First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.
One of the things I quickly learned when I was in Japan is how rich and complex is its culture. The written language for instance, utilizes basic Chinese characters, but then requires speakers to learn multiple pronunciations for each character, depending on its use in a sentence. It then compounds the issue with two more alphabets not found in Chinese, each of which must be carefully integrated alongside the Chinese script. Needless to say it was a challenge to learn! Also during my journey I considered a serious study of shogi (Japanese chess). I was already a decent player of traditional (aka “International”) chess, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem to learn a new variant. It turns out that shogi makes traditional chess look like checkers! It’s a lot of fun, but very tough.
But this report is neither about language nor chess. It’s about the unique phenomenon known as manga…the Japanese graphic novel. If a manga becomes a cartoon movie, it’s then known as anime. Either way, our motif of extreme complexity continues as we try to decipher plot and purpose, both within and outside the bounds of story. Submitted for your approval: Magical Eyes – Red is for Anguish, developed by Pomera Studios and published by Fruitbat Factory. As a graphic novel presented in video game format, this title has properties of both manga and anime. The object of the game is to make your way, one screen at a time, through the trials and twists of a highly convoluted story line. Red is for Anguish is the first installment in what is purported to be a series of Magical Eyes stories. Early indications suggest that each episode will contain a different color in its name.
So what can we say about this novel without spoiling the plot? I don’t usually quote outside sources when writing, but here I must make an exception. I’ve read several reviews, and they’re all under the impression that the story centers around a businessman who claims to have had his arm cut off by a living doll. Now I’ve been playing this game for several hours and guess what; no businessmen, no dolls and no arms. Before getting into what I did find, I’ll post a quick disclaimer:
Recently a large patch was released for Red is for Anguish, resulting in one of two possibilities:
1. The aforementioned story arc has been removed, replaced or simply pushed forward a few hours.
2. No change has been made to the story at all; I just need to grind ahead to find it.
If the latter is the case, then you can ignore everything I’ve said so far (although Japanese chess really is an amazing game).
What I found in Red is for Anguish is as follows. The story opens with an animated fairy tale of sorts. A sweet little girl, loved and admired by the townsfolk is cursed by a monster to become destructive. Two brave heroes appear in an attempt to lift the curse. The people of the town realize that the destruction is not the girl’s fault, and are intent on forgiving her, should the curse be broken. The girl, still self-aware, vows to become a champion of curse removal in the future, if she’s able. How’s that for a non-committal, anti-spoiler review?
We’re on a roll, so let’s continue. After you see the fairy tale to its conclusion, the story shifts to modern-day Japan, where an affluent woman can’t seem to shake an unnatural attraction to her own grandmother. This emotional bond grows so overwhelming that it winds up killing the younger, after which the elder becomes distraught and also dies. It seems that in this universe if you die a highly emotional death, you return as a zombie-like creature bent on leeching life from others in a fruitless attempt to restore lost relationships. Such has happened to the younger woman, who now wanders the streets aimlessly. A young man happens to encounter this newly made zombie-woman, resulting in…martial arts combat, of course!
At this point I was really hoping to see a businessman’s arm, or at least a few of his fingers. But alas, not yet. In fact by now you should see how the title goes; one arc after another, and seemingly unrelated. The small amount of story I’ve cited occurs right at the very beginning, and the screenshots I’ve included have nothing to do with any of it. They are however part of the actual game…I swear.
As you read through the title’s plethora of dialog, special keywords will occasionally show up in a bold, colorful font. You can click these to learn more about Japanese culture in general. Also, from time to time you’ll come across an exciting mini-game embedded into the story. This is called “Reasoning Mode” and presents in the form of a pop-quiz. If you’ve been paying attention to the plot, you should have no problem answering the questions and earning bonus scenes and content as a reward. If you happen to answer a question incorrectly, you can always restore from a previous save. Considering the game gives you 150 save slots, you should have no problem returning to any specific point in the story!
So overall, is Magical Eyes – Red is for Anguish worth it? For fans of interactive manga, the answer is yes. Priced on Steam at $15 (USD), it’s a good value. Add in the 13 Steam achievements and it upgrades to “very good”.
In the meantime, expect a lot of information (and a fair amount of confusion) to be thrown at you during play. Dialog is odd at the best of times and downright creepy at others. This is quite entertaining and helps to balance the tedium often associated with lengthy graphic novels. So enjoy…and as always: Ikimashou!