Falcomonth is over, and now we move on to DatingSiMonth, whose name is a bit of a misnomer, being that it focuses on actual Dating Sims, Visual Novels with romance gameplay elements and so on. Still, for my first pick I’m going to keep things much more traditional, I guess.
And my current pick is the obscure Mujintou Monogatari R for the Sega Saturn. The original MM series was a set of rather detailed and complex Island Survival simulation games but at some point, the company decided to branch out into adding Galge elements in this spinoff series (indicated by the R, which I guess stands for Romance?) How does it fare? Let’s take a look.
As the story goes, the main character is working as a part-time tutor and he gets rewarded for his efforts with a island vacation. Unfortunately, some shortsightedness leads to him and his friends being stranded and needing to survive until help/rescue arrives.
At the start of the game, you’re introduced to your victims… um, I mean prospective love interests. Interestingly enough, while there are 10 characters in the game, only 5 of them are available in a single playthrough.
How are they picked? After the introductions, you’re asked several questions by the “best male friend” archetype that games of this genre are pretty much required to have. They don’t seem important but the characters available to you are decided through this method. Incidentally, your party will always consist of 4 females and 1 male friends (plus yourself).
It does make it kind of annoying to replay the game though, seeing as it takes a good 7-8 minutes or so even if you just skip through all the text.
Special notes on this character: Nakajima Rika is like Mujintou Monogatari’s version of Deneb – she’s a recurring character in the series. She’s voiced by Inoue Kikuko, you may know her better as “Belldandy”
I’m going to assume that none of the games are connected storywise, because otherwise she REALLY needs to stay off boats as much as Adol does.
Whoa, Rei Ayanami, what are YOU doing here?
I feel like this explains quite a bit about the creation of the game. For those unaware, one of Evangelion’s major influences on the otaku industry was the move away from toy merchandising into character-based merchandise, which is kind of ironic considering Evangelion is generally labelled under the Mecha genre (a.k.a THE genre for marketing toys)
Tokimeki Memorial set off a huge wave of “pure love” romance simulation games and I believe this game kind of falls in the same time period where companies really wanted a piece of that pie.
Nowadays, unlike what public consciousness through things like Anime would have you believe, the genre is surprisingly dormant, so I guess the bubble burst at some point.
But I digress and I should probably stop rambling and get back to the game.
Anyway, here’s the main map screen of the game. The gameplay objectives are as follows
1) Find a way to keep your party fed and in high morale.
2) Search for items that can be used to signal for help/SOS
3) Get a character to like you, because that’s kind of the point of a romantic simulation, but you can’t quite do that when you’re starving to death.
The first thing you ought to do when you start the game is reorganize your party. Different characters are good at different things, such as exploration, cooking or just generally having high stamina and you can generally tell by character archetype what their starting stats are going to be like.
While you can “train” characters over time by asking them to perform said actions, at the start of the game you simply don’t have the luxury of trying that with your starting supplies. You can branch out later on, which is a good idea for several reasons.
Incidentally, due to a quirk of the series, every party has 2 members and orders are given on a party-level, not individual level. If one party member is incapacitated in some form, the party is unable to act at all, which is something that might screw your plans if you’re not careful.
There aren’t that many options you can take in the game so let’s go over them. Each day consists of 2 parts (day and night) and each party can take a different action per period.
First off, you can choose to “Search” areas on the map, which will reveal new points of interest depending on your observation stat, and then after that you can “Gather” from those areas, which will provide you with things like Bananas, Mangos, Shellfish and other sort of food that Robinson Crusoe would use to survive. Each area has limited resources, so if one area has 6 bananas and you harvest all of them, that’s it for that area: you’re going to have to look somewhere else for more!
The other part of the game is cooking. Cooking duties is delegated to one party per day and takes up the entire day. The chosen party will cook dishes that will restore everyone’s HP and morale at the end of the day.
Annoyingly enough, the latter isn’t particularly documented on the screen: you can see how much HP a dish restores but not how much it affects your party mood. One thing I will say is that the characters really hate eating emergency rations, it will drop their mood like a rock.
