Game: Raimu-Iro Senkitan
The title literally means "Lime-colored War Story". Though I could simply say that it indeed does live up to its title, it is better that I explain the game as a whole in order for you to get the picture.
The game is set in the early 20th Century, in the midst of the Russo-Japanese War. In order to gain the advantage over the Russians, Japan has employed a team that is assigned to the battleship Amanohara. This team (of obvious spiritualists) happens to be composed of teenage girls who can manifest their spirit powers into beings known as "Raimus", which they can control and use to attack their enemies. Enter one Umakai Shintarou, the main character and avatar of the player. Shintarou has been brought in not as a commander, or captain, or advisor, but merely as a teacher for these girls. Little does he know that things become very complicated very fast, and that he will face not only the challenges that his charges will face in combat, but also unresolved pieces from his past.
Before you say anything, let me say that the writer for RaimuIro happened to be amongst the team of writers that put together Sakura Taisen. This would explain why it seems to have the same structure as ST. Raimu, however, plays off an overly nationalistic storyline in addition to a lot of yaru elements. Sakura Taisen played off the former, but could never use the latter because of its limitations as a console game.
Following the old ST formula, Raimu's heroines are built on themes. First we have Sanada Momen. In my friend's words, Momen is the "brain-dead moron" of the group, in that she possesses little common sense. She does things to be nice, but her clumsiness always seems to backfire. Momen's angle is that Shintarou reminds her of an older brother she once had, and tends to call him "onii-chan" rather than "sensei".
Next we have Honda Sarasa. Sarasa claims to come from a wealthy family that has countless treasures and relics. Sadly, most of the treasures in her possession are cheap immitations. Despite being built around the "rich girl" stereotype, Sarasa is much more accepting of others, and is notably cheerful. Sarasa, of course, also plays off the angle of someone who is looking to find the meaning of friendship and commaraderie.
Fukushima Kinu comes in as third. Kinu has a very annoying voice, but aside from that is a shinto priestess that focuses on cursing people. Her unhealthy involvement with voodoo dolls doesn't help much, either. Kinu has issues when it comes to dealing with people, since anything that can ressemble harsh words will set her off crying. This is only aggravated by the fact that her best friend constantly speaks to her in harsh tones.
Said best friend happens to be Katou Asa. Asa was born to a military family, and as such is very stuck to the idea of following what she conciders to be a soldier's code of conduct. Because of this, she seems to be initially dissapointed in Shintarou upon meeting him. At the beginning of her story, Asa idolizes her commanding officer, Lieutenant Date Masanosuke.
Lastly, we have Kuroda Rinzu. To complete the set, Rinzu is designed around two things: extreme traditional appearance (she's the only girl in the game that wears a full kimono everywhere she goes) and the hard-to-explain oningyo (doll) fetish. Out of battle, Rinzu will seem dainty and mindful of her manners. She is not particularly close to anyone, and is very quiet. Despite this, Rinzu can be described in one simple word: lonely.
The story is divided into episodes. While episode 1 is focused on introductions, episodes 2 and beyond focus on a specific girl, rotating through the five lead heroines until the cast has developed enough to segue into the final battle against the bad guys. Of course, this has an interesting twist. Most games of this vein allow you to view the whole storyline no matter how much one may ignore one or more girls. Raimu doesn't forgive you for that, so what happens is that if Shintarou did not pay enough attention to a girl and her episode was up next, the game will skip that episode entirely. If he ignored several girls, the game will skip episodes until you get back to a main storyline episode. This means you could viably see episodes one and two, then jump to episode nine and follow through to the end.
There are a couple of things that affect progression in the game. First comes the character interations. There will be a block or two of time in each episode where Shintarou can wonder around the Amanohara and talk/visit different characters. Second comes the teacher's planbook. Because Shintarou is a teacher, in each episode the player gets to decide what he will teach the girls. Teaching certain subjects will earn points with a particular girl, but the player must be mindful that Shintarou will lose points with certain girls who don't like a especific subject matter. Lastly comes battle performance. Because Shintarou is acting as commander of the Lime Squad, his decisions and orders during combat are reflected at the end of battle in a sort of evaluation.
Because of the formula it is built upon, Raimu utilizes a battle engine in each episode. Rather than have a grid map where units can be moved upon, Raimu's battle system is built around the idea of protecting the ship Amanohara. The player can station a Raimu in one of the six spaces surrounding the ship to intercept incoming enemies. To make battles more challenging, each Raimu is aligned on an element (fire, water, earth, wind and metal), and can only effectiely defeat an enemy aligned with an element the Raimu is strong against. Battle performance is determined by how many turns it took to successfully defend the Amanohara as well as how much damage the ship took during the battle.
Soundwise, the game is very impressive. It's entire soundtrack is very well-composed (despite being synthesized). Aside from that, the voice cast chosen for this game was quite impressive. They even got Hiyama Nobuyuki (Link, Shishio Gai, Madarame) to do the narration and voice Date Masanosuke.
The game packs a decent amount of FMVs, mostly used in the middle of an episode to help progress the plot. Though they are not ridiculously high-quality, they serve their purpose without fail.
Overall, Raimu in a trully interesting title that presents a fun story with some comedy thrown in. The player must be mindful that it is not historically accurate and that there are yaru scenes all over the place. So long as not much mind is paid to the "teacher sleeping with his students" bit, it should be fine. Anyway, that's me two cents on the matter.
"So this one time, at the Amanohara School for Girls..."