43 CommentsVisual Novels / By Scamp /

Demonbane – Visual Novel Review

Almost 2 months since the last visual novel review, and I finally get out another one. Was this because I was so entranced by Demonbane that I had to play through each and every single route of this mammoth game to get the full experience? Or was it because I kept putting off playing any more of the game because I didn’t want to torture myself through another minute of this dreck? Read on, excited audience, and find out!

Demonbane is by Gen Urabochi, the same guy who wrote Madoka Magica and Saya no Uta, working with Nitro+ again. After the painful experience of Devil on G String, I thought it would be safer to return to author a knew I liked. Demonbane has a sorta similar set up to Saya no Uta. Male lead has magical otherworldly creature fall into his lap in the form of a young girl, but that’s where the similarities end. Saya no Uta is a horror, set in a regular town to heighten the eeriness of the setting when the horrors appear, while Demonbane is set in mega city in the future where giant robots charging in to destroy the town is a regular occurrence. Demonbane is a hell of a lot more light-hearted, with a lot of the characters being absurd caricatures and nonsensically over the top, with lots of (attempts at) jokes.

Let’s throw aside the comparisons with Saya no Uta for a second and compare it with Devil on G String, if only to start this review off on a positive note. First, there is no pratting about for hours on end. There is no desire to introduce all the female characters and have them go through their everyday lives before even attempting to tell a story. There’s none of the character repeating what we had already established for ourselves. There’s none of that nonsense that some people on my G String review seemed to suggest was a staple in every single visual novel. Maybe Gen Urabochi is just an exception, but he knows how to bloody pace a story. He also has a great turn of phrase and way with words, that comes through even with the translation. Any humour that ever worked in the series came from his turns of phrase, my particular favourite being when a character did the classic Loony Tunes thing of standing over a massive drop, contemplating his position for a bit, before gravity remember he exists and sends him plummeting. But what made the scene hilarious was the little monologue the character had before his drop. How gravity is powered by loneliness and every single piece of matter tries to draw others towards them to stave off this loneliness, until finally he’s cut off mid sentence and drops with a cartoonish ‘whup’ sound. It’s such a strangely romantic way of describing what was essentially a pratfall that I couldn’t help grinning.

The rest of the attempts at humour though? I’m not sure how to do slapstick in text format, but it wasn’t how it was done in Demonbane. A character calling someone a pervert is not a joke! Please Japan, stop doing this. Perversion in of itself is not funny. Neither are the attempts at the main character at playing the straight man, because simply saying “you are crazy” doesn’t count as humour either. The two policeman could have worked as a duo. I liked the idea of them, running around town, showing up at every catastrophe and generally being totally ineffectual, but the show always seemed to forget these two were supposed to be funny and tried to do serious conversations with them. How this city is being destroyed, how scary the robots are. I can see that for myself, I don’t need these two policemen telling me that. They rarely even talked to each other, normally just yelling after the latest city destroyer to halt in the name of the law. The most irritating of all was Dr. West. They pushed his nonsensicalness to the point that it was just depressing how hard they were trying make him funny. His voice in particular bugged me, to the point that I shut off his voice altogether.

Actually, I shut off everyone’s voices. Yet again, I failed to see the point in having them. If there was any important inflections in their voices, the text would point this out anyway. If you’re going to point out how they’re voice sounds, why bother putting the voices there in the first place? I don’t understand Japanese, so all it ends up doing is slowing down how quickly I can get through the story. The music though, I will give credit to. When the main character first powered up his giant robot, each scene of him discovering it and moving into battle had gradually more dramatic music, which genuinely got my adrenaline pumping. However, without any other sound effects of voices to draw my attention, the music got rather repetitive the more I got on. Never an annoyance, but it robbed it of the dramatic value it had at the start.

One thing about the robot scene was the crescendo moved out of visual novel format and had a fully animated scene of them using the robots signature attack. It was a pretty cool move, even when the game used the same stock footage at the crescendo of every fight scene, but it highlighted a rather larger problem: Demonbane wanted to be an anime. It wanted it so bad that it even put in a fully animated scene to show “look guys, look at how awesome this would be as an anime”. The fight scenes were long and incredibly detailed, but that level of detail meant they became drawn out and the dramatic value of them waned hugely. The music started again on its loop and I started dozing off, reading “and Demonbane threw another punch bla de bla”, barely registering what was happening in the battle anymore.

