Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~
Code:Realize ～創世の姫君～ (Code:Realize ~Sousei no Himegimi~)
Otomate / Aksys
Cardia is cursed with a poisonous body. Anything — or anyone — who touches her skin ends up melting. So, following her father’s orders, Cardia spends her days alone, never leaving her house. One day, soldiers come to take her away, but someone else plans on stealing her first…
It’s easy to see why Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ is getting an anime: much of the game feels already like one.
When an otome game is adapted into an anime, writers have two choices: a) follow the main/canon route, adding events for the other men so that they get a little time in the spotlight (Hakuoki), or b) have a harem/open ending where all men get attention but no one gets the girl (Uta no Prince-sama). Well, writers for the Code: Realize anime have it easy. While the canon love interest is favored slightly, all five guys in this game get at least one major storyline (almost a whole chapter) in the common route. It’s easy for all the guys to have screentime when the common route takes up almost eight of the thirteen chapters!
Yes, Code: Realize is probably the most anime-ready otome game I’ve played. The good news is that the game has great crossover potential. The story feels like an epic group adventure, each route having an engaging story that can hook both shoujo and shounen fans. In addition, the story is easily one of the most accessible for new visual novel/otome game players with all the literary references (Lupin and Frankenstein probably being the most well-known) and its Western setting.
However, the first main drawback to Code: Realize‘s approach is the beginning being on the slow side. I like the story a lot, but I wish a lot of the character-focused scenes were saved for the character routes or at least hidden behind dialogue branches. The common route is just too long, and I felt like I had many of the plot points figured out just by playing the main route! In addition, the romance is low at times. The game provides plenty of feels late in the game, but I think it needed some good interaction between Cardia and her future lover interaction in the middle. With the long common route, I felt like I was just viewing Cardia on different days rather than from different universes. Even if you choose all the “right” choices for a particular guy and none for the rest, before the routes split, Cardia doesn’t really seem to favor one guy over another.
Fortunately, it’s the late mid-/early end-game that the story starts really getting interesting. The main mysteries surrounding Cardia and her lover start to come back into focus after being derailed by vampire kids and airship races. The antagonists finally get more attention as well. (Some plot points will be familiar to viewers of certain popular anime.) Each of the four routes reveals a bit more about one of the men, and the final route is a culmination of the main love interest’s story as well as abridged versions of the others’ routes. Each route has a conclusion, but the recently announced fandisk (Japan-only as of now) could easily continue the story. While having five routes is on the low side for a romance visual novel, the individual routes feel a bit longer than in most games to make up for it.
In a rarity for visual novels, quite a few scenes are from others’ perspectives. I’m not just talking about conversations continuing when Cardia leaves the room but whole scenes from other characters’ perspectives. Even the prologue is written in third-person point-of-view. I’m not criticizing the game for this; it’s just a rather unique presentation. Again, this adds to the anime/manga-like feel of the game.
Like most visual novels, the gameplay in Code: Realize is limited to selecting a choice at certain intervals in the game. There are no minigames, so whether that’s good or bad depends on your opinion. I do wish there were more dialogue branches; several chapters have only one, maybe two choices. Unlike most otome games, Code: Realize has no love meter. The early choices really only matter in the first playthrough. The later ones either give you a bad ending or put you through to the final dialogue branch of either getting the True Ending or Normal Ending. This may seem strange, but there’s a major benefit to this approach: once you complete a route, you can choose which chapter to start from and which character path without worrying about making the “right” selection! I still prefer Sweet Fuse‘s approach for replayability the best, but Code: Realize focuses less on making players frustrated by making a maze out of options and more on enjoying the story. It’s much better than Hakuoki‘s Record of Service.
As for the characters, the protagonist, Cardia, is quite the fast learner. She trains and acquires quite a few skill sets: fighting, stealth, machine operations, and more. She lacks a lot of common sense initially, but this is due to her partial amnesia and sheltered life. However, she develops into quite a tough young woman — both mentally and physically. Cardia, of course, ends up a maiden in love, but she is far from an idiot or helpless damsel-in-distress. If you tend to think otome heroines are mindless and helpless, then Cardia will be a breath of fresh air to you. The other guys are, naturally, quite different from each other. There’s the wanna-be playboy goofball, the nice guy, the mysterious one, the cool guy, and the confident gentleman thief. Like most stories, players will likely gravitate toward certain romantic interests over others. However, even routes I thought I’d dislike made me like the hero, so I consider all the routes pretty good (or better). Supporting characters and antagonists often appear in the main route and then disappear until a character route, but my favorite is the detective Sholmes. (I wish he had been a secret route here.) I do like how there are different antagonists for each route instead of repeating the same ones. Some villains are more interesting than others, but each help drive the story in different directions.
