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Review: Ayakashi Gohan (PC Otoge)

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You thought I only played naught naughty games?
WRONG.

TITLE: あやかしごはん (Ayakashi Gohan)
DEVELOPER: honeybee
RELEASE DATE: 29th of August 2014
RATING: All ages
GENRES & THEMES: Otome Game; Modern day Japan; Ayakashi; Destiny; Japanese Mythology; Same roof
PLATFORM: PC

Once upon a time, a long time ago… It is not.

In the corner of a certain village where ayakashi and humans coexist, there is a shop that serves meals for ayakashi. The name of this eatery is “Ponpokorin”. In that store, both ayakashi and humans visit it seeking to have a delicious meal. The shop owner is a youko (a mythological fox spirit) taking on a human form.

“Everybody can be happy if they can have a delicious meal.” That was the youko’s creed. The youko and its soon-to-be 7-year-old son continue to cook delicious meals to this very day.

One day, as the hot summer ended and the harvest of autumn approached, a lone girl enters the youko’s store.

From that moment onwards, the story begins.

The beginning of a heart-warming story involving ayakashi, humans and delicious meals, starts here.

Source: VN Database


The Story&Writing

The story of Ayakashi Gohan begins when Rin’s sorry excuse of a mother sends her off to Momiji Village as a kid to spend the summer holidays with her sweet grandmother and the sexy hot hunk gentle man that lives with her, Gin (boy granny, you sure don’t waste your time do ya’?). Gin is incredibly kind and makes incredibly delicious food, but in a turn of events Rin discovers he’s not actually human—he’s an Ayakashi, and little Rin isn’t quite sure what to think of him anymore.
10 years down the road Rin’s all grown up, her grandmother is long gone, and her mother just recently passed away. With no relatives left Rin is now officially alone. That’s when Gin shows up and makes her an offer—how about coming back to Momiji village and living with him? With nothing left to lose, Rin packs her bags and moves in, finding out, much to her surprise, that Gin not only has a kid but two other Ayakashis, Uta and Yomi, living with him as a family. From here on out she'll have to ajust to living a life surrounded by Ayakashi and helping out at Ponpokorin, the restaurant for Ayakashis Gin manages.

One of the aspects that I enjoyed the most about this game is that depending on the choices you make during the prologue when Rin is a kid you head into different story paths. If you pick the human story path Rin remains afraid of Ayakashis and pretty much forgets all about them in the 10 years after the events. She’s introverted and likes being alone, rejecting any sort of kindness Gin offers her. In the Ayakashi route, however, the river flows very differently. Rin accepts the existence of Ayakashi and doesn't fear them, becoming an overly cheerful girl that makes friends left and right. In this route, Rin, who’s one big endless pit of positivism, goes around enlightening other peoples’ lives on how Ayakashi and humans can be BFFs.
Setting aside the character routes (which I will comment in the character section) and focusing solely on Rin, the protagonist, I gotta say the Human route was much more juicy. Rin in the Ayakashi route has a set character—this is who she is, and little will she change throughout the game. The three routes eligible in the Ayakashi story path focus more around unveiling the mystery behind Momiji village, Gin, and the mysterious sakura tree that blooms out of season atop the hill. But this is not how the river flows in the Human route: instead we get a distrusting protagonist who finds eating with others uncomfortable. Here it’s all about Rin’s personal development, and sweet baby Jesus in his holy cot, I frikinn’ loved it. Nothing beats personal development, even more so when it’s the protagonist that’s going through it. If I have to play with a set character I’d rather that character be an interesting one, and Rin during the human story path was plenty amusing. Not only that, she remains herself throughout the whole thing. Ayakashi Gohan manages to point out that introversion isn't a bad thing; not accepting other people's kindness and feelings is.
Point number two of what I loved about this game: there's something cooking underneath all of this. Every ending has an eerie feeling to it that suggests that clearly suggests there's something going on that we won't be able to figure out until we play the very last route. Though you can argue it's a rather clichéd and flawed mystery, the fact is I loved it. So no complaints around here.

Most of the text in the game was dialogues rather than narration, so there's not actually much to comment writing wise. I'd say the cooking scenes were a cute plus, but I actually found myself skimming through or skipping most of them... but I think that's just because I don't really care much for cooking ┐( ̄ヮ ̄)┌

The Characters


Inushima Yomi 犬嶌 詠

CV: Kaji Yuuki (梶 裕貴)
ROUTE: Ayakashi story path

It’s hard not to dig Yomi’s story, because the game pretty much ships itself with him. Yomi is the younger of the two Komainu twins who live with Gin at Ponpokorin, and he makes no effort to conceal how much he hates humans. Seeing as you can only play Yomi in the Ayakashi story path, little Mrs Sunshine’s job (i.e. Rin) is to open his eyes and make him see that humans and Ayakashis can coexist and have friendly relationships. Of course, Yomi’s an absolute dick about this for the majority of the route and openly bashes Rin from the get go, yet slowly but surely they come to an understanding.
As the first route I played I found Yomi's route highly entertaining and convincing, so much so that it was hard to get into the next few routes. This little tsundere of mine is as sweet as pie, and I love him to bits (BACK OFF LADIES). His route, though perhaps not the most interesting within the Ayakashi story path, is full of adorable moments that could even melt a grown ass man's heart.

