Brothers Conflict: Passion Pink
Brothers Conflict: Brilliant Blue
Sony PSP / PS Vita (coming soon)
Ema’s family has consisted of her, her father, and her pet squirrel. Now her father is remarrying a woman with kids — all male! Ema prepares to move into the building where her 11 new brothers live. With her brothers having a range of ages, careers, and personalities, will Ema get along with her new family? Or will they get along too well?
I knew as soon as I bought it and completed it a Vita port would be announced! So should you pick up the PSP games which are bound to drop in price, wait for the Vita port (Precious Baby), or should you skip Brothers Conflict altogether?
First, an introduction: unlike most otome games, the two Brothers Conflict games are based on a light novel series. Many scenes (including CGs) are lifted directly from the books. The first to be released was Passion Pink, and Brilliant Blue followed almost a year and a half later. Each game has the same basic system and storyline, but they each contain routes for about half of the brothers.
So now I’ll move on to the story.
Some parts of the story are directly incorporated from the light novels, and some aspects are pretty ridiculous even for a story about a girl acquiring a whole gaggle of brothers who can or will fall in love with her. The biggest one is how Ema moves into Sunrise Residence in May, but she doesn’t find out she has 13 brothers until November. Despite getting along with her new family (and the game proves there are family albums), nobody mentions two brothers live elsewhere. While one is overseas at the start of the story, the other still lives in the area. He and Ema didn’t run into each other in six months? Or nobody said, “Oh, hey, guess who I saw today?” at the dinner table? The fact these two show up so late affects the game: with half the year gone, their routes feel very short. If you’re like me and want to experience all the date scenarios, you might have to load a save to get all of them, as there just isn’t enough time to get all 18 dates plus the “visit his room” dialogues.
In addition, the date dialogues are slightly at odds with the situations in the routes. For instance, Ema could be picking up her brother from his room every week for a date, but in his actual route, he’s like, “What are you doing here? You haven’t been here before…” Parts of the dialogue also make it seem like Ema and a guy are practically an official couple, but in the actual route, they haven’t nearly reached that stage yet. While I kind of understand why this happens from a gameplay perspective, it’s jarring from a storyline perspective. In addition, since the base story as well as most of the family events are repeated in both games, you are going to have to rewatch many scenes unless you play the upcoming Precious Baby.
The games try to keep routes unique: while events like Christmas and New Year’s happen in each route, the major conflicts vary from brother to brother. Some deal with the guy’s personal problems, others his personality, and others his relationship with one particular brother. Fortunately, none of the routes are terrible. Yes, some are miles better than others, but no route is utter garbage. With 12 (plus 1) eligible bachelors, there’s bound to be someone who steals your heart. If you have watched the anime, the guys you liked there are still likely to be your favorites here. (One guy’s personality wasn’t covered in the anime, so his route is probably the biggest shock.) On the downside, I don’t think I’d put anyone in my top five or top ten “best routes” or “best romanceable guy” lists. With so many characters and only about 15 major scenes in total, they just aren’t as deeply developed as other male leads in other games. Based on other people’s comments, some aspects of the guys’ personalities seem slightly different from the light novels, but I cannot get into this since I haven’t read the novels.
More importantly, outside of a couple of the routes (and one guy who ends up heartbroken in every route but his own), you don’t have to put up with all brothers falling in love with Ema at once. You can raise multiple brothers’ affections and choose one or none, but the game does not default to the guys all chasing after Ema. This makes it better than the anime and probably the light novels; she can enjoy some of the guys as brothers and not wanna-be boyfriends.
Also on the bright side is Ema herself. If you have watched the anime, Ema doesn’t exactly having a shining personality. Some (and I would have to agree) would say she doesn’t have a personality at all. Fortunately, both Passion Pink and Brilliant Blue show Ema does have clear interests, friends, and even both strong and goofy sides. She is an avid gamer, and many of the brothers comment on how different she seems with a controller in her hand. While Ema does (almost by virtue of necessity) have the usual stammering and blushing problems of most otome game heroines, she doesn’t always accept how the brothers treat her. She will very clearly turn Kaname down, and she is greatly upset when her first kiss is stolen. This Ema may not make anyone’s favorite otome heroine list, but she’s miles better than her anime self.
Now onto the gameplay.
The games are otome games (visual novels for girls), but there are simulation elements as well. On Sunday of each week, you set up a schedule for the next week (cook, relax, work, etc.). The different activities and choices can raise or suppress her brothers’ affection levels. For instance, Yusuke hates studying but loves watching sports. The activities also affects two other gauges: family love and stress. Different routes and events require various family love levels, and stress affects Ema’s motivation. Without a guide, it is incredibly easy to miss an event or lock yourself out of one. Heck, even with a guide, you can screw up, especially since some events are locked to a certain date. If you miss those, too bad for you. On the bright side, there’s no punishment if you keep spamming one choice. You can keep taking the family out to a fancy restaurant or watching the same DVD with no consequences. There’s a lot of wasted time watching the chibi characters’ animations during the schedules. You can skip them, but it’s tiring to keep pressing a button to skip/shorten the sequences.
