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Code:Realize - Guardian of Rebirth (Vita) artwork

Code:Realize - Guardian of Rebirth (Vita) review

"Defying all expectations, a poisoned youth tries to Realize her true purpose and find love."

The otome (or "Girl Game") genre of visual novels is something of a novelty in the west, since titles within the genre are typically developed and released in Japan without any thought about possible localization elsewhere. That's starting to change, though. Otomate, a developer responsible for numerous visual novel titles in Japan, finally gets to see one of them reach to North America as Code:Realize - Guardian of Rebirth.

The heroine in Code:Realize stands out in sharp contrast to the faceless and typically nameless protagonists featured in other visual novels. Her name is Cardia, and as the story begins, she has just awoken from a long slumber to find that soldiers--both human and canine--are storming the mansion where she has been hibernating. When one of the men briefly touches her bare skin, we see why she has been living in solitude: his flesh begins to rot and melt away from his body.

It turns out that a deadly poison runs through Cardia's veins. That poison ensures that anything and anyone who touches her will be destroyed, with the exception of her clothing and other items made from material immune to the effect. Code:Realize explores the source of that unusual power in ways that will stick with you long after the credits roll.

As is typical of the otome genre, the bevvy of supporting male characters rank among the most handsome and romantic characters you've ever seen in a game. The cast is loosely based on characters from classic literature. The roster includes Arsene Lupin (The Arrest of Arsène Lupin), Impey Barbicane (From the Earth to the Moon), Abraham Van Helsing (Dracula), Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus), and Saint Germain (The Great Secret, Count St. Germain). Each of those primary characters has his own story routes that you'll have the opportunity to explore, depending on choices you make along the way. Other side characters round out the cast, as well, including a young vampire based on Dracula and a Baker Street resident that goes by the peculiar name of Herlock Sholmes.

The path the story follows is determined by occasional dialogue choices you make. The probable results when you make some of those choices are obvious enough, and others aren't quite. Only rarely will you actually have a direct say in what happens next, usually by deciding which character you'd like to spend time with as things progress. The narrative eventually shifts dramatically based on your decisions, but their impact doesn't become obvious until around the tale's halfway point. Even then, when you're finally proceeding along a particular route, the character portraits you see when saving your progress are the most obvious clue that something important has changed.

If you clear the game and you decide to go through it again and see what adventures awaited you along the road not taken, you can fast-forward through dialogue you've previously encountered, plus color coded text lets you know what choices you made the last time around when that's relevant. Those welcome features make it easy to work toward a new character's route, should you wish to do so.

It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that in a story centered on a woman doomed to solitude because of her poisonous touch, the authors aren't hesitant about delving into each individual character's anguish. Code:Realize does an amazing job of slowly establishing and building up the relationships between characters, which allows you to feel raw emotion as things progress and drama unfolds.

Each word conveys surprising emotion, capably establishing tone even when the still graphics and in-game images fall short. Verbose descriptions paint an evocative portrait of 19th-century England. And although the numerous encounters and fight scenes between the various cast members may discourage some gamers who just want a simple tale of romance, seeing each potential story through to its conclusion is rewarding in a way that other visual novels aren't.

A lot of that is the result of strong character development. In particular, Cardia evolves as the story progresses. She starts out as a lonely maiden, destined to live out her days as an outcast before Lupin rescues her, but over time she becomes an empowered woman. By the tale's end, she is entirely self-suficient, stronger and more confident than some of the men she can choose to romance along the way.

If you don't midn (or can look past) lengthy descriptions of a war-torn London and the morose ruminations of a cursed young woman, you'll find Code:Realize - Guardian of Rebirth to be one of the freshest visual novels to ever grace the PlayStation Vita platform. Here's hoping we get to experience plenty of others of similar quality in the years to come...

Gregarious's avatar
Freelance review by Kai Powell (October 25, 2015)

As an aspiring FGC contributor, Kai has earned enough tournament accolades to earn the title 'Eternally Second'. When not pouring his heart out over covering the games industry and running a corporate games store, he also spends his mornings at a ramen-ya

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