By William Haderlie / November 1st, 2019
|Release Date||September 19, 2019|
|Genre||Eroge, Turn Based Strategy Simulation|
|Age Rating||Adults Only|
Sengoku Rance is an Adult Visual Novel Turn Based Strategy Simulation game that is 18+ and for Adults Only. The review is potentially NSFW, but steps are taken to minimize that risk. However, all official links are most definitely NSFW and are 18+. Sengoku Rance, like any other titles in the series, has content for a niche audience and features many instances of non-compliance (rape), monster on human sex, and sex featuring characters of questionable age range. As such, even if this title is more game-like than most entries, caution is advised for those who are easily offended by such circumstances, even when fictionally represented. As in any other Rance title, the debatable moral implications do not factor into my review or the score, other than the initial content advisory.
It was not without some trepidation that I approached the review for Sengoku Rance. The most prominent reason for hesitation was due to Rance 5D, which was the first game in the series I ever played. Much like Sengoku Rance, Rance 5D is a main entry in the series that feels like a side entry due to both story and gameplay element decisions. As a result, I was not a huge fan of that game and entered into Rance VI -Collapse of Zeth- with a bit of a sour taste. But Rance VI totally turned me around on the series and easily makes my top 10 Eroge of all time. So I definitely enjoyed the main series entry, but not the seeming side project. The other reason I was a bit apprehensive is that Sengoku Rance (also infrequently known as Rance VII, or Warring-States Rance) was actually the title that made the series popular in the West, due to a widely distributed fan translation. It was so widely distributed because it came out in 2006, when file sharing really started to pick up, and because of the more gameplay focused elements. Also, as I mentioned in the content advisory, the Rance series has an appeal towards a largely untapped demographic of sexual tastes. So this is already a rather beloved game to many, and it is getting its first official translation.
You need not worry about having any previous knowledge of the series in order to fully appreciate the story in Sengoku Rance. They take a hard turn from Rance VI and never look back. In fact, there are even fewer characters from the previous games that enter into this title than before. It’s best just to take this as a entirely independent game from the previous series, although a major event happens towards the end that changes the rest of the games until the end of the series. So it could also be considered the major turning point, story wise, but not in gameplay style. That being said, Rance himself, and his slave-girl Sill, are largely unchanged. Rance is still brash and headstrong and doesn’t know the meaning of the word “No”, whether it comes to any of his desires, sexual included. Sill remains his unwavering support and often the true power behind the ego. She is a very powerful mage, and that is true no matter what region they enter. While she likes to complain, it’s fairly obvious that she’s not just with Rance due to unfounded affection, she has quite the masochistic side to her. It’s more than likely that she stays with him because he behaves like Rance, not in spite of his particular quirks.
The remaining characters and locations in Sengoku Rance will ring a lot of bells to anyone who has read anything about this tumultuous period of Japanese history. The Sengoku, or Warring-States, period of Japan happened around 1467-1600 CE, and a great many examples of literature and entertainment have been crafted around it. That being said, this game takes a great many liberties with the material, even more than other games in the period often do. This should be viewed as a comedic representation first, not as historical narrative. The other games in the series don’t even take place in real countries, so this is truly an outlier. That being said, if you do recognize it as merely a riff on history, it can be fun to suss out the references and subtle details that you may otherwise miss. Honestly, that aspect of Sengoku Rance ended up being my favorite part of the whole game, which is why I take the time to mention it here. It’s not going to get you a quality grade if you wrote a history paper featuring these events, but it might be entertaining enough for you to seek out some more serious texts on the matter.
Largely due to the style of gameplay, the story of Sengoku Rance is a minor weak point. It’s not that it’s bad, just merely serviceable. A lot of this is due to how random events can occur, or due to how many options you have that drastically affect the story or characters. That being said, there could have still been more they could have done with the story itself, even if it would have been difficult stylistically. But where it does shine is in the characters themselves. There are a few enemies and male allies that are very interesting, but as you would expect with an Eroge, most of the really amazing characters are women. Alicesoft is most famous for their character designs, and that remains true here. It can still be said without any reservation that they employ some of the best artists in the industry for their characters. Honestly I hope that a lot more of these characters pass on into the next title than happened between Rance VI and Sengoku Rance. And with the major event that happens in the end of this game, Rance could definitely use some allies.
