So anyone that keeps up with my articles should know by that I play just about anything that isn’t a sports game. Earlier this year I played Honey Select and Artificial Academy 2 from developer Illusion and summed up how I felt about those games. They served a very obvious purpose to anyone that took just one glance at them. Though they did have something to offer other players who just love fiddling with character customization tools. X-Change from developer Crowd and publisher Peach Princess(in the west), available for purchase on JAST USA’s website, is not that kind of game. I feel like at this point I should turn “... So You Don’t Have To” into its own series because this likely won’t be the last time I do this. Though it can be embarrassing to admit i play these games, even if it’s out of nothing more than sheer curiosity and a love for visual novels.
The basic premise of X-Change is that protagonist Takuya Aihara accidentally spills a mislabeled clear chemical on himself and subsequently turns into a woman in every sense. This, as you can imagine, leads to a lot of ero hijinks. However, they aren’t the particularly tasteful kind and that is X-Change’s biggest flaw in my opinion.
See, the vast majority of H-scenes in X-Change, and there are a lot for a game that only lasts an hour or so for each ending, are non-consentual. The game doesn’t even give you the option to avoid them. If that sort of content bothers you, you won’t be able to escape it in this game. The game tries to play it off as “Eventually she starts wanting it.” But that doesn’t change how it started, and whether or not that actually changes what it ultimately is isn’t really a discussion I’m willing to have because it’s a very sensitive subject and those aren’t really my strong suits during debates. What I can say is that this is a trend I’ve noticed in a lot of H-games with non-consentual scenes in them. Now, that isn’t to say that everything that happens to the MC is bad, there are full consentual scenes in the game, they’re just not as common.
Underneath that exterior there is actually a story, no matter how short, but what you take away from it depends on a couple factors such as 1) Did you even make it through the game? 2) How did you feel about the content? 3) did you even care about any of these characters? At the end of the game, if you manage to reach either Ending 1 or Ending 2, the main character will turn back into a man and come to the conclusion that his time spent as a woman has made him better able to understand the feelings of the women around him, namely his childhood friend and the president of the chemistry club. Whether or not that revelation is justified is up to the player, and I do take issue with the fact that every time something bad happens to the MC, she literally spends all of three seconds feeling bad about the experience and then pretty much goes “Oh well, shit happens.” and goes about her life as if that didn’t just happen. I can only suspend my disbelief so much. Even the music that plays during these scenes makes it feel like some kind of joke. It’s loud and in your face kind of music that wants you to picture this scene as being fast and heavy. And I think it’s that combination of things that made me feel sick to my stomach during these scenes. It was mixed with some other emotions, but it was the most prominent one. There’s even a scene in the game with a bus filled with nothing but perverts and slutty girls. The game explains it as a bus that only people interested in having sex get onto. The main character has the unique problem, apparently, of being the only person to get on this bus by accident. The game couldn’t be anymore obvious about wanting to throw the protagonist into as many awkward scenes as possible.
Rolling back a bit to my previous comment about the main character shrugging everything off not even five minutes after bad stuff happens, this same problem is applied to the premise itself. She spends all of a few minutes freaking out that she, who was originally a he, is suddenly a she, and then bam it’s business as usual, and EVERY adult in the game acts like this is no big deal. Her stepmother is shocked at first, but eventually accepts it after a few moments, her father gets a nosebleed, and that’s the extent of the unique reactions. Every other adult in the game just goes along with it without much in the way of questioning, while the reactions of the students aren’t very shocking. The boys are all gawking and thinking lewd thoughts, despite the fact that they knew her before as a man, and all the girls are suffering from a severe case of boob envy. But yeah, business as usual.
Now, I’m slamming this game pretty hard, but I won’t say “don’t play it.” If this kind of content doesn’t disturb you to the extent that it might for some others, then go for it. If you’re generally interested in the premise of a guy turning into a girl and having that experience, which is where my initial interest came from, then you could certainly do worse(Though according to VNDB, there aren’t many visual novels with the same premise as this. Other tags, implying far worse content, have far more results oddly enough.). There are seven endings in total, and as I said earlier, you can get each one in about an hour or so each which is why I got through it so quick.
Now I want to address something before I end this. X-Change is not just one game. It has two direct sequels(X-Change 2 & X-Change 3, both of which are also available through JAST USA), and to my knowledge two spin-offs, only one of which has been brought stateside, and that one is also available through JAST USA. Currently, I’m plugging away at X-Change 2 and I can already notice a significant difference in its presentation. Aside from the introduction of voice acting, the story definitely appears to be longer, there’s more downtime between H-scenes... but it definitely still wants to throw the player into uncomfortable situations, such as the return of the pervert bus. However, I’m not feeling the same way about this one and I’m not sure why yet. There’s a lot less discomfort. Whether or not that means the first one blunted that reaction is up for debate, but it’s definitely making it easier to get through the game, even if I personally still find the content to not be the best. There are far better ways the X-Change games could approach this subject matter, maybe even be meaningful in a way, but they certainly haven’t done so, and since these games were originally made in the late 90's/early 00's, I don’t expect that to ever change unless someone makes a new game, with the same premise, but tackles it differently. I’ll probably do a more in depth write-up of X-Change 2 once I’ve played through it enough and seen all 20+ endings. If I ever want to get this experience out of my head(Or out of yours), I’ll definitely look to a visual novel like Steins;Gate or Fruit of Grisaia as a sort of palette cleanser.
Which reminds me, I played through one full route of Fruit of Grisaia, so I’ll probably be doing a write-up on that at some point soon.
Let me reiterate one more time: X-Change contains content that many might find objectionable. If that rustles your jimmies, stay clear of the game, or dive in at your own peril. I’ve got thick enough skin(But also lack the experience that those who’ve personally experienced stuff like this have.) that despite the fact I’m bothered by the content, I can still play it. But I won’t assume that the same applies to everyone.
A factor that likely contributed to my ability to get through the game is the art style. I grew up in the late 90's and 00's, so anime from that time are ones that I remember fondly. And the common stylistic choices of that time are quite different than the current moe trend. So when I see that style, I get really nostalgic. Doesn’t matter what it is, if it uses that style, there’s a part of me that thinks of fond childhood memories and a desire to go back to that style. And so throughout this entire game, the thought was running through my mind like “Wow, this is really classic. I feel like I’m home again.” Which, given the games content it’s really strange thing to say, but the feeling has nothing to do with the games content, merely its aesthetic, something I miss in anime and visual novels.