JP title: 凍京NECRO
Well, stopping Gekkou no Carnevale to play this instead was a fairly solid life decision in retrospect, let me tell you. Primarily because this VN didn’t make me want to kill myself. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily call Tokyo Necro a total masterpiece, mind you, but it was good-ish. Above average, at the very least. If you were expecting the next Nitro kamige after Muramasa, it’s not quite that, but it’s a game I can look back upon and say “well, y’know, that was fun, you guys. I don’t regret reading that. Not at all.”
So I don’t want to completely infodump you with all the exposition because the game will do that in my stead, but the story basically takes place in 2199, in a new ice age. Everything’s fairly high-tech, there’s snow as far as the eye can see, and people keep themselves warm via hot pipes that run all across the city. The whole ice age thing is the reason why the kanji of Tokyo is written like that in the title, btw. Necromancy and Necromancers are a thing, and our two protagonists, Nagaoka Souun and Kibanohara Ethica are Living Dead Stalkers earning their daily bread by, well, hunting down and killing Necromancers and the living dead. One fateful day, Souun happens upon amnesiac beauty Hougyou Ilia, and… well, that’s kinda where things are set into motion. Ironically, this is where the demo also ended, just before the game was about to get more interesting, lol.
Anyway, let’s talk about things I liked! For example, the setting. The bleak world of 2199 was quite fun to jump into: the general atmosphere grabbed me right off the bat (or at least after Ilia joins the gang), and it was fun to see all the hi-tech gadgets the game throws at you — for example, the so-called ExBrain. The ExBrain is basically the the iconic helmet you see Souun wear all the time that uses a vast amount of data and the wielder’s own subconscious to always provide the most optimal choice to be taken in combat. This escalates to the point where Souun kinda feels fine with just being a machine that blindly follows the ExBrain’s instructions. By contrast, Ethica prefers not using it (her dad helped develop it, whom she hates and rebels against), and tends to plunge into combat without relying on, or outright opposing, its instructions out of spite.
The VN also explains stuff regarding the living dead, who aren’t quite like the zombies you’d see in other zombie media — or at least not fully. They’re split into Hi-Fi and Lo-Fi living dead, the latter being the generic, mindless zombie (ghoul) we all know and love, while the Hi-Fi variety acts like a normal human and can thus blend in among the living. Anyway, like I said, I want to let you discover stuff for yourself, so I won’t turn this review into one big infodump, but I think this should be enough to whet one’s appetite. Also, important — though fairly obvious — thing to note: expect lots of death and generally grim stuff. I mean, duh. There’s also gonna be torture and… certain “other things” I won’t spoil. But yeah, the game racks up quite the body count over its many routes. Although, chances are you’re already used to that kinda stuff if you’re playing Nitro VNs.
However, the game isn’t *as* grimdark as one might think. Or at least not always. I remember a few asspulls that felt like they were done just so this or that character would survive. There was a pretty dark scene that initially made me despair (I even wrote, and I quote “gaaaaah stahp” in my notes), and they kinda… didn’t go through with it. Not that I *really* mind as it would’ve made me very sad, but you get the point. There are plenty other scenes that are basically “well that character’s fucking dead, gg” so yeah. It’s still not a lighthearted VN by any means.
One thing you’ll notice right away is that the game uses 3D scenes rendered in real time (primarily for certain fights), but I very much doubt it’s particularly hardware-demanding stuff so I think even a toaster should be able to run it. Especially if you adjust the graphical settings. Anyway, I was initially very skeptical about this choice, but overall, I’m very glad they went with the 3D approach, because it actually made fight scenes *enjoyable*. In fact, I almost wished the action wasn’t constantly interrupted by narrative text so I could just watch the fight unfold like a movie. There’s some nicely choreographed stuff in here, and it was more fun actually seeing the characters do all sorts of acrobatic stunts and not just reading a big ol’ wall of text about it. I kinda hope more action VNs do this, but who knows.
