Soooooooooo, it’s summertime, and you know what that means: Steam sales! The rest of the Taisho Alice games all got released in pretty rapid fashion so I picked them all up at the discounted rate. Again, as before they’re releasing these games in four parts, so this one just covers Gretel and Kaguya (plus the short prologue with Katakana Alice, of course) and therefore still doesn’t cover any of the overarching metanarrative just yet.
Unlike the first episode, this one carried a content warning on the Steam page, and for good reason! At first I just laughed to myself “Trigger Warning: my self-insert OC is the meat in a fairy tale manwich in the uguu cage of love” (we love our uguu cages of love, don’t we folks?) but this one was wayyyyyyyyyyy more intense than anything in the first game. The first game, as I mentioned in that review, has the good kind of degrading women (like “forcing airheaded bimbos to wear lewd outfits and then leering at them”) but this game has the bad kind (bad in context of like, morality or discomfort, not in terms of story failings.)
As with the first game, a big part of the stories is seeing “how are they riffing on the underlying story in this version?” Like last time, they still actually try to do something here, rather than the many, many games that instead are more or less “let’s grab some of the leftover character designs from our last game, and use the same story templates that we use for everything, but uhhhhhhhh yeah just make sure that this time you give them names like ‘Cinderella’ rather than ‘Taro Yamada.'” Gretel had a bit of a mix and match here (and remember, genderswapped which is why he’s “Gretel” instead of “Hansel”), where some of it is pretty obvious like “yep yep, loving candy and finding a cabin in the woods that Hansel & Gretel all right”, but of course I don’t remember the part in the original fairy tale of “horny drug addict yandere otouto-kun keeps sexually teasing his onee-san.”
But the central element of the story is that once they end up in the witch’s cabin in the woods, they trick her and then push her into the oven in order to escape. Which, as the game then points out, is that Yurika is simultaneously both one of the siblings, but also the witch. She wants to eat the little brother (but instead of the food way in teh sekkusu way yowza), then she gets “locked” in and then gets (nearly) roasted alive. Anyway, in the end they both learn some valuable lessons, like “it’s okay if it’s with you, onee-chan” and “crazy in the head, crazy in bed.”
Now for Kaguya, well this one is going to require a disclaimer. WARNING: WHITE DEVIL PLAYED THIS ROUTE. Now obviously I am familiar with the exotic occidental myths and legends that make up the background for the rest of the characters, but I only know a few elements here and there from the Kaguya-hime tale. The part where Yurika gets together all of the shrieking harridans for an episode of Fairy Tale Jerry Springer was clearly going off of the part in the original where all of the suitors visit to seek her hand (except of course that they were like “I brought this legendary treasure with me” rather than “get away from him you BITCH that’s MY husbando!!!!!!!!” ::catfight breaks out::) Oh and the part with how Kaguya and Yurika keep exchanging diaries is similar to the letters that Kaguya-hime sends to the emperor (except of course that instead of writing like “waga denka de gozaru” they say stuff like “oy arrgh blimey you’re a real fit bird innit Wigan Kebab smack barm pey wet.”)
I think the other tricky part is that it’s the kind of story that’s been (re-)interpreted so many times that I’m not quite sure what references to it are more literal and which are more figurative or which variations in the story itself are seen as more legitimate than others when I come across them in anime and manga. So since I’m not clear if it’s “supposed” to be like proto-sci-fi or perhaps metaphorical or what kind of overall tone it should have in general, I didn’t quite know how to square the way that Kaguya’s story plays out in the game. Basically, I think the central questions you need to consider when thinking about both stories (the original story and the game):
1) Is Kaguya really from the moon?
2) Is the moon society actually a utopia?
3) Why/how did Kaguya end up “on Earth”?
4) Can/does Kaguya really return to the moon?
Kaguya’s route was also very different from the others so far in that it had nonstop bad endings. The others often had a few jokey ones at the start where you’d get a dialogue choice like “go on a date with the bishie/tell the bishie to gtfo” where yes, clearly the correct choice is to go on the date with him and cleary the other choice gets you an immediate game over, or similarly obvious ones late in the game like “escape from the burning cabin/stay inside the cage”. In this case though, Kaguya had a TON of choices like these throughout his route. There are 14 different bad endings from these kind of choices, where over and over and over again you need to pick a choice that essentially boils down to “don’t ignore Kaguya” or “don’t choose yourself over him.” The fact that this is so different from the other routes probably means something, but again dunno if this is about the overarching game story or some kind of variant on the underlying folklore.
The one last random thing I want to point out is that the Steam port was a bit glitchy this time. The achievments for Gretel didn’t pop initially, but then did pop once I started Kaguya’s route. Kaguya’s cheevos though were even more annoying, as I didn’t get them after completing the good end, then didn’t get it after restarting the game, then didn’t get them after fast forwarding through the entire game again in Japanese, then finally triggered after I started the game back up in English yet again.
Final Thoughts: I am required as always to pick a best boy for this route and it is pretty easily Gretel. Not because I especially like him per se, but because 1) his route has the most instances of Yurika being degraded in the good way and 2) no arrgh blimey.