Moécratic Vanguard for the black hole of anime gaming
by Bob Johnson
Jeez, next time, why don’t you keep it in your pants? Every time you whip it out, someone has to clean up after you. Seriously. Your credit card has been causing me nothing but trouble. Now just look at this mess of American-made otakubait games preselling their brand concept on KickStarter.
If you use Steam, you can download one such game, Sunrider:Mask of Arcadius, right now on a whim. I wouldn’t exactly call it “Free” … it’s more of a demo. But if you were cheap like myself, there’d be nothing sweeter than seeing that green “Download” box on its Steam Store page.
Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius is both the name of the overall game and the second half of the enclosed visual novel. The plot commences with a segment called “First Arrival”, which covers the backstory for the Captain and his crew. It’s actually longer than the main action in Mask of Arcadius, which consists of a beach episode and assorted battles, leading to the climactic confrontation with the enemy’s two biggest weapons.
The game’s themes pit the ends against the means, and the tension between independence and cooperation. Should you throw the new recruit in the brig or let it slide? As the situation vaguely reminded me of the Scharnhorst in World War I, my take on Kayto Shields was influenced a bit by Graf Spee. I struck a balance between enforcing discipline and striking a more relaxed tone.
Sunrider is waifus. You’ve got your tsundere (Icari), yandere (Claude), your dandere (Ava), your kuudere (Sola), plus the moé girl (Chigara), the tomboy (Kryska), and the genki-dess Kansai girl (Asaga). Sprinkle on a garnish of Office Lady (Sophita), and you’ve got a harem fit for a king!
They all factor into the progression of the tactics missions, but, this is not built to be much of a dating sim, so your choice comes down to whether or not to talk with your favoured lady between missions. How far can you get? Well, there’s a bit of raunchy repartée out of a couple characters, but mostly the game leaves it to the imagination. The difference between the “Vanilla” version and uncensored “Restoration” version is a single scene near the end of the campaign.
Like all these recent superhero movies, there’s just too many characters to service. If you didn’t need all those battlemechs flying around at the end of the game, they probably could have had a more focused cast, exploring the three main waifus a little better.
Art and Gameplay
The artwork for the characters is pretty good, though Captain Shields is seen so little you might think he’s a bit off. Some of the CG art, particularly in the battle scenes, is a little in the vein of Copy, Paste, Fleet, but you’re clicking through so fast it doesn’t really matter. Much of the aesthetic takes after Mass Effect, especially the ships and the Galaxy Map.
Playing Mask of Arcadius takes 10 to 20 hours, depending on difficulty and whether you do side missions. The bulk of your time will be in the tactics battles, even if you choose “Visual Novel Mode”, you still have to clearcut forests of enemies. No skipping ahead, cheaters. In battle, each “Ryder” has a particular specialization, that’s to be expected – but their stats are fairly well locked in. The upgrade system is a simple mathematical series of percentage improvements, not drop and swap like Armored Core. No recustomizing!
One battle of MoA is particularly frustrating, because the plot advises you to use a particular tactic, but it actually isn’t scripted in the tactics session. So you have to clear the board like you always do and then proceed to the remainder of the plot.
Standalone or Demo?
You’d probably gladly pay for the sequel, Sunrider: Liberation Day, or the dating sim Sunrider Academy. But think about it, is the continue worth $24.99? $14.99 on sale? Maybe Academy if you really want to have your way with Sola-chan. If Liberation Day is as (un)replayable as MoA, well, you should really just catch up on manga, which runs for $15 or less a volume.
Except its ending, which is really just a sequel hook, Mask of Arcadius is a diverting romp. Don’t expect your red, green, or blue choices to total up to a unique ending – unlike most visual novels that judge themselves by decision points and path counts, Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius is boldly immutable.
But beware the rabbit hole, dear weeaboo. There’s a dark path paved with squandered cash leading down from Anime into Visual Novels, Dating Sims, and H-Games. A world of lost time awaits you at Sandbox Adventure and RenPy.org. Will Sunrider be your event horizon?
Maybe Look it Up:
Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius Visual Novel
Produced by Love in Space, Published by Sekai Project
A free download on SteamPowered.com