While Idea Factory tends to be better known for their Neptunia series, they have had their hands in some other interesting endeavors as well. One of their latest accomplishments, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, is a purer Visual Novel with a little arcade style action sprinkled through it.
Genre: Otome Visual Novel
Developer: IDEA FACTORY
Publisher: INTRAGAMES CO.,LTD.
Release Date: 15 Nov, 2018
Let’s start out with an issue that has already been resolved. I mention it only because a lot of the early reviews out there condemn the game for it and, at one point I must admit, I was almost one of them. Typically, when I review these sorts of games, I like to reach an ending through my own choices and then play it again a couple of times to try to get other endings before I write the review. I wasn’t able to do that this time because when I first started this game it was a bit crashy. And by a bit crashy, I mean I was lucky to go five minutes without a crash. I’ve been somewhat cursed lately with buggy games and I figured that once again I was going to have to either defer the review until such a time it was fixed or muddle through the best I could between the bugs and crashes to get enough to write about. At least this one I was able to save at any time and then play for short bursts between crashes. That’s unlike a certain other game which I can’t even get past the start screen on, looking at you Megadimension Neptunia VIIR, no pudding for you Neptune! Fortunately, about a week later, Idea Factory released a patch that completely fixed Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly and I have been able to play it unhindered. Unfortunately, to keep this review posted in a timely fashion, I’ve had to forgo my usual replays and base it all on my single completed run through.
Have you ever received a text from an unknown caller that gives you some cryptic message? Ever woken up in a mysterious place with amnesia and no recollection of how you got there? Ever felt trapped, surrounded by demons, strangers and an unreasonable but burgeoning fear of butterflies? If so, you and the protagonists of this game have a lot in common. In Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, a group of individuals have had their memories blocked out and are then left to fend for themselves sealed inside a mansion. This is not your ordinary everyday run-of-the-mill mansion but one that appears to exist in its own dimension. The only way to tell if it is day or night is by the sound of the rain outside and the regularity of monsters roaming and thumping along the halls. Another quirk of the peculiar dimension is the fact that you are conveniently able to will useable items, such as weapons, into existence for a brief period of time. With an all-encompassing sense of mistrust, the ragtag band of amnesiacs must struggle to work together for the common good. Their formidable task is to collect the Kaleidoscope parts that the mysterious Master of the mansion has demanded.
With this being a Visual Novel, it means that it is more of a challenge to write about it because I can’t really talk about the story a whole lot without giving it away and spoiling the story for those of you who haven’t tried it yet. I can give you the overarching concepts and themes you have to look forward to though. You play as a young woman who is suffering amnesia and wakes up in a strange place. She is confused and has no idea how she got there. A short time later, the young woman meets a man who is suffering the same disturbing condition as her. Quite naturally with not knowing what’s going on, he isn’t overly trusting of her, but they soon realize they do have common enemies. The enemies are of course in the form of the Black Butterfly as well as other related demons of the manor. After coming under attack for the first time, the amnesiacs are rescued by a mysterious figure in a mask. From then on, the amnesiacs are joined by other amnesiacs all of whom are on the same quest, to fix the Kaleidoscope, regain their memories, survive the manor and make their escape. That’s the basic premise of the game. The storytelling is pretty decent, there is enough to it that it keeps you interested in the story. You really want to know what is going to happen next. Sure, while some of the dialogue is a little clunky and likely so due to translation issues, it can add a touch of amusement so it’s easily forgiven.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly has the basic Otome elements but, unlike games such as Hakuoki, there isn’t such a big deal placed on the romance elements of the game. For the most part, you follow the common route from one end of the game to the other with your choices not really making much of a difference. Elements of the game you chose simply help determine who you will hunt butterflies with. The butterfly hunts are a bit of hit or miss thing…actually, that can also be taken quite literally too rather than just figuratively. The idea of this minigame is that butterflies will appear on your screen, and in a fashion reminiscent of arcade machines of yore, you need to quickly click on them to “lock on” and then press the fire button to shoot them. With a gamepad it’s kind of awkward but still manageable and with the mouse and keyboard, it seems to lag a bit when trying to click on them. It’s kind of obvious the game was originally designed with a touchpad in mind. As you advance in levels, the minigame becomes longer and harder. While I never managed to get a perfect score, I have managed to clear with at least a B rank fairly regularly. The more butterflies you hit at once the better your score will be. The tradeoff is if you don’t fire fast enough some of the ones you have already tagged will escape. Ultimately, the fewer butterflies you let escape, the better your score will be and you really want your score to be half decent. The score translates to points that let you unlock the side stories that appear as you move through the game. If you happen to be terrible at the butterfly minigame and struggle to gain points, don’t despair, all is not lost because the minigame unlocks on the main menu as well. This feature will let you play it as many times as you need to gain enough points to unlock all side stories.
