Okay, I’ve rambled about Sharin no Kuni enough, and there’s an English patch out for it now, so I guess I should do a proper review, since I love it so much~
Oh, BTW, the PSP version came out yesterday.
Sharin no Kuni takes place in an unnamed country, often referred to as the ‘wheel country’. Although nominally democratic, all aspects of society in this country are influenced by an elite stratum of people known as “Special High Class Individuals.” Special High Class Individuals possess complete legal authority, using this to confer ‘obligations’- absolute rules which if disobeyed will result in one’s confinement in a forced-labor camp – upon those whose actions are judged to be detrimental to society.
(Shamelessly stolen from wikipedia, where you can also find out most of its basic information, including the fact that it’s made by Akabeesoft2, just like G-senjou. However, the people at AK2 are pricks who blocked foreign servers, so make sure to get a proxy first.)
Morita Kenichi is a mix of various things. Sometimes he’s really easy going, at other times he’s dead serious, and when the situation calls for it, he is really GAR. He’s really odd and has the habit of cracking REALLY bad jokes, carrying around a case of bras and panties, and smoking a special type of drug. However, despite everything, he is really talented at everything that he does (from studies to a few decorated years in the army), granting himself a chance to be the youngest “special high class individual” ever. That is, if he can finishes the final exam.
For that final exam, he has to oversee 3 very different girls living under obligations in a secluded town, and change them so that they are no longer detrimental to society. However, that town and those girls are all closely tied to his unspoken past, something that he has ran away from for all these years…
Her obligation is the prohibition of touching anyone of the opposite gender, or the prohibition of being able to love. This is considered one of the gravest punishments that can be given out, and by looking at her one has to wonder just why she has to live with this burden.
Let me just say that Natsumi is an amazing character. The things that she does and her frank rejection of Kenichi were caused by really, really horrible situations that no one should ever have to go through. But, even after everything, she still maintains her inner strength, and you will see that, when you see her declaration underground. Her story is the best part of the game, hands down (and I NEED more happy fluff between her and Kenichi!).
Mitsuhiro Sachi is kind of a stereotypical cheerful girl at first, but of course, that’s not all there is to her. The things that she states she loves are money, money, and money, and she spends almost all of her time gambling on-line or just fooling around, with all the things like housework being taken care of by a small girl named Mana.
Her obligation is the 12 hour day. She can’t do anything between 7pm and 7am, being forced to take a drug that basically takes away her time and sends her into a restless sleep. This punishment was given out because she wasn’t using her time wisely, and not painting despite her talent and skill at art. However, she seems content to this way of life, and refuses to even touch a brush.
For a while in her story, she annoyed me to hell because she was VERY lazy, but then she really stood up for her beliefs and in the end gathered a lot of my sympathy.
Oone Touka is the class president who’s really childish and brash. She loves comic books and candy, and despite trying very hard at studying utterly fails at everything academic. Kyouko, her mother, really wants her to excel and become like Kenichi, but what Touka really wants to be is a cook.
Her obligation is to absolute obedience to parents, in other words, prohibition from becoming an adult. Although she dislikes how her mother prohibits her from things like cooking and junk food, she really loves her mother, but their relationship soon become strained as she gets contacted by her father, whom her mother divorced years ago.
Touka is the tsundere in the story, I suppose, and her story was really confusing, because the motives and personalities of the characters involved kept changing. But the ending was really heartwarming, so it’s all good.
Ririko…was…well…weird, I guess. She is Kenichi’s older sister, and disturbingly sadistic (let me just say that she’s a bro-son and there was a certain incident involving hot candle wax that I’d rather not think about). She is really the key behing Kenich’s motivation and why things has come to pass as they did.
There were 2 other characters not mentioned. One is the extremely odd best friend character named Isono, who you will know next to nothing about other than the fact that he’s a really odd form of comic relief. Make sure to really pay attention to his ramblings, as they’re really well placed foreshadows to the backgrounds of the story. The other character is Houzuki Masaomi, who is the character you love to hate and the major antagonist of the story. He is the one in charge of the town, and has ideals so rigid that you’re better off trying to flatten Mt. Everest than make him change an idea.
The story is positioned in an odd way. After the introduction, we get to see each girl’s story, one after the other, with various choices sprinkled around the place. Depending on your choices, you will get to see some VERY minor changes to the story, an h-scene with one of the heroines, and a very short epilogue concerning said heroine. This means that in order to reach a different epilogue, you have to go through half of the game again or just spend a long time skipping. The structure is also a problem because the bone between Natsumi and Kenichi is so strong that making him be in a relationship with another girl at the same time just feels ridiculous.
Other than that little kink, however, the story is fantastic. Every bit of the setting is used to its full potential, every little detail is set up as a piece of the puzzle as you gradually come to understand what really happened and what is really going on. The girls’ obligations are used not only to further the story, but to really make you FEEL. Even though the story is fiction the real life problems that the characters face are very much real.
The single biggest theme of the story is freedom. The small town that the story takes place in is an enclosed community, where what society dictates becomes more important than anything else. People are killed or sold without a second thought, and the survivors don’t speak up because of their fear. What Kenichi fights for, what every character ends up fighting for, is their freedom. It isn’t just with the restrictions on the punished, but with everyone. They fight for their freedom to remember and and their freedom to believe. And as they struggle and fall you will cheer them on. You will be shocked and you will be awed and you will feel like crying and you will feel like laughing.
All in all? One of the best stories I’ve ever read. Simple as that.
Unfortunately, the music isn’t as great as the story. Rekka Katakiri has some really good songs, but the opening song that she did for this game definitely isn’t her best work. I like the ending song better, but not by much. The BGM was nice, especially the piano pieces (Watch Out! really gets your blood going, and I still kind of tear up listening to 光の先に). However, What I really want to praise is the voice work. The seiyuu all did an amazing job, and there’s really no point in me talking about them because words just can’t describe sound properly.
The art style isn’t exactly my favorite of all time (like I said before, I never have and never will like Alpha’s drawings), but it’s nice and the colors reflect the setting well. Natsumi looks odd in some poses, and Ririko looks much too young in all of hers, but there’s an explanation for why Ririko looks the way she does, so I suppose it’s all good in the end. Another thing to note is that the art of Sharin no kuni is not as polished as G-senjou, but much more consistent (which is good) .
Nothing that special, nothing too annoying. They really focused more on the story than little gimmicks (which is just how I like it, unless it’s KID, of course, I REALLY want them to get a decent programmer).
All in all? One of the greatest stories that the VN world has to offer. It is amazing and I’d recommend it to anyone who is of age.