|The Shadows of Pygmalion
|PC (via Steam & MangaGamer.com)
|Unrated (15+ in Japan)
One of the most interesting angles from which to look at any work of art is to look at what inspired it, as often this can give an idea as to what the producer of this content envisioned the product to be. Sometimes this can lead to outright copycat products, yet on other occasions it can lead to products that use the inspiration material as a base to expand their idea so that it can stand on its own merits rather than be seen as too dependent on what inspired it. The Shadows of Pygmalion falls into the latter camp.
The Shadows of Pygmalion, otherwise known as Negai no Kakera to Hakugin no Agreement in Japan, was originally released in 2013 for PC and is the second of propeller’s titles to get localised (the other being last year’s Tokyo Babel which was also published by MangaGamer). This title is based around a secret war going on throughout the world for as long as the world exists, where groups of women have to eradicate “Puppets” in order to keep the balance of the world in order. Puppets are beings with no real emotions that seek to cause chaos in the world, which ranges from sitting idly by and occasionally causing riots to “blighting” a person, thus allowing them to infect others.
The game’s protagonist is Hajiro Mina, whom finds herself caught up in this conflict after resonating with a doll called Ruka inside a doll house. When somebody resonates with Ruka, they give them powers that allow them to fight the Puppets and exterminate them. Mina finds herself part of an organisation that are eradicating the Puppets in her area. The other members of the group include Jessica, whom is an outgoing, energetic girl and Riko, a kind yet socially distant woman whom is in Mina’s class at school. The other members of the main group are Yang Li-Ling, a successful businesswoman and Jay, whom acts as more of a fatherly figure to the rest of the group.
It’s worth noting this as although Pygmalion is an all ages game, this title features some very mature themes. There are scenes of intense violence, but other notable, spoiler-free aspects include sexual molestation and psychological trauma. There is also more light-hearted fanservice and slice of life sections in this title (being a yuri game and all), however it is very front-loaded with the majority of the fanservice taking place early on in the common route. The slice of life fanservice and romance works as a way to lighten the overall tone and develop the characters before the story gets darker and more serious, which adds to the experience and makes this visual novel more than just a dark, gritty story. This is very much a story where the romance takes a back seat in favour of the action and worldbuilding, and Pgymalion does not disappoint.
Going back to the discussion of inspirational material, in the case of The Shadows of Pygmalion, this was inspired by Greek mythology, most notably Plato and his philosophy, which includes how he believes humans are immoral and how they forget all their memories from their past lives when they are reborn. Recalling all the memories of their past lives is called “anamnesis,” which Plato is thanks to recording scientific developments and religious beliefs through methods like literature. It is worth remembering this as one of the best things about this game is how this source material subtly influences it, yet in Pgymalion it becomes its own unique being.
For example, anamnesis is mentioned in The Shadows of Pygmalion with Plato’s core idea taken as a base and expanded on, so it is not as clear cut as Plato’s philosophy. I won’t elaborate anymore on this example because of spoilers (and MangaGamer have done this already), however the amount of depth added to this is a good example of how deep the story is as a whole, and shows the amount of thought that has gone into the story. It’s not too dissimilar to how Jungian psychology has influenced the Persona series. It is really enjoyable to read, with plenty of twists and turns along the way meaning it’s hard to predict what comes next. There aren’t as many action scenes as I originally thought there would be, however this is balanced out by the tension that is present throughout the whole story. There is a lot more to this title than the synopsis suggests, and that’s a very good thing. It’s not without its flaws, however.
This is for the most part a kinetic novel with only one set of choices following a long common route, and only once you follow all three of those routes do you unlock a fourth route that you can access from the same point. It is this route which is the game’s true ending. All of the available routes were very interesting, especially as they differed in the events that happened, including telling them from the perspective of a different character. Unfortunately, they also vary in quality as well. One of the endings I felt was unfinished, as it ends on a cliffhanger and the following events are never elaborated on. It’s difficult to explain without going into major spoilers, but you’ll know which ending I am referring to if you play the game. That ending was a bit disappointing unfortunately, which is a shame as the other endings were well done. The true ending was definitely the strongest ending of the bunch, so it’s worth experiencing all the other endings, especially with the revelations that are revealed in this final route. That said, one of the other endings really deserves credit for adopting a very disturbing take on the world that became one of the most memorable parts of the game for me.
On a more technical level, I only ran into one technical problem throughout my entire playthrough, and that was when a CG moved too far to the left, meaning there was a bright green gap between the CG and the window. There is no custom size option, only a fixed window size and a fullscreen option. I didn’t mind the absence of this personally, as the size of the window was more than enough to experience Pygmalion in all its glory. The localisation quality of the text was very well done, with no noticeable spelling errors, which is impressive. The art is really nice and well-drawn, with the vibrant colours really adding a sense of depth to the characters being portrayed. There is also a good range of verbal expressions on each of the characters, and this is further enhanced by the CGs, which are the highlight of the game visually. That said, a few of the game’s CGs were recycled heavily during the action segments, which did detract from the experience as it would have been nice to have one or two extra poses for the characters as they draw and use their weapons. Furthermore, I do feel a few more of the minor characters could have had character portraits drawn out for them, namely the rest of the girls in Mina’s and Makoto’s friend group, and Mina’s mum.
I also really liked the soundtrack which was composed by TOMOKI x. There was a large variety of tunes among the 26 tracks, from vibrant daytime themes to the intense action themes, which were easily the highlight of the title with the guitar waves making them stand out. When you clear the game once, you can listen to the soundtrack as well as look at all the CGs in an added Extras menu, which is a nice touch. On a related note, Pygmalion did get a soundtrack release a few years ago exclusively for sale at Comiket 84, (It will be hard to track down if you want to import it.) so I’d wager that there are plenty of fans of this game’s OST in Japan.
Finally, The Shadows of Pygmalion is not the longest VN in the world to play through. It took me just under 16 hours to unlock all four endings, and this includes my fast reading speed, so it may take slower readers longer. From what MangaGamer says there are a few additional character development scenes that appear in the main story if you replay the game again, however this was not done for the purposes of this review. The price tag of £26.99 ($34.99) is an appropriate price for a full length VN of this kind if we’re going purely on text, however people may feel that this may not be justifiable with regards to length, and that’s understandable. Personally, I would say if this game interests you in the slightest that it’s worth a play, especially if you want to look at the game from a philosophical angle. If you want to see a Japanese take on Greek philosophy as well as some deep worldbuilding and action, this is the game for you. This game was on my radar for a long time, and I’m glad that it delivered.
Review copy supplied by publisher