Hello once again, mesubutas! Whomst among us does not enjoy a realized code? Unlike my earlier sojourns into girl gamer land, I did not purchase Code Realize in a 99% off Steam sale using the money I got from selling Steam cards that I got from idling in Crusader Kings 2 to Russian money launderers…but instead I did nab the Bouquet of Rainbows double edition (yes that’s right, this means that I will be playing the poruno fandisc shortly as well) during a random sale over the summer for about $20. Unfortunately for all of you, I never got to really get into it in earnest because shortly after purchasing it the ol’ ball and chain decided that she was going to required me to roll multiple new alts in FFXIV in case she wanted to take kissing screenshots for all the other alts she had. But fortunately for all of you, a few days ago I smashed her Diabolik Lovers mug and she got mad enough to no longer require me to keep playing with said alts and exiled me to the PS4 room to finish this (I should’ve been lauded for destroying an artifact from such a cursed franchise…) So anyway, here we gooooooooooooooooo! (Spoilers of course, but c’mon this game came out 6 years ago and all of you have already played it by this point anyway.)
This is the PS4 (trigger warning: Aksys) Aksys port, which as I mentioned above includes both games. I am pleased to announce that despite this there were no doge memes or “eh fuck it I give up leave it in Japanese” translations in this port (unlike something like Norn9), and they only averaged roughly a typo per route (something like writing “agains” instead of “against”). That also said, the trophies were super flaky for me in my playthrough and only a handful of them ever triggered. Not a problem for me of course since it’s not my PS4 account and therefore not my ePeen being diminished, but annoying nonetheless.
The first thing that I quickly realized while playing through this game was that unlike my common complaint with games like Amnesia, when you are given dialogue choices in Code Realize they generally are something that actually matters and leads to a straightforward result. In Amnesia I was constantly raging during my initial blind playthroughs because I would get a choice like “search for clues to solve the mystery” versus “go to a cafe and hold hands with a boy” and naturally I would assume that yes, I want to solve the mystery and that picking this would result in that when instead the game really wants you to pick choices like the latter so that you then would just-so-happen to propel the plot forward through The Power of Love. This time your choices are more like “go assist Lupin” versus “go assist Van Helsing”, and you can tell pretty easily what the outcome of each will be. (Or the choices are like “run away” versus “try to solo an entire squad of soldiers”, with similarly predictable results for which one is correct.)
The next very conspicuous sort of improvement is that the writers this time cracked the code regarding how to use Cardia’s blank slate personality/backstory to fill in the player without being cartoonishly mansplain-y. Movies and TV shows often manage to sidestep this by framing conversations as like “Ladies and gentlemen, as I’m sure you all already know…”, but the worst of course is when otome games do that uncanny drama CD-style second person approach where they tell you what you think (or should be thinking). But this time it’s pretty straightforward since Cardia is a somewhat newly awakened homunculus who obviously wouldn’t know about even the most basic facts about the world around her, so that gives them a plausible reason to explain to her (read: you) what a “London” is.
Ah London, what an impossibly exotic place in the distant occident! Since this is a Japanese after all, we are getting a funhouse mirror version of Victorian steampunk, which of course is itself already an anachronistic form one degree divorced from its inspiration. The most blatant example of this to me is that I still don’t get wtf the game thinks that vampires are. The game’s conception of vampires was that they like…live in random non-Transylvania places and have a king and don’t really like technology and don’t drink blood or sleep during the day and reproduce normally rather than by biting people and grow normally rather than being locked in undeath? Japan missing basically the entire point of vampires was kind of fun for me to look at since the vampire mythos in Western culture is inherently tied in with concepts like orientalism and imperialism. This is why the PLOT TWIST about Impey being a vampire was definitely out of nowhere (since I played his route first) because I had zero things about him up to this point that in any way signaled “vampire” to me.
(“Occidentalism isn’t real,” I assure myself as I close my eyes and ram the hallmark gift shop with my shitty bronco. Now the reason that “occidentalism” isn’t real is that “orientalism” isn’t just “the way that the West exoticizes the East”, but the way that it does this in service of imperialism. Since the East didn’t colonize the West, there can’t be an mirror image equivalent “occidentalism”. And it also makes perfect sense that Japan would not really grasp a lot of the imperialist and orientalist elements like my vampire example since they were doing the colonizing rather than being colonized so this stuff wasn’t directly affecting them.)