Yet again I found myself wondering what this was gaining by being a visual novel. It’s a unique format, but no story I’ve seen have used that format in any sort of imaginative way. Having a character appear on screen as they talk to you is all well and good, but when they swap through only a small handful of facial expressions, it often dragged me out of the scene. I know from the terribad videos and constantly changing the chibi-Scamp’s expression that you need a pretty large variety of expressions to not look stupid. The princess character used the exact same ‘mildly shocked’ facial expression when she was about to be raped by a intestine spewing tentacle raping sorcerer thing as she did when her butler gave her the wrong brand of tea. And hey, since I’m on the character designs, I’d have to at least give a passing mention to the female character’s incredibly pointy nipples, desperately trying to burst out of their fabric confines. Are nipples made out of steel in this world?

There were also the choices and ‘branches’ of sorts, of which I was given a surprisingly large amount of. I thought this was pretty cool at first. Plus the choices seemed to come at important moments in deciding the characters personality. The character started off explaining how he left Magic University because he was a humongous wimp and now had to scrounge for food off the local church. I ran with this and decided to make the character as wimpy as possible, opting to run away from every possible instance of danger. Well, actually what I was doing was trying to choose the options that meant I wasn’t being nice to the loli demon girl (because if I was going to have a sex scene, I damn well wanted it to be with a character with some boobs) and most of my choices in the game seemed to come down to either saving her or running away. When I had an option later on to either help or ignore the big boobed nun from the church who was like a mother figure to the main character, I instantly chose the ‘help’ option, deciding that my character had a Oedipus complex or something so I’d sleep with her instead of the loli.

But these choices seemed to be making no difference. My deliberate attempts at being a massive wimp seemed to turn my character into a swearing super hero, devoted to saving the city. I was trying to create my version of Ikari Shinji for gods sake, not a badass action hero who risks his life for every girl that falls his way! As an experiment, I went back and redid a few of my options to see what differences they made, and in most cases it just meant a mildly different scene followed by the same story I was already following. For example, I went back to a scene where a was tied up by some sexy spider girl, about to be raped for all my life force (or something along those lines anyway), but choosing the alternate option meant all that happened was I ended up cumming on the face of my rescuer loli demon girl by accident, instead of wherever he had squirted his man juice before. Just in case you get the wrong idea, there was very few sex scenes in the game, the two I’ve mentioned in this post being the only 2 I came across in my 12 hours of play. You never got to see very much anyway, usually just one or two pictures, and they looked so ridiculous that they were just weird rather than arousing.

Oh dear, I’ve given it away, haven’t I? 12 hours is all I lasted, about halfway through the story, before throwing in the towel. I guess my reviewers cred is shot. Demonbane wanted to be an anime, but was stuck in a visual novel format. There is an anime of Demonbane out there, but I have no interest in watching that either because the story isn’t any good. It follows a ‘rotating through the haremmettes’ story, where the main character saves ‘lass of the week’, because christ only knows these women aren’t strong enough to take care of themselves. I bet even the female white warrior saviour Metatron ended up being a hopeless damsel in distress for you to save. The closest anime comparison to it would be Sacred Seven. It even had the fancy rich girl with army of maids and a butler with no personality whatsoever. OK, it’s not quite that bad. The background story to the robots is kinda interesting, and Gen Urabochi does have a way with words, but the characterisation is lame and the humour falls flat. I gave up on what was, no joke, a beach episode. We had just finished the chapter where the princess almost gets tentacle raped, and from there we instantly move to her on a beach with her absurdly pointy nipples poking out of a swimsuit. Demonbane isn’t bad. It’s just pretty average.

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41 Comments

  1. Posted September 23, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    >Yet again I found myself won­der­ing what this was gain­ing by being a visual novel. It’s a unique format, but no story I’ve seen have used that format in any sort of ima­gin­at­ive way.

    Sounds like your problem, not the medium’s. Bit spoilery, but Sharin no Kuni and Ever17 both have twist related to the format and that would be pretty had to port anywhere else. The entire Muvluv series also is intrinsically tied to the format, it being the main reason it doesn’t have an anime yet despite being fucking Muvluv.

    I don’t think you understand the point of choices either. As bad as it might be, the protag already has a fixed personality. Always. If you want to change the way your character interacts with others according to what you’ve been choosing, go play Mass Effect or something. Choices in VNs exist solely to trigger different scenes or even routes, nothing else. The protagonist might change mind during the story, but it’ll never be directly because of something you picked but a consequence of what that triggered. Not quite the same.

