Room 801: No, Thank You! (Demo)
BL is not a genre restricted to manga and anime. Today, in Room 801, it's something of a first; this time, we're looking at a game. Well, a demo of a game. It’s something of a first for Dutch publisher MangaGamer too; up until now, they’ve largely been a producer of eroge gamers, and thus, their visual novel No Thank You! marks their first foray into BL.
Before we go any further, two points. One, this game IS an 18+ -whilst the demo contains only one scene that’s particularly NSFW per route as an added extra, it’s still NSFW. Two, this is a demo, and thus a product that’s still in development. Still, what I’ve seen is promising.
Plot-convenient amnesia! We meet again! In the shape of our protagonist, (who names himself Haru, mostly because he can't remember his real name.). After rescuing the owner of a bar from being run over, Haru loses his memory in the accident. After a colourful, and extremely well animated title sequence, the bar owner, taking pity on his rescuer, not only employs our protagonist in his bar, but also finds him a flat to live in. The demo prooper begins with our protagonist heading to the bar, and is introduced to the rest of the cast, and their quirks, as well as explaining his amnesia. One of my biggest issues (and I have very few issues with this game), is the characterization of Haru. At times, he seems oddly flippant, notably referring to his co-workers by wrong names, their notable personality traits, giving himself silly names, and yet, at other times, he’s capable of being serious. Whether this is due to the amnesia (and the convenient lack of information about our protagonist), or is his personality in general isn’t established. I didn’t find Haru annoying, merely a little wearing at times.
The game quickly introduces the other characters/love interests, before kicking up a notch, and introducing slimeball journalist Tatsuya Tojo, his shady dealings with the boss of the bar, and the possibility of a concerted effort to attack bar staff. One scuffle with hired goons, during which the bar’s owner (Inui) kicks seven kinds of ass, it’s revealed the bar’s staff also moonlight (well, since the bar is open during the night…daylight) as aides to Inui’s detective agency. Cue de-tensing ass grope, which, seriously, has to be seen to be believed, and the beginning of one of four routes, picked by whoever is your chosen gropee. A little of their respective routes follows, before we're rewarded (if you choose to see it that way) with an amusingly NSFW bonus scene for each character. All I will say regarding these scenes is that...MangaGamer, with this smut, you are spoiling us.
Does "No Thank You" have its flaws? Without a doubt. Up until Tatsuya rocks up, and the game gets really exciting, it's slow moving, and occasionally a little dull.Scene-setting, and character development at the beginning of the game are important, but that’s pretty much ALL we get in this demo. Two and a bit hours of “Average first shift of a Japanese bar staff member" is only somewhat interesting, and No Thank You does well to keep us entertained, but it occasionally stumbles, or slows a little. My biggest issue, to be honest, aside from Haru’s personality, and the occasional ghosting of limbs, is the slightly confused pre-credits scene with Haru. Whilst it’s a nice touch that we don’t actually see our protagonist till the OP of the game, it’s also a tiny bit clumsy in execution, mostly in the writing.
However, if these flaws are the only ones in a 20+ hour game, then this is going to be an interesting game, one that moves outside the typical perimeters of the genre, dares to try something different, both with its protagonist and its love interests, is damned nice to look at, and one that’s definitely worth buying.