Shuusaku

vndberogamescape

Intro:

Shuusaku is a 1998 simulation eroge released by elf. It’s a semi-sequel to Isaku, and is also written by Hiruta Masato.

Story: 7.5/10

Shuusaku is a man who likes to rape women. He stumbles upon an opportunity to fake his way into a job as the caretaker at a girls dormitory for a prestigious music academy, so of course he takes it. He has an art to his raping, in that he prefers using his wits rather than brute force, so he plans to use hidden cameras to take compromising pictures of the girls and blackmail them into sex. When he finds out he will be called to the school office the next week he suspects he has been found out, and decides to use his final weekend at the dorm to put his diabolical plot into action and rape all the girls in one fell swoop.

That’s pretty much the plot of Shuusaku. There are, thankfully, a couple of mysteries to motivate you to play through the game (if porn isn’t enough.) There’s a meta level to the game and it soon becomes clear that the fourth-wall breaking is more than just a humor device, though exactly what it means is unclear and intriguing. There’s also the mystery of one of the girls, Eri, who seems to have almost a supernatural ability to avoid being photographed in any compromising positions, and even appears to be aware of Shuusaku’s cameras. Lastly, what will happen when Monday morning rolls around? Has Shuusaku been found out, or does some other fate await him? Not bad, as far as mystery hooks go, but unfortunately they don’t see any development during the course of the game, no gradual hints to allow the reader to try to figure out what’s happening.

There also seem to initially be hints of other mysteries or dramas going on among the female students at the dorm, but these don’t go anywhere. It’s possible, though pretty unlikely, that I missed scenes that address and resolve these hints, but if so that’s on the game for being organized in a way that it’s easy to miss out on side plots entirely and it would have to be a pretty small amount of time dedicated to those side plots. Again, since I saw a majority of scenes I don’t think any such character arcs exist, which is really a shame as it would be a great opportunity to weave in more story and to flesh out the characters, who are otherwise fairly flat.

What does carry along the text of the game, in the absence of plot or mystery development, is humor and Shuusaku’s interactions with the girls. Shuusaku is a perverted, hilarious, loathsome bastard so almost every scene between him and the pure and not-so-pure female students is entertaining. For the most part he has to play the role of a responsible, concerned caretaker, so his perversion mostly comes out in his internal monologue, but it’s also fun to read his conniving and continual excuses for entering into the girls’ rooms or the bathroom, etc. These do get tedious toward the end of the game, but fortunately he also gets a bit more brazen as his final weekend draws to a close, so he’s a bit more daring with letting his true nature show through which changes up the dynamic a bit. You’ll see most of these short scenes in your first play through, so later playthroughs (which are necessary for completing the game) tend to involve a lot of skipping through text and can get more frustrating, though the few new scenes you see tend to be special ones that are thus more interesting to read.

Once you’ve completed the objective of the gameplay, raping all the girls in one playthrough, you enter into the true end of the game. You could almost call this a true route. The game doesn’t have routes but the amount of text in this end almost rivals your first play through where you weren’t skipping any text. The true end is surprisingly great. Not surprisingly the meta element takes on a greater focus. I find it very hard for metafiction to completely escape feeling like a gimmick, and Shuusaku isn’t an exception. Nevertheless, the meta is fully justified from a thematic point of view. It’s also just very entertaining to read and a breath of fresh air in switching up the focus of the game thus far, which most people will have probably started to get tired of by that time. Plus, there’s more than meta shenanigans going on in the true end. We get to see some of this writer’s excellent focus on interpersonal relationships, which is absent in the game up until then (and mostly missing in Isaku.) It’s easy to become emotionally invested–quite an achievement for metafiction–and the final resolution of the game respects and responds to the reader’s emotional investment in a way that will probably stick with you for awhile.

Gameplay: 6/10

The gameplay in Shuusaku is pretty simple, so hopefully I can give an adequate brief description of how it works. The game is broken into 15-minute increments between 5:00 PM on Saturday and 5:00 AM on Monday, in other words 144 segments. For each of these you choose where Shuusaku will go: the girls’ rooms, bathroom, changing room, calling the teacher who oversees the dorm, and a couple of special time-dependent options. If the room is empty he can place a camera or collect a previously placed camera, if someone is there you’re cockblocked and read a short scene where Shuusaku bullshits his reason for entering the room. The goal is to have a camera active in a room when a girl does something compromising like changing or going to the bathroom (your normal cameras last for an hour and the one video camera at your disposal lasts two.) If you collect enough blackmail material you can make that girl your sex slave, with the goal of the game being to catch ’em all in one playthrough.