    As a whole I’d say VNs are pretty damn bad, but in any way worse than anime. If anything, taking just the translated ones it’s most likely a better medium; having so few titles translated means a decent number of them are a good read, because translators have to choose wisely what to spend months or years working on.

    • Posted September 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      I wouldn’t say that choices strictly don’t alter the personality of a VN’s protagonist… after all, navigating to different routes and arcs is a result of a specific set of choices, and often each one ends with a main character who has developed quite differently from the last. Fuminori of Saya no Uta for instance can end up as a docile patient of a mental hospital finally at peace with life despite also being confined for it, or a raving lunatic who chose love over his own humanity. You get to make this choice for the poor guy, and you get to see how he develops as a result. To me, that’s the VN medium used to its strengths.

      That’s the power of just one choice. In fact, that it is just one choice is part of what makes it so powerful. Think of all the dialogue options you’re given in Mass Effect – how many actually develop Shepard as a character or have any lasting impact? The quantity of choices means that individually each one has to change very little, if anything at all.

      People say that Bioware’s system lets them roleplay, but it’s no more than the illusion of choice. Ultimately your character never develops no matter what choices you make, and all you have is some fleeting control over the relative tone with which your pre-established character does pre-established things. Blandly, I might add, because having an actually interesting personality would mean cutting down on the number of possible dialogue choices.

      • Scamp
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Took the words right out of my mouth…err, I mean fingers. I was going to use that very example from Saya no Uta. I wish more VNs did that.

        Mind you, I would like to see a VN do something akin to what Bioware games do (not that I’ve played any, but from what I’ve heard they do)

      • Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

        To a certain extent that’s what Kagetsu Tohya (a sort of expansion pack of Tsukihime) did with its Groundhog Day-like structure, where you kept repeating the same day but could choose where Shiki went and what he did from quite a wealth of options. Every day you could choose whether or not he’d go to school, who he went to visit at what time, and what he did. You could only meet certain people in certain places, and certain scenes would unlock more options on subsequent replays.

        Tsukihime itself did this a number of times, but a lot more of its branches terminated in dead/bad ends after a day or two in order to keep the plot progression under control.

        The difference between Kagestu Tohya and Bioware games is that since the former is nothing but text and sprites 90% of the time, and naturally resets its progression every day, it could easy and cheaply create enough content to populate every branch of every choice. Games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age follow a very linear structure with dozens of options for every dialogue, and the outcome of every choice tapers back to the status quo as quickly as possible so that the game can keep production costs and development time down.

        KT has actual choice, while Bioware games have choices without impact. A paragon of virtue and a murderous psychopath will both end a Bioware game having accomplished the same things.

  2. romulus
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Nice review, seems that you havent given up on visual novels which is nice again, because I want to find one even I am interested in. I actually play(ed) Katawa Shoujo, a VN made directly in English by fans of visual novels, and it’s really close to staple but it isn’t. Maybe it’s how a sane person can reproduce the insanely low level of filler staples.

    In that VN I at least have what I expect from ALL VNs – choices with a serious impact on how the story turns out to be. You even modify the personality of the protagonist a little with being able to choose whom he befriends.

    Anyways, next time please try to find something with ‘choices with a serious impact on how the story turns out to be’. The format called Visual Novels means 2 things to me: several endings, a story I can freely modify and that I am told a nice story. After these come true, it doesn’t really matter (to me) if it is sci-fi, hentai, slice of life or whatever.

  3. Posted September 23, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

    Well, for starters, I think your biggest problem about visual novels is that you have an average level of patience. Not that this is a bad thing, but the thing is, you need to try shorter visual novels like Narcissu, True Remembrance or Planetarian. They are lacking in some aspects but their stories are relatively short (about 3 hours or so) if you can’t get used to long and detailed reading.

    I also see that you’re looking for something that exploits the fact that it is in a visual novel format. Well, I guess you can opt for what Yuyucow suggested, though these VNs are quite long and wordy.

    Perhaps after finding a VN that you like, you’ll get to appreciate the medium more.

    • Scamp
      Posted September 24, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see how patience is a problem here. Demonbane is just kinda average. It wasn’t like I was getting frustrated that it wasn’t going anywhere

      • Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        I see. Well, I haven’t played Demonbane myself, and I don’t think I will since there are a lot of things here that don’t fit my taste, so I don’t have much to say about it.

