KiraKira Treasure Box

Review: Blackish House side A (PC Otoge)

8 Comments
There's nothing quite like how a group of bad boys working in the showbiz living under the same roof can make an otome heart go doki doki.

TITLE: ブラッキッシュハウス Side A (Blackish House Side A)
DEVELOPER: honeybee black
RELEASE DATE: 26th of August 2016
RATING: All ages
GENRES & THEMES: Modern day Japan; Same roof; Showbiz; Music; Acting; High school setting;
PLATFORM: PC

Language the game was played in for this review:
Japanese

Amano Hina possess no 'self'. However, through acting she is able to become someone else and find inner peace. She balances her work as an actress with her studies, living a relatively peaceful life with her childhood friends and flatmates Nayuta and Haruma... That is, until she and nine other celebs get called in by her agency, SeiGetsu Production, and are labelled as problematic. Be it their attitude or their personalities, the ten talented stars here gathered may have the looks needed for the trade, but they also have something that is hindering their work in the showbiz, and the agency has decided to terminate their contracts.
Luckily or unluckily for them, there is a way to save their careers: it involves all of them living in a run-down mansion for half a year, cooperate with one another, and successfully produce a musical performance on Christmas day. Should they fail the agency will make sure they can never be a part of the showbiz again. The task seems straightforward enough, but will these ten drastically peculiar individuals —a mix of actors, dancers, seiyuu, idols and models— really be able to put aside their differences, join hands and create a musical together? And should they succeed, what is it that they'll gain at the end of it all?
I still haven't finished Zettai Kaikyuu Gakuen........
(woops???) ((oh come on that game is crazy long!!))


The Story & Writing

Bad boys + show biz + cohabitation × Kazuaki drawings = PLEASE TAKE MY PANTIES MONEY (money, money... I totally meant to say money, I swear). Honeybee has mastered the ultimate formula to an otome's heart by combining sugar, spice, and everything nice. Does it work? Yes, yes it does. I mean, what is there to it that isn't exciting and exhilarating? I never got there in time to hop onto the DYNAMIC CORD bandwagon, so when Honeybee "Black" announced the Blackish House series I was, needless to say, incredibly excited. Redemption at last! I can't be bothered to catch up with the DC games at the moment, but this?? A bunch of problem boys waiting to be swept off their feet and saved by the power of love????? Oh boy, I was so ready for this.
........ Little did I know I wasn't half as ready as I thought I was. Blackish House took me by surprise with the force of a natural disaster, a storm ripping through my comfortable life and ruining everything in its path. I might've been hyped for the game, but I wasn't expecting the free ride on the roller-coaster of feels it handed on a silver plate. And I jumped right onto it, no helmet on, thinking I was in for your usual fun ride that ends with a noncommittal "that was okay" → insert equally ambiguous smiley emoji here ←. I don't know if it's because the last two otoge's I've played have been below average, but I greatly underestimated how good Blackish House could be.
There is much to praise here story wise. Each route is incredibly unique and refreshing. I'm not a fan of otoges with an overly large cast of heroes — you risk making every route and character much too similar, thus boring your audience. Yet Honeybee pulled it off magnificently, and I can say all four heroes and their stories were incredibly unique (I guess breaking up the game in two was also a good idea, but hey). It really helped pull me into the story and suspend my disbelief — I ended up feeling too much for these characters, God damn  it.
I even sympathised with Hina, the protagonist, much more than I was initially willing to allow myself. I thought Honeybee was going to start pulling the pity cards on us when they gave her the tragic girl raised in an orphanage setting, but I was deeply impressed with how well Hina carried her story. The game knew not to stress on her backstory in every route, thus avoiding tiring me of it. By the time I finished the game I was thirsty for more Hina, and if there's anything I'm looking forward to in sideZ other than more sexy tragic boys, it's watching her character struggle brilliantly whilst helping the heroes overcome their demons. I loved her to bits as the protagonist, and I absolutely hate the fact that Honeybee didn't give her a voice!!!!!!!!! (curse you otome God, curse youuuuuuu)
I also really enjoyed the shifting narrative perspectives that occasionally made an appearance. I think I speak for every straight lady in the universe when I say that there's nothing sexier than reading through the narrations of a guy falling in love, and I kept cursing when I thought we'd be getting a hero-narration scene and then actually didn't. God damn it Honeybee, give me more of those!!

