ 4/5
I quite like this game, mostly for the different character approach and each individual path. However, the time it takes for the game to branch out is quite tedious after a few play-throughs. Luckily, you can skip text and previously viewed scenes easily. 100% completion is slightly harder than in other games.

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