But despite this, the game actually does a hell of a lot more “imperialism is actually bad not good” than the average steampunk story. The typical steampunk critique is that the genre takes a lot of trappings and concepts from the period without actually understanding any of the nasty background behind that stuff. The most straightforward example is the “pith helmet with some gears slapped on it”, where the person wearing it probably doesn’t grasp that this isn’t just like “the fashion of the times” but rather the kind of thing that you’d wear during a voyage to Rhodesia or Hindoostan to subjugate some unruly savages. In Code Realize however there’s instances where the story explicitly points out that the British Empire is using all this fantastic new technology to do nefarious activities throughout their empire, like in Frankenstein’s route where we learn that they tested out the poison in Cardia’s horologium by gassing villages in Ireland with it. They also get to play around with this a little by using Cardia’s blank slate personality. Without any preconceived understanding of the culture around her, this lets the game often times have her do whatever they want without having to worry about it being appropriate. Usually this is for comic relief, like the many scenes of her whipping out her tiddys (also, I swear there are so many fight scenes in the common route and the Impey route that it felt like one of those fanservice fighting shows like Ikkitousen where her shirt would constantly get torn off), but also helps to avoid these period pitfalls by also letting her say stuff like “I think it’s evil to use steampunk to do genocides in the colonies” rather than the “oh yeah of course it’s good that we are using our advanced culture to enslave subhumans” that would be the actual belief of the times.
The first route that I played through was Impey’s (I was originally going to follow the route order in the ending guide I found but was told that whoever wrote it was WRONG). As I mentioned above, his route is a good example of the disconnect the sometimes popped up because of my Western familiarity with some of the source material versus the uh, lack of familiarity of the source material. The original character is an American (and obviously not a vampire). In the game he is a vampire (duh) and…I’m not quite sure where exactly he’s from? He tells us that England killed everyone in his vampire town during the vampire wars which would imply that he’s Irish, but also like vampires are kind of their own race but also when talks in that “loud exaggerated idiot” way that Japan uses to indicate someone is American soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo yeah I dunno shrug. I should clarify though that while he talks like an idiot he isn’t actually an idiot and contributes in useful ways to the team.
Impey’s route however is extremely cursed because the main antagonist in it is Captain Nemo. Normally my conception of Nemo is that he’s a brooding Sikh he keeps to himself under the sea and not some cackling weirdo. Fortunately he at least comes through to reinforce the “Victorian England was actually evil” element that steampunk usually obscures even if it is tempered by “wants to use Cardia in order to take over the world” (again, antithetical to the character himself who wants nothing to do with the land.) Anyway, vampire element aside (which still doesn’t really make sense to me), occasionally throughout Impey’s route I would have twinges of doubt where I would think that parts of the story didn’t quite make sense or had a pretty obvious plot hole. I realized once I went into subsequent routes that it turns out that this is mainly because each husbando’s route covers like 90% of a background plot element, but that other 10% gets fully fleshed out in one or more of the other routes, so I started giving the game the benefit of the doubt here whenever I encountered something that felt a little bit off. In Impey’s case, this meant some of the background behind the inventions that Cardia’s father left behind and how Cardia and her horologium fit into all of this. This also made doing each subsequent route feel more important since it made the game feel like it had an overarching story (which was predominantly Cardia’s story) rather than the common lazy visual novel storytelling setup of “protagonist as invisible narrator for a bunch of paint by numbers character stories that were just shoehorned so that the love interests wouldn’t be nothing more than a list of stock tropes”.
That all said I am officially cancelling Impey because according to my notes he sexually harasses Cardia the most out of all the husbandos and that is simply not acceptable in our current hashtag me too era.
