I’ve always been a fan of stories about someone trapped inside an MMO, so when I heard Aksys Games was localizing Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~, I was thrilled! As an otome game featuring that very premise, Period: Cube centers around a high school girl that gets trapped in the MMO Arcadia. After searching for clues of her missing brother’s whereabouts, all signs point to the mysterious “World V,” a new server in Arcadia where death is absolute. If your character dies, you die!
Protagonist Kazuha Hanamiya (name can be changed) is completely new MMOs, but upon logging in for the first time, she discovers that she has been designated as the Almighty Amadeus, a unique item that is key to escaping back to the real world. Of course, with the help of seven romanceable guys, you’ll uncover the secrets of Kazuha’s powers and the truth behind World V’s origins over the course of multiple playthroughs. It’s not exactly the most original premise, but if you’re a fan of series such as Sword Art Online and Log Horizon, Period: Cube will be right up your alley!
The key difference between Period: Cube and the other “person trapped inside an MMO” stories I’ve encountered is that the protagonist is not actually a player of the game. Kazuha creates a character for the first time to log into World V only because is looking for her brother, so a lot of Period: Cube‘s plot is dedicated to her learning various aspects of how to play and how the world’s systems work. If you’re familiar with MMOs, the constant explanations can become rather tedious.
More frustratingly, Kazuha’s lack of knowledge/experience means she is frequently being saved from danger by the other characters, despite the fact that she is actually more powerful than any of them. While the developers may have thought otome game fans might not necessarily be MMO players as well, I couldn’t help but wish I got to play from the point of view of a seasoned player. I found myself dreaming of what the story would’ve been like if you played as the leader of the raid group Forte, who is both super adorable and skilled at Arcadia (she’s pictured on the right in the screenshot above). She makes numerous appearances throughout the game, and her and her band of hardcore raid buddies were actually some of my favorite characters!
Period: Cube is a fairly standard otome visual novel where you read through text and occasionally select options that will determine which character Kazuha grows closer to. Selecting an answer that raises a character’s affection toward Kazuha will result in a visual flourish, so you’ll know immediately whether or not you’ve made the right choice. In addition, due to Period: Cube‘s MMO setting, there are occasionally battles where Kazuha will have a number of options, such as “use knife” or “run,” which will change the outcome of the fight.
It’s not made overtly clear in the game, but certain combat actions will raise Kazuha’s Almighty rating, which is necessary to obtain the “good” ending for some characters in addition to the usual maximum affection rating. Though there is a visual flourish associated with selecting something that increases Kazuha’s Almighty level (similar to the affection indicator), I was able to play through an entire route and achieve the good ending without knowing the Almighty rating mattered at all. It was only until I hit a bad ending in my second playthrough that the game indicated that it was necessary to max out Kazuha’s Almighty level in order to get the good ending. Luckily, since Period: Cube has all of the auto scroll and skip options common to text-based otome games, it doesn’t take much time to advance through the story to sections that need to be replayed if you happen to get a bad ending.
As of this review, I’ve completed Hiroya, Astrum, and Radius’ routes, and am finishing up Zain’s. Notably, the common route is extremely short, after which you’re ushered into one of the character routes. While I can’t provide exact numbers, I think each route has only taken me a few hours to complete so far. While that might be a negative for those who like a beefy game, I actually enjoyed the shorter length since the story moved at a brisk pace and wasn’t full of unnecessary padding. I can understand wanting to get the most for your money, but for someone like me who has been exceedingly busy the past few months, short routes that I can play through in a couple of sittings are very welcome.
In terms of characters, I’ve been pleasantly surprised! Each has interesting progression, and there are a wide range of character types to suit different player preferences. For example, I much preferred Astrum and Hiroya to Radius and Zain, but I know a lot of Radius fans! If you have the chance to go into the game with little knowledge about the characters outside of the MMO, it’s really fun to see what each character is like in the real world when it’s revealed in the game. While I initially found Astrum to be really obnoxious, as soon as I met him in the “real world,” I immediately knew he was going to be a favorite. It probably helps that his voice actor, Takahiro Sakurai, does a great job with his quirky personality.
Other characters, like Hiroya, are pretty much the same in Arcadia as they are in the real world. Speaking of Hiroya, as Kazuha’s childhood friend and the one who she first meets inside the game (mainly because they go in together), he is clearly marked as the “main” route of the game. Thus, his route provides a lot of the explanation about the central storyline. You don’t need to play it first (and arguably shouldn’t), but you’ll be left guessing about a number of things until you play it.
Though the routes are on the shorter side, I found they still offered good character development and lots of sweet moments between Kazuha and her current beau of choice. Sometimes the progression from “guy I just met” to “guy I’m cuddling with in bed” was a tad unbelievable, but I generally don’t mind a slightly fast pace in my otome games. Call me shallow, but I mainly play otome games for the romance, nice art, and awesome voice actors. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good plot, but it didn’t bother me that the game’s generally serious narrative was juxtaposed pretty heavily by cute romantic moments. However, if you’re looking for a game that really digs deep into the implications of being trapped inside an MMO, you may find that aspect of the story lacking.
In addition to the premise and characters, the other main aspect of Period: Cube that stood out to me was the visual style. The cool tones and ample use of colors such as purple and turquoise is very striking, and gives the fantasy world a very distinct feel. The main artist, Kuroyuki, is known for a number of other popular otome games such as Black Wolves Saga, and I really enjoy her art!
However, I have to admit that my least favorite aspect of the game is also tied to the art style. Namely, I found the CGs (detailed images usually presented at important points in the story for dramatic effect) to be really lacking compared to the regular game art. It’s as though the artists in charge of the CGs couldn’t quite capture the essence of Kuroyuki’s style (or they just rushed it), and everything comes off as very stiff and awkward. The kiss scenes were the most frustrating: characters’ faces are mashed together in odd positions and their lips seem to be hanging in mid air!
Since unlocking CGs is a big highlight of playing through an otome game (to the point that you’re given an album on the title screen so you can go back and look at them later), I found the subpar art to be very disappointing. While there are some good CGs, lot of them fell flat for me because I found them lacking the detail and vibrance of the art. I won’t include any of the weird air kiss CGs since that gets into spoiler territory, but hopefully the following early game comparison will convey what I mean:
I know some people will be wondering about Aksys Games’ Period: Cube‘s localization after there were a number of issues with Norn9: Var Commons, but I didn’t find any major problems. There were some occasional oddities that could’ve benefited from another look over by an editor, but nothing that detracted significantly from the experience overall. If Aksys can maintain this level of quality for their other upcoming otome game releases, I’ll be very happy!
Period: Cube may not be the most innovative otome game, nor the longest, but I’ve had a lot of fun with it so far. In fact, I plan to continue playing through until I get all of the endings, which I can’t say for every otome game I’ve played! Despite some frustration with Kazuha’s characterization and the game’s CGs, the characters and overall “girl trapped in MMO” theme was enjoyable enough to keep me playing. If you like a good MMO-based story and want a short but sweet otome game to play in your spare time, I highly recommend giving Period: Cube a shot!
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