Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro na
Time to review the *other* game of a Moon Princess.
Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro na is a 2005 game by August. It received an all ages PS2 port in 2006 and, when its fandisc came out in 2009, a PC backport (still all ages). It also had a PSP port in 2010 (the version I personally played).
Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro na -Brighter than Dawning Blue-
Asagiri Tatsuya is a normal student living a normal life with his imouto Mai (who is non blood related, to surprise of no one) and his older cousin Sayaka, who works as the pillar of the household after the disappearance of his father and death of his mother, and working part time in the Italian restaurant next door, of the family of his osananajimi Natsuki. If there’s something peculiar, is the focus put into the Lunar Studies in his school, given the special situation of his town, Mitsurugasaki, as the only contact with the Moon Kingdom Sphere. Because you see, long ago the Moon was colonized, but then relations with Earth deteriorated and a series of war broke out, wars so terrible the civilization got set back centuries, to just the level of our present (what a coincidence).
The game starts when Sayaka announces that a Lunarian is coming to stay at their home in a kind of student transference. Sayaka is the vice-director of the Moon Museum, and she herself stayed for a while in the Moon, which is why their home was chosen. That by itself is surprise enough, since the Moon Kingdom is isolationist to the extreme, but to add to the shock is the Moon Princess herself, Feena fam Earthlight, who’s coming (bringing also her maid, Mia).
And so Tatsuya’s new daily life starts. What will his future hold? (hint: love)
This game has an usual structure of a common trunk followed by the different routes. You can’t play those routes in any order, though; the first time you automatically get into Feena’s route. After that you unlock the other heroines, except for Wreathlit, who’s unlocked after everyone else. And after Wreathlit, you unlock Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro na, continuation of Feena’s route and True End of the game.
The first thing needed to play this game is an important amount of suspension of disbelief. That the war set back civilization to just the present level (or that it set it back even further, but has advanced to just the present level) is a very transparent attempt to have a Moon Kingdom in an ordinary setting. There’s also the whole situation of the princess staying in the protagonist’s house accompanied by just her maid. You can get past that, but if you are like me it will keep bothering you. (Then again, maybe you are not like me. Which maybe is a good thing.)
The common trunk is not very relevant. Is basically a series of short scenes that add very little. They’re not particularly bad, but they’re not very funny either, and add next to nothing to the overall setting, story, or characterization. There are some exceptions, but that’s the overall impression the trunk gives. It’s not very long, though, and in following playthroughs you can skip it almost entirely.
The routes are better. However, what plagues them is an awful underutilization of the setting. With the exception of Feena, Estel and Wreathlit, the routes could have happened in our present world with minimal rewriting (and in Feena’s case this is only in the second part). And given that the scenarios that use the most the setting are the last ones, it means that for the most part it seems you were presented with an interesting setting which is then promptly discarded to see pretty mundane drama. This doesn’t mean that the drama is bad (though, with maybe the exception of Mai, it’s neither better than merely good), but it’s things you have seen (or could have seen) elsewhere.
Also, there’s little consistence between the routes. In one Feena is absent most of the time going around the Earth, in others she’s accompanied by Mia, and in others they just stay home (this depends on how necessary a certain heroine presence or absence is to the route’s plot). There’s also events that happen only in one route (a route in which such event is needed for progression, or drama).
Once you reach the final scenarios, though, the setting starts shining. They tie the remaining plot lines, expand and explain the background, and finally make some use of whole the lost technology aspect. It’s maybe not the best use of lost technology ever, but is good enough, and the ending is satisfying.
So overall, is a fun read. As I said, the main drawback is the lack of use of the setting. So if you are interested in this because of that, keep it in mind (or grab a complete save and skip most of the heroines). If considered a character based game, though, it fares better. Maybe not since the start, but the heroines have all their charm, and the relationship progression and the final drama of each route work well.
Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro na -Moonlight Cradle-
The fandisc consists of after stories for the heroines, and a completely new scenario with a new heroine, Cynthia Marguerite, about as long as any one route of the original, which expands the lost technology setting (as the heroine’s surname hints).
The after stories are nice. Low in drama, just some ichaicha. And H content for Midori and Estel, who were completely lacking it. The new scenario is not bad, either, and provides the best bittersweet ending of the games.
And that’s all this has to offer. But if you liked the original and its characters enough, you may want to try this.