"Yin-Yang goes to great lengths to utilize all those characters in illustrating Kaoru's dilemma. Naturally, he wants to return to normal, and we see moments where he freaks out about losing the physical and emotional strength that he's carefully developed as a man. He's also mortified to relearn how to use the restroom."
Godspeed Takuya Aihara. As the star of the gender-switching X-Change trilogy, you've experienced countless sexual encounters with men, women, and even children. The fourth game in this series delivers your long deserved rest. Yin-Yang: X-Change Alternative swaps out the familiar hero with a new girly-faced guy, Kaoru Sakurazuka. After a freak accident, Kaoru's swapping genders, but his journey as a male-turned-female differs from his predecessor. Takuya's trails back to manhood were always straight shots through wall-to-wall debauchery. Kaoru's path never feels quite as lurid or sensational, and Yin-Yang is a better game for it.
First of all, Kaoru is a strong character, the kind who beats down schoolyard bullies with fists of steel and a heart of gold. He wouldn't roll with the random gangbangs that Takuya ambivalently endured, and no predatory teachers could rape him without a fight. So the most objectionable elements of the first few games are almost entirely gone. When rival thugs finally do get the best of him, he mercilessly repays them with bloodied faces and broken bones.
That's not to say we have a virginal heroine on our hands, though. Even as a cute little redhead, Kaoru maintains a healthy curiosity about the female body: his or anyone else's. Yin-Yang features more than 125 different naughty pictures that span over 50 separate hentai scenes, and they depict all kinds of erotic activity. He gets all lezzed out when the angelic Student Body President drugs him in an attempt to gain a personal sex slave. His libido-obsessed roommate can't get enough of Kaoru's new curves. There's even futanari – a fancy way of saying chicks with dicks. Though for my taste, the extreme close-ups of a bulging cock focus on the wrong half of that equation.
Consider that a momentary lapse, because Yin-Yang usually focuses on the right things. Namely, your freedom to shape Kaoru's uncertain future. This game is a fully-voiced graphic novel where the only moving parts are the scrolling dialogue (Japanese voice, English text), and the choices made at scattered decision points lead to twelve different outcomes. In the original, the hero Takuya was romantically chained to his female childhood friend. Multiple endings existed, but they were wholly secondary to the idea that he should regain his gender and claim his girl of destiny.
In contrast, Kaoru's crushing hard on the Miss Goody-Two-Shoes of his class, but his oldest friend is actually a ultra-cool guy. And they already live together. Right away, there's two equally viable love interests. Add a childish step-sister, the aforementioned perverted roommate, and the crazy class president, and there's actually gender equity amongst the supporting cast.
Yin-Yang goes to great lengths to utilize all those characters in illustrating Kaoru's dilemma. Naturally, he wants to return to normal, and we see moments where he freaks out about losing the physical and emotional strength that he's carefully developed as a man. He's also mortified to relearn how to use the restroom. Then again, he grows attached to the newfound flood of positive attention, and even goes so far as to model lingerie for his roomies. And the high he gets from frigging himself – a very frequent activity – just cannot be duplicated as a guy. It really leaves the story and outcome open to your own preferences.
Then again, maybe it strives for too great a length; typically only seven or eight choices determine each ending. This is similar to the first X-Change, in which diligently reading through an entire story branch took under an hour. Kaoru won't even have changed into a girl in that time. The same task here clocks in at over five hours, leaving the game too passive to be consistently engaging.
Yin-Yang: X-Change Alternative definitely loses some of the edge exhibited by its namesake. It's less wanton. Definitely less offensive. And probably less memorable. But its thoughtful approach makes it doubly interesting. If you're looking to do a little more than whack off, this is a nice change-up to the hentai norm.
Freelance review by Benjamin Woodhouse (February 04, 2007)
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