Minikui Mojika no Ko

36087

vndberogamescape • OP

Intro:

Minikui Mojika no Ko is a 2018 eroge from NitroPlus, written by the writer for all of their more recent games, Shimokura Vio. This one seems to have been billed as a nukige prior to release, which I think would make it NitroPlus’s first, but of course this is NitroPlus so it isn’t truly a nukige.

Story: 7.5/10

Tanezaki Suteru is a Japanese high school student remarkable for a couple of reasons. The first is that he is able to read others’ minds, in a fairly literal manner where looking at a person’s face allows him to see their thoughts floating in the air as words. The other is that he is hideous beyond words. One can begin to imagine how unfortunate of a combination this is, and it’s not surprising that Suteru spends all of his time staring at the ground to avoid being bombarded with reminders of how ugly everyone thinks he is. Because of his ugliness and probably also this unusual behavior, Suteru is relentlessly bullied at school. One day, he is confessed to by a classmate Miyu, which inspires him to stop taking the bullying and begin planning his revenge.

Unexpectedly, the bulk of the first half of game (the common route and into some of the heroine routes) effectively plays out like a suspense thriller. Suteru is at the bottom of the school’s food chain but he has his mojika power which allows him to strategize his counterattack. This dynamic adds a layer of excitement and plot potential, and there are also other various moving parts in the school’s homeostasis, different students with different motivations, and these all create ample opportunities for an interesting, driving plot. Even more, the school’s ecosystem and intrigue has ties to the larger intrigue of the town and some of the powerful families involved in its politics, organized crime, and religion. So while the school politics themselves are rendered in such a way as to make their gravity felt, they are broadened to also have more apparent and easy to accept importance. The game board the story lays out is ripe with potential, and the story makes good use of it to keep things tense and entertaining, in fact never boring.

Unfortunately, the game begins to falter even in the first few heroine routes. These more or less serve as continuations to the suspense plot and lead to resolutions of Suteru’s revenge campaign. The momentum of the common route stumbles, however, and the routes also take on other focuses: namely, exploration of the heroines’ characters (who are uninteresting, see below) and sex scenes (which are a mixed bag, see further below.) These additional threads lead to an unfocused feeling and also just drag down the quality. There is only one route, Kirara’s, where the sex, character, and continuation and resolution of the plot come together. That one isn’t bad at all, but the other two are no good.

After the first three routes there are two routes that go into the underlying plot. Throughout the common route and earlier heroine routes there is a clear sense that there is more going on in the story than just the surface plot (one obvious example: Why can Suteru read minds?; or Just how ugly is he?), and these hints serve as a nice additional mystery to keep the reader reading. In fact, wanting to find the answers to these mysteries was probably one of my main motivators for keeping glued to the early game. The plot itself is undeniably entertaining, but the hints at something more are a big draw and a nice complement.

The game’s answers utterly fail to live up to any expectations. Over the course of the last two routes the game does answer all questions, but that’s about the best that can be said of the plot’s resolutions. A few of the explanations are moderately absurd, though none are bad in a suspension of disbelief-shattering way. The problem isn’t the explanations being bad, it’s that they are unimpressive and uninteresting. This is especially a problem since the entertaining suspense from earlier in the game pretty much disappears in the last routes, so the explanations and revelations are about the only thing there to carry the story; except they don’t carry it well at all.

Well, it’s not quite true that the plot resolutions are the only element of the late routes. There are also the emotional resolutions of the characters, something that is hard to feel in the earlier ends. The emotional side of the end game is actually very well executed, but is completely hamstrung by the issues with the game’s characters. The same scenes and lines would’ve went over quite well in a different game. Sadly this game doesn’t have the foundation to support the sort of emotional end the writer went for, which also makes any resolution on this front seem inauthentic; thus this aspect of the game’s end also ultimately feels disappointing.

Characters: 5/10

As I’ve mentioned twice already, the cast of characters in this game is one of its weakest aspects and prevents certain moments from working nearly as well as they could have. Not too surprisingly given the premise, this is the rare eroge where the protagonist’s character receives much more attention than the heroines’. Suteru’s psychology is rather interesting and well developed, about what you would hope for reading the internal experiences of a character in the unique situation Suteru is in. There was room to push his character depth further that the game misses. This becomes apparent in Suteru’s character development, or lack thereof until the final two routes. These final routes also highlight the other issue with Suteru as a character: he is such a horrible person that it is nearly impossible to empathize with him despite all the unfair and tragic things he goes through. While this might not necessarily be a problem, it is if the story relies on getting the reader to sympathize with the protagonist, which it does, especially in the last routes. The game’s solution to this is to have Suteru change suddenly and without reason into a character the reader could sympathize with…if they hadn’t played the rest of the game.

