Title: SWEET CLOWN ~午前三時のオカシな道化師~
Release Date: 16th July 2015
Age Rating: 15+
Length: 20+ Hours
Links: Official Site, VNDB
The game begins when Zakuro recieves a mysterious letter from someone called “Sweet Clown” inviting her to a 3am tea party in his castle. Lured by the prospect of getting her wish granted, she arrives at the castle deep within the woods to find that 5 young men also recieved similar letters and are guests at the tea party.
Everything seems to be going fine, however, after the party strange events start to happen. Just what is the truth behind the tea party and the enigmatic Sweet Clown himself?
After blaming herself for the disappearance of her twin brother some years ago, Zakuro withdrew into herself and doesn’t like to show emotion or rely on other people. She speaks little and smiles even less. She carries around a special pocketwatch that reminds her of her brother.
Kobashi Ouichirou (CV Takahashi Hiroki)
Ouichirou is a cold young man, who seems to have little interest in spending time with the rest of the group. He’s intelligent and seems to have come to the castle with an agenda in mind. He attended the tea party with his younger sister Maris.
Hinose Takeru (CV Kakihara Tetsuya)
Takeru is an eccentric young man who, due to poor health, doesn’t spend much time with the group. He has a dark sense of humour, often speaking about death in quite a frank way which can make him difficult to talk to. He also has a dangerous side to him and walks around armed with his trusty knife. Takeru has a dislike of water.
Kuze Souma (CV Uchida Yuuma)
Souma is a serious person and, as such, tends to get into arguments frequently with Seisuke. However, he has a much kinder side to him and immediately takes a shine to Zakuro – to the extent that he tells her that he’ll be her new younger brother to stop her being so sad. He also has a curious mind, often questioning the world around him.
Mitsuhara Seisuke (CV Toyonaga Toshiyuki)
Seisuke is the most talkative member of the group and seems to enjoy starting arguments with Souma. He’s a huge flirt and with Zakuro being the only girl around, he lavishes all of his attention on her. He often talks about how popular he is back home and appears to be perfect at everything. However, sometimes not all may be as it appears…
Manai Tomoki (CV Kobayashi Yuusuke)
Tomoki is a cheerful guy whom is often the mediator of the group. He seems to be the most normal of the group and enjoys chatting with everyone, especially Zakuro. He’s quite the accomplished chef so ends up taking on cooking duties for the group.
Character design and artwork for this game was handled by Hirose Azumi whom has worked with Takuyo on their previous games Getsuei no Kusari + Kaeru Batake De Tsukamaete.
Opening: Invitation ~Utsukushiki Wana~ – Hiiragi Nao
Ending: Tsugi no Tobira – Hiiragi Nao
The game’s BGM was composed by Shima Hideyuki, whom doesn’t appear to have worked on any other otome games but has composed BGM for various TV shows including the recent anime Pet.
The game’s system is fairly unusual in that after the prologue the game splits into two common routes – one for Ouichirou & Takeru, the other for Seisuke & Souma. Each of the four “main” characters has 4 endings – Deep Love good/bad + Twisted Love good/bad.
Tomoki’s route is considered the game’s true route & as such, only has two endings – good & bad. His route is therefore locked at the start of the game.
This is actually a game that I pre-ordered back in the day & bought the Stellaworth Set of but, for some reason, I decided to leave it to stew on my shelf for 4 and a half years before actually getting around to playing it (whoops!). Was it worth finally seeing the light of day or should I have left this on my shelf to collect dust?
First things first, this is not a game that you buy because you want a nice fluffy romance. I found this to be the area where the game really was lacking because aside from Takeru (& perhaps Souma) I thought the romance was either bad or completely absent which was a bit of a shame. There is also a slight problem with the game utilising very “convenient” methods of resolving some problems, almost as though the writers were rushing parts of the routes.
However, on a more positive note, the game does an excellent job of creating quite a creepy atmosphere. I don’t get freaked out by much but there was one of Neige’s sprites that honestly scares me slightly to this day so kudos for that. The story as a whole was fairly well done and was unpredictable at times which was great. I also enjoyed the fairytale references sprinkled throughout and the occasional bittersweet endings were also handled well.