I usually don’t pay much attention to background music, but I did note that some of the pieces make Code: Realize feel like an epic adventure reminiscent of fantasy RPGs. As for the voices, otome game and anime fans are bound to recognize some of the cast. For me, the highlight was Suwabe Junichi as Van Helsing. I love his voice, but it’s nice to hear Suwabe voicing a serious, cool guy for a change rather than his usual flirtatious roles in otome series like in Uta no Prince-sama or Brothers Conflict.
The graphics are quite beautiful. Code: Realize has steampunk influences, and the illustrations bring out the Victorian-era setting. The backgrounds really have a lot of detail in them. The bedroom doesn’t have just a bed: there’s pictures, a lounge, vases, and curtains. The room looks like something you’d see in a noble’s home. The characters’ designs and outfits suit the alternate-reality Britain with short hair and buttoned coats and vests with metal accents. You can even see the individual eyelashes in some of the CGs and upclose sprites. The graphics are definitely a step up if you haven’t played one of Otomate’s games since the PSP era. Even better, background characters are silhouettes that are nowhere as creepy as the heart aliens of I Doll U. They help add atmosphere to the world.
I did experience at least one glitch. I started playing this game on my Vita, and I was disappointed to learn Cardia’s name was not voiced. However, once I put the game in my PS TV, the guys started saying her name! I put the cartridge back in my Vita, and sure enough, they were clearly saying her name. I have no idea how that happened.
I noticed a several mistakes. Among the errors are:
- Referring to Impey as “her”;
- Misspelling Saint-Germain’s name;
- Giving Impey credit for a line from Saint-Germain;
- Typos like “texpressions” instead of “expressions”; and
- Having an entire dialogue line from the previous page inserted into the name box.
More errors seem to be in the final route. I suspect there was a bit of a rush to finish up the game, and thus the final route didn’t get edited.
As for the dialogue, Aksys has a habit of punching up their scripts, and this game is no exception. Since this game is rated T, the dialogue isn’t nearly as edgy as in M titles like Hakuoki. They do keep some Japanese words, but these words are foreign to the characters and are thus explained naturally. However, I didn’t like when a guy says in clear English, “I’ll be back!”, but the text changes it to something like, “I’ll remember this!” Um, why?
However, one of the most notable changes in the game is the characters’ nicknames. Victor Frankenstein, for instance is nicknamed “Fran” in the original Japanese. Abraham Van Helsing is called “Van”, and Saint-Germain is generally shortened to “Saint” (pronounced “San” in Japanese). Aksys uses “Victor”, “Van Helsing”, and “Saint-Germain” in the English version. While the latter two are a bit annoying, it is very distracting to me to hear “Fran” but read “Victor”. There were also several times when characters would call each other by their full names in the dialogue but only first or last is in the text (or visa-versa). While you can make good arguments about these changes are for the better, I was doing a lot of double-takes when the text reads “Your Highness” but the character verbally addresses her by name. It just adds dissonance when what you see and what you hear are out-of-sync. Some of the changes I agree with (“Stein-hakase” to “Dr. Frankenstein”), but others were just…strange.
Otome Jikan also provides a little more information on the translation, including counting the number of typos.
P.S. The font looks like Times New Roman with some letters raised. Serif fonts are used more in print while san-serif is more for electronic print. I have no idea why Aksys chose to use a serif font here. People usually read serif fonts faster, but those fonts are just not as appealing on a screen. I found myself both reading too fast and wincing here. It looks like someone just opened Microsoft Word and just started typing. Blech.
Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ has a strong heroine, a steampunk theme with serious overtones, and good love interests with interesting routes. The common route is too long and the romance a bit light, but the game is a great addition to the translated visual novel lineup.
As I mentioned, the game will be receiving an anime adaptation and a fandisk. Support the companies by buying this game if you want to see either one get a Western release.
As for route order, Impey’s or Saint-Germain’s is better as your first route while Victor’s and Van Helsing’s are best saved for third or fourth. Once you’ve seen their True Endings, the final route is unlocked.
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