Blacksouls

bs1

The Dark Souls of fairy tales.

BLACKSOULS -Kuro no Douwa to Go-Mahime- is a HRPG (and a pure RPG, not a vn hybrid) released on 2017 by doujin circle Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe?, written and illustrated by Sushi Yuusha Toro. It is available at DLsite (link 18+). EGS

BLACKSOULS II -Itoshiki Anata he Okuru Fushigi no Kuni- is its sequel, released on 2018. It is also available at DLsite (link 18+). EGS

BLACKSOULS -Kuro no Douwa to Go-Mahime-

The first Blacksouls is a RPG maker game with a Dark Souls inspired gameplay (disclaimer: I haven’t actually played Dark Souls so I can’t really judge the validity of the comparison) set in a grimdark world where twisted versions of fairy tales characters live and which is being terrorized by five demonic princesses from those tales.

You start in a library with Alice, who guides you on the character creation. And then bloodily explodes, setting the tone for the game. From there you awake in jail, from which you are rescued by Jeanne d’Arc… who promptly meets fiery demise in the hands of a big-ass dragon. After that the game truly begins and you can start exploring around; the game is not linear nor does it give you much direction, besides telling you that there are five evil princesses who should probably be somehow dealt with. The different areas monsters’ strengths will push you in particular directions, though.

hansel&gretel

The above hints a bit to it, but this game is pretty Dark and Edgy. You can also kill and rape all the NPC (…not in that order), though on the other hand you don’t *need* to do it and you can play all the game without seeing any gratuitous rape (you probably will need to gratuitously kill some, however). Gratuitous raping and killing will raise your Karma value though, and there might be somebody who sees fit to punish you it it becomes too high…

The combat is turn based with an action gauge, based on the character agility. Opponents are though, and you need to cleverly use your basic commands of defense/evade/parry to survive their attacks and beat them (or just grind until you overwhelmingly out-level them). You gain souls from the encounters, which is then used as both experience and currency, and every area has a bonfire that works as a full heal and teleportation base (saving can be done at any time). The basic difficulty is actually not that hard after the beginning, but you can raise it at any time from the default of 0 until a max of 9.

…However, you are able to obtain some pretty degenerate equipment halfway through, after which combat becomes basically a formality. Grinding for souls is not very difficult either so overall the difficulty ends up being kind of a joke.

The characters are nice I guess. There are ten heroines you can get as partners and summon in battle, but besides the “main” one neither one gets a lot of screen time. They are all cute though.

rapuntzel

There are several endings, but you can do all on the same playthrough (only the A end has some easy to miss conditions, but it’s actually not so important and in New Game+ it would only take a bit of time to get it). And you should do all of them; the story is not bad but for the most part not particularly brilliant either, but endings C and D radically twist the plot and it was probably with them that I came to really like this game.

Because in the end yes, I quite liked this game. The story is serviceable and the endings good, and the gameplay fun (even if later it becomes trivial). If you like grimdark worlds, fairy tales, or grimdark fairy tales you can do a lot worse. At the very least it would prepare you for the sequel.

BLACKSOULS II -Itoshiki Anata he Okuru Fushigi no Kuni-

bs2

Blacksouls II is a direct sequel to the first Blacksouls game.

However, exactly in what way is not apparent at first, and you can (and probably will) progress all the way to the final boss and even beat it without getting much clue about what the main plot was supposed to be.

In this game, you were separated from your [choose one from daughter/sister/mother] Alice and awoke in a strange land, and go on in a search for her. And that’s all direction you will have for a long time. However, the plot is not so much sparse as it is hidden, and when it does eventually appear it is quite more intricate and emotional than the Blacksouls I one. Motif-wise, if the first game was inspired on fairy tales in general this one draws more upon Alice in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass and other Lewis Carroll works (though not being very familiar with his overall work I think I missed most references).

asylum

On the other hand the heroines are even more of non-entities than the ones from the first game, and you don’t have them as party members (they only give some passive buffs), so this is a much more solitary experience than the first Blacksouls.

Every aspect besides this is a marked improvement upon BS1. Atmosphere and production are quite better (it’s still a RPG maker game though), and some of the areas are truly memorable. The asylum area is really creepy and unsettling, the slaughterhouse is the nastiest level I’ve seen in a RPG, and the Moon surface is the most WTF thing I’ve seen in a while (though calling it a level is somewhat of an exaggeration). The BGM music is also fitting and there are even a couple of insert songs.

slaughterhouse

Gameplay follows the same formula, but with better balancing: now the most broken equipment of the first game is gone, magic is nerfed, and overall the opponents remain though all through the game; at max difficulty, even at max level the later bosses need a customary effort at least, and you won’t get to the point when you just faceroll everything (at least without insane grinding). Mechanically, the parry command is gone, and evade now only has a 70% chance of working (though some equipment may raise this value). There are several viable character builds, and as a whole the game never stops being engaging.

The main innovation from BS1 is a sanity system (sorry, SEN system). Instead of the karma value of BS1 that went up when killing NPC but did not have a ton of influence on the story progression, here you have a SEN value that will go up by killing bosses (and somehow by searching corpses also), and down by killing/raping characters (or looking at a picture of Alice). If your SEN becomes too low the dialog from the NPC (…with a few exceptions) becomes gibberish, and if it becomes negative the whole world changes and becomes way creepier. Though you may be able to find some information that would have been hidden otherwise, and there’s a familiar face also…

This SEN system and its integration with the plot makes in my opinion calling this a Denpa game not inaccurate at all (trivia: the author has said that they have not really played vns but that they did watch playthroughs of Sayonara wo Oshiete and Saya no Uta).

So in conclusion, I really liked his game. The atmosphere and music are nice, and though the story takes even longer than BS1 to start going anywhere the gameplay makes up for it by being interesting and fun since the beginning and all the way through, and once you do start getting those nuggets of information regarding the main plot you quickly become intrigued and hungry for more. Really recommended if you are the interested at all in somewhat creepy RPGs (though being a direct sequel you’d need to play the first one to enjoy this one at its fullest); and if you liked the first one you’ll probably love this one (and anyway not playing it would be like leaving the story halfway through).

Annex – Personal interpretation

The following is my personal interpretation (incomplete and not very organized) of the main overarching plot of the games. Obviously, spoilers follow. Translate with rot13.

Gur “svefg jbeyq” jbhyq or bhef be n fvzvyne bar, jvgu Pneebyy-frafrv naq Nyvpr Yvqqryy.
Znel Fhr jbhyq or qnhtugre bs Fuho Avtthengu, na bhgre tbq abg bs gur uvturfg enax ohg pybfr.
Fur sryy va ybir jvgu Pneebyy/Tevzz naq znqr n jbeyq gb cynl jvgu uvz (of1).
Naq Alneyngbgurc cbffrffrq Nyvpr Yvqqryy naq vagreirarq va gung jbeyq, ng svefg jvgubhg Znel Fhr abgvpvat, naq nsgre raqvat Q bs ofV fur znqr n arj qernz jbeyq sbe Pneebyy (of2).
Raqvat T bs of2 jbhyq or Pneebyy jnxvat hc gb gur bevtvany jbeyq.

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