If casual reference to rape bothers you, then even the sanitized-for-Steam version of Eden* They were only two, on the planet is not for you. There’s one right away in the first five minutes. I am one such person, which leaves us with a conundrum. My job was to play the entirety of Eden* and report back to the Siliconera readership. I know that many in this community are less sensitive than I to matters of this sort, and just complaining about ways that a Japanese product doesn’t fall in lock step with the expectations of contemporary western media isn’t a fair representation of the game anyway. So the best thing I can do is just get over myself and try to discuss the game without prejudice, no?
And yet… that wasn’t my experience. My experience was filled with prejudice and I have no other experience to draw from when writing. The story started on a sour note and never recovered. Did the main character immediately become central to the life of every female he met? Of course. Did one of them dress up as a maid all the time? Of course. Did the romance end up being with a woman trapped in the body of a young girl, but she’s been alive for 100 years so the relationship is technically not pedophilia? Of course. Did the main character, at any point, surprise one of the female characters while bathing? Take a guess.
So as far as reflecting on my personal experience with Eden*, I didn’t like it at all. The way female characters were written and employed within the story bothered me from beginning to end and, had it not been an assignment I was to write about I would not have finished it on my own. However, for those of you who are interested in Eden* and don’t think the above listed issues will be relevant to your experience with the game, I’ve written the rest of the playtest to discuss the game independentally of the gender angle.
Eden* is a visual novel published by MangaGamer both on and off of Steam. The Steam version is the version I’ve playtested and it has certain sexual and violent excerpts pulled out. It’s pretty obvious in a few cases where these cuts were made, but the missing bits are never story crucial. For example; it’s not relevant what exactly was said in the late-night welcome party for the main character in the female barracks—just that it was awkward for him and he didn’t enjoy it. The game does a good job of giving an appropriate overview of sections that got cut so that the story always makes sense.
[Editor’s Note: Despite how the game may have made Ethan feel in terms of certain scenes being missing, the “all-ages” version of Eden* is the original release, and no content was actually “cut” from it. The “PLUS MOSAIC” adult content was part of an expansion that added H-scene vinegretes unlocked post-game and was not part of the original story.]
The story follows a battle-hardened soldier on an unusual assignment leading up to the end of the world. The characters he meets and connections he makes on this final assignment force him to face parts of his past that he had thought buried, and reconciling his present self with who he once wanted to be is the core character conflict. The cast of ladies (and one guy) he interacts with each help him take the next step on his path to self realization.
There’s some really interesting potential in the premise of the story. The protagonist is a child soldier who turned to the military after being orphaned. His struggles to adapt to a domestic assignment recall the struggles many real soldiers have had when returning from war. There’s irony in how the main character achieves a fate his parents died failing to secure for themselves, despite taking an opposite path to achieve it. The story takes place around the final evacuation of Earth which can make the the struggles of the characters seem small and unimportant when juxtaposed against the end of humanity’s time on our home planet.
Unfortunately, none of those avenues are explored much. It’s an interesting world, but the story that’s being told is about a teenager falling in love and becoming a better person who connects to other people more easily. I think that’s a shame. There was opportunity for a much more unique story to flourish. Instead, we end up with a teenager learning the value of relationships and helping others.
The game took me five hours to complete. It’s by far the most lavishly produced visual novel I’ve encountered thus far, with a seemingly never-ending stream of unique backgrounds, closeups, and character poses. The music also had a bit more variety to it than I’ve become accustomed to in the genre. There’s even a fully animated intro after the prologue! In a genre so often starved for budget to achieve even the bare necessities these bonuses are appreciated.
There are Japanese voices included in the game. You can toggle them on and off on a character by character basis if some suit you better than others. I found my preference was to turn them all off since I read faster than the voices anyway. It got pretty annoying after a while finishing a text box and then needing to wait a few seconds for the string of foreign syllables to finish behind me. I don’t understand Japanese anyway, so I was better off just going without. The quality of the translation was good as well. I didn’t notice any spelling/grammar errors and even the awkward sentence structure that often sneaks through the cracks of Japanese to English localizations was kept to a minimum.
It’s sad that this even needs to be brought up, but there have been few dire localizations released by certain other publishers recently. I’m pleased to report this is not one of them.
That said, the game employs a frame story structure that I’m not certain was to the game’s benefit. If you’re building up to one gigantic short -sighted act in the name of love, at least maybe don’t telegraph it? The only thing worse than maudlin storytelling is when it’s predictable. Oh by the way, that great big sacrificial act of love that the entire game is building towards? It happens before the characters get around to admitting that they’re in love. Because these are anime teenagers and explicitly establishing and committing to a relationship more than five minutes before the credits roll is impossible for them.
I think it’s important to emphasize that it’s not my intention to attack visual novels nor those who enjoy them. Visual novels operate within a different set of rules in terms of gender and sexual representation than most media created for western audiences, because they aren’t created for western audiences. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to take my cultural expectations for how these subjects should be handled in media and then speak ill of a product made in a different country for a different culture because it didn’t fit within them. However…
It would also be wrong for me to be dishonest about my experience. I was born and raised within the southern and midwest United States, and that’s my culture. The way female characters in this story are written to revolve around the protagonist, not to mention the frequent leering closeups of them and the whole “she’s a child but not really” love interest angle… those aren’t widely acceptable in these parts and they’re not acceptable to me, personally. I realize that there’s a portion of the Siliconera readership that isn’t turned off by these things, and if you’re one of those people, hopefully you found the meat of this playtest after those first few paragraphs useful.