Jast USA is one of the oldest if not the oldest publishers of visual novels in the west. Many of their early releases were of questionable quality, but lately Jast’s releases have been hitting the high notes, especially after their partnership with Nitro Plus.
Nitro Plus is the developer of Choas;Head, Stiens;Gate, and Robotics;Notes. Jast’s upcoming game Yumina the Ethereal looks to be a promising one, and thanks to a newly released demo I was able to preview the game and share my impressions with you.
You play the game as Ayumu, the adopted son of a wondering martial artist who has been sent to a university in Tokyo in order to protect a girl named Yumina attending class there. Ayumu is a bit odd, but it’s nice to see the protagonist isn’t a shallow self-insert character.
It helps to drive the game’s dialogue, and makes the game a lot more interesting since there doesn’t seem to be many branching paths in the story, at least in the demo. Actually the protagonist doesn’t seem that interested in his charge, and that particular plot point is rarely even mentioned. Ayumu seems more determined to live out his days as a carefree delinquent.
The game opens with Ayumu delivering a “secret weapon” to Yumina who is about to take a makeup exam. When Yumina learns that Ayumu’s “secret weapon” is actually a cheat sheet, she punches him out of a third story window resulting in a trip the infirmary and Yumina missing her exam and failing for the year. Although initially distraught she quickly drags the miraculously unharmed Ayumu into the quest to somehow overturn her failing grade.
Soon we are introduced to Kirara the mysterious girl with the raging Neapolitan Complex. She is both the chairman and sole member of the debate club. After manipulating Ayumu and Yumina into joining with the promise that she could change Yumina’s fate. Kirara introduces us to the concept of The Student Council War.
Rather than have normal student council election, the school has something called a Student Council War. An elected student council rules the school with supreme authority, and their reign extends indefinitely until another school club puts forth a vote of no confidence and manages to collect enough signatures to initiate a war.
The Student Council War is actually a debate tournament between school clubs interested in overthrowing the student council. The school is in the interest of making debates entertaining; also under the influence of some futuristic tech that turns words into weapons and debate strategies into stat boosts via the Ethereal System.
Debates in the game play out like turn based RPG battles. Players start the battle by selecting their characters battle formation. The character in the front of the formation is the offensive character and the only one who can take damage. The characters in the back are relegated to buffing your attacker or debuffing the opponent.
Each action made by a character takes a single action point with the exception of changing the formation which takes two points, and waiting which reserves a point for the next round. Additionally, every action taken affects the mood of the debate audience which increases the effectiveness of some attack types while simultaneously decreasing the effects of others.
When you finish a battle you get experience points, and upon leveling up you are rewarded with not only a stat boost but points that can be spent upgrade and learn new skills.
Yumina the Ethereal is full of anime tropes and if you hate that sort of thing then you’re probably not going to find much to love here. The game does execute the familiar clichés pretty well, the voice acting is solid, and because of the inclusion of the turned based battles. I’d almost recommend the game to anyone. The game does a throw a pretty bat shit insane curve ball at me at the end of the demo when the relatively tame slice of life comedy game I had been playing up to that point took a trip to the rape dungeon.
Now, Yumina is an 18+ game and it’s also a Jast game, so normally pretty much nothing should surprise me. However, in the five hours it took me to complete the demo there were hardly any off color jokes. I counted only a single panty shot, yet out of nowhere, in the final act of the demo, Kirara suggests to use the Ethereal System to literally mind fuck an unconscious girl by invading her dreams to absorb her powers. It’s the only choice you get to make in the demo.
The game wasn’t trying to be humorous about it. There was ominous music and everything, which was really confusing. This was not only because it differs in tone from everything else preceding it, but also because the game went way out of its way to create a rape scenario that it apparently also wanted to make me feel morally uncomfortable about. Not that a wacky slapstick rape scenario would have been okay, but you get the point. It’s fucking weird and uncomfortable, and totally blindsides you.
The character in question is the bookish Maino, the chairman of the school library committee. She is easily my favorite character, and when I was running down the character bios I was hoping she’d make an appearance in the demo, but not like this. The game does everything it can to endear her to you. She’s incredibly mild mannered, friendly, and helpful.
Even as she is technically the game’s first boss she isn’t particularly adversarial. Maino and Yumina and company become friends even before their final battle. Maino is a pure as the driven snow, and even if you only take advantage of her in a dream you better wake up and apologize.
As far as the demo is concerned the choice you make has no effect on the immediate outcome. Everyone just shakes hands and goes home. Who knows? Your choice will almost certainly have a profound effect on event in the final game, and I’d like to believe that it will because up until that point I was having a lot of fun. When Yumina the Ethereal releases on August 30th then I guess we’ll find out.