JP title: ビ・ ヨンド ～黒大将に見られてる～
Looking for a 90s sci-fi anime with cute girls and enjoyable comedy? Well, I’m sure an anime like that exists, but if you want something with a bit more interactivity and multiple endings… like, y’know… a visual novel, then Be-Yond is the intergalactic space horse you should bet on.
You know, I really should’ve just let the game explain itself to you, because its opening crawl literally goes “hi, come play Be-Yond, we have cute girls and shit”. No, I’m not joking, that’s really what the opening crawl is about.
So in Be-Yond, you wake up as Kojuurou, the Dark and Terrible Demon Lord of Calamity and Death (I may have added a few extra words…) with a monstrous look to match that rather illustrious title, but without a lust for destruction. In fact, he’s actually… kind of a nice guy! I mean, despite being the Dark Lord and everything. He also happens to remember absolutely nothing about his past, and this is where I point out that Be-Yond was written by the author of Utawarerumono, so of course the protagonist is amnesiac.
The first person Kojuurou meets is Len, the lovely young girl who introduces herself as the loyal servant of our confused Dark Lord. Together, they go on a journey across the galaxy, meet all sorts of characters (mostly cute girls) and engage in ample amounts of Hijinks with a capital H. The mood occasionally gets serious here and there, but it’s not until the finale that the game drops the comedy altogether and starts sucker-punching you with various revelations, plot twists, and full-on 王道 developments. Oh, and minigames. Can’t have a showdown that decides the fate of the world without a minigame.
And when I described the VN as episodic earlier, I meant it: the game really does feel like each chapter could easily be adapted into an individual anime episode, as a lot of the chapters focus on a specific character and have their own semi-self-contained story arcs. Playing Be-Yond is like watching a Saturday morning sci-fi adventure anime from the 90s, except it’s actually Saturday night since there’s 18+ content and we can only air this when the kids have already been tucked into bed. That’s not to say the 18+ nature of the game is really used for anything overly extreme: there’s some nudity, a bit of blood, and there are a few extremely short (and extremely mild) ero scenes, and that’s about it. But the art is nice. I mean, the art for the whole game, not just the lewd parts. If you like that typical 90s look, you’ll definitely like what’s on offer here: Be-Yond is packed full of great-looking CGs and varied, expressive character sprites that all add to the VN’s already charming atmosphere. Oh, and the characters blink! Not just the tachie sprites, but the full CGs, too. Which is cool. They really did everything they could to make the game feel less like “reading a bunch of text with pretty pictures” and more like An Experience.
I suppose the fact that “playing” the game is done in a fashion reminiscent of Ace Attorney also helps make you feel a little more involved. Specifically, instead of just reading, you actually have a menu bar with options like “Think”, “Talk”, “Move” and so on, which lead to different, and sometimes optional, lines. The one downside of the system is that there are bits where you can only progress the main story after already exhausting every other option, so at times you’ll probably find yourself clicking through all the buttons to trigger something new.
Anyway, the jokes themselves are all quite amusing and are reminiscent of stuff you’d expect to find in shows like Slayers or maybe Excel Saga. Hell, even the Extra menu is executed in a unique way and has the characters actually stand there and call you a perv when you click on their respective HCG galleries. Well, that’s mostly just Amethyst, but still. Be-Yond basically doesn’t do anything without injecting its own quirky brand of humor into whatever is going on at the time (the DENKAAAAAA scene, among various others, legit made me laugh out loud), which definitely prevents the whole experience from growing stale. And while the humor is nice, I also enjoyed the serious parts towards the end, and kinda wished there were a bit more.
So let’s talk heroines. I pretty much liked all of them except for one, but more on that later.
Eve is the first heroine you’ll be introduced to: she’s a talented, high-ranking policewoman who wants to defeat the Dark Lord at all costs, and serves as a “rival” character for the first few chapters until she develops this kinda weird love/hate relationship with him (“I’m only here to observe and prevent you from doing anything evil, i-it’s not like I actually want to be with you, okay?!”). I thought she was one of the most hilarious characters in the game, and her antics with Kojuurou, along with her various cries, moans, growls and squeaks never failed to crack me up. Seriously, her VA does some hilarious things with her voice and Eve Noises ™ absolutely deserves to be a thing.
Len is Kojuurou’s loyal little wifey and probably the character closest to being the “main” heroine in terms of the story. She starts off as a “doll” mostly devoid of emotions, but as Kojuurou meets other girls, Len herself starts to develop feelings of her own. She may not be my #1 favorite but she’s still pretty adorable, especially when she 1. gets drunk 2. pouts (see above).
Okay, so Fei is the heroine I didn’t really like. She’s basically the 小動物-esque character who cries and does/says stupid things, only to end up getting bonked on the head by Kojuurou. Frankly, I just found her annoying for the most part. She’s like the Jar Jar Binks of Be-Yond, though obviously not as bad. But you get my point.
Amethyst, on the other hand, was my favorite. Top-class troll and lovable troublemaker would be two ways to describe her: she’s basically the mischievous princess who runs away from her castle to be free, and who also gets off on teasing poor old Kojuurou in various (often sexually-charged) ways. Anyway, from looks through personality to VA, she was all-around amazing and every scene involving her had me chuckling like an idiot.
Chime and Bellmotte should probably not be discussed too much as they’re semi-spoilery, but I just want to point out that Bellmotte is an absolute cinnamon roll.
In terms of length, the game’s actually pretty short: there are ten chapters in total and each go by relatively fast (I recall reading the first two chapters in one sitting, so yeah). There are also multiple heroine endings and they’re based on a late-game branching point, so unlocking them is not a huge pain in the ass, provided you follow a guide. They’re all very short, though, and end quite abruptly, to be perfectly honest. I was, uh, kinda expecting a bit more.
So there you have it. That’s Be-Yond, the quirky space odyssey with cute girls and various other things, aka A Pretty Cool Eroge I Had a Good Time With. I feel like it would be wrong to call this game a flawless masterpiece that reinvents the wheel or shakes the VN industry to its foundations, because it does neither of those things. Instead, what Be-Yond does offer is a (mostly) light-hearted journey with really enjoyable characters, tons of jokes and a somewhat unconventional protagonist. It’s a fun ride from start to finish, and those with a fondness for 90s-style comedy, artwork, and appealing heroines will no doubt find much to like about it.