There's no particular playing order I recommend for this game. However, Rei's route only gets unblocked once you've played through Madoka's, Tougo's and Gou's routes, so his route goes last whatever you do. Because of this —and how pretty much the entire common route self-ships Hina with his character— Rei's route is arguably the "main" route of the game, and if you want to play the routes in a logical progressive order towards his route I recommend the following playthrough:

Gou → Madoka → Tougo ↠ Rei

Like I said, it doesn't really matter, but Rei's character and his relationship with Hina progresses rather nicely following this route order, and the buildup towards the climax unfolds pretty neatly.
Also, because of the epilogue after Rei's route —that hooks nicely onto sideZ by teasing the darkness that dwells within a certain character— I recommend that if you use walkthroughs to play otoges, you leave out the normal bad ending for after you've completed Rei's happy ending.


The Character Routes

Shiiba Gou 椎葉 剛

CV: Maeno Tomoaki (前野 智昭)

Twenty-two year old Gou is a seiyuu and a game otaku through and through. The only problem standing in his way is the extreme social anxiety that overcomes him when he's around women, which is hindering his work as a voice actor, a job he's very clearly passionate about. Throughout his route Hina desperately tries to help him overcome his fear by getting him used to her being around, and their story pretty much is just them tripping and falling all over the place like the two dense muffins they are.
I decided to play Gou's route first simply because he seemed like the most approachable character in the not-Rei-senpai pool (God damn it I wanted to play Rei's route first so badly, arghhhh!). I don't usually like heroes that are very obviously older than the game's heroin (usually because I'm used to it being oyaji-san characters) but I found the age difference between Gou and Hina incredibly endearing, and with Gou being such a dork it was hard to believe it was him and not her who was older. In the end their clumsy romance won me over and had me going kya— kya— all over the place (。>ω<)。. I can't handle these two brainless potatoes, they're so fucking cute together.
To be honest with you, though, Gou's route is a little... underwhelming? Is that the word I'm looking for? It's not bad; it's incredibly sweet and I enjoyed reading through it, but his character gets overshadowed by the other three heroes. His route is, comparatively speaking, very uneventful, and thus easily forgotten on the long run. Truth be told, the best part of Gou's route was his broship with Madoka and Sera. Watching those two busybodies stick their nose into the affair and urge on Hina's and Gou's relationship made my world a happier place. I know they were mainly doing it for the shits and giggles, but it was so much fun seeing them set Hina and Gou up and give them a little push, more often than not in a literal sense.

PS. The fact that Maeno Tomoaki also plays Hak from Akatsuki no Yona had my all jumpy at first, like, Hak does not go around squealing like this........


Kuze Madoka 久世 円

CV: Tachibana Shinnosuke (立花 慎之介)

Kuze Madoka, hire to the very wealthy Kuze family, is a scandal maker and an actor. He's a first-year high school student who constantly gets into fights, and his personality greatly contrasts with that of his younger twin brother, Kasumi.
Bros and hoes, welcome to the route in this game that destroyed me, because boy did I fall hard for Madoka. Like, trip and plummet off a fucking cliff sort of fall. They do say reformed bad boys make the best husbandos for a reason (what do you mean it's not "husbandos"? I'm pretty sure it's husbandos). I was especially surprised with how the writers decided to spice Madoka's route up by actually pointing out he was sexually active and taking it very seriously. I kept expecting an R-18 scene to roll on and met with disappointment when everything just faded to black and ended with very vague hints, like god damn it honeybee stop playing with my heart and give me what I want, aaaaAAAAAaaaa!! ( ≧Д≦)
Madoka's route is (or at least, feels) a lot longer than the other routes because you have to deal with two of the main characters, namely Madoka and Kasumi. Kasumi is not one of the eligible heroes in the game, but he plays a ridiculously large role in Madoka's route. So much so I'd argue it's more of a Madoka-Kasumi double route than an individual route. In it, Hina is chosen to play the lead role in a play where the protagonist learns about love and the unsightly emotions that come with it. Because Hina has never experienced love before, Madoka challenges Hina's ability to properly portray the character, eventually leading to him teaching her about "love". The route is full of ups and downs, and half the time I wasn't sure I was on the right path towards a happy ending. The conclusion to it is definitely worth the mess it puts you through, though.

