Are you a fan of both otome games and mystery genres? 7'scarlet might be a game you may want to consider then. 7’scarlet is a mystery adventure otome visual novel by Intragames and is available on both PS Vita and Steam. Our protagonist is a college student named Ichiko Hanamaki whose older brother went missing over a year ago prior to when we meet her. The premise is that Ichiko decides to find out what happened to him when her childhood friend, Hino Katsuguchi, decides to invite her to a trip to Okunezato for a offline club meeting. Okunezato, the story’s setting, is a small town in the middle of the countryside where strange myths and occurrences have been rumored, most notably where Ichiko’s older brother went missing. The game is structured so that as you go through each route, you learn more about the large mystery looming over the town.
When I first saw the game, I was skeptical of the game’s mechanic since this was the first otome that has this sort of mechanic; but decided to get a go at it because I thought it would be fun to try a new experience. The game’s central mechanic, I feel, is that you have to go through every route in a specific order to get a full understanding of the game’s mystery and plot. There are even cliffhangers at the end of every route that reveal a tidbit or two of the next route and makes you want to progress onto the next character. I found that the game was rather easy to play through and required no guides aside from a few missing CG art and route endings to 100% the game as the routes unlock themselves after each route playthrough.
But, as I mentioned previously, 7’scarlet is structured to the point where you’re required to play the game in a certain order, whether you like it or not. I admittedly wanted to play through Sosuke’s route right away, but was disappointed I had to follow this very structured gameplay. I do, however, understand why the route order is made that way, since each route digs a little deeper into the plot. This game is a little unorthodox in comparison to other otomes or VNs in that it’s super linear and you’ll go through similar main events regardless of routes.
There are 5 main love interest routes that are introduced in the game: Hino, Isora, Toa, Sosuke, and Yuzuki. I found them to be engaging and fun as an otome fan, but I felt that some routes were short and/or rushed while others were just right despite being in the same time frame due to how much we learn in each route. Here are my thoughts on the characters who had playable routes:
- Hino Katsuguchi is your childhood friend who initially invites you to come with him to Okunezato to investigate the whereabouts of your older brother while he attends an offline mystery club. No matter what route, it’s easy to see has feelings for Ichiko and is protective of her as a friend. I found his route to be the most canonical of the 5, but one of the most rushed because they cut corners in terms of developing his relationship to Ichiko due to the “childhood friend trope”. I did, however, find it enjoyable for what it offered and the ending was the most clear-cut in my opinion.
- Isora Amari is the flirty young chef of the Furinkan hotel in Okunezato. Another character who, no matter what route he’s in, likes Ichiko. He comes off strong at first, but then takes some very unwanted turns in his route that could turn some people off. His route was unexpected to say the least because of the events that occur, but I do believe it was the most rushed out of all the characters. I felt his route rushed because it was more focused on the relationship, which was ironically what made it feel less fulfilling. The ending was at best ambiguous and vague to be frank.
- Toa Kushinada is a shy and clumsy “part-timer” who is visiting Okunezato for vacation and to attend the offline club meeting. As mentioned, he’s shy, clumsy, but also has a deep love for cats and can go on and on about them if given the chance. His character was very endearing to me at first, and his route was very enjoyable to read. I will admit, though, that I did get my first bad end in this game during his routes, but figured out where and why. His route was very enjoyable and had more than meets the eye because as you go through his route, you learn more unexpected things about both him and Okunezato. The route as a whole was good from the pacing to the emotional roller coaster I went through during his route. I would play it again if given the option
- Sosuke Tatehira is a very straightforward and no-nonsense medical student who aspires to be a doctor when he graduates. Like Toa and Hino, he is also at Okunezato because he’s attending the offline club meeting. He’s extremely knowledgeable, but awkward when it comes to socializing at times. This is more apparent when you play his route. On a side note, I LOVED playing Sosuke’s route and feel that it’s the most fun out of all the routes. I really enjoyed his route since it was more about solving the mysteries while slowly developing a healthy relationship (as friends first) between Ichiko and Sosuke. 5/5 would play this route again.
- Yuzuki Murakumo is the owner of the Furinkan hotel that the cast stays at for the duration of the game and, well, I initially found him to be a douchebag. For the first few routes, he’s the semi-antagonist. He’s straight-up rude in the very beginning of the game and is super skeptical of Ichiko for reasons we only learn in later routes where he’s more of an ally than an antagonist. However, in all honesty, I did enjoy his route as he came to be really sweet in an unexpected way.
My thoughts on the characters as a whole is that they’re very well written for a generic otome, some better than others. I found myself relating to them, or at least found them entertaining as I went through each of their routes. I do wish that the routes were a little longer since the time felt really short to develop a solid romance with most of them (Hino is sort of an exception since he’s the “childhood friend” and gets a decent pass from this mess, but I still digress).
Big shout-out to the side characters Yua & Yuki, who throughout each of the routes, was the supporting characters who made the game so much more enjoyable!
