A recurring trope in otome games is for characters to be public domain. As someone who has read a lot of classic fiction, I find it fun to see where these characters get used and the author’s interpretation of them. This made me feel as if I was doing Code:Realize Guardian of Rebirth a disservice, since my main motivation for playing was Victor Frankenstein. After playing, I can see why this series is spoken of so highly within the community. More importantly, it’s not just because of good looking anime boys that make it so great. Though that is a pretty compelling reason.
Guardian of Rebirth begins an abandoned mansion outside London. This is where we meet Cardia, our heroine, who is a young woman that has pretty much locked herself away from the world. Not because she’s a NEET or anything, but because she views herself as a monster since her skin and blood are an extraordinarily powerful acid that poisons and melts anything she touches.
One day, Cardia is forced to leave when the mansion is beset upon by Queen Victoria’s Royal Guard who wishes to capture her for seemingly malevolent purposes. Before they can apprehend her, the gentleman thief himself, Arsene Lupin, makes his dramatic appearance to rescue her. Lupin’s goal is to locate Cardia’s father, Isaac Beckford, a famed inventor who mysteriously disappeared. He thought Cardia could help, but she’s a partial amnesiac, only having memories from about two years prior. However, with the British government on their heels, Lupin teams up with Cardia and a collection of wonderful faces to solve an ever-increasing series of mysteries while attempting to cure Cardia’s poisonous condition.
Visually, Guardian of Rebirth is an extremely impressive game. The backgrounds are beautiful along with the character portraits and CGs, which are a treasure to behold. The UI also has the sweet steampunk motif of gears to fit the theme. The only time the visuals falter is in terms of transitions, as there aren’t much in the way of transitions or other moving pieces. This is only a minor inconvenience though and doesn’t hold the game back at all.
Guardian of Rebirth also gives Cardia a face, which you don’t see in other visual novels. You can see her portrait in the bottom corner and she has a collection of expressions and even an outfit change. I’m not a fan of faceless protagonists and I have expressed this opinion multiple times. Not being able to see or hear the character I take the viewpoint of, honestly makes it harder for me to connect to them in that sort of audience-player relationship. Cardia may not have a voice, but she has a defined face and it helps make her so much more relatable as a character. She’s not the most complex off the bat but her role is justified in such a way that makes it both easy for her to function as a stand-in without being ‘look at this obvious player character’ when you clear the game.
Speaking of clearing the game, there is a collection of endings to be found. As an Otome, there are multiple routes, with each route linked to a particular love interest. Each route also has multiple bad endings, a normal ending, and a true end. This could seem ominous, as many games with lots of endings can be quite obtuse. However, Guardian of Rebirth is rather simple with its choices.
During the common route before the story branches, decisions ultimately give you small amounts of agency or are explicit in getting you closer to a particular character route. When you finally reach the character routes, decisions then fall into, “don’t make stupid decisions during the character routes.” You will want to be careful though, as making your choices based upon romance tropes, is totally liable to get you killed. Somehow, this Otome is all about thinking rationally and calmly. Who’d have thunk it huh? I’ll also add that it’s a pretty seamless transition from the common route to character paths. I didn’t even notice until the thumbnail for saving the game had changed.
Each character gets enough screentime that if you hadn’t seen the introduction you might not have thought Lupin was the main love interest. It also helps that each character gets a serious amount of depth on their path, with others getting surprising reveals. This does however leave the common route feeling rather slow paced as characters set up story events that don’t have any relevance in other routes, however, upon a new game+, players are able to simply lock in the route they wish to enter and skip to any previously unlocked chapter which makes the endings extremely easy to access. Each of the character’s routes is extremely robust and fast-paced, they blitz you through completely different stories that all bring you to fantastic climaxes and are incredible amounts of fun.
Code:Realize Guardian of Rebirth is full of beautiful set pieces and fantastic characters. The writing paired with the extremely impressive visual style will give any visual novel fan an immersive fantasy experience. It helps that the adventure is filled with great writing for the large cast of public domain characters as the fuel for the entire story.
As the PlayStation Vita has become difficult to acquire now, it’s great to see this game come to another portable console so I can spend more time with Cardia and Lupin’s eclectic gang. Mostly Frankenstein though.
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