Inushima Uta 犬嶌 謡

CV: Shimono Hiro (下野 紘)
ROUTE: Human story path

Uta is the other main guy of this game, and, like with Yomi, it’s hard to avoid liking his route when the whole game seems to be pushing the story that way.
Because in his route Rin plays the part of a gloomy shrimp who avoids contact with people, he heavily judges her and pretty much hates her when she first arrives. He’s a little ore-sama character, but more on the clownish side. Uta is distinguishably much more upbeat than Yomi, and though throughout the Ayakashi route I’d say him and Rin could become the ultimate happy combo to drive Yomi nuts, in the Human route they’re completely out of sync.
The great joy of this route is watching these two dorks stumble around as they fall in love, because dense little fuckers as they are they don’t catch onto their own feelings, much to everybody else’s demise (who, needless to say, have already realized what’s going on). They are, literally, the two biggest twits on this planet, and it’s hilarious. However I’m afraid my fondness for his route is mainly due to Rin’s amazing character development in general throughout the Human story path… but Uta’s route manages to touch on the fact that a relationship between an Ayakashi, who won’t age, and a human, who is bound to grow old and die, isn’t exactly easy, which I really really enjoyed. His bad ending, however, brings the story to a sudden full stop that’s quite baffling in how little sense it actually makes.

Ibuki Haginosuke 伊吹 萩之介

CV: Mizushima Takahiro (水島 大宙)
ROUTE: Human story path

Haginosuke is the son of the family that runs Momiji village’s shrine, and is a little piece of sunshine. He’s obsessed with Ayakashi… but sadly, unlike Rin, he can’t see or sense them. Little does he know he’s already surrounded by them, and keeping him in the dark proves to be quite hard when chatterbox Uta is around.
Haginosuke’s route starts off hilariously, because a little misleading comment from Rin ends up having everybody shipping them and pushing their relationship forwards before they even feel anything for each other. Overall I enjoyed it, but their romance is a little hard to swallow because it sort of develops backstage as other things happen. Haginosuke’s route focuses not on his relationship with Rin and how it heals him (like all other routes do), but rather on his own personal family problems. Of course, Rin lends a hand in these, but the point isn’t as much Rin getting involved as it is Haginousuke finding his happiness. It’s not a route about overcoming difficulties and shattering mindsets or traumas, which made it a very pleasant ride. And, and! Rin was awfully cute throughout it. It makes me want to hug her and squeeze her. Come here my baby!!
As a plus, both his good ending and his bad ending turned out to have very intriguing scenes related to the overhanging mystery of the game that had me staring at the screen with wide open eyes…

Hana Suou 花 蘇芳

CV: Sugiyama Noriaki (杉山 紀彰)
ROUTE: Human story path

Suou is a cat Ayakashi, a Nekomata, and as such is Uta’s and Yomi’s most natural enemy. He attends school together with the rest of the teenage troupe, though nobody really understands why, seeing as all he does is nap and skip lessons. He’s very quick to reject affection and deny his love towards humans, and in his route Rin is out to make him open up to her and feel at home.
I love cats. I adore them. They’re my absolute favourites. But I have to admit Suou was my least favourite of the routes. If anything it feels like an extension to Uta’s route, since he’s the one who actually ends up saving the day. I enjoyed watching Rin cure Suou’s lonely heart, but the romantic aspect of it made little sense to me. I kept seeing him as a pet!!! (Rin what are you doing that’s zoophilia stop it STOP IT AAAAAAAAAAA) But honestly, I swear the game was out to make me see him that way, because he acts just like a cat would, and as someone who has owned cats, it makes it quite uncomfortable. Not only that, but his endings don’t provide any enlightening information or hints about the overall mystery that hangs over our story… so, by the end of it, it has me wondering why it’s even there in the first place. But you can’t have a bishonen game without a feline character in it, can you?

Serigano Manatsu 芹ケ野 真夏

CV: Okitsu Kazuyuki (興津 和幸)
ROUTE: Ayakashi story path

Manatsu is the kind onii-san that works delivering goods from the shop his family owns. He has Onmyouji blood running through his veins, and has, since long ago, been able to see Ayakashi. Gin married his sister, Mafuyu, and has since then been very close to him.
Manatsu's route is the second to last route of the game you play, and it's tied to the game's "true ending" and overall mystery. That said, it doesn't actually unveil what's going on (fact that a very desperate me who was getting rather restless found really annoying, because I thought I was finally in for the surprise). His route was the one I was the least interested in when I began playing because he honestly seemed as boring as plain bread. Oh, how foolish I was. If it weren't for Asagi's route, Manatsu's route would definitely be the most convincing in the entire game, though it sort of cheats its way into your heart through emotional back-story. Here Rin has to fight against the fact that Manatsu seems to only see her as a little sister, and it actually turned out to be quite amusing (even though we all know he's been head over heels since forever, hur hur hur).