All five heroines have a similar problem where it is just about impossible to sympathize with them, let alone like them (something generally important in an eroge heroine.) They have the additional downside of also being uninteresting, unlike Suteru. The game’s system, where you are able to read the heroine’s thoughts, creates the opportunity to add additional depth to the characters, but it fails to do this, in part because these thoughts are generally short sentences that mostly repeat throughout a conversation. As far as a window into the inner lives of the characters, it serves as a very small one. The closest the game gets to an interesting heroine is, as mentioned, with Kirara during her route, though this only stands out because the development of all the other heroine’s is so dismally shallow; Kirara feels like she still needs one more push to even reach the level of “good” character development.

Sound: 7.5/10

With this game NitroPlus went for an elf-style sound design that frequently omits music for a focus on sound effects. For whatever reason it doesn’t work as well here, there isn’t as much atmosphere as when elf did it. Most likely because of too few sound effects to fill the silence and a less artful hand at deciding when to use silence, when to use sound effects, and when to use music.

The actual music itself is interesting and fitting of the game’s mood. Apparently it was created by a prominent(?) Japanese shoegaze musician, and it definitely has a droning, hypnotic feel to it. The sonic textures are noticeably richer and moodier than what you would usually get from eroge music, but the tracks are not just noise and have some good melodies as well. Its effectiveness in adding to the game varies some from scene to scene but ultimately it serves as a good, unique soundtrack.

The voice acting is fantastic possibly without fail. So goes the budgetary force of a company with the pedigree and bank account of NitroPlus. Nevertheless, there is nothing negative to say about the voice acting and a lot of positives. There’s little more one could wish for in the voice acting for an erotic game. If anything, the voice actresses add a depth to the characters that otherwise wouldn’t be there. They can’t save the characters, of course, but they do their best.

Art: 9.5/10

The artist for Minikui Mojika no Ko is Hamashima Shigeo, who has illustrated many of Overclock’s games, including euphoria. His art is just as good here, but is elevated at least a full level by superior NitroPlus coloring. While I like the shinier, if flatter, Overclock coloring, there is no denying the depth added by the painstaking, soft and dynamic NitroPlus coloring. The art in this game is truly AAA quality.

An interesting element of this game’s art is that it is entirely first person. While eroge have often gone to lengths to conceal the faces of their protagonists, or at least their eyes, there has never been such a concerted effort to present the entire game as coming directly through the eyes of the protagonist. There are a lot of ways that this works in a very cool manner for Minikui Mojika no Ko, and overall I feel it was a good choice for the game. Even the fact that the text is displayed in the middle of the screen rather than the bottom suggests that the middle of the protagonist’s field of view is the bottom of a normal FOV. There are a few cases where this dedication to a perspective creates limitations, however, and as a result the composition of CGs is limited in a manner that is at times detrimental.

There are various other visual effects that enhance the presentation of the game. Most readily noticeable is probably the mojika effect, the appearance of the words signifying the characters’ thoughts, and how the words are displayed differently to emphasize the mental state of the character. Even mundane things like the menu are visually impressive.

Ero: 6/10

Minikui Mojika no Ko is NitroPlus’s nukige. It doesn’t matter to what extent the nukige angle is meant to be played straight or subverted (at least for this section.) To put it shortly, it’s clear that the writer does not usually write nukige, and even worse does not fully understand what creates the appeal of nukige. A lot of the situations have a lot of potential. Few of them live up to that potential. On the whole, the writing in the ero scenes is pretty bland, which often negates any potential of the scenes set up by the game. Some of the scenes work, only because the situations themselves overpower any weaknesses and repetitiveness in the writing. One might think that the ability to read the heroines’ thoughts during the sex scenes would add an extra dimension of possibility to the scenes, but unfortunately, for the same reasons that the mindreading adds little to the depth of the heroines, the repetitive short statements that constitute the heroines’ “thoughts” during the ero scenes usually do little to improve the quality of the scenes. They add a hint of spice, but these scenes are still under-seasoned despite often being based on promising recipes.

Overall: 72/100

Pros: Entertaining suspense plot for the first part of the game; Hamashima Shigeo art with fantastic coloring; great sound and presentation; interesting main character.

Cons: Disappointing conclusion to the story in terms of plot, emotion, and theme; shallow heroines; weak ero scenes for a “nukige.”

Minikui Mojika no Ko isn’t a failed experiment, but it’s not exactly a success either. It’s hard to even necessarily feel that it’s much of an experiment, for at least a couple reasons. First, there are already plenty of dark nukige, so NitroPlus trying to bring their brand of dark-ish eroge to the genre doesn’t lead to anything new, just a bigger budget. Second, by the end of things Shimokura Vio inexplicably takes things into a stereotypical idealized eroge direction that isn’t fitting for a dark nukige or a NitroPlus game. En route there is an entertaining suspense story to be found, or at least the first half of one, and that, if anything, is NitroPlus’s claim to eroge fame: consistently bringing entertaining, gritty stories. There’s enough of that here that Minikui Mojika no Ko isn’t a bad eroge.

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