Title: Closed Game
Release Date: May 27, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: JAST USA
I’m sure there are times in every reviewer’s life where the thought process that comes with parsing with a feasible review for a particular title is overwhelmingly perplexing. In my case, Closed Game is where I fall into that spectrum. This is a highly erotic visual novel with the primary purpose being to emit sexualized excitement for players. But that’s not to say it’s devoid of any meaningful characterization.
Surprisingly enough, the interactions between some of the cast and the inward conflicts they face are worthy of merit. Be wary, though. For those not accustomed to especially hardcore eroges, you best find something else.
Closed Game follows the perspective of the protagonist, Tougo. He is a mechanic, barely making enough to scrape by but content with his life. He is an unambitious person by nature, which serves to annoy his childhood friend, Celicia. Celicia is a foul-mouthed bounty hunter who constantly questions Tougo’s career choice due to his lack of comfortable profit. Despite how often the two bicker, it’s clear they deeply care for one another.
The Earth they reside on has a degraded society, where natural resources have begun to reach their limits, and the class divide has widened considerably. With how miserable daily life is, many on Earth look to the sky for hope, as there exists a paradise known as Caelum Urbs. In this heavenly utopia, any concerns for basic livelihood are nonexistent.
After the narrative’s opening, we meet a friendly mentor of sorts named George, but then tragedy strikes, and the lewd killing ‘game’ truly begins, which is probably what players are interested in most. Closed Game consists of 6 participants attempting to reach Safe Zones in new biomes each day. Each contender wears a bracelet that acts as a compass and also warns of incoming danger.
The rules are purposefully vague, simple, and flexible, thanks to overseers Celine and Michiko. They find debaucherous joy from watching the game play out, and even with death in the cards for the participants, their understanding of human decency and common sense is far from what we consider normal.
The remaining characters in the game are Lacey, Cocona, and Marielle. As expected of an eroge, these characters are all absurdly attractive women. But, hey, I’m not complaining.
For as attractive as these latter three girls are, their actual characterization is not as enticing. Their depth is only present when pursuing their routes, so most scenes involving the main narrative portray them as relatively 2-dimensional. This is a shame because Celicia is infinitely more enticing throughout the common route scenes.
While she is a tsundere and spouts swears non-stop, she does legitimately mean well for Tougo. This is depicted fairly decently throughout progression, unlike the rest of the female cast’s personalities which come off as more tacked on than anything.
Michiko is a fairly typical, underwhelming character who is exactly as you suspect, but Celine is shockingly intricate. While certainly nothing groundbreaking, her characterization neatly ties into Tougo and Celicia. This is due to how their backstories are connected. Still, the rest of the girls lack character traits akin to Celine and Celicia that truly make them stand out throughout the context of the common route scenes.
In regards to the routes themselves, however, their quality is ultimately dependent on your kinks. Some baseline character conflicts and interactions carry events forward, but let’s be honest. They are not the true focus here. Each of the girls embodies obvious archetypes, and they are depicted in the h-scenes, of which there are many. As stated before, this is an eroge, so while engaging elements of the characters and the narrative, those end up taking a backseat to the depravity that plays out.
I obviously won’t detail the sexual acts themselves, but it is impossible not to bring them up at all, given their frequency in this title. If you are familiar with Empress’ other works, you will know the league of smuttiness that awaits. For those unaware, you must know beforehand that the h-scenes here are intense, to put it mildly. If you tend to play non-erotic visual novels or mainly stick to vanilla ones, you may want to reconsider diving into this experience.
Personally speaking, as someone whose only prior experience with Empress was Starless, I was undeniably disappointed with the direction the h-scenes tended to take. A great variety of the h-scenes from Starless were intensely female dominant, and there was an unfortunate lack of those types of scenes in Closed Game. This is not an inherent detractor or enhancer by any means, as it’s solely dependent on what the player prefers. Still, for fans of Empress’ work who were hoping for femdom in the vein of Starless, you’ll likely be disappointed.
The art style of this title is utterly magnificent, and seeing that it is by legendary artist Seishoujo, I am not at all startled. Each of the environments is adequate for sure, though the true majesty of the art comes with the girls. Just looking at the way they are drawn alone is enough to show that many, many hours must have gone into these designs.
Aside from the plump bodies and assets each girl houses, their facial features are captivatingly realistic. Their eyes, for instance, are not the standardized large anime ones that have come to be expected and are instead more dialed down to feasibly immersive sizes and shapes. This served to make several scenes infinitely more impactful than they would have otherwise been.
As a whole, I found myself loosely satisfied with the varied endings one can obtain. I can’t say they were all fulfilling since most of them felt like kicks to the gut or cop-outs. However, this negativity regarding the quality of the endings falls in line with the attitudes of Celine and Michiko, who merely see the game as a spectacle and nothing more.
In that sense, I can fathom some twisted triumph these conclusions can instill upon select players. The despair of the killing game is an intoxicating delight for Michiko and Celine. If you can detach yourself from the humanity of the oppressed cast, you too may derive that forbidden sense of pleasure.
I couldn’t help feeling somewhat guilty after most of these scenes and endings, wishing for these characters to receive happier outcomes. These were the hands they were dealt, though, and it falls in line with the darkly depraved decadence exuded by the overseers of the game. I do appreciate the sense of unease provided, if nothing else.
I must point out that while the translation was usually superb throughout this experience’s duration, there were many noticeable instances of odd text boxes. For example, there were random slashes that seemed to act as cutoff points for conversation. I am unsure if this was a purposeful stylistic choice, but it did not look visually appealing whatsoever. There were occasional typos and unfinished words, too, so this script could have used another once-over before release.
Closed Game is a highly erotic experience that is highly dependent on the player’s kinks. The masterfully alluring art style and occasionally engaging characterization do add quality outside of the erotic presentation. If you are intrigued by the prospects of this experience and are prepared to witness depraved misery, this is worth the purchase. The story doesn’t land for each route, but it’s still one that might be worth a playthrough.
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