        But seriously, I agree that most VNs tend to explain a lot of stuff, and much of them do end up unnecessary. It’s something that I don’t like about the medium as well. But as far as plot and character development goes, I find Visual Novels to be a great medium. Prime examples are Sharin no Kuni, G-String and many multi-perspective VNs.

  4. Iby
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    Demon­bane is by Gen Urabo­chi, the same guy who wrote Madoka Magica and Saya no Uta, work­ing with Nitro+ again.
    Nah, you’ve mistaken. It’s by Jin Haganeya, his other works are:
    (2006) Dra+Koi (http://tlwiki.tsukuru.info/index.php?title=Dra%2BKoI)
    (2006) Kishin Hishou Demonbane (continuation of Demonbane, with some gameplay features, this guy is gonna translate it someday)
    (2010) Soukou Akki Muramasa: Janen Hen (he wrote one of the stories for this fandisk of the original)

    He’s also plannig to write story for the spinoff game of Guilty Crown and work with the anime staff.

    • Iby
      Posted September 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      BTW Urobuchi’s games:
      (2000) Phantom of Inferno
      (2001) Vampirdzhija Vjedogonia
      (2002) Kikokugai
      (2003) Saya no Uta
      (2007) Zoku Satsuriku no Django

      • Aerxes
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 3:11 am | Permalink

        Was about to say that, myself. They are by the same company (Nitro+), but not by the same writer. Also, I couldn’t finish Demonbane either, it was just so overwhelmingly AVERAGE. I couldn’t really hate on anything, but nothing really drew me in. I actually stopped right before the “big final battle,” and have no qualms about it. Also, I finished Kara no Shoujo a little earlier this week.. So.. beautiful.

      • Iby
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:24 am | Permalink

        Also, before playing any VN you should see on vndb.org how much time does it takes.
        For example, Demon­bane’s duration is 30-50 hours.
        I think that you need to play the games with the durition >10, here is the link.

      • Iby
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:26 am | Permalink
    • Scamp
      Posted September 24, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Ah, you’re kidding. I could have sworn this was Urabochi. It had the same writing style and the Lovecraft stuff and everything. Man, I feel kinda stupid now

      • Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

        Not to add insult to injury, but it’s Urobuchi.

      • Iby
        Posted September 25, 2011 at 5:38 am | Permalink

        虚淵玄 = Gen Urobuchi
        鋼屋ジン = Jin Haganeya
        Now, my dear friend, tell me, who’s the scenarist (脚本) here?
        Dunno where have you got your info, Yuyucow.

      • Posted September 25, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        I know Haganeya wrote it, what I meant is Scamp kept typoing Urobuchi’s name.

      • Iby
        Posted September 25, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

        Ah, sry. >_<
        I feel strange that's it's only me who mentioned about the true identity of the true scenarist of Demonbane…

      • Random
        Posted September 25, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

        I am very sure that Gen never ever writes or even attempts to have any form of ‘joke’ in his story. This includes Madoka and all of his VNs and short novels.

        The closest his gets to ‘jokes’ are scenes that are meant to be heartwarming. That’s why Demonbane would never be Gen’s work

  5. wendeego
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Two things that visual novels do just as well and sometimes arguably better than anime, and occasionally video games:

    -atmosphere (particularly claustrophobia)
    -character study

    It’s kind of amazing how games like the Higurashi series can be almost unbearably tense, even though all you’re really doing is clicking through text. But I think that visual novels are really at their best when they’re diving into the psyche of characters, particularly the protagonist’s. Fate/stay Night alternately justifies and horribly deconstructs Shiro’s obsession with heroism. G-Senjou no Maou raises doubts about who exactly the protaganist is (yes, there’s a reason why he appears so bland in the beginning!) The Muv Luv series puts a harem protaganist through war and forces him to deal with the consequences. Cross Channel’s probably the best of the lot in this regard (which is why it’s my favorite) but I’d really rather not spoil any of it so that’s all I’m saying on this account.

    Anyway since you’ve evidently been burned twice and don’t have the patience to soldier through slow-paced kind-of-ridiculous mystery (G-Senjou, which admittedly justifies itself many times over in the last two chapters or so) or fun/crazy/pandering Lovecraftian mecha pastiche (Demonbane) I recommend you go try out True Remembrance. It’s short, it’s free and it has one of the best English translations of any visual novel ever made. Maybe you might like it better? (and even if you hate it, it isn’t much of a time commitment)

  6. luffyluffy
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    Good, now go play fucking Planetarian.

    IT’S FOUR HOURS

    YOU CAN READ IT IN LIKE 2

  7. Marow
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t played any Visual Novel, unless you would count the Phoenix Wright-series.

