Earlier this year I reviewed Rising Angels: The Red Rose from IDHAS Studios. It was an average title that was ultimately the sums of its choices. Clearly it was also not the title KomiTsuku, the mind behind IDHAS, wanted to release so he went back to the drawing board to revamp the entire series.
Rising Angels: Reborn is what it says on the tin: a retcon of the RA universe with a new main character and a larger integration of IDHAS’ other stories and ideas. The game also hopes to not only connect with the larger EVN community, but also bring in science fiction fans as much of the plot can be traced back to that genre in particular. As a faction within English Visual Novels, Science Fiction is seeing something of a growth spurt with not only Reborn but also Touhou Mecha and the upcoming Sunrider project to boost its recognition among the throngs of bloody mysteries and otome.
But the ultimate question is still the ultimate question, ‘Is it good?’ Breathe easy Chief. Despite some missteps, it’s good.
Rising Angels: Reborn is the story of Natalie Puccile – a Special Investigations officer in the fictional Katajion Directorship. So far her career in the military hasn’t gone to plan and her own healthy ego probably has a lot to do with it. But her fortunes seem to change when she is put in charge of a small space ship and tasked with finding out what happened to a research vessel in deep space. Along the way she will be push to her intellectual and emotional limits as enemies outside and inside of the vessel and it’ll take everything she has to get her and her team out of the situation in one piece.
The plot line is immediately a step up from Red Rose as the stakes are clearly higher and for most of the game it does deliver on the promise. I though Man of Steel was decent, but if you’ve followed me long enough this year you know one of my biggest gripes was that it fatigued the audience with action scenes. What I felt the movie needed was more tension and Reborn delivers on that end very well. While there are quieter moments and time spent developing Natalie and the rest of the cast, the threats that pile up never seem to stop hanging from over their heads. This sense of atmosphere keeps the sillier moments from overtaking the larger narrative and keeps the focus on it rather than romantic moments.
And this is important because romance was billed to be a vital part of the game. In fact, Komi himself protested the fact that I initially didn’t consider it an otome game because it was supposed to have a storyline based on the otome genre.
Guess what got left on the cutting room floor? Yup: the otome story line. Not that I’m complaining as any more story lines would’ve put the brakes on the story rather than enhance it. One romantic route does remain and that is between Natalie and the ship’s security officer; a dragon girl named Zuri. And while I enjoyed the entire cast, Zuri sticks out as the one with the most developed character. Her back story is not only explored, but is integral to Natalie’s development as well. It also help that she kicks all sorts of ass during the game proper and we see her grow into a respectable soldier and confidant for our protagonist.
At the same time most of the rest of the cast also gets a good amount of time on the threshing floor, but the two characters that benefited the most from Reborn are Sol and Kika. In Red Rose, these two were especially annoying with Sol being completely unlikable and Kika being obnoxious. Here they are fleshed out well enough so that while they maintain traits they have in RR, it doesn’t derail them and most of the time it improves the story: especially Kika who gets to finally back up her big talk between Reborn and Red Rose.
For everything it does right though, Reborn does have two major issues in the story. The first is that a lot of stuff happens off-screen. Some of it you do understand and enough is implied to keep the story going smoothly. However, there are several key moments that happen off-screen that the audience NEEDS to see to connect the dots with certain characters. Because that doesn’t happen, there are several plot holes, especially in the third act, that are explained via plot convenience. It becomes more and more distracting as the game goes on and there really is no reason why it had to happen this way.
The second major flaw is the story line that leads to the final choice of the game. After all is said and done, the last thing that is needed is a message about power and corruption and yet the final choice hinges on power and corruption. This is a theme lightly touched on throughout the game, but in the final moments it feels like there’s a rush on to hammer it home. Ultimately, it very well may lead to the sequel but it feels tacked on just to have another thread in the narrative.
Overall, this story isn’t breaking new ground in science fiction but it is a well told story with an enjoyable cast. The tension keeps you moving and by game’s end you are invested in what is next for Natalie and the crew. Despite some missteps, it is worth the read.
PRESENTATION & GAMEPLAY
The Presentation is also a big step up from Red Rose as most of it takes place on various planets and inside of the space ship. There’s a somewhat claustrophobic feeling that feeds into the overall tension here, but it also cannot shake the anime feel of it so it isn’t overbearing. The sprites mostly work but for those not familiar with the overall lore of IDHAS, you will wonder what an Angel, A Catgirl and a Dragon are all doing on a ship with a bunch of humans. Luckily that is explained in a database that not only houses small descriptions of the world and races, but also includes the CG library.
That was a choice I didn’t think work out fully as intended. See, you can only see the gallery and the database from the pause menu in the game proper. It isn’t something you can click into from the main menu. So unless you are paying attention, chances are that you’ll miss the entire Extras menu. It’s just a case of bad placement though for a nice and well thought out feature.
The art itself is decent with the sprites a bit cleaner and more streamlined. The Event graphics are mostly a mixed bag as some are solid and others could’ve used a bit more strength in body structure. It’s hard though to enjoy it because many scenes have between four and five sprites on screen and things can get crowded fast…especially considering two cast members have prominent wings and one is several feet taller than the others.
As for gameplay it’s a mixed bag. The choice tree works here pretty well, but there are bugs in Reborn. Most have been fixed and the ones that may pop up can be ignored. Luckily there is also an Autosave feature here that was very well for capturing the key moments.
There are several endings to earn here but only five really matter. The others are a collection of Bad endings that are suitable on their own but don’t add to the experience overall. It took me just over four hours to get through it so I would say there is some value here for those who enjoy science fiction, but after everything is earned further replay value is strictly based on your personal tastes. Luckily it is also free, so outside of time you have nothing to lose!
Chief obviously came into this one with a mission and Rising Angels: Reborn succeeded on that front. The story is leagues better, the art is higher quality and most importantly, it is fun to play. It has its problem, but I didn’t leave it with a laundry list of Pros and Cons to dissect exactly what with wrong. If future IDHAS titles follow this formula, I think we’ll be seeing much more from them.