By William Haderlie / February 6th, 2017
One of the more interesting plot developments in this story is in how your opinion of Rance can change over time, not only based on his own actions but also by the actions of those he is fighting against. A common complaint I always express in my Visual Novel reviews is how meek and indecisive the protagonists are in those stories, and Rance is almost the complete opposite of that. In fact, he is such a character all his own that you see him on-screen a ton more than you ever see the males in other Eroge. So right from the start, you are not really meant to see yourself in this character, you are meant to just enjoy the story as it’s told and make decisions that can affect the outcome. But regardless of your choices, more than likely you will warm to Rance a bit during the story, and a lot of that has to do with how horrible the people and monsters he’s fighting against are. The authors of this series were definitely heavily influenced by the works of the Marquis de Sade (France, 1740-1814), especially The 120 Days of Sodom. When it comes to the human aristocrats that he ends up fighting, they are almost straight out of that book. And if you have read that before, you know that they are pretty horrific human beings. Late in the story, when you come up against the Monster Tribes, you will see that they aren’t really any better than the human aristocrats. So you can call Rance an anti-hero, but there is usually pretty good reasons why the women he assaults end up staying with him in the end, beyond his superhuman penis.
There is a second reason that I wanted to bring up the Marquis de Sade in relation to this game. Basically, the first 75% of this story is like the period French history (with the addition of magic and monsters) written about by Sade himself. So, yes there is a lot of pervy action to be found but the story is a whole lot deeper than that and is quite political and historical. Even in the last 25% of the game, where the major enemy transfers to a common opponent for all humans, there are still a lot of political and philosophical conundrums to be found there as well. This story has a lot of humor in it, but overall it was far more serious than I was expecting going in. By the measure of quality storytelling, this is a top ranked Visual Novel and dungeon crawler RPG, even if the subject matter may prevent many people from ever experiencing it themselves.
There are many things in this game that will defy expectations. As soon as you think Rance can’t get more boorish or stupid, he will do something sweet and endearing. He is particularly nice to Caloria, even becoming something of a father figure to her as well as a lover, and he is also willing to put up with a lot of adolescent hijinks from Magic. Both of these characters are new to this game, and after all these events I would expect to see them a lot more in the future Rance games. But how he acts towards each of the many girls surrounding him changes very much depending on their personality, and also depending on what it will take to let him get into their pants. But beyond some serious character flaws, Rance can often be a powerful force that the people of this world will want on their side. They will often just have to point him in the correct direction and make sure to tempt him with the right recompense. He can make things a lot worse for everyone, but usually, that is a problem with those around him trying to get him to do things that are bad. The worst character flaw about him is usually that he thinks every woman in the world belongs to him exclusively, and when you compare that to those he’s fighting that is not so bad. Often he will do something really kind and honorable, even if it embarrasses him to admit to it.
Rance himself is the only character that I will talk about extensively because there is just simply no room in a review to talk about every major character in this game. The cast list for this game is truly intimidating, but even just your party members is quite a long list. In the screenshot you see above, you can see that there are 16 party members to choose from when you are making your group of 6 members for fighting in dungeons. But this is only part of the story; you also have the option at your base of switching characters in and out of the party. Combine that with the fact that many characters will leave and join at different times, and you have a list of playable party members at somewhere between 20-30. There are a few characters that are given a little bit of a short shrift when it comes to story, such as Megadeth and Prima and Cessna, but they are still given more character development than there is in a lot of tradition dungeon crawler RPGs. Rizna is an important one to talk about because she was the major addition to the lore with Rance 5D. She is also in this game, but you learn a ton more about her in this title, so it’s actually quite fitting that those two releases were paired together, not just because 5D was a side release and not of the same Rance gaming formula.
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