PS. What's with all these voices I'm overly familiar with playing tricks on my mind, why is Tomoe from Kamisama Hajimemashita here???


Kisaki Tougo 姫崎 藤吾

CV: Kakihara Tetsuya (柿原 徹也)

Kisaki Tougo is part of the golden trio of actors that graces Hina's school with his presence. Him, Rei and Noa are childhood friends, and together they are the ultimate combination to make a girl's panties drop (hue hue hue). Tougo's problem as an actor and as a person is, however, that despite being able to understand just what people are thinking, he has no emotions of his own.
Hold on tight peeps, because Tougo's route is a rapid descend into very dark territory. Oh boy, where do I begin? I guess this route is the exact definition of "poisonous love". Out of the four heroes in sideA, Tougo was the one I was the least interested in. It wasn't even because of those disturbing preview CGs on the official webpage. I just didn't like his character, end of. Evidently I should learn to trust my 6th sense more, because holy cow, Tougo is the king of messed up relationships. In his route, Hina strives to help Tougo find the "heart" he supposedly lost as a child so that he may once again "feel". The situation becomes unbearable, and most of the route consists of Hina being worn down by the responsibility of trying to help Tougo out.
I can't say I like Tougo as a person —he is terribly messed up and even though his happy ending is, well, appropriately happy, I just can't forgive what he did and how he mistreated Hina— but his route is nothing short of brilliant. Holy fuck, the emotions and introspective work in this route are incredibly intense. I didn't give a rat's arse about Tougo — I loved watching Hina puzzle over their relationship and struggle so humanly against someone who could potentially ruin her. His entire route is a roller-coaster of emotions that had me stuck to my computer screen for the entire ride, and for that I give it a standing ovation.


Ugajin Rei 宇賀神 澪

CV: Ishikawa Kaito (石川 界人)

Make way for the biggest ore-sama in the history of ever. Third year high school student Ugajin Rei is not only the hottest topic within the drama world, he's also the hottest everything. Rei takes his job as an actor very seriously, but his attitude makes him very hard to approach. In his route, Hina and him have to overcome their cat-and-dog relationship if they want the Christmas performance to be a success.
SENPAIIIIIIIII (ノ≧∀≦)ノ *:・゚✧
Lord, how to put down in words how Reis route made me feel? I was this close to setting my laptop on fire a few times. There's only so many times you can fuck me over before I lose my mind, Honeybee. Tougo's and Madoka's routes where both incredibly shocking and psychedelic, but the revelations in Rei's route literally put the cherry on the cake. 

K.O.

How deeply invested I got into Rei's route was stupefying, even to me. I spent most of the start of the route irritated and annoyed at Rei's attitude, then screaming at all the characters on screen for fucking everything up, then squealing with joy when romance started picking up, and then crying (literally, crying. VNs rarely actually make me cry, God damn it) at how vulnerable these damn innocent cinnamon rolls were. Watching Rei warm up to Hina was delicious and intoxicating — it was managed brilliantly.
I really appreciated how the writers set up every route in a way that Rei's route ultimately becomes the climax to all of them in one. It really gave his route's ending a touch of finality to sideA. If that alone wren't enough, the route tackles head-on Hina's lack of "self" and "will", appropriately giving her character a conclusion too.
I'm not sure this counts as a disappointment, but I'm surprised that Rei's bad ending wasn't nearly as dramatic as I believed it should've been. I'm assuming they're saving the potential drama for some other character's route in sideZ, but with how tragic Madoka's and Tougo's bad endings got I half expected the world to blow up in Rei's bad ending.



