Game: Tokyo Blockade
Tokyo Blockade was developed by the softhouse known as C-Side, and released on October 20, 2006. The game is set in the Chiba prefecture (for those that don't know, Chiba is technically a suburb to the city ot Tokyo, much like Union City is a suburb to New York City). The player takes the role of Aoki Hidenori, a senior in high school that does his everyday thing in school while dating his childhood friend, Kaneda Haruka. Haruka lives and goes to school in Tokyo, so they only get to see each other on the weekends.
One could say things are fine with Hidenori, since he and Haruka plan to attend the same college and further their relationship for years to come. On the weekend where our story begins, he and Haruka have an argument that ends rather badly, since Haruka calls off the whole relationship before running home. Hidenori doesn't make a big deal about things, instead telling himself that he can make up with Haruka later. "Later" never comes, since that very evening the Japanese government declares a state of emergency in the city of Tokyo and barricades the city from the rest of Japan. This, in effect, leaves anyone who went outside the city for the day to visit or travel around stuck outside of their home city (which happens to be the case with Haruka's younger sister, Miku, who was over at Hidenori's house visiting). After a fruitless scuffle with members of the national guard (who enforce the new law barring anyone from entering Tokyo), our protagonist is left to wonder whether Haruka is alright, while feeling angry at himself for not doing things the right way with her.
Two years pass since that day, through which we find Hidenori has passed on the idea of going to college, instead working the front desk of a karaoke bar near his house. Though two years have passed, his mind still goes back to those days he spent with Haruka, but is enveloped in hopelessness at seeing that there are no signs of things changing. In these two years, Miku has gotten used to living in Hidenori's house, and Hidenori's friend, Akane, comes by to check on him between shifts (she is a member of the national guard). Despite feeling trapped in his everyday routine, the arrival of a woman named Naomi causes the winds to shift. Though he is totally unaware of it, there are plans in motion to not only break into Tokyo, but to reveal the truth of what has been kept in the city for these past two years.
Heroine: Kaneda Haruka
Haruka and Hidenori are contemporaries, and have grown up together. She has the habit of calling him "Hide-chan", though has recently been trying to break out of that in order to sound more adult-like. Despite being opinionated, Haruka is a very accommodating person, and likes Hidenori enough that she will put up with him from time to time. Of course, there have been a good number of times where Haruka has lost her temper, though willfully drops such subjects very quickly.
The straw that breaks the camel's back for Haruka is, incidentally, Hidenori's lack of desire for a truly committed relationship. Even during their dates, he treats her more like a good friend instead of like a girlfriend.
Haruka is treated as a bit of a phantom character, since most of the things we see about her are through flashbacks Hidenori has. This in effect has us look at Haruka through his eyes, and somewhat limits us to his perspective as far as she is concerned.
Heroine: Kaneda Miku
Miku is Haruka's younger sister. She starts out looking at our protagonist as an older brother, and as such doesn't hesitate to be playful with him. Of course, Miku eventually develops a bit of a crush on him, but keeps it to herself out of respect for her sister. For the most part, she acts like a representative of her sister, making sure that Hidenori remains faithful to her while waiting for the day when the blockade will come down.
Though her story starts off on a very innocent note, Miku becomes consumed by a desire to replace her sister when Haruka (via a radio communication) asks Hidenori to forget about her and tells Miku to take care of him from now on. This is mostly anger at Haruka for being selfish, especially after seeing all the pain Hidenori goes through while hoping to make things right. Thus, Miku indeed does all she can to make our protagonist forget about Haruka.
Though she is cheerful most of the time, Miku is very homesick and misses her parents and sister a lot. Still, she finds some comfort in having "Hide-nii" around.
Heroine: Shimamori Akane
Akane is a mutual friend of Haruka and Hidenori's. The three of them grew up together, though later Akane ends up taking the role of mediator whenever Hide and Haruka would have a fight. Like many others, she has a family member that is stuck in Tokyo (her father). In hopes of being able to get on the inside of things, Akane joins the national guard.
Though she initially sees Hidenori as a good friend, Akane starts to develop feelings for him over the two years that the barricade is up. At times, she talks about possible scenarios centered on Haruka not being around. Of course, she is weighed down by her loyalty to Haruka, which complicates things in her story.
Unknown to many, Akane is actually part of an underground resistance movement that is planning to help some people break into Tokyo to investigate what is exactly going on inside the city. Akane is technically the movement's inside "man" in the National Guard.
Naomi is introduced as an acquaintance of Hidenori's boss, Kouba Yashi. Not much is revealed about this mysterious woman for a good part of the story, though she proves to have a large number of information sources, knowledge in combat and familiarity with covert ops missions.
Though her actions don't suggest it, Naomi is actually a reporter that is out to uncover the truth of what has been going on inside Tokyo for the last two years. She eventually found the resistance movement based in Chiba, and became one of their top operatives due to her resourcefulness.
Story Structure & Game Engine
The story itself does not reveal the span of time the game covers, though the prologue is set two years in the past, right up to the moment the blockade comes up. Despite this, the game takes a day-by-day approach to things, though there isn't much control as to where Hidenori spends his time nor what events unfold. These are all determined by where he stands with each particular girl. Regardless, all stories lead to Hidenori joining the resistance movement in hopes of being able to get inside Tokyo and speak with Haruka. Even if pursuing another girl, Hide is still determined to at least apologize to Haruka for everything and start over as just friends.
The game engine contains your standard set of features. The log is accessible through a button on the control panel, and the game packs Quick Save and Quick Load options. The interface is clean and easy to navigate, though the designers used pastel colors for the menus in an attempt to keep them from blending into the artwork.
Video & Audio
Audio-wise, the entire cast is voiced. Musically speaking, the game has a decent soundtrack, composed of mid-quality synthesizer music. Fits the game's setting quite well, but is nothing impressive.
Video-wise, Tokyo Blockade's sole movie is the opening movie, which can be viewed here.
Aside from the usual CG gallery, Scene Access menu and BGM Mode, no other extras are included with this game...well, not counting the set of webcomics for this game available on C-Side's website.
An interesting game that plays off tension created through fate-induced separations. Hidenori's desire to see Haruka again, combined with the trials, tribulations and complications set forth by the story help this particular game stand out above the rest. My only real complain is that the stories, while overly reliant on build-up, were resolved very quickly once our protagonist makes it to Tokyo. Also, no signs are shown of an actual future for Hidenori and his chosen girl, which makes the whole journey feel a little...lackluster. Anyway, that's my two cents on the matter.
Ashita aeru no ga "atarimae" datta hibi