    If I would play a VS though, I know I would like some kind of interaction, something that means I can change stuff. Judging from your playthroughs, neither of the games really used this but instead were straightforward. Heck, maybe a Lovesim is better, who knows.

    • Mr. Anon
      Posted September 23, 2011 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      I think you could make a decent argument for indeed counting the Phoenix Wright series.

      • luffyluffy
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        I believe they are considered VN’s.

        Scamp, play Phoenix Wright :D

      • The Big Guy
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

        Better yet, try 999. It’s only 20 bucks, and it is actually really, really good. And it should be easier to find than the Phoenix Wright games (though if you can find any Wright game, get it), so give it a shot.

      • luffyluffy
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been planning on 999 actually.

        Man, the PW games really know how to bleed your wallet :( I’ve only got the first two PW, AAI1, and Ghost Trick because TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS IS SO EXPENSIVE. *cry*

        Scamp, play Ghost Trick. Do it. Play it.

        I swear it is easily one of the greatest games I’ve ever played. DO IT.

        … Uh, other Novely games.. Hotel Dusk? Do it.

      • Mr. Anon
        Posted September 24, 2011 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

        >And it should be easier to find than the Phoenix Wright games
        Internet

      • Marow
        Posted September 25, 2011 at 1:34 am | Permalink

        @Luffyluffy

        Trials and Tribulations is the best game in the series (and Apollo Justice doesn’t exist), so you should really get it if you don’t have it.

        About Ghost Trick, I still haven’t played it. There’s so many DS-games out there… wallet cries.

      • luffyluffy
        Posted September 25, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

        I’ve been trying, but it’s like 20 dollars on Amazon. ;3;

        Ghost Trick is one of the greatest games I’ve ever played

  8. Goresome
    Posted September 23, 2011 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    ┐( ̄ー ̄)┌
    We told you don’t touch it.

  9. anon
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 1:15 am | Permalink

    do not, DO NOT, read ever 17. Those were 3 weeks taken straight to the trash can,

  10. Alf
    Posted September 24, 2011 at 5:06 am | Permalink

    You should try KISHIN HISHOU DEMONBANE, the sequel of this game.
    Nitro+ decided to make it non-ecchi, A LOT BETTER and BADASS!!!
    Better character design, too.

  11. Bob
    Posted September 25, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    The beta Steins;Gate English patch is out! Although the comments on the site say that the patch causes the game to crash halfway through chapter 2, :( .

    • Posted September 25, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      There is an updated patch that I used to play through the game. Got 100% completion with no crashing at all whatsoever. That being said, I think the anime was mostly better than the VN anyways.

      The VN detailed a lot of Okabe’s inner thoughts, which made him a more interesting character (especially the bad endings). Also, a lot of the technical explanations were in much more depth, which lent credence to the actual believability of the story. The VN also explained the side character’s arcs better than the anime.

      However, the anime has much better overall direction, where it had a better impact with it’s dramatic moments. The moments were more emotional and powerful in the anime, with few exceptions.

  12. mcm38
    Posted September 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    I just noticed how often Japanese exaggerate in anime-based stuff. The pointy nipples are a good example. Also their exaggerated stubbornnes of copying other anime and making no attempt at all for some orginality and interesting stuff. Generaly speaking, there may be exceptions that doesn’t matter.

  13. Kiseki
    Posted September 26, 2011 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    Go play Ace Attorney.

  14. JED
    Posted February 10, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Nope. Play Love Potion Dependent School. 淫薬依存学園。

    • JED
      Posted February 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      It’ll take only 30 minutes to finish.

  15. Desi
    Posted July 18, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    You should play
    Hatoful Boyfriend.
    It
    is
    insane.

  16. Me
    Posted February 27, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Sigh…you have broke the golden rule of reviewing – NEVER REVIEW SOMETHING YOU HAVEN’T FUCKING FINISHED!! The core of Demonbane lies in the last 3 or so chapters; they define the entire experience. The first 6-7 or so are total bullshit, as you’ve discovered. After finishing them, I, too, would probably agree with what you’ve written here. But having finished the thing, I gotta say, the last bits completely turned my opinion around.

  17. littleshogun
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Well if you can’t stand nakige and can’t bring yourself play Muv Luv Maybe you better play Dustmania Grotesque. It is maybe more epic for you than many VN AND FINISH IT PLUS WRITE THE REVIEW HERE WILL YOU

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