Atonement Rhapsody – Sin & Pain – Get Set

January 27th, 2015

It’s best for the sanity to not try to understand the game’s Engrish.

I wrote a little bit about PA and its fan disk back when the anime non-adaptation was airing, but since I need something to fill some days, the project still remains dead for lack of functional tools, and I’m older and wiser these days, now’s a good a time as ever for a writeup with a little more meat on its bones.

The story begins some years after Prism Heart, a dating sim worthy of no note whatsoever, with Meister and Princea, rulers of Germany Windland en route to their castle with their newborn infant daughter. They’re attacked by the Ottoman Sablum Empire, and due to their use of a newly discovered giant robot mech thingy, an Angel, go missing. Fast forward about 15 years. The king, queen, and princess are still missing, and the war’s still going on. Hyaweh, a hick in the middle of nowhere, has been accepted at a prestigious academy to become a knight. The school’s run by the acting regent of Windland who has donated his castle to the cause, and it’s an open secret that the lost princess is somewhere there.

There’s all the standards to be found in the heroine department: Priecia, a standoffish noble girl with a striking resemblance to the lost queen, Kagura, a taciturn archer from a far off land, Fel, a nosy mage always getting into trouble, Litte, a magic teacher who looks and acts like a little kid, Karin, an unyielding and eccentric martial instructor with no sense of direction, Sister Hell, a nun fighting on Sablum’s side, and Filia, your clingy maid sister. There’s also some amnesiatic speargirl with a balcony you could do Shakespeare off of in the PS2 version, but hell if I know about that. Together, they all get up to shenanigans while training to become soldiers to protect Windland.


It’s not winning any points for originality, that’s for sure, and the whole thing is pretty deeply marinated in a lot of different cliches.To be fair, this was 2006. Magical kids going to magical school was only very cliche back then. You used to be able to swing a dead cat and only hit three or four instead of a mountain of them being what crushed the cat into a pancake in the first place. It does actually balance the shenanigans with the heavier stuff, helped largely by the war and/or assassination attempts intruding on events constantly, so unlike its contemporary LN brethren, the war and central plot never gets pushed to the side for very long.

That said, its biggest strength does lie in the characters. Well, most of them. Your own avatar, Hyaweh, is a schmuck for most of the game. He has his moments very late, but really, the less said about him the better. The game’s structured basically identically to Galaxy Angel where every character gets their own chapter in the first part followed by asking one you have enough points with from the bazillion choices out to a ball before events focus on the chosen heroine in the later going… sort of, but I’ll get to that. The early chapters remember to have both something actually going on of at least marginal import to develop that character while also introducing quite a bit of foreshadowing for their actual routes later, and the characters along with their relationships between each other do grow and change. Priecia, for example, doesn’t even make it through the second chapter before getting slapped for being a stuck up bitch putting herself and everyone around her in danger, and the introduction of Karin soon after changes the dynamic between her and most of the other characters further (Karin being a newfound common ‘enemy’).


At the same time, all the side characters have their own arcs, with foreshadowing long before they’re addressed doled out along the way and later understanding/resolution so it’s not simply spat out from nowhere and then forgotten again. Unfortunately, it’s mostly in the form of narrated flashbacks, and veer heavily toward excessive angst, but it does fit generally with the constant-war setting and more importantly, none of them wallow in it. In fact (minor spoiler warning), the angstiest character of the lot ends up being the butt end of a joke for being so melodramatic when his tragic backstory is revealed to be missing a crucial detail. What’s important is that they’re actually characters in the story instead of just props for a bad joke here and there or info dumps. They even have their own ‘intermission’ chapter dedicated to their team when Hyaweh tags along for an adventure.

Slick presentation makes a huge deal here too. Not unusually, each chapter is structured as if it was an anime episode, with semi-unique OP segments presented by the chapter’s character, title card, and next chapter preview. Above and beyond that, nearly everything has at least some degree of animation. It’s often not much individually, but characters blinking, hair antennas angrily twitching, elf ears excitedly wriggling, windmills in the background turning, etc all gives it a little bit of life that most VNs badly lack during their extended faffing phases that all by law must go through. Even the CGs show the same flair. The comical ones are typically animated in a Paper Mario-esque way, and while the artistic direction in the more serious ones is typically limited to pans and zooms, at least it’s some artistic direction in a medium where the norm is slapping up an image and calling it a day. All of the different kinds of Angels have their own unique animated (well, CGI) intro scene as well. There’s a lot more small things it does on the spot and may never do again. I posted a bunch of examples way back when that really help make the humor and drama work effectively but would be (will be?) nightmares to localize/translate.


The big problem with the game comes in the last third once you’re on the routes. Everyone gets a couple unique chapters all their own, but the core thrust of the story just goes to utter hell. I strongly suspect they ran out of time and had to work everyone into a single main plot thread because what’s left is sort of an amalgamation of Priecia’s start, Fel’s middle, and Filia’s end with focus on the chosen heroine awkwardly crowbarred in at random spots. Fel comes out of it the strongest since she has at least a tenuous connection to the key events the whole way through (and is generally just much more developed, probably a staff favorite), and Sister Hell is generally involved with events anyway, so she doesn’t suffer too much (and is helped by some strong supporting characters in her route), but the rest more or less get the shaft, literally and metaphorically. Priecia’s is especially disappointing since it starts with some excellent scenes and reveals about her, and then all but punts her to the side for the rest of it. It also doesn’t help that there are these weird time skips and twists pulled out of someone’s ass one after another. It’s both obviously rushed and filled with an almost desperate need to turn what’s been a character-driven game into a grand epic at the last minute. It’s just… a mess.