There are some factors that make this a bit more complicated. You influence the girls’ activities by whether and how much food you make the dorm for each meal, whether you put aphrodesiac in any of the girls’ specific meals, and whether you heat the bath water and how hot you make it. On the plus side this keeps the game from being 100% an exercise in guessing and luck. Instead it’s like 95%. The downside to this is how it messes with the game’s built-in schedule, an important part of the gameplay. As you play through the game this schedule records whether a room is empty or not at that particular time, and will mark where you’ve been able obtain blackmail material. This only saves when you reach an end so you can’t save-scum to fill the whole schedule at once but instead must fill it gradually over successive playthroughs, each time knowing more about where you can get pictures of the girls. Anyways, since your actions affect where the girls are and what they do you can’t really trust the schedule, as filled-in spaces may have additional possibilities different from what’s recorded (these then get added to the schedule.) So guessing and luck can end up feeling more important.

My explanation is probably confusing. The specifics of how the game works aren’t super important to the review. The point is that the game feels like it relies more on luck than on any strategy. I’m generally not a huge fan of SLG eroge because the requirements for events are so often obscure, and even the underlying mechanics of the games themselves are usually opaque. That’s definitely the case with Shuusaku, despite the gameplay being more basic than many other simulation and strategy eroge. That simplicity is both a pro and a con. You can stumble your way through the game easier, but it’s also less compelling.

At the same time there is something compelling and addictive about the game. At least some of the time. Each unfilled space on the schedule becomes a mystery, a possibility that you feel driven to find out, even if there usually isn’t anything there. Not to mention the addiction of finding new CGs and using those scandalous photos to obtain sex scenes with the girls. It took me a few playthroughs to fill in the schedule enough to feel I could make the push to get every girl, and then one concentrated effort with some save scumming (which does help once you have enough of the schedule filled out) to get all of the girls and beat the game. The gameplay reaches a point of tedium probably even before you finish your first playthrough, though subsequent playthroughs go much quicker because, as mentioned, you’ve read most of the text so there’s a lot of skipping. But yeah, filling out 11+ options for 144 time blocks is a fucking lot, even if you only have to complete a portion of them to know enough to beat the game. Full disclosure: I did get a couple of minor hints from the internet, though I was able to resist temptation to use a full guide. I would’ve used one if that last save-scumming attempt was unsuccessful, but I barely scraped by.

Characters: 8/10

As in Isaku, most of the characters are very well-portrayed stereotypes. If you’ve played rape eroge, you’ve probably noticed that a lot of them make the heroines at least partly unlikeable, I guess so you want to see them raped. Shuusaku strikes a good balance of making its characters likeable enough to be attractive but with unlikeable streaks that make you want to see them raped, or at least not that heartbroken when they are, or maybe even want to rape them yourself if you’re particularly sadistic/violent (I’m not here to judge you.) Their personalities also make their interactions with Shuusaku entertaining, which as I mentioned is one of the driving factors for much of the game. Also previously mentioned, there are hints that these girls have their own stories and their own circumstances, but sadly the game doesn’t capitalize on these, so opportunities to develop the heroines beyond their initial stereotypes are lost. Instead, they end up as entertaining and attractive objects of lust. But they’re pretty damn good objects of lust, each with their own points of charm.

The exception to the girls being stereotypes is, of course, the main heroine Eri. She starts as the least stereotypical and probably most intriguing of the girls, and because of her central role in the true end gets a lot of space to develop into a deeper and more interesting character. Every step of her development also makes her that much more appealing of a heroine, and by the end of the game she ranks close to Isaku’s Miyuki as a lovable eroge heroine.

The protagonist and anti-hero Shuusaku is pretty clearly the fully-realized version of his older brother Isaku. He is just as evil, and probably even more eccentric. Since he’s the protagonist we get full access to him as a character, basically answering all the issues that I had with Isaku. Shuusaku probably has more of a sense of humor, but his humor is thoroughly mean-spirited and he is a very cruel man. Once again, he’s entirely unsympathetic. For that reason he does eventually get exhausting to spend so much time with, which is why generally you would want even a detestable protagonist to have something the reader can sympathize with, but at the same time the thematics of the story wouldn’t really work without Shuusaku being irredeemably evil. This is certainly a case where the protagonist justifies having the entire game named after him.

Sound: 7.5/10

Once again, you’ll spend most of the game listening to one track, though it is much better than Isaku’s. It’s actually a good song. There are two different sex scene songs that are pretty decent but are more about creating a menacing mood, which they do, and not so much being good songs. There are a couple of songs that play during the true end that are both great, emotional tracks. Overall it’s a limited, but effective soundtrack. Even for a somewhat short game I would’ve liked more songs.

