Hiiro no Kakera DS is the latest visual novel/life sim/otome game for the Nintendo DS. Like other recent titles (Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side 2nd Season and Vitamin X Evolution) it is a port of a PS2 game with DS exclusive features and full voice acting. It also happens to be more of a visual novel dating sim, like Vitamin X Evolution and Duel Love, as opposed to the life sim style games like Tokimeki Memorial Girl's Side 2nd Season or Otometeki Koi Kakumei Love Revo DS!!.
Since the game involves insane amounts of kanji (as opposed to the katakana and hirigana many importers have familiarized themselves with), I would have to say that it isn't exactly import friendly. In fact, at many times I had to handle things using the classic trial-and-error method.
In the game, players star as Tamaki, a young girl who has been sent to live with her grandmother in a small mountain town. She's happy, at first, until monsters show up to trash the place. And only she seems to be able to see them. Her grandmother then informs Tamaki that she is the descendent of an ancient royal line, and the women of this family have to seal a sacred sword to banish the monsters. She isn't alone in this struggle, there are six gorgeous guys to help her out along the way. Six eligible, single, gorgeous guys.
So since there's so much kanji, let's review how the gameplay basics. To start the game, choose the top choice in the menu, and then choose the first choice. (Note: the second main menu choice lets you load a saved game.) The game will then ask you to provide a name for Tamaki. If you're lazy like me, you'll want to give her a name using English characters. Go to the top symbol on the right and tap it – English letters will then come up. After you enter your name (last name first, then first), the story begins.
Before any guides are started, it'll be helpful to know what the touch screen icons do. Almost every button is in kanji, with the exception of the top-middle "Menu" and bottom right "Skip" buttons, which are in katakana.
The bottom screen will, for the most part, be used to advance the story. This goes beyond making response choices during dialogue segments with the guys. Hiiro no Kakera is primarily a visual novel with mini-games thrown in (much like Duel Love), so for the most part you'll be tapping the box in the center of the lower screen to advance the text.
The bottom left word lets you read past text, so if you missed something you can catch up. The bottom right "Skip" button puts the text on auto-pilot, so if you don't understand you can just skip on through. The bottom-middle button adjusts the "Skip" speed, alternating between leisurely and hyperspeed progression when you have the game on auto-pilot.
The top left word is a "quick save" button, which lets you save your point. The top right word is a "quick load" button, which lets you reload from a quick save. Very handy functions to have and know, since even Japanese-fluent individuals might pick the wrong response. So save before every multiple choice section, and reload if the answer seems wrong.
The top-middle "Menu" has the most options and does the most. Tapping it brings up five additional buttons. The top left button in this new section is the save function, and tapping it bring up nine save slots. The button right next to it on the left will let you load up saved games. Directly below the load button on the right is the section for the guy's pictures. Once you meet the six elligible men, you'll be able to visit this section to see how much they like you. The bottom left buttom brings up an options menu for erasing save data, adjusting the game's settings and tweaking the sound. Finally, the bottom right button returns you to the title screen.
(Note: An otome game is a dating game for girls.)
Images courtesy of Idea Factory.