Wednesday, January 4, 2017

[Preview] Venus Blood Ragnarok

My initial thoughts on Venus Blood Ragnarok, the latest Japanese release in Ninetail's corruption-focused series of erotic SRPGs.

The appeal of the Venus Blood series is its trademark combination of heroine corruption, SRPG gameplay that is complex and satisfying enough to stand alone, and intelligent quasi-villain protagonists that break the mold of goody two-shoes JRPG player-inserts without falling into the alternate mold of irredeemable rapists bent on sexual conquest.  Well, at least if you stay out of the Chaos route.  And don't mind keeping your heroines un-upgraded.  Ok, so maybe these games appeal to a somewhat specific audience.  But if you like gameplay eroge centering on sexual conquest AND that have an interesting main plot to go with it, then it's hard to do better than the Venus Blood series.

I won't go into too many details of the gameplay here.  For that, see my Venus Blood Gaia review.  Instead I'll focus on some of the unique features and new additions in Venus Blood Ragnarok.

Venus Blood Ragnarok follows Prince Vaari, a descendent of Overlord Loki who, 500 years ago (in Venus Blood Frontier), subjugated the 5 warrior goddesses of Yggdrasil and founded the kingdom of Asgard.  Under Loki's rule the demon and divine races were united in tenuous peace.  But Loki went missing, and for a time the vassal goddess Odin ruled in his stead.  Odin finally passed away, and a movement favoring those of divine blood seized power.  Vaari, then a child, was driven from the capital due to his strong demonic blood, while his half-sister Brunhilde with strong divine blood was taken under their wing.  Years later, as conflict between the demon and divine races erupts into civil war, Vaari encounters an arrogant young boy who calls himself Loki and bears knowledge and a sharp wit that belie his appearance.  The child promises Vaari great power--the power to subdue and enslave the newly-awakened warrior goddesses--if Vaari can fight his away to the Divine Tree and claim its power.  Chased by Brunhilde, who now wields the power of the holy relic Nibelung, Vaari sets out to unite the squabbling races of Asgard once again under a new Overlord.

Each series entry has a focal theme/fetish/gimmick, and Venus Blood Ragnarok's is goddess corruption. Specifically, players have the ability to corrupt the warrior goddesses in two stages: into vassals that are completely loyal to him mind and body, and then to further mind-break them until they completely lose their sanity.  The corruption is optional, though there's likely gameplay incentives (even in the Law route) to corrupt the heroines to at least the first stage.

Among other improvements, Venus Blood Ragnarok leaves behind KiriKiri in favor of the Unity engine.  The strategy map is now rendered in true 3D instead of the flat pseudo-3D used in previous entries.  A variety of robust filters are now available to locate units, eliminating the need to hunt for units in the menu.  Unit creation has been greatly simplified into "tech trees",  Furthermore, unit customization via titles is performed after unit creation rather than during.  These two changes eliminate the complex and time-consuming scheduling micromanagement required in previous entries to maximize unit stats.  Ragnarok's Hard Mode also doesn't present a huge difficulty spike in the early missions, as Hypno's did.

The shift to Unity, which utilizes dynamic memory allocation (which changes the location in memory each time the game is started), also presents an obstacle to text-hooking.  Interactive Text Hooker (ITH) does not give a workable default hook.  ITHVNR hooks the game imperfectly: narrative and dialogue are split into two different threads, and unfortunately thread linking was scrapped in ITHVNR.  There is a workaround, but it's not yet public as I write this.

Venus Blood Ragnarok splits into two main routes mid to late game: Law and Chaos.  Each route further branches into two endings.  Like Hypno, the Law route branches into Normal and "True" paths; the True path unlocks on the second playthrough after certain conditions are met AND the Normal Law end is seen.  The Chaos route similarly branches into a Normal and Madness path.  There are powerful units that only unlock in the Chaos route (specifically, the "Madness" branch where the goddesses are mind-broken), and the Chaos/Law point requirement is such that it's only achievable on a second playthrough on the hardest difficulty.  In addition, the goddesses each have individual arcs: pure love or corruption.  The goddesses each have three forms: Normal, Corrupted, and Insane.  The pure love or corruption arcs can be freely pursued on the Law or Chaos routes, for the most part.  The True Law and Madness paths however have special conditions; corrupting the goddesses on the True Law path requires careful management of action points, while all goddesses must be corrupted to reach the Madness path.  For a more detailed explanation of the divergence conditions, see this JP guide.

Like this game and want to see it in English?  Try requesting it from JAST USA or other English eroge publishers.

Interested in similar English titles?  Check out the Lightning Warrior Raidy series, Rance VI, Brave Soul, and Seinarukana.

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