Genre: Visual Novel, Otome
Platform: PS Vita, PC via Steam
Release Date: November 15th, 2018 (Steam)
Special thanks to Intragames for providing a review copy of the game.
If you’ve ever wondered about what would result from a collaboration between Otomate and Sting (Date A Live, Utawarerumono), look no further.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is among the latest Otomate visual novels to be translated – and thankfully, ported to PC. Although the original Japanese release has yet to receive a PC port, western audiences now have the opportunity to play the entry on Steam. Is this the game for you? Continue reading to find out.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly follows the story of our amnesiac heroine, who wakes up in a mansion with no recollection of her identity. She eventually encounters four amnesiac boys who are in the same situation as her. By piecing together text messages sent to each of them by the owner of the mansion, they conclude that they need to restore a mysterious kaleidoscope in order to escape. Unfortunately, they must defeat the monsters that lurk within the mansion to recover the kaleidoscope shards they require.
Since none of them can remember their names, they decide to name themselves after the nameplates next to the doors in the mansion’s dorms. Thus, their aliases are assigned as shown above.
The introductory world building is brief and easy to follow. There are both black and white butterflies roaming the mansion. White butterflies signal safe places, as the monsters avoid them. On the other hand, corrupted creatures gather around black butterflies. Beniyuri and the guys can summon guns simply by imagining them; these guns are the only weapons that are reliable against monsters.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is mostly composed of a long common route that happens no matter which love interest you’re pursuing. The only changes are the addition of some filler scenes with the guy of your choice. To truly understand the story, the game makes it clear that it’s recommended to get the Best Ending first. In fact, it’s possibly the easiest ending to unlock. Trying to get one of the romance endings first didn’t go well – I unlocked it but didn’t understand the plot behind it.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly’s plot was great. The cast was very diverse, allowing the game to portray different forms of mourning. The overarching story was amazing, and the Best End really concluded everything as nicely as possible. No matter which route you talk about, the message the game leaves is always about moving on. This path never leads to everyone’s happiness, since there’s always someone who doesn’t quite achieve their own good ending. Still, those who choose to move on from their grief while keeping their loved ones in their hearts are the ones that grow stronger and manage to overcome their trauma.
The main concept Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly plays with is grief and death, and if you sit down to consider it: in each one of the good endings the game portrays, the ones who get to be happy are only those who have decided to move on. This visual novel is tragic at its very core, but the presentation of tragedy still manages to deliver a hopeful ending in every turn.
Another good aspect of the story is the flowchart system that the game employs. Through a handy flowchart, it shows every possible branch in the story to help you unlock every scene and ending. This flowchart is pretty easy to understand thanks to the first side events you unlock – they serve to give you an idea of how the system works.
The main reason I loved the flowchart was that you don’t need to start a new game and skip through all the text you’ve already read, nor keep multiple saves at various points in the story to change your choices. The flowchart lets you access any chapter to change your choices, and you can exit it right after picking the option you need for a certain route. This way, you only revisit the chapters with important choices, change them, and then quit without needing to skip through repetitive walls of text.
It’s worth mentioning that despite me praising the story to hell and back, I can’t do the same for the romance. The otome nature of Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is decent at best. Obviously, the game doesn’t become bad simply due to a lack of romance, but players who buy the game looking for this definitely won’t find what they wished for.
You see, as the game is just a long common route, the “character routes” are side events that can be unlocked in the flowchart. Precisely because they’re side events, they’re very disconnected from the current flow of the story and feel like filler. For example, you can be in a chapter filled with tension and distrust between friends, but the side events that are unlocked depict everyone getting along well, which throws you off from the main story.
Another weird aspect that disconnects you from the story is that since the common route remains unchanged for most characters, there are odd discrepancies. For example, you may be romancing someone, but Beniyuri appears to be in love with another character no matter what you choose. The writers should’ve kept the bias towards one character at a minimum since all the routes share the same common route.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly’s visual department is very stylized and unique, and it might garner mixed opinions because of subjectivity. Personally, I think the art style is amazing. The environments are, for the most part, black and white, so the characters are the only thing painted in color within the game window. The UI is on point with the gothic and dark look that the novel is going for, and it is easy to navigate.
The CGs are great. Yuiga Satoru is very talented, and any anatomy issues were hardly noticeable. Most of the ones I spotted had to do with Beniyuri’s eyes or face. The coloring is eye-catching, and the artist did a good job keeping a balance between saturated and desaturated colors. I especially appreciated the fact that the number of CGs is quite high, so throughout most of the story, there are illustrations to go along with the narration of emotional or important moments in the story. I was rather happy with the quantity of CGs, as they helped a lot with my immersion in the game.
The music was up to the usual Otomate standard. I liked how it set the depressing and hopeful atmosphere at the right times, and I could pinpoint multiple tracks that I was drawn to. My favorite track is definitely Master of the Manor, which first played during the plot twist that left my jaw on the floor. Other particularly nice tracks were Sorrow and Tears. As their name implies, they went together with the emotional moments. It’s not often that I pick favorites in the soundtrack of a visual novel, but Master of the Manor really hyped me up at the right times.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly’s voice acting department has a lot of potential, yet didn’t meet my expectations. The actors are all big names – Ishikawa Kaito, Kakihara Tetsuya, Toriumi Kousuke, Matsuoka Yoshitsugu. Even so, this is far from their best work. Ishikawa Kaito could’ve brought out a lot more potential from Hikage, and basically everyone sucked at portraying the right emotion for grief.
The problem might be a combination of the direction and the voice acting. Nonetheless, they left more to be desired when it came to basic stuff like crying over someone’s death. The voice acting is far from bad, but there is a lot of wasted potential. If they had pushed themselves more, the cast could have easily moved me to tears every other scene thanks to the narrative. Instead, some of the better written scenes became cartoonish because of the disconnected voice acting.
In conclusion, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly does a great job as a visual novel. The writing is great, the characterization is neat, and there’s depth to the character’s personalities. Each of them has motivations or reasons that push them to be the way they are. The game actually explains why their personality developed this way, rather than just giving you a personality stereotype to fulfill a trope and rolling with it.
It does not, however, do a great job in the romantic aspect of the narrative. This isn’t a big deal to me as the game makes it clear that its primary focus is presenting an already set story and concept, but if you’re looking for a fluffy romance novel, that’s not what Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly aims to be. It’s not just some pointless fanservice put together to present you virtual boyfriends that you can date by projecting on the main heroine. The novel is more like reading an interactive book – there is a lot of canon already set in stone, yet you can subtly change the flow of the story to see different outcomes for each character.
I can’t stress enough how much I recommend this game. If you enjoyed games such as The House in Fata Morgana, delivering a powerful story like that is what Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly aims to do. There are some otome elements thrown into the mix, yet you will mainly be exposed to a story about dealing with grief and death.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly offers an intriguing story that deals with emotionally charged themes such as coming to terms with death. The cast of characters is very diverse and they have backgrounds that explain how they developed their respective personalities. The art is very stylized, with the artist constantly playing with saturated and desaturated colors to create the perfect atmosphere to fit the narrative of the game. Unfortunately, the romantic aspect of the game is lacking, so fans of fluffier otome can be disappointed.