Which also leads to an exacerbating problem. The game is long as balls. While a bazillion choices and seven heroines sounds good on paper (more length = good, right?), the gameplay is nowhere near strong enough to support that kind of replay, and going through the same awful endgame events becomes a slog very quickly. Karin and Litte also stand out like sore thumbs in the cast, being almost entirely gag characters the whole way, even in the early chapters dedicated to them. Litte especially is a completely one note character; an adult teacher who looks like a little girl and has a complex about it, because that was only done mostly to death back in 2006. Karin has a little more depth (and a few more gags) than that, but her personality and interactions with Hyaweh are almost identical to Priecia’s and her events/backstory are tied up with Sister Hell’s, who’s simply a much more interesting and developed character… despite ironically being the obligatory yamashito nadeshiko of the lot.


As I mentioned, the gameplay’s not great. Every chapter or so, you’re dumped onto a map with about 3-10 squares to go through and a boss at the end of it. Each square has a traditional RPG battle; pick your attacks, enemy picks there, wait and watch for the results before doing it again until one side is dead. The sole twist are the Prisms. As you go through the game, you’re given Prisms for making certain choices, going through certain events, winning certain battles, etc. Each Prism corresponds to some kind of combat ability, either passive or an active skill. Basic attacks, spells, items, armor, etc, are all represented by Prisms to be equipped.

Unfortunately, everyone’s Prism setups are determined by the plot except for Hyaweh’s, so there’s really not much customizing you can do. There are a metric buttload of Prisms for him, and a few extra little twists, like combination attacks with party members (generally given by Prisms unique to their routes), but the game’s just not that hard or really deep enough for it to be interesting. Hell, despite doing the obligatory elements, I’m not even sure if elemental weaknesses are a thing. I suspect not since there’s not a whole ton of variety in the enemies either. Training dummies, ninjas, soldiers, Angels, and… other characters is about the sum of it. The whole thing would be much better as a puzzle-type game with limited Prisms and needing to use them in certain ways (which is actually what they did in the main fandisk), but as it stands, the gameplay is more endured than enjoyed, especially when you take the long load times into account.


It’s far from a perfect game, and most of the routes would be vastly improved if they just stopped about 5 hours from their eventual end, but it does a great job through most of it with the characters and balancing both humor and drama, and despite being almost a decade old, the presentation is still far better than the vast majority of VNs coming out today. Unfortunately, the last third lets the rest of the game down and both length and an underwhelming battle engine make replay a pain. If you like fantasy/RPGs, it’s well worth it for Fel and Sister Hell’s routes (and the start of Priecia’s), but it’ll quickly become a chore after that. 

Sure would be nice if there were working tools for it!

Posted in Prism Ark | 13 Comments »

13 Shouts From the Peanut Gallery

  • SlashZero says:

    I loved this game when I first played it. But, by the time I got through my last playthrough I was pretty ready to be done with it though, more or less for the reasons stated above.

    Do you know the exact engine the game is running on? I still know where to find a few hacking/tools guys that may or may not be able to help you.

    • Aroduc says:

      I don’t, but it’s the same engine and general script format that Princess Witches and I’m 99% certain Twinkle Crusaders use. Battle/Gameplay data is structured completely differently from script, but it’s much simpler and I don’t believe would be a problem if the scripting issues were solved. Not that that helps overly much since I don’t believe there are functional tools for them either, but that does widen the net a little bit.

      • SlashZero says:

        Well, I don’t know anyone who has experience with those games, but I do know the guy who basically remade Eustia’s script tools in a non-retarded way (compared to the old tools). Technically he might be able to do Prism Ark, but I kind of doubt he’ll be interested in this game… I’ll see what he says.

        Speaking of Eustia’s tools, that game is completely hacked and 98% images edited. It just needs a translation team and my terrible placeholder text image translations reedited. I know I asked you a while ago, but…are you sure you don’t want to give it a go?

        • Aroduc says:

          My plate is full to overflowing already. One finished game, one 99% done sans some gallery interface image stuff I really don’t want to do myself, PA, and one I’ve been working on for the last couple months. I have no shortage of things to do.

  • Anon says:

    What the fuck is Sister Hell’s weapon?

    H-how can someone hold that thing?

  • Sanjuro says:

    That long green braids person with the glasses is a girl right? I’m not gay am I?

    • Aroduc says:

      That would be Ein, the emo mage with too much power to be around other people.

      He has a penis.

  • JCA says:

    If you must have something to do to torture yourself, I hear Yuuki Yuuna has a VN side story that just got translated. You might give that a read.

    • Aroduc says:

      I had less than zero interest in touching some half-assed DVD extra before. Why would I be interested in it now?

  • Yue says:
    This weapon is impractical in real life. If you swing it vertically, you either stab your spine or your crotch. Horizontally or diagonal, you slash your ribs or thighs.

    • Apathy says:

      If you see someone using such an impractical weapon easily with their limbs complete…well…

      • Yue says:

        I wouldn’t want to see someone likely to sever their neck just to make that weapon stance.

        It’s a like FF8’s gunblade, everytime you hit R1 button, it triggers an explosion potentially blowing Squall’s arms off.

        How about the lightsaber with an energy crossguard? Really impractical.