The screen you see above is where you will be spending most of your time in Sengoku Rance. So if that puts you off of the game, you might want to reconsider getting it. This is most definitely a Turn Based Strategy Simulation game, and it’s even a bit hardcore about that genre. Not only are there a great many options to choose from each turn, to the extent that two Actions per turn never feels like enough, but it’s quite easy to get yourself into a fail state. My largest advice for making it through the simulation portion of the game if you aren’t into that style of game is to maintain many different saves and try to keep track of which one you want. Because of random events, or some bad strategy, you can get yourself into loads of trouble. This is not the first Strategy Simulation game I’ve played, this isn’t even my first Sengoku period game of that style, but I wouldn’t exactly call myself a fan. I do think that Sengoku Rance does the gameplay portion well, within the genre style, so your mileage will vary drastically. It’s a very niche style of game as compared to the straight up dungeon crawler JRPG featured in Rance VI.
Army versus army battles are pretty straightforward, featuring up to 6 Battalions facing each other. You can have either major characters leading a Battalion, or minor side characters. Either way, the more you use them successfully, and the more time you invest in them with general turn Actions, the more powerful they will become. Each Battalion has a class type based on the leader (for example, Warrior or Archer). There is some diversity and strategy there, but not nearly as much as goes into choosing how to spend your two actions per turn in Sengoku Rance. That is the real killer, no matter how good your army gets. Because each Leader can only do one action per turn, you can run out of actionable troops very easily. You can gain new troop Leaders from story events or with Negotiation (particularly with Prisoners), but I never felt like I had so many that I was impregnable. This could be seen as an advantage in the game for those who are looking for a challenge within the genre, but it could also be seen as an impediment if you are just in the game to see the end of the story and unlock as many CG scenes as possible (over 100).
It can be quite a bit more difficult to unlock all the various scenes in the game than it is in other Eroge titles. This does encourage replay, which isn’t a bad thing, unless this type of Strategy game isn’t for you. However, it can get a little frustrating at times in Sengoku Rance. One reason for this is that there are circumstances that will put you in a fail state without your control. I’ll give an early example that doesn’t spoil anything. I declared war on one small nation and after ending my turn another small nation declared war on me. It wasn’t due to my action, it was a random event. I figured it wasn’t too bad because they were two small nations. The problem came when I attacked the nation that I first declared war on and they had a counterattack featuring a never ending army of panda bears. I ended up using all my troops trying to fend off the furry fiends and ended up still losing that territory that I gained by attacking. Not only that, but the other country that declared war on me before also attacked me and I ended up losing territory near my capital because I literally had zero troops left to defend (as I said, limited by one troop action per turn). I’m not too put off by a nation randomly declaring war on me, but the never ending onslaught of Pandas was a mechanic that I’m not fond of when everything else about Sengoku Rance stresses that your actions have reasonable consequences. That wasn’t the only example, but it was the earliest one in my playthrough.
There was one other issue with the game, and that’s how old and clunky the menu system feels. The save screen above is a particularly egregious example of this, you have to drag the book of your Save over to the Load Window or the Delete in order to manipulate it at all. This is something that you have to do often enough, even if you don’t Save Scum, that it gets pretty tedious. But all the menus in Sengoku Rance feel like they were from an older generation of computer games. That being said, everything was translated very well and I have little doubt that this is superior to the very old fan translation, but I haven’t experienced that version for myself. The music isn’t super memorable, but it is as fitting to the time period represented in the game as you would hope. If anything, I’d have to say that it might even be a bit better than old Sengoku Strategy games that I’ve played in the past. Still, in every way, I would have to put the overall presentation of Sengoku Rance somewhere between Rance 5D and Rance VI.
Overall Sengoku Rance is not at all a bad game, there is just simply no denying that it is not really to my tastes. As I’ve said in many previous reviews, the more randomness there is in a game, the less I’m going to like it. And Strategy Simulation games are pretty low on my favorite genre list. I’m not going to ding it too hard in the score territory for simply being in a genre I’m not that fond of, but there is still a limit to how much I can enjoy such a game. But if you are into that style of game, I can heartily recommend this title. Just don’t do so if you are just in it for the sex. The Eroge scenes are short enough that I suspect you would feel your money wasted. At $34.95, it is a little pricey for an Eroge if you are not into the Strategy elements. But if you are into those elements, that price would be a steal for how much replay you will get out of this title. I spent over 30 hours playing it and I haven’t even unlocked half of the CG scenes. It was worth me playing as a fan of the series because the next title will be no doubt influenced by the events here, but Sengoku Rance is not going to threaten Rance VI as my favorite of the series thus far.
Review Copy Provided By The Publisher
18+AlicesofterogeMangaGamerPCRance VIISengoku RancesimulationstrategyTurn Basedvisual novel