The Voice Acting

I don't know if any of you pretties have actively noticed this, but a lot of games (or at least a lot of those I've recently picked up) have added a feature where you can save the audios of your favourite character dialogues and come back to them later. I've used this feature rather carelessly, not really minding its existence much, but boy do I curse the fact that Blackish House didn't have it. The voice actors all did an absolutely brilliant job, and there were so many dialogues I wanted to save to later have a giggle with.
I think the only acting I had a problem with was Kakihara Tetsuya as Tougo. His voice seemed so incredibly faked and cartoonish. I guess you could argue its part of the character (you know, because Tougo doesn't have emotions and is always "acting"), but it just rubbed me the wrong way.


The Artwork

I find that I still have an issue with how Kazuaki sometimes changes character facial features in CGs (sometimes faces felt too long or too thin compared to how the sprites had been drawn), but the artwork in the game overall is brilliant. Hina is so darn cute she makes me question my orientation. There was a great amount of backdrops too, which is also much appreciated. Overall no complaints, and I'm totally down for an artbook for this game (like, pretty please?).


The Music

I loved the music in sideA! From the piece that plays whilst on the title screen to the credits song... you can tell a lot of care was put into scoring this game. It's a pity you can't listen to the tracks individually, like a bunch of other games allow you to, but I guess I'll just have to suck it up.
I especially loved the insert song beauty&the beast and would always let it play through the scene at least twice before moving on, so props to Sera's voice actor, Aoi Shouta, for the awesome vocals he added to it.

System & Gameplay

All Honeybee games ("Black" or not) are very similar when it comes to the interface and its navigation. All the main buttons are in English, so no need to fret over kanjis (← I dunno if I'm the only one who minds details like this but my kanji knowledge sucks and it always takes me a few minutes to familiarise myself with the main save/load options if the developer insists on using kanji compounds instead of katakana). If anything the only thing that really irked me was the PING PING PING sound the buttons make when you hover over them, like, it gets incredibly annoying after a while, especially when you want to browse through the CGs.
I really liked, though, how a lot of the buttons in the special section —such as character photos and CGs— swapped from black&white to full colour when you hovered over them. The overall concept is very fancy and modern, which very appropriately suits the heroes in sideA.
Also, I didn't get to save my favourite dialogues or browse through the music in the game, but I really liked how you could freely jump back through the scene to any moment using the log function. That was super useful, because it means you don't have to worry about constantly saving the game.


SideA Conclusions

Blackish House has left me dazzled. From a cast of characters impressively well defined to unpredictable plot twists and revelations I had never even considered, this game surprised me in many unexpected ways. However, as the only route in the game that focuses on sweet, innocent love is Gou's, I believe people who don't enjoy dark stories won't be in for a very pleasant ride. Madoka's route sort of gets away with a nice happy ending too, but Tougo's and Rei's routes are pretty heavy, and even their happy endings leave you with a bittersweet taste, like something's quite not right.
In the end my favourite route was undoubtedly Rei's, whereas Gou's goes down as my least favourite. I'm all in for sweet romance, but I'm easily swayed by plot-twists that genuinely shock me. Character wise, though, my order is Tougo → Gou → Madoka → Rei. I just couldn't stomach Tougo's character, I'm sorry. That fucker is too messed up for me to deal with.
What I found most impressive was how Honeybee managed to weave intrigue for sideZ into the game not just through a clever cliffhanger epilogue that only pops up after completing Rei's route, but by purposely leaving much of the story unexplored. There is so much potential to Blackish House that there is no way I'll be missing out on sideZ! I can't help but wonder how they'll pick the story up... will the common route remain the same or will we be getting a different story altogether?

The Good:

  • Awesome pool of characters that make for very interesting and varied routes.
  • Extra good ending scenes that get unlocked in the Special Sage section after you complete the main good ending.
  • Exciting epilogue that hooks nicely onto sideZ (how can I possibly not play sideZ after that scene?!)
  • Short bad endings that don't drag on needlessly.
  • SENPAI EXISTS.

The Bad:

  • Protagonist's default name does not get called (ρ゚∩゚)
  • Protagonist with no voice (ρ゚∩゚) (aaw come onnnnn)
  • NO HARUMA ROUTE IN THIS GAME
  • HARUMA IS OUT OF REACH
  • HARUMAAAAAAAAA

Also just dropping this in here, but two endings contain hinted rape scenes. I'm not going to put it down as good or bad, but heads up to those who would rather avoid this sort of content.