Next up I did the Van Helsing route, which had the accidental funniest moment in the game. Cardia wanted to take a train back to Wales to investigate her family’s house again (side note: In my headcanon the reason that it took everyone so long to locate her was because they couldn’t find her because they were flummoxed by the totally incomprehensible Welsh names.) Unfortunately for her the latest train had already left so she would need to wait a few hours until the next one came. Her bright idea to kill some time was…let’s go to the ghetto! She is immediately propositioned for some “ikenai asobi” by a drunkard (fortunately she gets the save from a slattern that pulls him aside to take him up on his offer) before then getting abducted by Jack the Ripper. Whoopsies! (Also, GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR CARDIA IS A MAJI TENSHI AND NOT A LADY OF THE EVENING JACK THE RIPPER SHOULD NOT WANT TO KILL HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
This was one of my favorite routes because of the action and suspense, but fair warning that it is super violent. I went back just now to check the rating and apparently the game is only rated T because I thought that this route alone would’ve been enough to warrant it an M. There’s both the many fight scenes with characters getting shot and stabbed (he shoots so many people during that train heist for example that in my mind’s eye I was picturing that it was like, the teahouse shootout from Hard Boiled) combined with the serial killer mystery plot leading to them investigating blood-strewn crime scenes. I think it might even be the only route where Cardia tries to straight up kill someone with her powers (when she tries to melt Aleister’s head off). The other big downside to his route is that since this part of the story fleshes out the role of Twilight rather than being more directly about Cardia or her father this meant that this was the only route that doesn’t in some way lead to Cardia being cured of her poison. You know what that means, don’t you? It means that they don’t get to smash!!!!!!!!!!! (Much to Cardia’s chagrin after she gets all hornt in the epilogue after seeing his nekkid bhoot.)
I initially went to play Frankenstein’s route before switching back to Saint-Germain until I was yelled at that this is NOT the correct play order. This was the one route that I felt didn’t really sync up well with the rest of the routes. All of the other routes felt like they were necessary to fully grasp all the necessary backstory and to tie all the plot threads together but the Saint-Germain route didn’t ever feel like it was necessary in the same way. We already learn all the important information about Code Realize in the other routes, with the most important part of all (the whole thing about Cardia’s father doing it to become a god) coming from Lupin’s route rather than his route. Instead we just learn that Cardia was created for some vague reason that was bad and that people shouldn’t do, which didn’t really illuminate anything.
The other main problem here is that his route is a prophecy narrative, and that these often run into logical headaches where they fall apart if you ever start thinking about them for more than a second. Like if Omnibus can truly see the future she would be able to see when things don’t work out or in ways that would make the outcomes clear to everyone. In Saint-Germain’s case, it seems like all she was able to see back in the past was that there might be an outbreak of a disease coming from that one town, but not that it would become the literal Black Death. As I mentioned earlier, I had learned to start giving the game a little more benefit of the doubt since gaps in the story or seemingly illogical actions would usually make sense in the added context of alter routes so I didn’t sweat it at the time and started coming up with potential reasoning behind this. Maybe this would lead to say, everyone realizing that her visions are unreliable and therefore maybe Cardia won’t doom us all. But the game never really went there, and since it was usually pretty explicit about everything I assumed that they weren’t trying to imply this to the reader.
I also had a bit of the reverse mindset in this route where instead of realizing later on “oh yeah, this just made the plot hole in the previous route make sense”, the Lupin route made the Saint-Germain route retroactively fall apart. The incident here is that he final deaths Finis this time, in comparison to the other routes where contrary to what the meme has taught us all, in his case people most certainly do not die when they are killed. We learn later on as I mentioned that in order to do this he would’ve had to destroy his “core” in the cathedral basement, which in turn would’ve destroyed the essence of Isaac Beckford, which in turn would’ve stopped Code Realize and averted the catastrophe that killing Cardia was supposed to solve.
Worst of all though he is a Hirakawa. Hirakawa: not even once.
I then proceeded to the Frankenstein route. I decided that this must be what causes all you girlpigs experience the same feeling of “moe” that butas have when they see a kawaii imouto-chan fall on her oshiri while she is running with toast in her mouth. Suffice to say that this route was not meant for me, but since it told a coherent story that tied together some more of the plot threads it therefore was better than the Saint-Germain route. My only story complaint is that it spends a lot of time with Queen Victoria and her backstory, most of which strained my belief. While this did at least provide some of that “Victorian England was bad, actually” elements that I talked about earlier, her motivations more or less boiled down to “I need to do all this bad stuff because otherwise everyone will think that England is weak and they’ll invade us.” Like c’mon man, we’re talking about the largest empire in human history, and now they’ve even got sufficiently advanced technology that is indistinguishable from magic (plus apparently, a dash of actual magic).