The dishes you have available to you are based on three things: the party’s average cooking ability, what ingredients you have available and finally, what tools you have available. For some reason, scattered all over the island are things like Frying Pans and Cooking Pots which will really open up your options from “I tossed a bunch of fruits in a bowl, this is now a salad.”
You absolutely do NOT want to forget to set someone on cooking duty and the game will even remind you if you are silly enough to end the turn having done so.
Now this element of the game was actually simplified from the original mainline series, where there was a huge tech-tree of possible research not only for food but also for tools and luxuries in order to ease surviving life on an island. It’s kind of disappointing to reduce said gameplay elements to just “cooking” but I suppose the intention of the game is to bring in a more casual, romance-focused audience so shrug.
Fun fact: this guy is another re-occuring character of the series, an old soldier who refuses to believe that the war he was taking part in is over and essentially lives as a hermit in the jungle. I do believe it’s based off stories of actual Japanese soldiers post WW2 who did so, though the specifics don’t come to mind right now.
Whoops. Yeah, putting fixing their mood off until later was a bad idea.
Now here comes the part which will be very familiar to Dating Sim fans…
To keep your characters Morale up, you got to ask them out! Note that there’s actually two forms of “asking someone out” in this game and actual romantic dating isn’t available until you built up their trust enough. I guess they did it like this so you can control your romantic dating according to your personal preference.
As usual, you got to answer a question and you want to pick the right response, the traditional gameplay mechanic of the genre.
Hurray, Rei is happy! A character’s feelings towards you, their morale and trust will build based off the combination of your answer and where you decide to bring them to relax. Choose a bad answer and location and you could tank your relationship!
Now, as a personal note, I’m not very fond of Romance simulation games where you can just concentrate on one character and ignore all the others. Ideally I think you should have to interact with all of them because otherwise what’s the point of having all of them in one game?
On the other hand, in this game I do feel like I’m having to babysit my party members WAY too often to stop them from throwing tantrums…
Now here’s an interesting factoid: In the Windows version of this game, the male characters were actual legitimate dating choices and even had endings attached to them. This was apparently censored out of the Sega Saturn version, which is kind of sad because dual gender romance options doesn’t happen often in the genre at all, here’s an artbook scan of one of the endings CGs that was possible.
So, what do I think about this game? On the gameplay side, it’s not that great. There isn’t really that many factors to keep track of or possible actions you can take, so gameplay tends to fall into repetitive patterns really quickly. The game is brutally unforgiving in its early stages and you can easily enter a “dead man walking” scenario where your characters are stuck being too hungry or low morale to actually go out and fix your problems, but because this is generally a “light-hearted” game, it doesn’t even do you the favor of killing everyone off and giving you a “game over”.
Outside of making your gameplay system complex in the first place, Romance Simulation games tend to include stuff like mini-games to break up constant numbers crunching which might get a little monotonous sometimes. This game doesn’t do any of that so… well, honestly, I can’t even give it points for concept/niche, because I’ve played better games with the same premise!
On the galge side, it’s actually a bit better. The graphics are nice and crisp and if you’re nostalgic for character designs of that age, they’re pretty attractive and not bad at all. That being said, I kind of feel that there’s not really enough special events/CGs to really shake things up in this department… overall, if I had to give it a numeric score it’ll probably be 7/10.
So at the end of the day, I guess I can say that this game is “technically competent”… but unfortunately “technically competent” doesn’t really set the heart ablaze. The “R” subseries only lasted 2 games, both of which only achieved “Eh, it’s okay” reception before the developers went on to try to spinoff another subseries, this time the “X” series focused on a more psychological, dark thriller theme of island survival.
As far as I know, it was received as well as “Valis X” did to Valis fans. After that, they went back to doing a couple more normal mainline games before falling into dormancy.
Oh jeez, did I just end another blog post with a “well, that’s pretty unfortunate what happened to the company”? I really wish that would stop being a theme.
Hope you enjoyed reading about this obscure Sega Saturn game. I’ll probably write some more for this themed month, though maybe this time I’ll pick something I find more fun instead.