By William Haderlie / October 5th, 2018
|Title||Trample on Schatten!! -The Shadow Stomping Song- Revolution+|
|Release Date||July 15th, 2018|
|Genre||Action Eroge Visual Novel|
|Age Rating||Adults Only|
Content Warning: Trample on Schatten!! is an Eroge Visual Novel that is Adults Only. The review is potentially NSFW, although efforts are taken to avoid that as much as possible. But all links leading back to the official website are 18+ only. The Visual Novel is also heavy on both action and tragedy, therefore some very violent sequences might be potentially upsetting for people. One of the primary expressions of this violence is rape, both of the human type and of the monster. There is incest that occurs in both a consensual way and with rape. There is also several loli and shota sex scenes featuring a girl and a boy of nebulous age. However, for the official release, the image of the rape scene featuring an undeniably underage girl was removed to comply with US law (a little more on this later). That being said, the scene still happens and its repercussions are potentially upsetting for readers. Unlike most Japanese games that deal with rape, there is a strong emphasis on the emotional trauma from such an act, it is generally not done for titillation.
As you can glean from the content warning, this Visual Novel is not going to be for everyone. Even for Eroge fans out there, it delves into some pretty serious topics. And as a reviewer it can be a bit difficult to separate the quality from the content of the story. I will not be putting forth the theory that you can be objective about reviewing art and entertainment products, because I don’t think that is the case. However, I will do my best to separate qualitative judgement between what I think it intends and what my own personal tastes are. So let me get out of the way that my largest problem with this Visual Novel overall has nothing to do with any measurable quality. It is the fact that this story ends up being very tragic in parts, and there are entire sequences that are just one tragedy after another. There is something to be said for creating compelling enough characters that you care when something horrible happens to them. One or two character deaths are certainly tragic. But after so many, one after another, I just stop caring because I don’t want to emotionally invest in them anymore. If that also applies to you, or if you are particularly susceptible to depression, I don’t think that I can recommend this Visual Novel. However, for everyone else, there is a lot here to love.
On its base level, this is a superhero action Visual Novel, but with adult elements in it. The adult elements are not the only things that separate the story from the kind of hero stories you get in Western media though. The best way to think of this story is if you combined the X-Men with Neon Genesis Evangelion and Persona. The comparison is not just due to the horrible things that end up happening, it’s also because of the heavy emphasis on psychology, in particular the theories of Carl Jung. Schatten is German for Shadow, which forms a large part of the personality psychology theories of Jung, and comes up in this game several times as a major plot point. This real world anchor helps the fantastical events feel like they could genuinely happen in some prospective future, for better and for worse. But it was a nice touch, and was generally well researched (coming from someone who has read my fair share of Jung). The story being written well is certainly a highlight of the game, even if the turns it takes are not always to my taste, but thankfully it is populated by very compelling characters.
Because of the style and focus of Eroge Visual Novels, they can suffer from a bad protagonist, but they are not completely made useless (unlike many other forms of media). If you have enough compelling waifu material, you can often just ignore whatever the dumbass you are piloting around says. Because of the style of this story and how you are engaged with it (more on that a little later), this game would really suffer if Aisaku was a bad character. Thankfully that is not the case. He definitely has his flaws. There were a couple times that I wanted to strangle him for either being oblivious or being a hypocrite, but not nearly as bad as the last VN I reviewed. He does actually stand up for himself when push comes to shove, and he does take action even when he might fail. He has a complicated relationship with his parents, which is certainly heightened by the circumstances, but ends up being much more interesting than I’m used to in the medium. Something that happens too often in super hero stories is the premise that a totally ordinary and unremarkable person when given super powers will become a super hero. That is not the case here, Aisaku was always a remarkable person, he just finally has the power to do something about it.
Keziah is the primary focus of the story, other than Aisaku, and is your primary romance option. You can also potentially romance Serika, Miina, Yuki, and Fuuri. But each of those endings is rather short and perfunctory. The True Ending is the Keziah route, and is much more complicated to achieve as well as being much longer than the endings for the other 4. Keziah is a very complicated character, often to her own detriment, but that is also intentional. In general all of the characters in this story are much more rounded than the characters in other visual novels. But all that extra backstory and personality is very focused in one direction. All the girls have had a lot of tragedy in their lives. As such, they are often their own worst enemy, which can be frustrating for anyone who cares about their fate. Serika is the typical childhood friend type, but even that formula is messed with because of her true feelings about Aisaku and (in the True Ending route) some very extreme circumstances. Miina is the only other one besides Serika that the hero has known for a long time, but it is a long time before you figure out what is going on with her. Yuki and Fuuri start of seeming like more of antagonists than potential romantic partners, but they all end up having some deep stories.