The voice acting for all of the characters is good, though there’s a weird dynamic where it’s like the emotional “volume” of the girls’ voice acting is turned down. Not monotone or bad acting, just a bit affectively restricted. I can only assume this was an intentional choice since it happens with all the female characters, and they’re able to emote more intensely for more emotionally intense lines, but I don’t know why that choice was made. A couple of the voice actresses sound too grating in the ero scenes, though the rest of them are fantastic, some of the best ero voice acting I’ve ever heard. Shuusaku himself is voiced, including his thoughts, and his voice actor is pretty much perfect for the character.

Art: 8.5/10

Shuusaku has a different artist from Isaku, so the style is a bit different but still has that 90’s-anime goodness. The coloring and shading are much better, not quite to the level of peak elf but pretty close. There are a few ero CGs with sloppy anatomy, which is especially jarring and frustrating in the context of the rest of the excellent art. Given that the entire game is about taking dirty photos of girls, there are a lot of fanservice CGs, more than in even a typical elf game. Because one of your cameras is a video camera, all of these CGs also have “video” versions where there is a brief, few-second animation that transitions smoothly into the CG. It’s really cool, and it’s legit full animation, but I have to wonder if it was worth however much it cost elf (don’t ask me why I would worry about something like that, I don’t know.) Otherwise, the animation in the game is limited to blinking and twinkling eyes. I also have to shout-out the backgrounds, which are richly detailed and contribute to the atmosphere of a high-class girls dormitory.

Ero: 8/10

Once you’ve successfully blackmailed one of the heroines you’re able to visit them and have coerced sex with them. This is one of those games where you select what position you’re going to have sex in (you can also choose bondage or, for some reason, shaving the girl in exactly the place you’re thinking) You can choose the same position multiple times to get different scenes with the same CG. In other games that have this option I find it pretty pointless, but here there’s often an evolving dynamic so it can be worth seeing the later versions of the same scene. In general, one of the most enjoyable parts of the ero is the different ways the different heroines react to the situation they’re in. At the same time, it feels like there was potential for this dynamic to be developed even further. It’s a little to plain rapey, though this is coming from someone who isn’t much into rape porn. The other really enjoyable part of the ero is the voice acting, though this is also under utilized: there’s a typical number of voice lines but they’re very short. Most have just a few moans, sometimes interspersed between the heroine talking. Interestingly, for each scene you can choose a “first-person” meta perspective or a third-person perspective. The first-person scenes have no lines from Shuusaku but have descriptions, which are arousingly written if a bit long-winded. The third-person scenes have no descriptions but have Shuusaku berating the girl, so those ones play up the sadistic/psychological angle. Both of these have their own advantages, so again it’s worth seeing the variations of the same scene, especially since in this case they also have different CGs. The last thing I’ll say about the ero is that the final sex scene in the game is pretty remarkable. It’s a slow-burn, emotional, and intense scene that is very plot-oriented but also manages to be just as intense erotically.

Overall: 76/100

Pros: Great protagonist and main heroine; good, unique plot in the true end; fantastic art; good ero; gameplay can be addictive sometimes

Cons: Gameplay can also be tedious; heroines outside of Eri are very underdeveloped; virtually no plot until you beat the gameplay section of the game

Shuusaku is one of those strange lopsided eroge (I’d include euphoria, Biman 2, and Desire in this group, maybe others) where the back-end of the game is so much different in terms of quality and even nature, without outright shifting genres. The first section of Shuusaku is a hot-and-cold simulation game that can be in turns addictive or tedious, with no plot or character development whatsoever. But at least you get entertaining character interactions with that bastard Shuusaku. Plus some nice porn and an overall fantastic presentation that reminds you that elf was a AAA eroge developer back then. Your reward for slogging through the gameplay actually feels like a reward, not just because it’s hard enough to beat that it feels like an accomplishment, but more importantly because then Shuusaku opens into a very different game that is leagues more interesting. I’m pretty sure it’s also meant to be commentary on the “kichiku-kei” subculture of the 90’s that I didn’t know existed until I stumbled upon a Japanese Wikipedia article about it while reading about Isaku. Speaking of Isaku, this game is so different from it that it’s hard to compare the two, but I like Shuusaku more. Isaku has better gameplay but Shuusaku has better story. Shuusaku is less of a classic in that it’s less concerned with setting standards in eroge than it is with subverting them. In a way it’s as insidious as Shuusaku himself, but toward nobler ends.

1 Response to “Shuusaku”


  1. 1 Aloe July 13, 2021 at 11:51 pm

    I don’t know if you’ll ever come back to this blog but I wanted to thank you for all these posts. I’m both amazed and terrified of how many posts you’ve made but I really enjoyed reading about them all.


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