SideA FINAL VERDICT!

BANANAS.

I really, really didn't want to give sideA a BANANAS rating because it's technically only half of the Blackish House story, but I just can't lie to myself. I enjoyed the game too much.

Ungh, I want to play sideZ so badly...

Don't worry Haruma baby, momma's coming for ya'.

Posted on: 01/11/2016



You may also like

8 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your review!
    I just found your blog while looking for Yoshiwara higanbana reviews (just completed this game it was awesome orz...) and I really enjoyed reading you. (I will continue to follow your blog!)
    No matter how many reviews i read from you and I just CAN'T AGREE MORE WITH YOU! I really love how positives are your reviews, it made my day

    I've recently played this game - Blackishh SideA, man i really enjoyed this game!
    Just like you i didn't enter into the Dynamic chord's bandwagon yet but this game gave me good impressions as my first Honeybee black game. (and yes That Beast and beauty's song was so goooooood and that opening too oh my god!)

    I have to admit i have a thing for messed-up characters like Shigure from Higanbana or Auger/Meoio from Bws, so Tougo's character was good! ...But yeah, i also like Haruma a lot so i couldn't really forgive him somehow. (HARUMA IS TOO PRECIOUS FOR THIS WORLD PLS PROTECT HIM DJOPADJA)
    But i liked that kind of toxic romance and my favourite CG from his route was that one in the bathroom, i really liked Hina's expression on this one!

    And the artwork was really pleasant for my eyes, i hope to see more from this artist on the next future otome games

    Seriously i can't wait for SideZ! Please Honeybee black let us save Haruma that precious child.
    He really deserves happiness, he needs Hina more than anyone... (my heart)
    And those hints when Hina asked him "Have you ever fell in love?" ughhhh look at him blushing ;-; when he replied " i did " I was like : SOON HARUMA IM COMING FOR U //rushes

    GOD I can't wait for SideZ, i'm really curious about Akune Sera and Noa, i already have some guess about Haruma, Nayuta or even Noa's character but Sera's character has this kind of mysterious vibes so i have some expectations about it.

    Let's hope we won't be disappointed!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Asdfghjkl thank you so much for your support!! *_* I'm glad you enjoy reading my reviews and find them entertaining!

    I agree that other than Haruma Sera is definitely high on my priority list, simply because we got no hints as to what his route could be like. I think Nayuta's the one I'm least hyped for — I don't really feel anything other than brotherly love from him.

    ReplyDelete
  3. GOSH I NEED HELP did you use a walkthrough? Bc I tried one and I keep getting the bad ending (or ending 3) for Gou (sorry but MAENO) and it just breaks my heart seeing the poor child thinking he was being played with. Help this desperate friend, plase *stream of tears*

    thanks a lot for the review btw <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yessss I did! I play VNs for the story, so I always use a walkthrough ^^ I like to use Choro's walkthroughs (xxchoroxx(.)blog(.)fc2(.)com) and I'm pretty sure her's is the one I used when playing this game. Hope that helps!!

      Delete
    2. THANKS FOR ANSWERING
      That's the one I tried and it didn't work at all sobs
      But thanks again <3

      Delete
    3. No waaaaay, really?
      Hmmm I played this game a while ago, but I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything special. There's no notes on Choro's walkthrough saying you have to do something before playing it, either....... The only thing I might've done differently from others is that I played all the bad endings AFTER completing all the happy endings and special stages...

      Delete
  4. Hi! I loved your review and now I'm really hyped to buy this game! I just want to ask, how many hours did you take to fully complete the game? Thanks!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello~! Glad you enjoyed my review!! >.<
      Hmmm I'm not sure, it's been a while since I completed it and I don't usually time how many hours I spend playing a game :S I think it might've taken me roughly two weeks/a week and a half? And that's obviously with real life stuff in between.

      Delete

Your comment will be published once it has been moderated!

Kira Kira Treasure Box. Powered by Blogger.