Ayakashibito is an action visual novel by Propeller that takes place in an alternative version of present-day Earth, one where a minority of humans possess supernatural abilities. Our story follows Kisaragi Soushichi, a human with the ability to bend metal, as he escapes from captivity.
There are four routes in all, with a grand total of somewhere in the realm of seven endings. The fourth route (Suzu) is locked until the other three routes are completed.
This is probably the most blatantly 18+ visual novel I've played to date, simply because of the ridiculous addition of sex at random moments (more on that later). As such, seriously people, it's for adults.
Dig Into That Lore:
One of the stronger points of Ayakashibito comes from its application of classic Japanese lore (which I'm something of a novice on, forgive me) in a more modern setting. As the story goes on, Ayakashibito carefully lets you in on some of the secrets of the world and releases revelations about things at crucial points. It's not the greatest worldbuilding I've ever seen, but it is more than enough to keep me interested in understanding what's going on.
Ayakashibito is a rare visual novel that puts a lot of emphasis on action. There's no gameplay, but there's some pulse-pounding fights that occur on a regular basis in this story, and they sit at the core of the visual novel. This isn't an introspective novel where the characters are trying to use microwaves and cell phones to change reality, this is a visual novel where the characters fight the antagonists with superpowers, swords, and guns. Generally it comes across very well because of the production values behind it.
An OP Cast:
The cast is yet another one of those casts that's made up of a suspiciously significant number of competent people. Touko is a katana-wielding badass, Tonya is a crafty sneaky type, Kaoru is a competent gun-wielding commander in a shadowy organization, and Suzu is a God. That's just the heroines.
The cast and their OPness give rise to some amusing banter and one-liners of the course of the story. I very much enjoyed getting to know them during each route.
High Production Values:
This is pretty self-explanatory. The visual novel is very long, which seems like it would be a detriment to the quality of the images and storyboarding, but it isn't. A great portion of the game is tense and exciting due to the storyboarding during the battle sequences, while the artwork will impress for its consistent quality.
The Supporting Routes Are The Best:
In an interesting subversion to the usual issue, I distinctly felt like the regular three heroines' routes were stronger than the true route of the story. This is clearly a debatable topic, but I get the distinct impression that they had a better implementation of the dramatic structure, and as such they ended up with better pacing.
Ayakashibito starts off very slow, almost painfully slow in fact. The first few hours of the game are quite tedious and laden with exposition for the reader. I actually began this visual novel several months ago but dropped it during the first hour so I could come back to it later. The hook wasn't really there for me at the time.
I could write an entire article talking about this category, I really could, but I think it's better to give this to you in a summarized fashion in one place. There are three types of sex you'll see in Ayakashibito. First, there's the obligatory sex in the individual routes, which is par for the course. Second, there's the squeamish sex played for drama (i.e. rape). Third, there's the random sex scenes (they come out of no where at all and usually involve supporting cast). As you can imagine, one of these categories is partially forgivable, one is creepy, and the other is just cringeworthy. You can make up your mind on which is which.
Big Buildup, Mild Execution:
There's a lot of lead-up, teasing, and foreshadowing of the true route of the story, yet when it finally gets here it leaves a little to be desired overall. As I've said, the true route's story can suffer from a bit of mixed pacing. By the time the end gets there, it's not really all that mindblowing or amazing, which leads us to...
Final Act Deus Ex Machina Syndrome:
Remember that tendency of certain stories to start pulling logic out of thin air to justify the ending of a plot? The true route can suffer from this a bit, at least in one of the endings (and arguably two). The final act wraps up very quickly and there's nothing much to do except accept that the writers are using magic (or under-explained world mechanics).
Ayakashibito is very much a visual novel for the action fan. It takes all the great things about a pulse-pounding action anime and fits them neatly into a world rich with battles and mythology. It's one of the few visual novels I've played so far where I was definitely thinking to myself how epic the battles could feel.
There's a couple drawbacks that force me to admit it's not quite a "Go For It", namely that the true route isn't as strong as I'd like it to be. The other big drawback is how inappropriate and random the sex can get. It stretches the suspension of disbelief to the max.
If it weren't for that though, this would easily be an immediate recommendation for even a new visual novel player. All things considered I think Ayakashibito hits all the right notes to be in at least my top ten visual novels, and even my top five if I ignore a couple of issues of it.
If you want a pulse-pounding and long visual novel, Ayakashibito will give you just that. It wears its action traits proudly and never gets too complex or difficult to follow.
This review was created with Talk Amongst Yourselves' official review format.
This review is part of my video game review series. I will be running it parallel to my Anime Marathon series. You'll be able to find all my video game reviews on Dex's Corner using the tag "Game Review". You can also find visual novel related material under the tag "Visual Novel".
You can find all my posts on Dex's Corner.