The game actually has only 3 writers, which is honestly pretty low compared to a lot of games I’ve played recently. I also appreciated that the game also lists who wrote each part because they never do – one writer did Ouichirou & Tomoki’s routes, another did Seisuke & Souma’s routes and the final writer did Takeru’s route. However, it was pretty easy to tell from playing the game that there were multiple writers because the routes vary wildly in the way they’re written with Takeru’s route really sticking out as the “sore thumb” (not even in a bad way though).
I will admit that Zakuro is a hard heroine to like at first – she’s quite depressing and seems to just be pulled along by the story. However, I can understand why she’s like this but just wish that she develops more as a character in certain routes. She’s basically just too hard on herself!
Ouichirou seemed like the main boy from the packaging and does indeed have a route befitting of such accolade. However, I found the romance in his route to be very lacking which was a shame. He’s not really my type either so he didn’t really stand a chance – sorry!
Takeru, on the other hand, was one of the two characters who caught my attention immediately and I found his dark humour to be pretty intriguing (even if his laugh makes him seem terrifying!). Takeru’s route surprised me by having the most romance and I actually enjoyed his route the most, even if that one bad ending was pretty…odd.
Souma seemed a really interesting character until the little “prologue” story at the start of his route completely spoiled one of the main plot points which made the first part of his route a little predicatable. That being said, he’s a really good boy & I was completely sold when he started pretending to be a younger brother to Zakuro – very cute!
I read a review before playing the game that said Seisuke was a piece of trash but stupid me thought this was fine since I have pretty trash taste in characters anyways. However, all I have to say after finishing his route is that he really is trash. That is all.
Finally we have Tomoki whom is literally the only one keeping the group together and makes the common route all the more enjoyable to read. He’s super cute/likable and was the other character that I was immediately interested in. I’m glad that he got a route although the ending was pretty sad.
There’s not very many side-characters in the game, with them all being the other residents of Sweet Clown’s castle. Most of them are quite mysterious so make you want to find out about their past and how they ended up with Sweet Clown. My favourites were the living dolls made from sweets called Cranberry and Raspberry who were just super cute, even if one of their hobbies is hanging themselves from the chandalier in the foyer by their necks.
The artwork in the game was okay, with there being fewer CGs than I would expect for a game of this length. It was especially annoying because the CG viewer counted each CG variation as a seperate image which makes you believe there’s more CGs than there actually is (one of my pet peeves!). The background images were very well done though.
Voice actors in this game were typically more uncommon ones (with exception of Kakihara Tetsuya of course) which was a nice change from the usual. All of them did a pretty good job but why does Toyonaga Toshiyuki always have to voice trashy characters. Every. Darn. Time!
BGM was okay, definitely more on the forgettable side though. I really enjoyed the opening song (it has a slightly creepy tone to it that fitted the game well) & was happy that the music replay feature in-game had the full version of the song.
Another thing I wanted to point out was how well done the actual movies were in the game – it’s not something that I would normally pay attention to but these were actually slightly more meaningful than the typical CG slideshow, in particular the true ending movie.
My Score: 7/10
Despite a couple of small problems with convenient plot resolutions and a lack of romance (for my tastes), I applaud this game for actually managing to create a creepy, haunting atmosphere without the overuse of violence some other companies are known for… Aside from Seisuke (whom should be avoided at all costs), the other characters were fairly likable so that was a bonus.
This was my first Takuyo game (yes, it’s taken me a while to get around to them) but I had a fairly positive experience with this so will be bumping up the other games I have from them up my backlog a bit.
Overall, I’d recommend this to someone looking for a mystery/darker otome game who doesn’t mind the absence of fluff. That is provided you can find a copy of the game because it’s selling for a stupidly high price on amazon JP at the moment.
Takeru > Souma > Tomoki >>>> Ouichirou >>>>>>>>>>>>> Seisuke
Recommended Route Order
Seisuke → Souma → Takeru → Ouichirou → Tomoki
Thanks for reading!