First Kiss Story (PC-FX) review
"Unlike something like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, First Kiss Story doesn't try to make you feel bad about anything. It's an optimistic game that promotes "love of life" instead of "self-destructive despair", which makes the game a heck of a lot of fun to play. From start to finish, First Kiss Story is a true feel-good experience."
If you haven't played First Kiss Story in a few months, then one of the game's twelve girls will welcome you back after you dust off your PC-FX and boot the system up again. That's what I call attention to detail!
If you haven't ever played First Kiss Story, then you're not alone. As the last game released for NEC's depressingly unpopular PC-FX, it had a tiny tiny print run -- so small that there aren't even enough copies for the twenty people who actually want the game. The good news is that for PC-FX fans who are willing to shell out some major coin, it's one of the most enthusiastic, optimistic, and charming gal games ever produced.
At the beginning, First Kiss Story lets you name the protagonist. Since this stud gets to flirt with twelve chicks (most games stop at five or six), I named him "BIG ZIG". Like every other gal game in the world (...in Japan), some kind of unrealistic situation forces you to get unnaturally close to a bunch of unnaturally cute girls. In this game's case, your parents have suddenly decided to move one month before your high school graduation. That's obviously not a good situation for a college-minded kid, so your parents conveniently agree to let you live with your classmate Kana, her little sister Manami, and their unusually attractive mother.
Yes, you're allowed to hit on both the sister and the mother. That much should be expected. However, even though the overall premise isn't new, First Kiss Story succeeds by meeting the three Gal Game Critical Criteria:
- Are the girls cute?
- Are the character relationships funny and/or touching?
- Is the overall atmosphere appealing?
First Kiss Story can emphatically answer "HAI~~~~~!!" to all three questions.
The first thing, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, is that the girls are absolutely adorable. There's a word that's recently come into heavy use in Japan to express this feeling of adoration: "moe".
1. /mo/ A stooge.
2. /mo*e/ A feeling of pure-hearted attraction.
3. /mo*e/ An art style, used in video games and anime, specifically intended to arouse feelings of pure-hearted attraction.
4. /mo*e/ An art style, used in hentai video games, specifically intended to arouse feelings of pure-hearted attraction... followed by scenes of hard-core sex because the Japanese Otaku Kingdom loves debauchery.
This game was "moe" before anyone even knew what "moe" was. With its distinct style (long foreheads and wide faces), First Kiss Story's character art is strikingly fresh and, perhaps because of its originality, cuter than the stock anime icons populating its competitors (that even includes excellent games like Pia Carrot). You know a game's a winner when such tiny things as flirty Yuu raising her hands in shock, or uptight Kana frowning in disapproval, provoke a smile. These characters are just so cute!
To avoid wasting that artistic effort, First Kiss Story constantly places you and the girls into entertaining (and often ridiculous) situations. Just consider your date with Miho; the very concept of dating this particular girl is absurd. You see, Miho's a ghost... but she's very sweet, even if she has the somewhat disturbing habit of poking her head through restroom walls to talk to you. (She's very apologetic about that.) Sadly, since Miho is so tragically DEAD, she can't engage in physical interaction; she can't even walk arm-in-arm with her sweetheart (you). That's why, when you finally agree to go on a date with a ghost, Miho demonically possesses your best (male) friend Tachibana Ayano. To make things even more uncomfortable, he's a bit stocky.
Two men sharing a soft-serve ice cream cone in public is perhaps the most awesome thing I've ever seen in a video game (although a few choice scenes from Boys' Love Scramble come close). Meanwhile, Ayano's voice actor -- since everyone but the main character is fully voiced -- speaks in a squeaky falsetto, using a whole bunch of girlish phrases.
Unfortunately, Western gamers are unlikely to ever experience this uncomfortably homoerotic joy because, outside of Japan, gal games are a tragically misunderstood genre. Even though the goal is to steal a girl's heart, and even though First Kiss Story features a few memorable moments of naughtiness (such as an erotically-voiced game of Twister at the swimming pool), there's NO sex and NO frontal nudity. The Japanese would call this a "Pure Love Adventure"; in other words, it's a game about hooking up without any actual hooking.
That's why so many non-Japanese ask: "What's the point?" The point is this -- First Kiss Story is supposed to stir your emotions. You're supposed to be moved by how Kana's mother piously honors her deceased husband's memory, or by how thirteen-year-old Manami desperately tries to sort out her conflicting feelings of attachment (to her beloved father) and arousal (as she hits puberty). But, unlike something like Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, First Kiss Story doesn't try to make you feel miserable. It's an optimistic game that promotes "love of life" instead of "self-destructive despair", which makes the game a heck of a lot of fun to play. From start to finish, First Kiss Story is a true feel-good experience.
But that's not the end of it.
A customized anime FMV ending would normally be reward enough for beating a game like this, but the PC-FX version adds a little something extra. After you win a girl's heart, you unlock the super-slick HuneX Fighters '98. It's only got three characters (heroines from various HuneX games) but it plays better than any all-chick fighter outside of Asuka. It's got guard cancels, reversals, dash attacks, a multi-level super meter, inspired special attacks, survival and ranking modes, genuinely attractive artwork, animated backgrounds, and music by the group that did the soundtrack for Lords of Thunder. WHAT THE HELL.
That's what I call leaving a good impression.
Staff review by Zigfried (December 18, 2005)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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