I normally would’ve left the audiovisual stuff for the end, but I have to mention it sooner this time. Alright, so: I *really* liked the game’s soundtrack, and there are a few pieces (particularly the insert songs) that have become instant favorites of mine. The artwork is also pretty damn good, and a couple of event CGs are outright gorgeous, but you’ll understand what I mean from some of my screenshots. As a side note, though… what’s with the obsession with food? There are… quite a lot of food CGs in this, lol.
I guess I’ll just talk about the routes and the characters next.
Tokyo Necro uses dual protagonists with Souun and Ethica, and you’ll see the POV constantly shift between these two, which gives you some nice insight into both of their personalities. Souun is often described as a robot or a living dead, because he’s… well, not very good at expressing his emotions. Like I said, at one point he feels content with simply becoming a killing machine obeying his ExBrain’s instructions. Ethica, on the other hand, is loud, brash, energetic, flirty and a complete womanizer. Yes, she’s lesbian, which also means you can expect some girl-on-girl romance and plenty of yuri H-scenes. Actually, you might as well treat Tokyo Necro as a semi-yuri game, honestly.
I have a feeling most people will end up focusing more on Ethica as the protagonist since she, well… has more of a presence compared to Souun due to what I’ve just said about her. That’s not to say Souun doesn’t have his moments, and it’s very much explained why he is the way he is, but Ethica is more like the kind of protagonist you can laugh and cry along with, someone you’ll root for in a heated battle, and so on. If that makes sense. With that said, Souun has one of the coolest fight scenes in the entire VN near the end of Ilia’s route, so he has that going for him.
I enjoyed the side characters as well, particularly Tokitaka and Ryouko: the former is Souun and Ethica’s partner, while the latter is their boss. Tokitaka is basically the group’s sniper who’s completely obsessed with numbers, which more often than not serves as comic relief. All in all, I loved this guy. Ryouko is the current boss of the gang and the wife of a legendary (and now deceased) war hero to whom both Tokitaka and Souun looked up as their personal god. She’s kinda the “mom” of the group, I guess. There’s obviously more to her character and her relationship with the others, but that’s likely going to be your first impression of her.
Either way, I enjoyed the main characters’ interactions — they each had a distinct personality of their own, and it was fun seeing them together. I liked how Ethica kept referring to Souun and Tokitaka as bonkura #1 and bonkura #2, or how Tokitaka had his own rating scale for evaluating Ryouko’s cooking. And so on. The point I’m trying to make is that I found the characters — their various interpersonal connections, quirks, and relationships — pretty entertaining, all in all. Oh, and Kazuma! How could I forget about Kazuma? Her reactions are the best. It’s a tragedy she didn’t have more screen time.
The game has four routes in total (plus a true end after the main four are finished), and these can be completed in any order as far as I could tell, but this is probably not a good idea, so I’ll just tell you the order I read them in. Basically, I went Mitsumi -> Su -> Kiriri -> Ilia. I consider Mitsumi and Su the two weaker routes, while Kiriri and Ilia have all the interesting revelations and backstory, at least to me personally. Kiriri’s route in particular drops an absolute bombshell of a reveal near the end that changed how I viewed a certain character and their motivations. As for Ilia, you might as well consider that one the final route in terms of the storyline’s natural progression, so it’s very important you leave it for last. In my opinion, at least. Like I said, it would’ve made more sense to lock certain routes before you complete the other ones because if I went into this blind and ended up finishing Ilia or Kiriri as my first, it would’ve felt… weird. Or not. I dunno. If any of you completed the routes in a wildly different order, let me know how you felt about it! I’m legit curious.
Anyway, routes and main heroines! Tokyo Necro is one of those rare games where I actually like all the heroines for various reasons. There’s no one that I particularly dislike. As I’ve implied above, I’d grown quite fond of the cast by the end, so this should come as no surprise.
