If you’ve been busy since the start of the year, allow yours truly to catch you up. Pyrite Heart is a free otome game released at the tail end of last year that has been met with a near instant fandom thanks to its high-quality visuals and crowd-pleasing plot. I gave it what I gave it, however on its first release something was missing that the development team didn’t have quite enough time to add on: voices. That has been fixed with an updated release as well as voice actors/actress for the main cast.
Which means we must go once more into the breach! For those of you who don’t know the rules, here’s a refresher. This is Take 2; where I take another look at a visual novel I’ve reviewed but has been re-released with major updates. In this case, adding voice actors is a pretty big deal so there you go. This is not a second review however: the 5 out of 10 stands. This is just to see HOW it stands as the production team improves their product…well to be fair, IF they’ve improved their product.
So let’s dive back into the amazing technicolor world of otome and see just how Pyrite Heart stands up to a fresh wave of sharpened critique!
- Ahri: Amanda Lee
- Ryuu: Matthew Shipman
- Kenta: Clifford Chaplin
- Kichiro: Daniel Gold
These four make up the main cast and I’m starting here because I want to make it clear: for the most part, they did an excellent job. Everyone sounded exactly like the characters did in my head in the first version: especially Ahri. Amanda Lee hit just the right note between insufferably arrogant and affectionate and her work only increased what I felt for the character for the most part; which is what a good actress is supposed to do. The same goes to Ryuu and Kenta who perform well as they get more comfortable with their roles. As for Kichiro’s actor…well…I think this covers it. He isn’t bad, but the dude was one line away from declaring Ahri’s temper was passed through the Remono line for generations.
You may have noticed that there were caveats sprinkled throughout the last paragraph and those are there for a reason. When the cast is chewing up the scenery or drenched in comedy, they are very good and the characters really come alive. However, when they have to deliver the story’s dramatic scenes it quickly becomes a rough sit. I don’t fault the cast here because they performances fluctuate between disinterested and melodramatic and, to me, that points to the directing staff. The talent is there, but just like the plot line itself Pyrite Heart can’t make it feel like anything other than a particularly bad telenovella. That’s where the director steps in and pulls out a better performance to try and elevate the script just a bit above that line and that doesn’t happen here.
That doesn’t mean this release is flawless: far from it. While a supporting cast is credited, in my version of the game I never hear them. Also certain lines from the main cast are either the opposite of the dialogue bar OR are left out entirely. Also, there is no way to control the volume of the voices. Tying in with the fact that even the lowest volume for the music is pretty loud, it can get a little obnoxious. If this had happened in the initial release, it would be frustrating but not infuriating. At this point, it just shouldn’t happen. So I’m sure a third versions will be released soon to claim the title of definitive Pyrite Heart edition because this isn’t it by a long shot.
Finally playing this game again allowed me to reconsider the plot. Since it’s initial launch and the explosion of a small fandom around, one of the most interesting points in favor of Pyrite Heart is that it is essentially a female power fantasy, which means it’s plot really should require the investment people like me say it should. Before we leave this game in the history books, I wanted to discuss that idea a little because it actually has a little merit.
There are no orbital death rays, nuclear bombs or sharks with frickin’ laser beams on their skulls for Bond to take on in Skyfall. In fact, it can be argued that the threat Silva poses isn’t even one to England or Bond himself. The threat is directed at M alone with any danger befalling Bond, MI6 or England at large serving as a bonus. Bond himself is dispatched early own and assumed dead: keyword there being assumed. MI6 doesn’t attempt to retrieve his body or try to prove that he’s still alive, although they do retrieve the bodies of the agents in the safe house, and the only scene showing M dealing with it is when she writes his obituary. It can be reasoned from M’s behavior, as well as Bond’s subsequent hiatus to the Bahamas, that he was being allowed a way out of the Service as an apology for M making a bad call. Yet, when Silva blows up M’s office, his first reaction upon hearing the news is to return to active duty: trashing what was, in all likelihood, the only chance he would ever have at anything close to a care-free life.
Everyone except for Moneypenny questions Bond on this when they meet him: especially the future head of MI6 Mallory. Ultimately the answer is, as Bond snarked to Silva, ‘his pathetic love of country’. It’s the idea that, as a man, there is a greater purpose worth sacrificing your life for and that you, despite age and the degradation of time, can still rise and meet that purpose. All of the women and violence aside, England is what makes James Bond such a powerful symbol of masculinity in fiction and why he’s endured over fifty years despite changes in the spy and techo-thriller genres.
A similar strain has been taken up by Nolan’s Batman movies and other current male-oriented fiction, with the former musclebound, break-anything and screw-anything in front of them cliches of the past become a caricature. With that in mind, let’s put the theory that Ahri is a female power fantasy to the test. She is an arrogant child through the bulk of the game. The only time her behavior is challenged it is subsequently justified by either Ryuu or Kenta. She nearly kills Kenta, Ryuu or herself depending on your choices and ultimately rewarded for all of this. I’ll be honest…I’m a little lost at seeing this as a female power fantasy. You’d have to take her personality traits seriously in order to have the desire to be her and, as previously stated, little Ahri’s personality is a bit…brash to say it nicely.
So, the only real way to enjoy Pyrite Heart is to laugh along with it. However, that doesn’t mean that otome as a whole doesn’t qualify. Although I am still something of a stranger in a strange land when it comes to the subgenre, from what I understand of three years of playing otome games is that it emphasizes internal strength, specifically emotional strength, over external strength. So the things it glorifies (passion, empathy, courage, etc) could logically fit into the power fantasy formula for those of both genders who want to believe in things like love conquering all. It’s something I’ll be doing more research into as the year goes on so here’s an Internet bro-fist to whoever it was who came up with that theory!
I just don’t think Pyrite Heart counts due to the weaknesses of the story which makes Ahri hard to sympathize with. For what it is, it’s a decent title that clearly has fun with its inspirations and genre. Ironically, if this version had come out first it may have been rated a bit higher due to the voice acting alone but much harsher critique because of the technical issues. If you are into otome or you’re just looking for an entertaining few hours without investing too much brain power I would highly suggest Pyrite Heart: but definitely go with the voiced version. Even with its issues, it’s a lot of fun.
I’m sure we haven’t heard the end of Winged Cloud just yet as apparently a new title is already under development. We’ll be here when it releases. But for now JP3: OUT.