When ZUN first created his humble SHMUP on the good ol PC-98, he probably didn’t expect it to explode in popularity like it has, but explode it did and today Touhou has formed its own community of widespread fanworks that has reached out to a huge audience in all forms and shapes. Outside of SHMUPS, Touhou fangames include RPGs both turn-based and action, platformers, Strategy games… really just about every genre you can think of due to its prevalence.
One of Touhou’s drawing points is the varied cast of cute female characters so you would kind of think that lots of people would have the idea of creating a Touhou Romance Visual Novel, but apparently they’re much more rare than I thought and this is the only one I’ve know of, so let’s take a look!
So if the name doesn’t give it away, Alice is the main focus of our tale. As the story goes, the protagonist (that’s you) was randomly walking in the woods one day when he runs into Alice and thus makes her acquaintance that way. Alice hands him her cell phone number and says to call her some time for drinks or something. Thus begins your dating relationship with Alice!
(Feel free to argue about the canonity of Alice possessing a cell phone.)
So in the past, “Dating Sim” tends to be a very common misnomer for Visual Novels because not all of them involve dating so its kind of misleading when things get mislabeled. Thankfully this seems to have fixed itself in recent times but ironically “Dating Sim” would actually be an accurate descriptor for this game.
Like your average dating sim, Alice To Eternal presents you with a couple of stats to raise/manage and you’ll kind of quickly find out that it isn’t very meaningful and doesn’t really work in this context. There’s a related action that raises each stat while slightly lowering each other, 3 levels of intensity on how much you want to train said stat (both increasing the gains and losses) but with only 1 girl to impress (as opposed to the regular dating sim where you have to tailor your stats to the girl you’re pursuing) it feels kind of hollow. Since Alice already seems to be pretty fond of you, you kind of wonder why you’re wasting your time on this silly mini-game of spreadsheet balancing…
Well right until around 2/3s of the game where suddenly the game slaps you in the face if you didn’t raise them properly, but we’ll get to that.
The other thing you can do, of course, is call Alice out to a location for a date, Tokimeki Memorial style! I believe there’s about 10-15 locations you can invite Alice to, where you’ll be presented a question which you have to answer correctly in order to raise favorability.
Each location seems to have 3 different variants of questions that Alice can ask, so in a single playthrough you’ll probably have enough variety in immersing yourself in the game world and all that. Play through the game more than once though and you’ll sadly probably see the questions start repeating themselves.
So far I’ve been rather negative about the gameplay but now I’m going to switch gears. Alice To Eternal has some very nice touches that give it a certain sort of charm that other, more expensive VNs might not have.
For example, Alice has a series of little animations that are really cute and help convey her emotion more than the usual static portraits in most VNs.
The aesthetics are also pretty nice, such as the rather stylish looking UI border of the text message box. Alice looks cute in one of her better fan-portrayals look and the music is catchy. The plot actually throws a bit of a curveball as you near the end of the game if you trigger the proper events correctly.
It’s a bit of a shame that the gameplay pulls Alice to Eternal down rather than complimenting it, but it’s still a fairly decent and short Romance VN that you can digest in a day or so before moving on. If you’re a fan of the character, this will most likely appeal to you, unless you believe that the one true pairing is Alice X Marisa or something.
I do see some potential for expanding on the concept though. Come on, where’s my fully fledged Touhou Dating Sim with complex dating mechanics and ability to choose from a huger cast of Touhou ladies? Still, for a small, personal attempt, this one is pretty good. Give it a shot if you come across the game.