By Steve Baltimore / January 20th, 2022
|Title||Dead End Aegis|
|Release Date||January 7, 2022|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Horror, Sci-Fi|
I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I decided to take JAST’s latest release, Dead End Aegis. I mean a story about military magical girls that fight off aliens trying to destroy the Earth doesn’t come around everyday. I was a bit worried about just how far this game would go with the violence, since the artwork was done by Ueda Metawo, who you may know for their work on Sadistic Blood, and it was little too gruesome for my taste. Thankfully, while there are some really graphic scenarios in Dead End Aegis, none of it goes that far into the guro category. But make no mistake, this is a very dark story with many unsettling themes. That doesn’t mean that it lacks depth, however, so let’s dig in and discuss it.
The story begins with the free standalone prequel title, Dead End Aegis: Gaiden. It tells the story of three young women: Circe Bernhard, Lisette Augereau and Li Canxue. They join the Military in order for fight off the alien menace known as the Cosmic Cnidarians, or the C.C. for short. Circe and Lisette are a couple very much in love, and Li is a friend to both of them. Lisette desperately wants to be a hero and win the war as soon as possible, and she will get her chance very soon. The girls started their military life on a base called Deimos, and from here they did training missions and cleared debris. They lost communication with the base during a training mission. Fearing the enemy had attacked Mars, they stayed in the shadow of the planet to not be noticed. They decided to investigate what happened, and were captured by the enemy. The girls were raped mercilessly by alien tentacles, barely surviving the encounter. They only made it through because by some miracle, through violating them, the aliens had given them special powers. These powers could only be described as the same ones magical girls from anime or manga have. The three girls use these powers to repel the alien forces, and even save a young girl on Mars. Unfortunately, Circe ends up getting captured by the C.C. once more during battle, and is ravaged again. This causes her to lose her powers, but that isn’t the end of her story.
When the main game begins, some years have passed since the events of Dead End Aegis: Gaiden, and the military has now formed a force of magical girls. They have established a base, The Cathedral, in enemy territory and the girls are trained and deployed from there. Right off the bat you will meet a young woman named Minori Iizuka. She just happens to be the girl Lisette and the others saved on Mars years ago, and she has never forgotten them. She sees Lisette as her hero, and this is why she wanted to join the fight against the C.C. She is leaving behind a friend named Bågenholm Mitsuomi. He is a part of a very wealthy family that owns many businesses, and he had graduated the academy with her. As soon as she arrives at the Cathedral things seem a bit off to her, but she carries on and soon meets up with her two roommates. Ilyusha Petrovna is a former member of an idol group from Russia, and Nana Kisaragi is a Japanese girl the comes off as a bit of an airhead. The three get to know each other a bit, but are soon sent out on their first mission. This will take them to the main C.C. base which is known as Paradise Lost. There, they get the same treatment as Lisette and her group did, violated by many alien tentacles. These girls had no idea what they were getting themselves into, only seeing the propaganda videos shown on Earth. Some girls end their own lives, while others are killed by the tentacles, but Minori and her roommates survive this encounter and become magical girls.
The girls soon learn the truth about how the military is running this base, and how exactly they obtain their powers. The C.C. attach cells to their sexual and reproductive organs. The more sexually stimulated they are, the more power they can obtain. This is why the men on this base gave the girls hungry looks when they arrived, they are made to service these men at their whims to help them become more sexual. Minori and her friends are constantly being drugged, abused mentally, physically and sexually as the commander pushes them further to use them as tools of war. He sees them as something he can consume because in the end if it wins the war, it doesn’t matter to them. How far will the degradation of them go? Will the girls survive this horrible ordeal, and will this war with the C.C. come to an end? Time will tell.
It would be easy to assume this game is just another nukige full of graphic rapes, but there is a lot of layers to the story of Dead End Aegis. The story doesn’t glorify rape in any way, and in fact, each time Minori and the other girls are abused, you get this sense of dread for them. The game’s aesthetics really drives home this feeling with their dark tones that keep you uneasy. Other major themes of this tale include sexism, betrayal, abuses of capitalism, jealously, and many other horrible human traits. At one point, I wondered if the humans in this game were more monstrous than the aliens themselves.
There are two main routes here and the girls suffer abuses in both of them, but one is far worse than the other. Minori takes so much abuse in one that you start to wonder if there is any hope for her, as when there is a slight glimmer of hope, it is taken away from her immediately. I will say if you stick it out through either route, the endings are satisfying. I was actually pretty shocked by that, given how dark this story is. There is one dead end however, so make your choices with care.
All of the artwork here by Ueda Metawo is just fantastic. The character designs are all nicely detailed and each one has a very unique look that fits their personality. I really loved the designs of the magical girl outfits and weapons. They almost seem out of place in this dark story, but somehow they manage to fit it perfectly. The aliens look great as well, and while most of them are pretty simple, later in the game you will meet some that look like what nightmares are made of. Most of the H-scenes in this game are just an exercise in brutality, and this comes through in the artwork. They certainly push the plot forward, and make you very uncomfortable each time. I’m sure this is what the developer was going for, and they certainly achieved it.
Dead End Aegis was something much more than what I expected it to be. This multilayered tale will keep you on edge for the entire 30 hours you are reading it. The writing, artwork and voice cast create a deep, disturbing, but at the same time, very fascinating tale of these girls struggles at the hands of not only the alien invaders, but the humans that oversee them as well. The game will set you back $29.99, and I feel it is well worth it if this title is for you. It certainly will not be for everyone given its dark nature. It will push anyone to the limits of what they find comfortable, but good games do this while giving you something to think about for a while after the credits roll. Dead End Aegis does just that.
Game was provided by the publisher for review.
Dead AegisDead EndDead End AegishorrorJAST USAmetalogiqPCReviewsSci-Fivisual novel