- Yuki is a middle-schooler who helps out at the Furinkan hotel and is super smart and a little too mature for his age. That being said, he acted more like an adult than some of the other characters in the game. He was a major supporting role for Ichiko during the various routes. He acted as a guiding support role to Ichiko and leader of the offline club that everyone looked toward all of the routes. Without his guidance in some of the routes, I feel that the MC would be really lost in some of the routes.
- Yua… She’s the comical relief in the game as well as the female support/friend of Ichiko during her stay in Okunezato. While Yuki acted as the guide of the routes, Yua acted as the bridge and ice breaker between the MC and the love interest of choice at the time. While she did not play as big of a role in some of the routes, she acted as the support role in the earlier routes to make them more bearable (I’ll discuss what I mean by this later in the review).
- While they don’t play the biggest role in the game, they do help guide and assist the player during the various routes.
For the game’s other aspects like art, graphics, and music… Where do I start?
- The artwork for the game was outstanding and very high-quality. I found it visually pleasing when I was going through the game. The characters were very expressive in the artwork, so you could feel like you’re actually interacting with them a little, it was pretty fun to see. If the artwork is terrible in an otome, it dampens my overall experience, so I was glad that 7’scarlet’s artwork was top-notch.
- The CG artwork was also really appealing to me as, for many VNs, artwork is a key part for fully enjoying the game. If the CG artwork cannot convey a scene well, then why bother with it? I found most of them very good.
- The game also made use of scenes that included motion and movement, like footage of fireworks or scenery of mountain ranges at the beginning game. Most otome games don’t feature this sort of involved style of artwork, so I found it interesting and engaging. Though it was minor, this was one of the more enjoyable and refreshing parts of the game. They’re a treat to view!
- The music was really immersive and enjoyable. I really enjoyed listening to the different tracks and was able to get into the mood of the scene with the music. The endings and opening themes were really nice too, but some tracks felt a little out of place.
Now for the flaws of the game of which I have a couple. Some of them are minor nitpicks, some will steer otome fans away from this game, sadly.
- Poor length distribution between routes. As I mentioned earlier, I found the game to be severely rushed in the early routes and did not feel as attached to the earlier characters as I did towards the later ones. I did find the characters in those routes to be relatable to an extent, but I still didn’t appreciate how short it felt in comparison to the other routes. I felt that the game had to emphasize who was closer to ‘canon’ than others, but I digress since I only played the role of the MC. The earlier routes took me anywhere from 3-4.5 hours while the later routes that had better development took me anywhere from 5-7 hours. If there is that much of a time-discrepancy between the early routes and the late routes, you can tell parts of it were rushed.
- I will admit that the earlier routes did have one thing that made them more bearable, and that was Yua’s interactions with Ichiko. She interacts with you a bit more so it feels like you can get a different take on some of the guys. This, however, only applies in the earlier routes. In later routes, she’s not as involved because you end up building more rapport with the love interest of that route.
- The MC, Ichiko Hanamaki, is actually one of the better MCs that I’ve had the pleasure of playing as. But at the same time, she still holds the “damsel in distress” and semi- “self-insert” tropes, which is something that is a turn-off for some otome fans. She’s not one of those “blank slate” MCs, but it’s quite clear that she is really easy to read and manipulate upon reading the routes. I will give credit where it’s due in that she is well-designed visually and somewhat relatable in many of the different scenarios that was given, but the more you read into the game, the more you want to cringe at times because of how she reacted in certain situations. She’s not the worst MC, but still not the best either.
- Linear format: This can be seen as both a boon and bane for the game, since that’s its style. I found it to be a bit of both, since I, again, admittedly wanted to play Sosuke’s route first, but had to go through 3 other guys to get to him. For those who like the freedom of choosing paths, this is something to be aware of.
- Linear Timeline, aka 7’scarlet’s big gimmick: This is a little different than the format; this is more about how all the routes took place in the exact same timeline of events rather than having to go in a certain order. In a majority of otomes I’ve played, there are several key events that must occur for the plot to go on, such as same villain or a deadline. I’m all for that if you need to really reinforce the plot in that since it does help mold the story overall, but this was on a different level of a linear timeline! No matter what route you were in, the same events took place. The only things that really changed in between the routes was your interactions with different characters and access to certain locations that drove that route’s plot home. Now, I’m fully aware of the fact that this game’s premise is based on it being so linear to help players figure out the different events by playing each route and it was really fun. However, for me, it was still frustrating when certain events in the game had the same outcome no matter how much you wanted it to change from route to route. That’s more or less my qualms on it.
- Despite my dislike for this gimmick, this does help players pay attention to things they might not have figured out earlier, so I’m not condemning this to be the worst thing in the world but it did frustrate me to some extent. I would still recommend this to players who want a good mystery romance.
To end this review, I will say that this game, despite the flaws, is great for both otome veterans and beginners alike. I definitely recommend this to a beginner over a veteran because a veteran player like myself might have personal preferences and will already know how to navigate this game while a beginner might want some structure on gameplay before playing some more well-known otomes. I would also recommend this to players who are looking for a good mystery-romance otome as it’s hard to get a quality mystery sometimes without it being glaringly obvious. To all mystery and romance fans out there, I would highly recommend playing this game if you want a good experience that will always pull you back in for more until the very end!
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