It’s always interesting to watch a creator’s Id clash with their logical mind.
It’s an argument I’ve often had a front seat to here at VNs Now and one that becomes more fascinating with time. Most developers fully embrace their Id whenever they work on something ‘non-serious’ and it leads to some rather interesting pieces of work that I usually end up verbally dropkicking with a big smile on my face. However, there are writers and developers who WANT to write something fun or ‘lewd’ (for lack of better words) and can’t. The critical voice in their heads is far too loud and demands more from them.
Long-time readers of this site won’t be surprised on what side I find myself on whenever that conflict comes up. It’s what interests me to Maid Mansion: the upcoming eroge visual novel by Crazy Cactus Entertainment. Yup: this is supposed to be an eroge. Successfully Kickstarted to the tune of nearly $12,000, Maid Mansion looks like yet another piece of otaku wank-bait to add to the kindling. You’ve got busty anime girls in maid outfits and a slacker-looking fellow who’s supposed to represent most of the audience. The plot has said slacker taking control of the mansion full of said maids and it being an eroge an all, chances are the audience will be able to indulge any of the lurid fantasies involving that setup.
Then you actually read the pitch, play the demo and realize Maid Mansion wants its characters and plot taken seriously. The story takes place after a serious war that still has ramifications for the country its set in. This is shown with the cliff hanger ending where the country’s intelligence service opens up an investigation into the MC’s recently deceased grandfather. This opens a narrative vein that most sleazy cheesecake titles try to avoid because most people can get titillated if they’re worried about getting drug off for an enhanced interrogation if they make the wrong step.
Then there’s one of the major supporting characters: Takako Mamiya. I’m sure this type of strict traditionalism is up someone’s alley, but the game goes out of its way to present her as a cold, extremely diligent worker that runs the manor with an iron fist and demands proper decorum at all times. I’m sure she does have a sexual side simply on the game she’s in, but she feels like someone would look at sex as part of her duty rather than something she would personally enjoy. Ironically, that feeling extends to the rest of the cast in varying degrees.
Despite their ridiculously large busts, the supporting cast as presented in the demo were not overtly sexualized. I know that sounds extremely weird to say because, again, none of the women are below an H cup apparently. However, the demo is far more interested in setting up the various conflicts and faction the MC would have to manage once he fully takes the role as head of the household. It presents the full game as far more political in nature.
I have to admit, that intrigues me a lot because the setting and personal level of the issues you’ll might have to deal with work hand-in-hand with one another. How will you deal with the locals whose work the land your family may or may not have stolen from them? How will you manage the clashes between the more modern assistant Umeko or the traditional Takako…hopefully not with your penis but that’s probably on the list of options.
This isn’t to say the demo fully captured my attention. For example, it tried way too hard to get us to sympathize with the main character who is really just a spoiled brat. This fits the genre unfortunately as the wish-fulfillment audience insert, but I personally have yet to see it ever done right in a visual novel. The previous entries were so pathetic it made me question whether or not the developers actually loathed the people who bought their games (coughWingedCloudcough). Here it’s flipped where the main character is so loathsome, I actively wonder if the development team thinks people are so desperate for boobs they won’t mind playing as him…and yes, I already know the answer to this question. Shaddup.
The supporting cast is also surprisingly one note here. Yes, they are very sexualized but outside of Takako little else was established about them. It leads to some series dissonance for yours truly, because if the game wanted me to see it as something other than otaku wank material now would be the time to cement it. Instead it takes a pass and leaves far more questions than answers. This is why I started this feature off talking about the battle between a creator’s Id and their mind. Maybe, just maybe, Crazy Cactus can find a sense of balance here. But far more experienced teams have tried this and failed; creating a far more aimless, frustrating experience and setting the stage for an ultimately visionless game.
I cannot make any recommendations here, because the full project may already be balanced out. The demo cuts at the exact point where the game would either make or break itself with the government beginning its investigation. From there it either fully embraces its core idea and has a sexual undercurrent, or it pushes aside that idea to add yet more fanservice to the mudslide. I’ll be honest, if it goes the way I hope it goes and runs as hard as they can with their main plot concept, it could be very good and it’s a key reason I’ll be following this one throughout the rest of it’s the development. I wish Crazy Cactus luck, because this one could go either way.
You can get more information about Maid Mansion from its Kickstarter page here! JP3: OUT!