So I did Gijou Mitsumi’s route first — she’s our resident sword-wielding lady and a rival to Souun and co. It also becomes plainly obvious that she has a crush on Souun. She’s basically the strong and noble female warrior type of character who nonetheless has a very cute and easily embarrassed side to her with a dash of dojikko-ness. She’s also voiced by the same actress who did Rindou in Kajiri Kamui Kagura, which is always a plus. Her route is what I could perhaps describe as a vanilla action VN (love) story, in the sense that nothing particularly earth-shattering happens here, and the route is generally fairly average. Granted, Mitsumin (that’s Ethica’s nickname for her) herself is definitely my kind of heroine and I found her super adorable in general, so if you like her, you’ll get some enjoyment out of the route. Btw, I love it when she makes this face.
Now, Cong Su is… quite the character. Genius hacker, self-proclaimed masochist, introvert, retro movie enthusiast, cutie. She also often demands S&M sex as payment for her services as an info broker, both from Ethica and Souun. Since we started off with a Masada connection with Mitsumi, I guess it would also be silly not to mention that she’s voiced by Rusalka’s VA from Dies irae, except she’s very meek and constantly stutters in this role, so you almost won’t even recognize that it’s her. Her route is the friendship route, more or less. That probably means nothing to you at the moment, but you’ll see, lol. The route itself is not exactly my favorite compared to the upcoming two, even though shit kinda hits the fan big time here, and a lot is revealed about Su’s past and motivation/determination. I mean, I found the whole friendship angle very sweet, but yeah, the two routes I’m about to discuss served as the real highlights of the VN in my mind.
Aso Kiriri is the マジ天使 heroine working at the Military Police, and also Ethica’s childhood friend — the two grew up together and practically treat each other as sisters, although it becomes very obvious that Ethica wants more than just friendship. I found Kiriri to just be really nice and sweet all around, and I think she and Ethica make the best couple in the game. Their whole relationship is pretty heartwarming, basically. The route also reveals some pretty big things about Ethica and her dad, which provided one of the most memorable moments in the game for me. I’m a total sucker for these kinds of tragic backstories, and I honestly did not see this reveal coming at all, because I was expecting something totally different. So yeah, the whole backstory with Souun’s and Ethica’s parents was overall the most interesting and memorable part of the story, I’d say, and this is something that’s further fleshed out in Ilia’s route later on. The final battle is pretty cool, and uses a nice insert song as the icing on the cake. This is where my interest in the game (which kinda began to wane at one point) was quickly reignited.
Hougyou Ilia is the mysterious amnesiac girl in the yellow bear outfit. She’s cheerful, lively, and a huge otaku, which is basically why she wears that geeky hoodie and shirt. I guess if Kiriri’s route dropped a bombshell regarding Ethica’s backstory, Ilia’s route does the same for Souun. This is where you’ll get the answers to all those nagging questions in the back of your mind: what’s up with Souun’s parents? What was that weird flashback he kept having? And how does the main antagonist, Milgram, come into the picture? Speaking of Milgram (the main antagonist and a tremendously powerful Necromancer), he has his moments to shine in this particular route. It really made me realize just how terrifying of a guy he is. Once again, there’s a fairly critical and heartwrenching revelation/flashback in this route, and as I was getting closer to the end, I found myself unable to put the game down. Hell, the climactic scene where VERTUEUX’s fantastic insert song (titled “傷”) kicks in is surely going to stay with me for a while. It all leads up to a finale that definitely put a smile on my face.
So that’s Tokyo Necro. Despite a somewhat weaker start with the initial routes (according to my reading order), by the time the other two routes rolled around with their surprising and gruesome revelations and twists, I was having quite a bit of fun piecing together the story. And I feel like I can be more lenient with the less stellar aspects of a VN if it manages to provide the reader with a nice finale, which is what Ilia’s route and the true end ultimately did. As I’ve said earlier, the setting is interesting, the main characters are all distinct and likable, and the story does have a few cool reveals up its sleeve. Overall, a solid VN.