We’ve got a plan… but not much else!
The following is a review of a fan-made scenario for the visual novel Student Transfer. For more information about Student Transfer, please consult my dedicated Student Transfer page or the official Student Transfer website.
One of the more perplexing and rarer genres of Student Transfer scenarios I’ve happened across are what I call the ‘lite simulation game’ scenarios. Ones that are not content with merely being a story driven visual novel, and instead want to incorporate more mechanics and choices to make a more ‘game-y’ experience. On one hand, I respect the effort of trying to gamify the experience rather than just focusing on telling a story. On the other, I go to visual novels like Student Transfer when I want a story, and would rather not have additional gamification mucking things up. It’s part of why I don’t review RPG Maker or HTML based TF games. (Sorry Magical Camp fans, but I just can’t get into them.)
Magical Harem Plan DX picks up shortly after John summons Circe in the magic route— the greatest stub of untapped potential in the entire game. Rather than coax him into granting a wish though, Circe takes pity on the newbie delving into dark arts beyond his comprehension, and decides to help him assemble a harem. Disguised as a ghost housed within the back of John’s mind, Circe peruses Tina Koya to scope out potential harem members. But then she is blindsided by Kiyoshi, who has the alien remote, or a version of the remote, and declares that he will use it to create his ultimate harem.
This seemingly kicks off a competition of sorts to see who can amass the greatest harem of them all. The schmuck wizard with a demon ghost chilling in his body, or the schmoe dork with access to alien technology. …But then the following day, John learns that Kiyoshi got a head start, made Tina Koya into his HQ, and has already created a brainwashed army of high school girls who do his every bidding.
This puts John on the defensive, and this is where the game turns into a… I want to call it a (Japanese-style) simulation game, but it’s a bit too simple to be given that title. While there is a day system with predetermined events and choices in what John does, the actual decisions are very limited. John can train and magic power XP to help him unlock certain options or outcomes in the scenario. He can chat with recruited allies who recite the same handful of lines and are pretty much just flavor text. Or he could hit the town in hopes of finding more members for the harem. …Which is currently limited to four events, all of them fairly short.
John saves Kyoko, withstands an encounter against dual-chair-wielding Tori, saves his mother from an endless yoga class, and he even visits Setsuna, who can tell he’s housing a demon. After doing some of these and reaching day 7, John and his makeshift buddies stage an infiltration mission to Tina Koya in order to see what Kiyoshi is up to within its walls. This is the longest chapter in the scenario, even without counting the various alternate paths, and bad ends. But after seeing these five events, the game meanders to a halt, as there’s nothing to do but farm magic power before reaching a placeholder.
As a game project, I would consider it to be a solid proof of concept. There really is not much in the way of meaningful choices to make, or variation, but it also has the foundation to be something bigger and more dynamic. As a story though, it’s a bit strange.
I already mentioned how Kiyoshi preemptively wins the harem war before John can even get started, but the entire scenario has a strange relationship to its setting. It tries to explain that the entire faculty has been brainwashed to think they are on vacation. Only a handful of students are actually part of Kiyoshi’s harem. There is a comment that implies that Kiyoshi brainwashed dozens, if not thousands, of San Fransokyo residents. And it does not seem that any authority or student is in any way bothered by how the school is being run and managed by a teenager.
It’s all kinda sloppy world building that raises a lot of questions, but the minute to minute story is solid. Characters are written close enough to their main game counterparts to not be distracting. ChocMint’s rendition of Circe can be a lot of fun, even if she is a bit more helpful than she probably ought to be. And the collection of bad endings showcase a good level of creativity and quickly breeze through their own bizarre side story of John becoming a different member of Kiyoshi’s harem.
What’s there is not bad, but what’s there also is not very developed, to the point where I probably would not have picked it up for a review if I knew more than what was on the TFGS page. …But by the time I reached that conclusion, I had spent 3 hours digging through the script file and creating a flowchart, and was on the seventh day.
In fact, the exact moment I realized this was probably a mistake was during the start of the day 7 event, where the scenario… simply wasn’t finished. Characters don’t change expressions, backgrounds are replaced by a black void, and certain animations (namely a tackle) are missing. Animations and expressions go back to their usual standard immediately after that, but it’s still a jarring shift without any sort of warning or note that the animations are a WIP.
So… yeah. In its current form, Magical Harem Plan DX is more of a proof of concept than anything else, and something I shouldn’t have slated for a review. What’s there can be fun, and the attempt to make something more game-y in the framework of Student Transfer is admirable. But if I didn’t make such a detailed flowchart, I probably wouldn’t be posting this review.