Kimura Asagi 木邑 浅葱

CV: Ishida Akira (石田 彰)
ROUTE: Ayakashi story path

Asagi is the mysterious boy that hangs around the cherry tree blooming out of season atop the mountain of Momiji Village. He, too, seems to be able to see Ayakashi, but that’s not the only strange thing about him. He seems to know everything that goes on in the village, and is always smiling sadly…
I actually tried to play Asagi’s route first, which ended in a tremendous failure because you can’t play it until last (damn you, Heavens!!). Though the game lets you decide, after you have completed all the routes, which route is your “one true future”, Asagi’s route is actually the closest it gets to a “true ending”. His route unveils the secret behind Momiji village, and gets around explaining the unsettling feeling Rin has throughout the entire game. As such his route doesn’t focus that much on the romance, but still manages to get the feelings across. It is also, by the way, a great tear jerker (let me swiftly sweep away all the used tissues, excuse me for a moment), and is the most solid and interesting of all routes. Incidentally, his bad ending is possibly the only interesting bad ending in the whole game. It even had me crying. The rest were all half-arsed.
He’s also got the same seiyuu as Mikage from Kamisama Hajimemashita, which had me wanting to add –samaevery time his name was called…

The Voice Acting

Brilliant cast, I loved it. Everybody is voiced, Rin included!! And props to her voice actress, Tomonaga Akane, because she plays three different Rins: Child Rin, Human story path Rin, and Ayakashi story path Rin. I was deeply impressed with how she made them all sound differently, managing to bring out their personalities perfectly! Other than that, there’s little to mention. I found Sugiyama Noriaki’s portrayal of Suou a bit irritating and too cartoonish, but that may just be an after-effect of not liking his route…

The Artwork

The character designs and artwork were all done by the well known Otome game artist Kazuaki, best known I guess for her work with the Starry Sky series. I think she's pretty much established her position within the otoge world, and there's a certain quality you can expect from her by now. Once again I have no complaints with her drawings. I love the soft feeling they carry with them; I want to see more stuff done by this lady, now.

The Music

The game is scored by MANYO, and I gotta say I really enjoyed it. I sometimes have to lower the volume of the BGM when playing VNs because the music becomes annoying, but I can safely say I loved all the pieces I heard, that managed to transmit a heart-warming and welcoming feeling during the scenes where our characters sit down for a meal together, and a sense of imminent danger and urgency when dangerous Ayakashis are involved. There was this one certain piece that played during emotional moments that just made me want to bawl my eyes out (unggghhh who took my tissues I still need theeeeem). I wasn't a big fan of the opening song, but I loved the ending, "Okaeri. Tadaima.".

System & Gameplay

The main screen and options next to the dialogue box are all in English, so it should be easy to get by for those who play VNs with translators, but once you start digging deeper everything’s in Japanese, so those who don’t know how to read it might have trouble getting around. The design was rustic and pretty, I absolutely loved it.
Gameplay wise, all I can say is that there are a looooooot of options throughout the game, but they don't really change the scenarios that much; just what Rin says. Of course, your answers will decide what character route you enter, or whether you'll hop onto the Best End, the Good End,  or the Bad End.

Conclusions

Gee, I haven't played an all ages otoge in too long... I feel cleansed, purified!
I bought this game on a whim, but I gotta say I'm very glad I did. I enjoyed the hell out of it, and as I got closer and closer to Asagi's route I started losing my shit speculating about what was going on. Not only that, but this otoge hardly has any narration: it's mainly dialogue, which means voices, which means that dumb people like me who hate kanjis can just sit back and listen!!! (Maestro, play hallelujah for me, play it!). Ayakashi Gohan was a great load of fun that also managed to tug on the strings to my heart, and though I dare say the bad endings aren't exactly praise worthy, the game overall was great.

The Good:

  • Protagonist with a voice!!
  • Overhanging mystery that’s genuinely interesting.
  • ASAGI IS A CUTIEPIE
  • Though it’s the same heroin, the difference in her personalities in the Human and Ayakashi story paths make it feel like an entirely new game and give you a fresh perspective.
  • There's apparently an English patch in the making!

The Bad:

  • Not all endings have a kiss scene… *shakes fist angrily at the Heavens*
  • Can’t view some of the definite good endings until you’ve completed all routes.
  • ASAGI DIDN’T GET A PROPER GOOD END EXCEPT FOR IN THE OMAKE SCENARIOS GOD DAMN IT LET MY BABY BE HAPPY


FINAL VERDICT!

'Tis good stuff, methinks.

Play it, is what I say.

... I think I'll play an R18 otoge next.
(so much for being cleansed and purified...)



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