The Reject Demon: Toko - Episode Zero (PC)

Since I've started writing about games more often again, I've started diving my toe into the vast ocean that is the western visual novel scene, a place flooded with sub-par titty games and messy experiments (much like the entirety of Hanako Games' catalog, the experiments, I mean). One of the more promising groups I've come across, however, is Lupiesoft, a very small studio that just released a full VN in both clean and adult versions on Steam and through MangaGamer's store called The Stargazers. I have yet to try it myself, but I can attest that they have another series worth watching in the coming year. That series is The Reject Demon: Toko, a pretty, pure on visual novel being released in episodic format, with the second episode planned for release in 2017.

The first release, Episode Zero, is all set up, but has a lot of promise for things to come. The series follows a demon named Toko, who is absolutely terrible at her job of devouring the souls of dead humans. She has not managed a single reaping, and has been sent to Earth to live as a human as punishment. While up there, though, she meets a college student named Nadia, whom is the source of her inability to take souls due to a childhood event between the two, and falls in love with her. It's not long before the two realize that demons, angels, and even witches all have their own plans for them, threatening whatever life they could lead together.

The group's artist, Taosym, has a really angular and kinetic art style that lends a lot of life to the characters and originally drew me to the game. Their characters have odd proportions and a good few different body types, which is wildly refreshing in a development scene filled with generic anime girls. Some designs are so odd that they occasionally look like they came from different games, like a brickhouse of an angel in a suit Toko fights later in the episode that would look right at home during a Skullgirls fight. I especially like Nadia's design, partly because there's this weird avoidance of chubby girls in most visual novels I see, and also partly because of her constantly closed eyes that give her more amusing expressions. The use of little chibi drawings for some scenes is also a cute way to portray smaller moments, while the backgrounds look pretty fantastic the entire game. The only major art failing is a lack of diversity in character portraits, which is a tad distracting at points. The score makes up for that a bit, with some sweet electric guitar licks in the main battle theme. While a few pieces loop poorly, the pieces themselves are all great stuff.

While this first episode has a lot of exposition to get out of the way, the game knows to at least include some events in between that to keep the pace from feeling like a slog. It's structured in an odd way, though. This first episode feels like three episodes strung together and condensed a little for the sake of time. Toko and Nadia reunite in the human world, Toko has to fight her sister Nevan, and Toko and the gang have to deal with two angels holding a pop concert. This allows for events to occur between explanations of the lore pretty regularly, but this also results in the game lacking room to breathe and let the characters have some needed little moments. This is still managed in a few spots, like a nice exchange between Toko and another demon named Ginxhou, but a few lines could have easily fixed the rushed relationship between Nadia and Toko. The two fall for each other very quickly, and a later reveal that Nadia remembers Toko completely sort of tosses out the read that she just picked up Toko at random and things grew from there. The episode is so focused on getting things going that it leaves out establishing moments here and there for the two.

But despite that, the episode works on the whole. Nadia and Toko make a great pair together, and a lot of time is spent on the two just hangout out. Their relationship is great, despite a lacking of a satisfying starting point, and their personalities bounce off each other with some great lines. You buy that the two have become so close to each other, and their personalities gel with the rest of the cast almost perfectly. Nadia is a really refreshing main character, because while she does raise concern over many dangerous events occurring, she also roles with all the magical insanity without a second thought. My favorite moment is easily at episode's end, where she's offered witch training and takes it up without an argument because she wants to have a pet unicorn. While this episode has a pretty normal fighter and damsel dynamic with the two, future episodes are set up to subvert that and have the two fight on more even footing.

Plenty of different interesting plot lines are set up with efficiency, and the main cast all come off as endearing and interesting. Episode Zero has some flaws that hold it back from being a fantastic start, but all the ingredients for a fun and engaging story are there, and a lot of hints are thrown out that those ingredients aren't going to be ignored. This first episode is only five bucks, and I highly recommend it to see if you'll be interested in future episodes. I think Toko has a lot of promise for such a small studio production, and I want to see it succeed.


Popular Posts