The smartphone game app — based on the original sound theater work (dramatic stage reading) by playwright and theater director Bun-O Fujisawa — was launched on May 20th. Part of this exciting franchise are manga and anime adaptations that were released in November 2019 and April 2021, respectively, and a rock musical slated for next month.
The game follows the story of newly-minted vampire YATSUFUSA YUKI and his adventures with the Code Zero (aka Organization Zero) team as they deal with threats to both human and vampire-kind during the Taisho Era in Japan.
The Code Zero Team
‘Zero’ is a special military unit that ‘manages’ the vampire population in Japan — helping peaceful ‘vamps’ co-exist with humans and eliminating those who prove to be a menace to society.
YATSUFUSA YUKI – The unwilling, teenaged protagonist (and stubbornly-resistant new ‘vamp’) who becomes an honorary Code Zero team member — in spite of his highly-emo, almost-slacker self
SHUTARO KURUSU – Japan’s lone Class-A vampire — peace-loving and with a heart that remains untainted by the inherent darkness and violence that haunts those of his kind
YOSHINOBU MAEDA – Code Zero’s strong and unflappable human captain
TOKUICHI YAMAGAMI – Being an un-ranked vampire has made him prickly being treated as the group’s resident runt, though he is one of those who remain the most human
TAKEUCHI – This ‘mad scientist’ is Zero’s R&D Guy (as ‘Q’ is to ‘Bond’, if you will) who embraces everything about being a vampire
SUWA – A 300 (plus!)-year-old vamp who’s as crude as he is skilled in fighting and (surprisingly!) appreciative of the finer things in life
DEFROTT – The world’s oldest and highest-ranking vampire (Class S) with whom Code Zero have an uneasy association
SHINNOSUKE TENMANYA – Human owner of the employment agency Tenman-ya — catering to regular people during the day, and their blood-thirsty neighbors at night — who detests his own kind
ISHIKAWA – The wise, elderly Tenman-ya manager who is also an un-ranked vampire with surprising abilities
I LOVE the game’s premise and lore. It’s mostly standard vampire fare, but with additional details such as — when vampires started to appear in Japan and how these ‘monsters’ lived through the centuries in that particular cultural context — which make the story and the characters unique to the game and its franchise. There is a lot of misunderstanding and resentment between humans and vampires, as well as within each group, which help create a lot of the tension and conflict that shape the characters and push the story forward. And as I’m a huge fan of the Taisho Era, having an entire game with this aesthetic — from visuals (including character design) to music was like a gift to my senses. I’m pretty big on all things military, as well; I especially loved the Zero uniform and Suwa‘s double blades (even though I have yet to see them in action) *weeps*.
There’s also an interesting variety of characters — even among the Zero members themselves — sufficiently different personalities and temperaments, as well as a wide range of ages, that (potentially!) make for both colorful and insightful interactions. The choice of VA for the different characters was excellent — particularly that of Yuichi Nakamura (of Fairy Tail and One Punch Man fame, among countless others) as Yatsufusa (which made up for the character’s less-than-stellar first impression on me *oops*), and singer and seiyuu Kenichi Suzumura as Suwa (but then again, Suwa is my game bias *hehe*… and it really sounds like he’s wearing a gas mask in-game!). It’s unfortunate that only chapter intros feature full-length VA; the rest of the game has only snippets of voice. Meanwhile, collections of side stories and dialogue provide additional – often entertaining – glimpses into the characters and their individual stories outside of the main arc.
The adventure novel format — complete with investigation and interrogation modes — is very exciting and quite a good fit with the theme. In fact, the UI provided me with a smooth and pleasant gaming experience overall; including little features such as the ability to change the character and their dialogue on the home page, and the ability to make the menus disappear so that you can view the character and the background without impediment. And on a more practical note, I really, REALLY appreciated the various item bonuses gained from logging in and viewing ads — ON TOP OF free Story Tickets daily; even duplicate items from gacha are converted into coins you can use to purchase side stories! There is also a helpful tutorial for each section or aspect of the game.
While there’s a reason (more than one, to be fair) for him being the way he is, Yatsufusa is still annoying as fluff through the entire prologue and first chapter; even the other characters agreed. If you can hang on till Chapter 2, he will begin redeeming himself as he slowly comes into his own as a ‘creature of the night’. The opening chapters also read filler-y, with unnecessarily (IMO, at least) repetitive explanations of the lore, making things somewhat dragging. The characters themselves poke fun at this, the way they do with Yatsufusa‘s character. While this style of narration is similar to that of other adventure novel games like SEEC’s ESC-APE series and is perhaps (?) a carryover of its sound theater roots, I still think the game would have been a lot better off with faster pacing and tighter storytelling, particularly because of its theme and format (as a game).
The smattering of typos and grammar errors, as well as the absence of a clearly visible/intuitive Home or Rewind button, are minor technical details that also bothered me a little bit from time to time. It’s a pain for me to have to exit a game app completely in order to start a chapter/episode over because I missed several screens after accidentally pressing on or dropping my smartphone. (Apparently — read: accidental discovery — pressing the PAUSE button — from the menu/button on the upper left of the active story screen — while in the middle of an Episode will bring you back to the List of Stories, which basically accomplishes what I described in the previous sentence. Rather roundabout way; not very intuitive.)
Between the theme and the setting, as well as the adventure novel format, I should have been absolutely hyped while playing this game, but the pacing of the opening chapters and the presentation of the protagonist’s character in the beginning made it hard for me to fully get into it.
Still, the game does pick up somehow, and Yatsufusa improves himself and grows on you. I would highly recommend it for those who enjoy adventure/mystery novel games like (but not confined to) SEEC ESC-APE’s The Prison Boys and Tasokare Hotel, and those who enjoy vampire stories or the romantic Taisho Period of early 20th century Japan. I’m personally looking forward to finishing the game (and getting all the side stories) so that I can find out what happens to the characters, as well as getting a chance to watch the anime! (And maybe even hope for — dare I say it??? *haha* — an otome-type spinoff in the future?) 🌸