Some events triggered are family-based one where you learn more about the brothers or just get a cute scene, but, of course, the main focus is on the brothers’ routes’ events. Brothers Conflict is from most otome games where you eventually enter (and are locked into) one guy’s route. You can bounce between a couple brothers, but this is very inefficient and risky if you are going after a specific guy. Some routes (if you want to unlock all CGs) do require raising several brothers’ affections at once. So while playing through, you can accidentally spoil some events from another guy’s route. You can skip events, but you don’t want to accidentally skip a scene you need. You can get some additional dialogues if you make a guy jealous enough, but I did not get any of them during my playthroughs.
Even when I followed guides exactly, I got extra events not listed in others’ walkthroughs but didn’t get others, so there must be some degree of randomness when raising affection. Some walkthroughs also disagree on how high to raise family love and whether other brothers’ affections are necessary. At least one site was flat out wrong about an event during Natsume’s route. I wasted several hours trying to figure out what I was doing wrong when I was actually fine.
If you play the PSP versions, you can raise the affection of guys who do not have a route in the game (e.g. Azusa in Passion Pink), but you are only rewarded with a generic ending. The date options are also limited to two per location instead of three. If you plan on playing through both games, there is little need to take the “other” guys out on dates.
The graphics feel like a mish-mash at times. While the CGs are nice, some characters’ in-game models look quite different depending on their facial angles. Subaru in particular has one with a head tilt that just looks awful. One CG featuring Tsubaki and Azusa makes them look kind of feminine. The backgrounds are just okay. They look and feel pretty generic. One of the backgrounds involves a shopping district, and the games try to squeeze the phrase “Merry Christmas” on a sign for the Christmas events. It looks like a bad Photoshop job. On the plus side, the backgrounds do reflect the changing seasons, even if the characters don’t.
The cast is what drew me to this series. Otome game fans and anime fans alike will recognize many of the seiyuu, and all they do a good job expressing the characters’ emotions. I liked the opening songs for both of the games, but I didn’t really care for the ending songs. Despite one guy being an idol (and even introducing a song during his route), he doesn’t get a song. The BGM wasn’t as annoying as I thought it would be. I thought it would get old pretty quick, but the game at least tries to rotate songs when selecting the weekly schedule. Each guy gets his own theme, but at least his tune isn’t spammed constantly during his route. However, I had major audio issues trying to hear Subaru. Some might be due to the character’s shyness, but at other times it seems like his seiyuu’s microphone must have been malfunctioning.
Now I’ll cover some of the differences between the two PSP games.
Story-wise, it’s really hard not to argue Passion Pink is better than Brilliant Blue. While they technically each have the same number of routes, Brilliant Blue‘s seventh secret route is very short. In addition, Brilliant Blue has a Wataru route, which is basically a “someday” route since he’s only 10 years old at the start. So now we’re down to five guys versus seven. Passion Pink‘s guys have a wider range of personalities, and the game has more randier endings. And outside of Natsume and maybe Azusa, more of the fan-favorites are in Passion Pink. (I guess it’s the passionate guys versus the brilliant ones.)
So is Passion Pink better? Well, not in gameplay. Brilliant Blue was released well over a year later, and Otomate greatly fixed many of the issues plaguing Passion Pink. Passion Pink has no quicksave options at choices, incorrect dialogue, incorrect text, and random glitches, which some people have reported causing their game to freeze. The only aspect I didn’t like was that Brilliant Blue moves multiple-choices to different pages. While Passion Pink has all six date location on one list, Brilliant Blue only puts two on a page along with a “next page” option. This makes it a little more work in selecting choices like the park. However, I’m sure most of these problems will be eliminated in Precious Baby.
The two games have some good characters and great seiyuu, but the experience is marred by its picky and annoying simulation aspects. I feel it’s kind of like on the upper tier of average or good, not terrible but not likely to be anyone’s favorite otome game. If you are interested in Brothers Conflict, wait for the Vita port and follow a guide to avoid frustration.
Fans are working on English patches for the games, but there are plenty of summaries available to follow along with the story. The hardest part for a non-native speaker will be finding and following along with a walkthrough, but as long as you can match kanji, you’ll be fine. The team has confirmed they’ll continue working on a patch, so if you would like an unofficial English version, you might want to go for the PSP games instead of waiting for the Vita port.
Do I think Idea Factory International, Aksys Games, or even Glozcus or NTT Solmare will bring Brothers Conflict Precious Baby to North America? Paying seiyuu and their agencies are a huge chunk of licensing costs in an otome game, so while it is possible, I’m sure it will be quite costly with 14 main characters. There’s the added issue of getting permission from the original author and artist, so the companies may choose to bring over a game where they only have to deal with Otomate. I’m sure sales of the anime will help gauge interest, but the anime is vastly inferior. Personally, I’d rather see titles like Binary Star, Clock Zero, or even Hakuoki SSL get official English versions.
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