Good news on the Western Front! The otome bourgeois pigs are shrinking in fear of the elevation of yours truly as your Commissar in our eternal fight against their overbearing, sugary romance! But even as the proletariat continues to advance, the people’s enemy continues to aim their fangs at the necks of our brothers and sisters with their VNs trumpeting their corrupt values of the purity of teenage love! More and more of these visual novels are being pumped into our homes to twist the minds of our comrades against revolution! But, I know your spirit and I know are resisting their wickedness: as am I! This is why I humbly accept the role that you have given me to continue the fight! No otome VN will come to this site without feeling the full wrath of our cause!
For the glory of our revolution follow me! Take up your arms are we strike at their latest feeble attack: Roseverte’s Duplicity: Beyond the Lies! GLORY TO THE RESISTANCE!
Duplicity takes place, as many of these titles do, in a high school in Japan. There you step into the shoes of Yukina Kudou: a seemingly frail girl who in in a relationship with the school’s idol: Youji Kataoka. However she is actually a spy sent by the school’s principal and noted geneticist, Dr. Kouichi Serizawa, to monitor Youji who is actually a clone of the good doctor. As Yukina continues in her job she also begins to unravel the mysteries surrounding her mentor as well as herself.
On the offset this looks like just another boy chasing game and to be fair there is a romantic element to Duplicity. However, it’s so dialed in its hard to point to as anything worthwhile. Each romantic subplot is predictable, the guys don’t stand out and by the end of them any relationship you achieve feels more like the runner-up prize to the actual story. This isn’t a knock on Duplicity from where I sit, since what the story pushes in its place is more psychological narrative surrounding the plot hatched by Dr. Serizawa. But I feel it is a fair warning to any fangirls who look at the promo art for Duplicity and think that it’s going to be worth their time to chase around Youji or the Doc. It’s not.
That isn’t to say that the actual plot is perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Roseverte tries something bold in this realm by focusing instead on a pseudo psychological thriller targeting girls. It has more than a few rough spots that leave you lost in translation, especially when you’re grinding but more on that later. Also it can get downright preposterous when you think about things like a massive genetic lab underneath a high school ran by the super wealthy, world-renowned scientist principal. And just as the romances are predictable, the keen observer will be able to figure out Duplicity’s mysteries in no time flat. I literally knew where the game was going from a throw-away line early on: it’s that predictable. Despite that, the story plays out in an interesting and very human way.
These aren’t superheroes and they are far from ideal. As the title suggests they’re all wrapped up not only in their own lies but in the lies told by one another. The road to discovering the truth is what makes each character stands out and I was surprised by just how much I cared for their mental and physical well-being by the end. Not only that, but it raises some interesting questions on familiar romance and sci-fi tropes as you’ll see when the full scale of Dr. Serizawa’s choices.
As for our heroine Yukina really stands out. Every path in one way or another backhands her with the uncomfortable reality that the men she can develop feelings for are nearly damaged beyond repair. And again, being fair to Duplicity, her actions are true to life and make her a much stronger character than what you would expect from other otome heroines. Similar praise goes for the handling of the men around Yukina who are all equal balance of broken and resolute.
The bottom line here is that for all its faults Duplicity is a very human story that stands on its own. Never thought I’d hear myself say those words about what is supposed to be a ‘romance’ game, but you’ll understand when you yourself play through it.
PRESENTATION & GAMEPLAY
Presentation is…er…I don’t know how to put it actually. It’s like a watercolor anime style that I haven’t seen before today and most likely will never see again. What would normal be bright and vivid colors for all involved are usually muted and dialed back as far as humanly possible. This also leaves the character sprites in a very odd position: often looking like their expression was melted into their skin and poses poses that are often, to put in nicely, impractical. You know me folks: when the anatomy begins to bend in ways it can’t I just start getting itchy. It ironically fits the overall tone of the VN and can be unique to Roseverte as long as the human beings come off looking like, well, human beings.
This is abundantly clear in the special event CGs that are hit and miss for the large part. Outside of that the backgrounds perfectly fit the watercolor feel of the art and the soundtrack actually mixes in nicely with the scenes playing out in front of you. Duplicity doesn’t have an offensive presentation by any means, but it is an acquired taste.
Gameplay is strongest in the first half of the game where you can pick Yukina’s schedule in order to determine which of the five paths she can take. My introduction to the otome genre actually didn’t happen with a VN. It happened with a fancomic of a VN called Love Revo by an artist named Toa. When I read this, I laughed my ass off because I was under the impression at the time that no game would make your objective to stalk a guy until he goes out with you.
Oh how bloody wrong I was.
The only way to lock in either Youji’s or Dr. Serizawa’s routes are to shameless hang out with them every day until it’s clear that’s the route you want. In Duplicity, this is broken up every now and then with an event to further the story, but until a route clicks in you’ll be stuck grinding away each day on the calendar. The most effective strategy for this (for those of us who have no stomach for repetition) is simply to click the Skip option and ram through until you’re at the second part of the game. It isn’t the prettiest way of advancing a story, but it does the job.
Once you hit the second half of the VN, the schedule leaves and we return to the familiar setup of watching the story unfold and only stepping in at vital points. This was a wise change of pace as it keeps the entire game from feeling like it’s been padded out for time and it does let the story take its rightful spotlight. All and all, it works.
Duplicity clocks in at about seven hours total to unlock all fifteen endings. This time can be cut down if you focus on just the good endings of the five different routes. Ultimately what it boils down to for this particular title is if what the VN delivers is worth its $20 price tag and for me at least the answer is…no. Unless you’re a perfectionist and enjoy grinding away to get every little thing a game has to offer, once you knocked out the major endings of Duplicity that’ll be it. It’s definitely good for a full play through at least to experience the overall story, but wait until Roseverte holds a sale to feel you got your money’s worth.
Duplicity is an odd game. It doesn’t do any one thing extraordinarily well, yet at the same time it stands pretty well on its own. While its weaknesses are noticeable, there is still a lot of fun and thinking tied into Duplicity that will entertain otome fans while serving as a nice distraction for the atypical EVN player.
Check out more of Duplicity- Beyond the Lies here!