Rance IX: The Helmanian Revolution Review – Skirt-chasing Guerrilla Tactics

    Title: Rance IX: The Helmanian Revolution
    Developer: Alicesoft
    Release Date: February 23, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: MangaGamer
    Genre: Visual Novel, Tactical RPG

Rance IX: The Helmanian Revolution is the penultimate adventure in the Canon Timeline of the Sengoku Rance saga. This time Rance explores Helman but, despite leading a revolutionary army, he’s at it again: his true goal is enjoying his time with all the girls he can find. (He’s also looking for a way to revert an event from Sengoku Rance, but he would never admit that to be his first goal.)

Everything starts when Patton Misnarge, former prince of the Helman Empire, decides to invite Rance to his rebel army. He aims to overthrow the current corrupt government, and his high admiration for Rance’s abilities compels him to ask for the aid of our not-so-heroic protagonist. Though he’s a morally questionable guy, it’s no doubt he’s a force that can change the world.

Rance accepts the deal with a few conditions, and even then, he’s not bound to loyalty, frequently using his importance as a bargaining coin for his whims. After all, he’s a lucky man who must get everything he wants. As usual, Alicesoft doesn’t hold back in showing how Rance is no beacon of heroism, showing how warriors being conquerors filled with determination can clash with the common naive idealism of a moral compass.

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He’s a guy who firmly believes all women belong to him and that all handsome men who get in his way should die in a pitch. That’s not to mean he doesn’t have some semblance of humanity. It’s quite the opposite: he embraces his inner desires truthfully. He doesn’t care about things such as having a consensual relationship, which can be a touchy topic for unaware readers. 

Nonetheless, this is Rance. Players can expect detailed illustrations and lengthy sex scenes that explore the characters thoroughly. One of my favorites was Tilde Sharp, a knightly girl who gets closer to Rance out of an interest in making connections. As she was the one who approached him to use Rance’s libido as a political asset, it feels nice to see her reap what she sows.

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Surprisingly, the events don’t seem to be there “just to fill an H quota” because these scenes sometimes feel lengthy and comprehensive, taking the time it needs to set the mood. It may be an advantage of the series not using voice acting, so they can make it as long as they want without extra costs.

Gameplay consists of a mix of visual novel chapters and strategic battles. Players can choose between multiple bubbles of events, which include story beats, combat, and sex scenes. These “bubbles” are mandatory to progress, but players can also start optional skirmishes to gain more experience between story events. Also, New Game+ unlocks scenes unavailable in the first run.

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The battle system in Rance IX follows a strategy RPG format, having players move characters through a grid-based terrain. Compared to other games in the genre, the areas are small, which may feel very restrictive and not as compelling to SRPG veterans. However, that doesn’t mean the game doesn’t offer a good challenge and compelling sub-mechanics.

The main difficulty in the game consists of dealing with multiple waves of enemies potentially overpowering your characters. With the limited movement area and the demands of some battles, such as only using specific characters, it’ll make a difference if you understand the units’ strengths, weaknesses, and skills.

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Each of the player’s units has specific skills and tendencies to keep in mind. For instance, Kanami can walk through enemies and frequently avoids attacks, but her strength is low, and being a target too often will mean being hit eventually. Meanwhile, some guys like Rance or Patton will be adequate for the front line.

Defeating enemies will grant players money and skill points, both important to strengthen characters. Holy magic points and stones are other currencies to keep in mind, and players can spend them for power-ups for  , a fortress unlocked during chapter 4. During specific battles, you can use special skills (such as activating a laser that hits every enemy or giving a unit an extra turn) at the cost of destroying one facility bought for the fort.

Another aspect that adds depth to combat is that they may offer different objectives and circumstances. For instance, an early free battle allows players to fight a Doraku (giant crab) and its lackeys. While you can face the hordes first, the game tips mention how the Doraku calls on more monsters every turn. So, a clever tactic revolves around defeating the giant enemy first.

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Some battles may also include secondary objectives. While not mandatory, fulfilling them will give players Monkey Orbs, a token Rance can spend to initiate a sex scene with one of the main heroines. These optional scenes also give extra skill points to the women and Crab Orbs, which enhance a character’s skill points gain and reduce the chance of the enemies killing them.

Though story progression limits the latest event the player can see (all ranked by levels), it’s also possible to have “generic sex” before the next level shows up. It doesn’t increase the characters’ skill points but gives players an extra Crab Orb and a short sex scene that doesn’t offer as much character flair as the non-generic ones.

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Unfortunately, this added depth to combat isn’t enough to counterbalance the fundamental issues of Rance IX as a tactical RPG. Even at max speed settings, battles usually take too long, forcing the player to deal with wave after wave of enemies. More often than not, it can feel like a slog in-between the enjoyable story moments.

However, I’d still argue the adventure through Helman is tight as an experience. The war campaign with Rance’s group moving from area to area is a great read, and the character interactions feel compelling. The good portions outweigh the bad in this mix of erotic visual novel and strategy RPG. 

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Rance IX: The Helmanian Revolution is a good recommendation for fans of erotic games that don’t mind non-con content. Though its simplistic battle arenas may be underwhelming for veterans of strategic games, it’s a fantastic example of the Rance series’ compelling world-building and steamy scenes.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Ivanir Ignacchitti

Random Japanese games are my jam. Handhelds, RPGs, VNs and PC banzai.