One fun element of Frankenstein’s route is that it probably has the most Cardia action of all the routes. The other routes contain some combination of both Twilight (who have “Cardia-proof” technology by ways of either Finis or Isaac) and supernatural beings (vampires/Hidden Strength in Van Helsing’s route and Idea in Saint-Germain’s), so she can only do so much in those. The main antagonists in Frankenstein’s route though are “normal” British figures like the queen or Leonhardt, so she gets the opportunity to do stuff like use her powers to melt locks or beat up random soldiers or guards rather than stuff like “damn I’m locked in a poison-proof cage guess I need to wait for the husbando to bust me out” or “damn obviously I can’t fight this immortal knight”.
Of course, the one thing that he does have going for him is that since he is beta as fucc he is the member of the team least likely to be cancelled for sexual harassment.
This all finally unlocked the Lupin route, which is clearly the true end since it’s the one that finally ties all the different plot threads together. Let’s finally hammer out everything with Twilight, Idea, Code Realize, let’s finish off each of the husbando’s antagonists, and of course let’s conclusively cure Cardia’s poison. This then kind of makes it by default the best route since you never get any of those nagging inconclusive threads that make you think “yeah, but…” like in the other routes. Now as a character himself I will award him the title of Best Boy since he is a chad (rather than beta as fucc like Frankenstein) while not being too brooding to be any fun like Van Helsing and being picaresque but not an ridiculous チャラ男 like Impey. This all said, I have not much more to say about his route since because it’s the “true” end I had to talk about a lot of the elements of it in order to discuss other elements of the game.
The one part that I DO need to talk about here…c’mon Otomate seriously????????? I, like probably most people thought “oh lol he’s clearly supposed to be Sherlock Holmes but they don’t wanna worry about the famously litigious Doyle estate getting on their case” and not “oh, he’s supposed to be Sherlock Holmes in the sense that this is his disguise.” SHOLMES. IT’S JUST AN ABBREVIATED “S. HOLMES”!!!!!!!!!!!!! At least Moriarity called him out for having the dumbest disguise this side of Superman putting on a pair of glasses. Otomate pls.
Final Verdict: As you all had seen from my earlier reviews (and frankly, the non-me reviews here), I do a lot of griping when playing these games over where you can blatantly see the ways that so many otome games pull you in conspicuously unfun directions. The dialogue choices that are meaningless at best and arbitrary ways to make you fail so that you have to play the game longer at worst. The storylines that don’t even try to follow any kind of narrative logic. The characters that were clearly designed first as a way to sell merch and whose stories were clearly the last thing that anyone thought about. The gimmicks that exhausted whatever creativity the writers had almost instantly. The endless padding to hide the lack of anything meaningful.
For once I actually felt like I was playing a “real” (well as “real” as a game that doesn’t have GUNS and is meant for GIRLS can be) game for one of these reviews that people put real care into crafting rather than an afterthought since all they really cared about was, I dunno like drama CDs or hump pillows or whatever. I could get into the story and enjoy how everything rolled out rather than constantly getting angry as I would notice “welp, this is clearly a monetization gimmick” or “ffs why are you even giving me choices like ‘eat ice cream’ versus ‘eat cake’ and why is this stupid shit giving me a bad end?” If you want an easy way to see how this was a decent game for once, compare this review to my previous one. I’m never saying stuff this time like “blah blah blah nothing happened blah blah blah then after 20 minutes the route ends out of nowhere.” Even my most critical parts here like with the Saint-Germain route are still engaging with the game on its own merits, because it actually deserves it. And importantly, no abuse or girl on girl crime.
I am always required to provide rankings, but as you saw throughout the character writeups I had already declared that Lupin was the best boy (although I will also provide the disclaimer that Frankenstein is likely also a high tier best boy choice for those of you whose interests revolve around ripping off boy’s manties so that a furry caterpillar doesn’t give his weenis a rash.)