Tokimeki Check In (PC) review
"The grass is always greener where we are not, so it's reasonable that Takayuki Yamano dreams of a life out in the big, wide world. It's understandable that he wants to break away from the family business and create his own niche. That is to say, it would be understandable if his clan ran a more mundane enterprise, but the Yamano Inn is not an ordinary vacation spot. It's a hot spring resort, especially popular with gorgeous young women looking to blow off some steam. And this guy wants to es..."
The grass is always greener where we are not, so it's reasonable that Takayuki Yamano dreams of a life out in the big, wide world. It's understandable that he wants to break away from the family business and create his own niche. That is to say, it would be understandable if his clan ran a more mundane enterprise, but the Yamano Inn is not an ordinary vacation spot. It's a hot spring resort, especially popular with gorgeous young women looking to blow off some steam. And this guy wants to escape such a delectable heaven? He must be some kind of fool!
Fortunately, all of his prospective employers seem to think so. Laughed out of the rat race, Takayuki has no choice but to drag himself back home to oversee his forefather's legacy. That's where the game begins. You're given the chance to dictate the hero's actions for one fateful weekend. The decisions made will win hearts or break them, sow happiness or reap destruction. Even though Tokimeki Check in! came out back in 2001, it's yet to be surpassed by many later releases. Relatively complex gameplay, likeable characters, and attractive artwork will maintain its appeal throughout the years, ensuring its stature as a must-play classic for any bishoujo game fan.
The comparatively complicated game design is a main reason TCI is so addicting. Technically it uses a simple decision tree model, typical of the genre, but this title unfolds like an intricate puzzle. Yes, this means you actually have to work for your naked anime beauty. The choices of what chores to do or where to loaf around the inn function as triggers to locate the scattered pieces, impacting which of the fascinating guests Takayuki meets. Since vague clues serve as the only tenuous connection to who will be where and when, the emphasis is placed on exploration and memorization. Successfully forming a significant connection with a girl is based on interacting with her as much as possible, gathering each precious encounter, and then stringing them back together to reach the desired outcome. The hunt for all these elusive episodes can keep you searching through failure after failure. It's a grand contrast to most other titles, ones that stress guaranteed gratification while relying solely on characters and story to hold the player's attention.
Of course, TCI has those as well. Ten lovely ladies occupy the inn, and as this is a game from developer Crowd, they all have one common attribute: they're all stacked! Aside from that, each is different enough in looks and personality that it’s easy to find some favorites. You can choose from the staff: cover girl Ayumi, a maid too cowardly to declare her life-long affection for Takayuki, or crazy girl Makoto, the chef with a penchant for tossing around cutlery. You can choose from the guests: blond busty-idol Yuki, playful yet horribly unsuccessful, or the modest artist Mai, polite and shy. Tyrannical high school girls, sophisticated university debutantes, and even an ice princess also cry for special comfort. Crowd also expended the extra effort to make this their first fully voiced game, and the actresses add another dimension to each woman's personality (though the hyperactive music initially drowns out the voice track, requiring immediate adjustment). Seriously though, if none of these women sound tempting, then old man Ume-san, the decrepit caretaker of the inn, may be more your speed.
Actually, regardless of your leanings, the geezer's tale is assured to elicit quite a reaction (and it's definitely not what you're thinking), but it's probably the hardest to find out of the multitude of different ones. TCI’s replay value is greatly increased by its seventeen endings, with some girls even having more than a single conclusion to her story. The difference between a good and great outcome is decided by how you choose to interact with the group. There are times in the daily routine, usually during communal meals, where everyone comes together. This serves as a good chance to gauge Takayuki's progress with the inn's inhabitants, communicated through snappy dialogue and drunken outbursts, but be careful! Unlike so many other games that tend to isolate a love interest after a certain point, in TCI everyone stays in the mix to the very last. The things you say to one girl can easily spread to them all, crippling progress towards a blissful resolution.
Maintaining that level of interaction comes with a tradeoff, though. If TCI has any fault, it's that none of the girls have an intricately developed backstory. Still, when the entire game takes place over a period of three days and Takayuki doesn't get too much alone time with any one woman, it's logical not to try and relate her entire life history. What each girl can emote is raw vulnerability, confidence, and sexuality, and her attraction to the protagonist stems from the tangible chemistry developed through these potent feelings.
Because of that connection, the moments when the pair finally gets down to business carries justification. The lengthy encounters feel natural, not like random occurrences made just to meet a skin quota before game's end. Content wise, kink is thankfully not emphasized -- aside from doing it in public -- and excited moans and delicate Japanese utterances complement the static pictures well. The graphics themselves tower leagues above the rough pixels commonly seen in games released in the genre's infancy, and the glossy CGs are still not far overshadowed by titles released even a few years later.
But not every tryst comes guilt free. Working at a resort where the main attraction is bathing in the onsen affords the leading man abundant opportunities to witness some captivating sights, though some of them are certifiably criminal. Takayuki is even given the opportunity to perpetrate a rape of his own. However, if you choose the dishonorable path, either of cowardly inaction or full-blown depravity, the transformed antihero must pay with his friends, his self-respect, and his soul. The game emphasizes getting laid, but not at any cost.
TCI's appeal flows from the perfect balance it creates. Peach Princess is known for its comparatively deep localizations, games that provide the type of exploratory challenge not found in many overly esteemed near-linear adventures. Yet it's also simple. The girls are plentiful, vibrant, and smoking hot. Each appears on-screen enough to establish a bond, but it's done without manufactured drama or overblown histrionics. Fresh releases may promise untold excitement, but there's nothing wrong with returning to a sure thing from the genre's past. Take a lesson from Mr. Yamano, who almost overlooked his happiness, and place TCI, the old standby, near the top of your H gaming list.
Community review by woodhouse (April 27, 2005)
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