As you play through the game, the flowchart is updated. The flowchart is sort of like a bookmarking system. It lets you revisit previous choices you made and lets you play out the alternate paths. Once you finish the game the first time, the flowchart makes it easy to unlock the alternate endings without replaying the entire game. The side stories unlocked by the points don’t really matter when or in which order you view them so it is hard to make a wrong choice in this game. Yes, there are some endings that are better than others and yes there is a bad ending, but thanks to the flowchart system it is very easy to retrace your steps and try again for another ending. Overall, the game plays quite well. The story controls work nicely and regardless of your input method of choice, the game (outside of the butterfly minigame) is very responsive. The key bindings can be a bit confusing when looking at them in the menus because it doesn’t actually identify what command each of those options is setting, but once you figure that out, it works well enough.
Graphically the game looks quite nice. The character models are all detailed but are static. There are some animations though to help you differentiate between which character is speaking. These are mostly just static image swaps though. You won’t really see lips moving like you may see in some of the older engine Neptunia games. Additionally, the main character that you play doesn’t appear on the screen when she is talking. While there are not that many areas you will actually visit, each of the areas have enough details behind them to keep them interesting. There is kind of a predominant butterfly theme to the game which is sort of explained as you progress. Without wanting to spoil too much I can say that there are two main types of butterflies you will encounter. The black butterflies signify the monsters and the white butterflies signify sanctuary. Areas where there are black butterflies have enemy encounters and white ones help keep the characters safe. While there is no actual adventuring around where you need to worry about what colour the butterflies are around you, the concept is still important to the story. The game is also atmospheric with its use of colours and butterfly motif. While the backgrounds tend to be more muted, the characters and points of interest tend to be much more vibrantly coloured. This effect really helps with the tone and mood of the game.
The sounds in the game are mixed. Each of the characters are voice acted, but it is in Japanese. While this isn’t an issue and something that many people actually prefer, I’d still have appreciated the option to hear it in English too. The atmospheric sounds are utilized quite well and really set the mood for the game. The sound of the rain, the backing music, and the sound effects all come together to enhance the gameplay experience. The only real complaint I have is that the background music doesn’t always loop that well. There can be an unexpected jarring transition between the loops at times that really jolts you out of the moment.
The characters themselves are all compelling. Sure, they all fall into the cliché/tropes that Visual Novel characters usually fall into to, but that doesn’t really take away from the fact that they fit into those roles well. There is your standard, cold, short-tempered, no-nonsense character who is secretly warm on the inside. Then there is your kind, sensitive and shy, or your comedic loud mouth, or the mistrusting one or even the one shrouded in mystery. Regardless of what their character type is, it’s clear that all of them want to ensure that the protagonist is safe from any harm that may befall her. Then there is your mysterious Master who has their mask wearing minions running through the halls doing their whims and then rewarding the characters for doing as they are told. These rewards come in different forms, sometimes it is a nice meal, other times it can be some of their lost memories unlocked for them.
So overall, should you consider playing Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly? If you are into Otome Visual Novels, then you will probably enjoy Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly. While its story isn’t as branching as some other Otome Visual Novels, and your choices don’t seem to matter quite as much outside of a few key choice points, there are enough variances to make it worth flowcharting back to those choices to see how that part of the story unfolds. This not only rewards you with some alternate story text to read, but you may also unlock a different ending. If you are not into Otome, the pure Visual Novel elements of the game are still compelling enough to warrant giving it a chance. If you are looking for some kind of action-packed thrill ride, I don’t believe the butterfly minigame will be enough to scratch that itch. In fact, most of the times when I play a Visual Novel I kind of wish they had some more RPG or Action elements in them to break up the reading (like with Neptunia games,) but in this case, I kind of wish it would have just skipped the minigame because it gets a bit old even with the level/difficulty progression. All in all, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is a pretty decent Visual Novel that you should probably consider playing, preferably on a dark and stormy night.