All of the girls have very serious sides to them and can be frustratingly stubborn about some things. But they also have sides to them that make it easy to see what the protagonist would find compelling. A lot of comedy scenes in the game come from Serika, who is a total dork and often lives in her own hilarious fantasies. And Keziah may speak like a haughty royal all of the time, but that hyper confidence can often lead to some humorous situations. Even the perpetually grumpy looking Yuki has a seriously adorable weakness to anything that is cute and fluffy. Because the story is so serious and tragic, these periods of lightheartedness can be very welcome. Unfortunately, because awful things start happening to these very people, that can also work against you. They also have some very strong voice acting, across the board, and that includes Aisaku. Unlike most Visual Novels (other than otome or BL), all the major male characters are fully voiced as well as the major female characters. This is also necessary because you are often seeing Aisaku from another character’s perspective.
While you can save your game at any point you want, this Visual Novel is not like any other. They use a Multi-POV system that has a story component called the Selbest Sphere, which was installed in the wrist of all the heroes who wish to fight the Schatten invading the city. It allows them to absorb the power and memories of others, as well as making your own imagination reality (within limits). The primary result of this is that they can don battle armor and fight creatures that can phase in and out of existence. But another result is that you can use it to look in on other memories and even some events that didn’t happen but “could have”. These alternate events are usually sexual in nature and arise out of some other character making an allusion to possibly something dirty going on in the background (like the Nurse molesting her patients). You will reach points, like you see above, where you will not be able to progress the story any farther until you see the other events that will give you context. Unviewed scenes are indicated by a cube around the circle, and unviewed erotic scenes are pink cubes. Any time you enter those scenes, you see them from the view of the person listed at the top of the column. As a result you will see events from several different perspectives, and also see many things that the hero is unaware of himself. It works extremely well for this style of storytelling.
It was initially confusing when I first rolled credits on the game, because it seemed like it was only half of the story. And that was because I finished with the Serika route first. As long as you see every scene for that character, you are given an option right before they die that will save the girl but derail the rest of the story. This is nice that you have a nice happy ending for each of the girls where you don’t have to go through the serious tragedy that happens if you don’t go that route. But unfortunately it does not equate to a satisfying overall story. So the option is nice to have, but this is realistically a 1 route story. As I said earlier, the Keziah route is around twice as long as finishing the game with any of the other girls. Unfortunately you can’t save them all, as much as I wish that I could. There is definitely no harem route. Thankfully they used that limitation of being really focused on one story to their advantage, and made that story full of twists and turns and surprises. Overall the Multi-POV system worked really well with this style of Visual Novel, and I would love to see it used again.
Along with the fantastic voice acting that I talked about, there is also really wonderful music. There wasn’t quite as many music tracks as there were in many other VN’s I’ve reviewed. But each song was really good, and they were used in really good ways. I never felt the need to mute the music and listen to something else while I played. And the particular stand out track was the credits song. You cannot see that song on the music gallery (which you unlock after your first ending), so I’m not sure what it’s called. But you can still listen to the song from the gallery by clicking on the invisible square that is noticeably missing. Even better than the music was the art design. I’m not sure what it is about the character designs in this game, it’s not as pretty as something like Nekopara, but I really love this style of art. There are a lot of action sequences that also happen, as you would imagine with a super hero Visual Novel, and they are well animated and have very strong sound effects. Overall, quality in design oozed from every point in this game, and made up for a lot of my issues with the style of the story.
There is one final issue that I want to address with the review, and it has to do with censorship. While I am happy that the English localization team was able to get the mosaic censorship removed, there is still the issue of the one scene that was cut from the game. My issue isn’t with the team cutting that scene, because there are ridiculous laws in the US that allow people to be arrested for even drawn depictions of that scene. I don’t like it, but until people vote the people who make those laws out of office, there is nothing to do about it. My issue is that the developer was not open about it to their customers. All they had to do was do a blog post about it and link to that on the purchase page, or something similar. That lack of transparency does affect my review of the game, but not much. I just want developers to trust their customers and fans more by giving them all the information. If you don’t have a good reason for doing something, your feet should justifiably be put to the fire. But, other than that, you will get more respect for the honesty. There is a patch out there on the internet to restore that scene, which I greatly appreciate. Good work to those who helped make that happen for those of us who disagree with that decision being taken away from us.
The couple issues I had were fairly large, and enough to put a cap on how high I would review a Visual Novel like this. But other than that, it really hit on every other point. I would love to see more Visual Novels made with this high of production values, and along with Evenicle earlier this year, we are truly in a great time for the medium. The base digital copy of the game is $34.99 and that is well worth the price for all the artistry on display here. The various side routes may be sudden endings, but the True Ending route was easily 20 hours if played straight through. Apparently Nonsugar does not exist any more, but I would have loved to see a sequel to this story, or at minimum another Visual Novel that uses the Multi-POV system. As long as you can stomach all the horrible tragic events, you are likely to love this game even more than I did.
Review Copy Provided By The Publisher
18+erogeJAST USANonsugarTrample on Schatten!!visual novel