Title: Deus Machina Demonbane
Alternate Title: Demonbane
Developed By: Nitro+
Published By: JAST USA
Genre: Mecha, Action, Harem, Romance
Audio: Japanese Dub
Cost: $39.95 from the Jast USA online store.
Blurb: For an 18+ Visual Novel, I must say I am impressed. Whilst there is adult content present in the storyline, the plot is more action oriented and is overall implemented well. It follows Kurou a third-rank PI in the city of Arkham that is under attack by a group known as the Black Lodge. Despite this series being released in 2003, the character and environment designs are still strong however the video scenes do show their age a bit. The music also suits the genre but may not be up to scratch with what I was hoping for.
Special Thanks: I would like to thank the PR Team at JAST USA for providing me with a review sample of this title.
Deus Machina Demonbane is the first visual novel from JAST USA that I will be reviewing. This visual novel was originally released in Japan in 2003 meaning that is is older then most of the VN’s they do release – however considering that since then it has also spawned off a further visual novel, physical novel, manga and anime series does give the series a lot going for it. I am personally not a big fan of the Mecha genre (Which Demonbane primarily is), having watched a single episode of the Gundam franchise before – however this series has definately impressed me to the point that I might give the genre another shot. “Just how good was this visual novel?” you may ask. Well, read on for my review of Deus Machina Demonbane to find out…. Of course, only if you are 18+ as this is an adult visual novel.
Former Miskatonic University Magic Academy student Daijuuji Kurou knows little of grimoires, but what he does know terrifies him – enough that he left his university life behind, and now practices a failing detective business in the shelter of an orphanage in a quiet corner of Arkham. But just when he thought his Academy past was buried, it catches up with him and pulls him back into the dark shadows of the occult: Hadou Ruri herself appears at his door with an offer he can’t refuse. The only way to combat the Black Lodge’s growing magical power is to find, and retrieve, a grimoire with the power to activate the mightiest Machina of all: Demonbane. The quest to find this forbidden tome will change Kurou’s destiny… forever.
Those who are familiar with the work of H.P. Lovecraft’s work will without a doubt be familar with the environments presented in the game as the City of Arkham and several other references throughout the series refer to his work. As I haven’t actually followed Lovecraft’s work I suddenly feel tempted to read some of them… but I digress. Taking place in Arkham City which is a modern(ish) city where the citizens live in fear of a group known as Black Lodge who in this world of mecha and magic, hold several of the worlds most competent sorcerers in their ranks alongside countless numbers of “Killing Machines”. We are initially introduced to our hero Kurou Daijuji – a third rank private investigator who gives the impression of dying from hunger when we first meet him. Having dropped out of the Miskatonic University as a archeology *coff* sorcery *coff* major, he was having trouble keeping himself financially stable and living a rather bland life. However, after being given a well paying job offer from Ruri Hadou of the Hadou Financial Group to find a Grimoire… his life is changed forever as he is dragged into the battles against the Black Lodge.
Whilst only looking for a Grimoire to be used to pilot the Demonbane – the supposed strongest mecha in the world, he instead comes across Al-Azif, the physical “humanoid” entity for the most powerful grimoire in the world – Necronomicon and in turn to save himself, becomes her master and pilot of the Demonbane itself. The storyline after a short while deviates into a repetitive nature of repetitively defeating increasingly powerful enemies. This is due to Al missing pages (for the grimoire) as without them – the both of them cannot reach their full potential and cannot stand up against the higher ranking members of the Black Lodge. Every chapter involves them hunting for usually one set of pages, each of which have a physical manifestation or some negative implication on another person. As this is an eroge game, the first of which for example involves a spider personification of the pages where she captures men and “Has her way with them” so to speak. In other events however, there is no ero scenes involves – such as the second set of pages which involve one of the girls residing at the church that is featured predominantly which uses her own fantasies to attack everyone with Humpty Dumpty, Playing Cards and the Jabberwocky which also gave some of the minor and secondary characters some focus.
The issue I found with the first half of the series was that whilst it did allow a decent amount of character development, I found it repetitive after a while and wanting more of a deviation from the same pattern of finding a few pages –> Battle Start! –> “Oh No! We are being Overpowered!” –> Plot Twist –> Get Pages –> Repeat. I suppose it would be too convenient for Al to have all her powers immediately, but I think in terms of this they took it a step too far. Whilst I will not go into much relating to the storyline afterwards as I feel you as a reader should enjoy it without spoilers – the rest of the storyline is even better then the first part mentioned above and involves significantly good storytelling in comparison to what I was actually expecting (Remember, I don’t particularly like the genre).
The story has A LOT of text overall, and would most probably be the longest visual novel series I have ever head by far – to the point that I gave up wanting to get all endings prior to writing this review – as this review most probably wouldn’t be out until next month. However, the writing is not only rewarding to the reader that wants to enjoy a storyline without thinking too much about it however also has enough complexity that someone who wants more then your run-of-the-mill storyline. The storyline frequently discusses issues surrounding the physics, complexity of the mecha and other things which some readers may skip over but actually is not content I would pass off as placed for the sake of being there. On the opposite side of things, comedy – especially surrounding sarcastic remarks are plentiful throughout the chapters (Such as pictured above). Kurou also infrequently broke the fourth wall, especially at the beginning of the game where he talks about there being a Game Over at the start of the tale and all that. This is a serious series without a doubt, however the presence of both emotional scenes between the main and secondary characters and comedy are included well.
Overall there are three main female characters that you can have “End’s” with, however due to time constraints I was only able to unlock the True (??) End of Al. During the course of the game you are presented with dialogue relating to or with the three female mains – Al, Hadou and Leica. Depending on your actions, you will either get a character specific end or the normal end I suppose. I don’t have anything to compare to, but I think the storyline ended satisfactorily. But overall, with a vast cast of characters from your “Most Powerful Grimoire” to a “Mad Guitar Playing Mecha Pilot”, I am happy with how the storyline went and would recommend it to anyone provided you don’t mind some ero content.
Considering that this was a title released in 2003, I feel that the design quality of this series is damn impressive. There may not be a sense of much realism in the character portrait designs, but I think they remain satisfactory and pull of the intended effect whether it is cute or target a certain fetish group (Such as nekomimi for example). The CG art fares a lot better both in terms of design quality. As pictured in several images above, the images whilst still retaining their anime-style charms keep with the overall futuristic feel to the series (In regards to mecha etc), have nice special effect designs and overall left me feeling satisfied with them. In terms of eroge scenes, from all the scenes I saw – they have been decensored which I suppose is a good thing for those who do not like censorship of their hentai CG’s. Environment designs are absolutely brilliant however. They try to put across a darker styled industrial town that is evidently suffering from chaos – and they do just that. At the same time, they have the little “futuristic” extras that I have to applaud. They also utilize a few video sequences that are voiced (With subtitles) however whilst the art design still performs strong, the video quality definitely shows its age and isn’t that pleasing to look at. Also whilst I haven’t debated much about the mecha designs, I would say they are very well designed.
The music in this game is okay. Whilst there are a satisfactory number of tracks spaced out through the chapters, I don’t think there were any instrumental tracks I would consider particularly memorable. That being said, the tracks were well suited to the more serious setting of this series. I did however, have an issue with the voice acting and I still do not understand why the issue would occur. You see, whilst the game does have some good voice acting work with voice actors/actresses well suited to their characters personalities… only a certain portion of the game is voiced with the rest of it remaining undubbed. Whilst the series starts out dubbed – it then suddenly becomes voiceless, then later on the voice acting returns and stops again. I am not sure if this is a problem exclusively with the English version but I would have appreciated the entire game being dubbed if possible.
As this is an 18+ Visual Novel, it is fairly evident that there will be some ero content throughout the series – sometimes storyline oriented as a previous discussed and other times more seemed to be thrown in for the sake of it being there. There is a mixture of sex, panty shots and general cuteness CG designs included and there was a considerable number of these scenes however I do not think it has much of an impact on the overall quality of the storyline. At the same time however, the storyline could have done without them as evidenced by an all-ages PS2 version of the game being released in Japan – but hey, it is not like the primary focus was on sex but instead the intriguing story. If anything, it will definitely draw more people into it – and does cover most of the general things you would expect to see in a ero series. As a bonus over the original Japanese release as I mentioned above, all the scenes are decensored as well.
In terms of the actual visual novel system, there were some aspects I liked and some aspects I felt could have been handled a bit better. On the positive side, the way the actual text was displayed was very well – with a primary textbox at the bottom alongside the occasional ones appearing at different sides of the screen to cater for different characters talking. Also the primary font used was clear and easy to read. I also liked that the game used Ctrl+KEY hotkeys to enter the config/title/save/load menus instead of having to right click all the time. From the main menu, there was also an option to Continue, so instead of choosing a save file, it will automatically load your last saved file. They might be little things, but I appreciate them. There were some areas that could have been done better however. The text backlog did not display the English text efficiently and none of the Extra Mode features such as Event CG/Movie Playback were grayed out until you finished the game, which was slightly disappointing if you want to rewatch a particular moment in the game to catch up.
Whilst I did not include it in my review structure, I would like to take a brief moment to describe the included extras with the visual novel. I received a downloadable version therefore missed out on recieving any packaging or physical media, however I would like to quickly describe the included manual and artbook. Both of these came in a single PDF document and was more then just a white background with some text and a couple of images. First of all, the manual covers everything you would need to know about setting up and enjoying the software and the visual novel experience… but I will admit I did like the inclusion of this statement in it:
Please note, however, that the completely fictional sexual relationships portrayed by this game’s artwork do not always exhibit “safe sex” practices, nor do they necessarily demonstrate the full range of sensitivity, communication and intimacy necessary to sustain a real life interpersonal relationship.
I know people most probably don’t read this stuff as it is all common sense, but from a health point of view, I think it is a nice thing to mention (Among all the other more obvious stuff). Besides that however, it has a nice darker background to go with the white text used, isn’t hard to read and uses a mixture of pictures and text to get across exactly how to get started in the game. Of more interest to people would be the “art book” portion of it – which consists of your general character bios and a nice collection of quality images.
In my personal opinion, I think this game has much to offer even to those who like me, don’t necessarily enjoy the genre. There is a nice mixture of action-oriented storyline as well as comedy/character development. I would recommend this to anyone who is willing to sit at their computer and repeatedly click on their mouse for hours on end whilst being drawn into the world of Deus Machina Demonbane.
Storyline/Character Development: A
Music and Voice Acting: C+
Adult Content: Yes
Personal Opinion: A
Final Score: A-
For a full overview of my new visual novel review structure, please visit this link.