Game: RE: ~Re-turn, Re-member, Re-act, Re-gret, Re-play~
RE: was released on February 3, 2006, by the softhouse known as SML. This could be considered the first post-Green Green game for Team NGX (who wrote the plot) as well as Milktub (who did the music). The player takes the role of Morikawa Yuugo, a second year high school student that is suddenly informed by his mother that his family is moving to the United States the day after Christmas. Because the story officially starts on December 16th, Yuugo finds himself with a little over a week to settle his affairs in Japan, including telling his friends and planning a "hot, love-filled Holy Night" with the (unaware) object of his affections, Komori Natsuki. Things, as they say, get real complicated when Yuugo's buddies Tetsu and Joe decide to throw a going-away party for him in a mountain cabin. This series of events lead to not only Natsuki admitting that she likes Yuugo, but also gets us a confession of love from Yuugo's childhood friend, Miyu. The ending, however, is not a happy one, since Yuugo steps out only to get caugh in a snowstorm and eventually freezes to death. Just as he loses consciousness, a strange voice calls out to him and promises to send him back to "that time". When Yuugo comes to, it is December 16th again.
In short, this story focuses on Yuugo and the time slip in which he has found himself. As the player guides Yuugo around, we become aware of many other things that were going on at exactly the same time as Yuugo's debacle over going to the US. Interestingly enough, the story plays on realizing one's own mistakes and one's own character faults by having Yuugo witness certain events that indeed cause him to reflect on his way of life, and at the same time cause him to learn about the people around him while trying to prevent tragic events that only he can do something about. To complete the ero-ge formula, we have humorous antics, characters randomly breaking into song, and of course, six girls. Oddly enough, only two are the true heroines, while the remaining four are side characters.
Heroine: Komori Natsuki
Natsuki is the typical "cool girl everyone admires" character. This is the girl that guys fight each other over. She's petitte, which doesn't help her (since the stereotype played on is that a guy should have a girlfriend that's petitte and cute, because for some reason that's the ideal criteria). Of course, all the attention she gets from guys have made her very wary of them (Tetsu reveals that she once made the captain of the kendo team cry by refusing to go out on a date with him), and as the story begins, we find out Yuugo has only been watching her from afar and has had no real interaction with her. This changes once she finds out Yuugo will be moving to the US at the beginning of Winter Recess.
Despite trying to maintain the "cool" image (which is compounded by her lack of a dating history), Natsuki can easily lose her cool when it comes to dealing with romantic matters. She's not good at speaking up about such things, but will not hesitate to put boys in their place when necessary. As it turns out, despite her meeting the visual criteria for the ideal girlfriend (according to Yuugo), Natsuki dislikes most boys because of their tendency to be controlling.
Heroine: Ishii Miyu
Miyu is Yuugo's childhood friend (though according to Miyu's father, they're more like childhood sweethearts). A regular for the Akatsuki High School basketball team, Miyu is very tall (this is something that she's ashamed of for some reason). Miyu does her best to fulfill the role of childhood friend, and seems to generally take the news of Yuugo's departure in stride. Behind this, however, we find that Miyu has had a crush on Yuugo for a very long time, but feels as if she has no chance with him because of her height ("guys don't like tall girls, right?"). Even though she has her nice moments, Miyu is more likely to treat Yuugo as "one of the guys", and won't hesitate to play practical jokes on him when given the chance (as exemplified when she volunteers to wake him up in the morning during his last week in Japan).
Sub-Heroine: Akabane Saki
Saki is introduced as a close friend of Natsuki, and at first tries to determine whether Yuugo is the right person for the boy-weary Komori. She proves to understand much more than she lets on, and at certain points is revealed to be helping in setting up Natsuki with Yuugo. As a member of the drama club, it is difficult to see whether she's being sincere or simply acting, since she's rather convincing (as proven during the beginning of the second loop).
Sub-Heroine: Nonomiya Emiri
Because the petitte Natsuki was apparently not enough, we have Emiri as the true loli character of RE:. Emiri is a first year student, but still landed a spot as a regular in the Akatsuki High School basketball team. A big fan of Miyu, Emiri is extremely happy to find out Yuugo is going away ("I get to have MiyuMiyu-senpai all to myself!"). Though she shows ignorance when it comes to "adult matters", she tends to have a strange sort of imagination (as shown during Miyu's route).
Sub-Heroine: Kazama Kagura
Kagura is Yuugo & Co's homeroom teacher, and officially teaches Chinese. Despite this, she is a semi-crazed movie otaku with a obsession with Brad Pitt (or Grad Pitt). She seems to be unable to avoid all sorts of troubles, including financial, job-related and personal. She is also a fearsome and extremely bossy drunk if given sake.
Sub-Heroine: Minamino Hikaru
Hikaru is a mysterious young woman who keeps bumping into Yuugo throughout the story. She appears to be totally unrelated to the events involving Yuugo's school life. For the most part, Yuugo is convinced she's simply a ditzy NEET with nothing better to do outside of window shopping and buying oranges (and she loves oranges). Highlight for spoiler In her own route, however, we discover Hikaru is actually the forgotten Japanese deity "Tokiterasuhae no hikari no kami". Her shrine is usually visited by people making wishes with regard to love, which in effect never reach her since her domain is time. Yuugo's wish that things stay the way they currently are, on the other hand, reached her, which is why she created that save point for Yuugo to return to. She is also the one who resets events in certain routes, at Yuugo's request. Even though Yuugo made his wish with a measly 500 yen coin, it is enough to get his wish since Hikaru uses the coin to buy herself oranges (since according to her, they're 120 yen per bag).
The two important support characters happen to be Yuugo's buds, Tetsu and Joe.
Joe tries to pass off as a ladies' man, but his attempts at impressing girls tend to get him into tons of trouble. Out of the trio of Yuugo, Tetsu and himself, Joe is the brains as far as plans to get with girls go. Originally plans to get together with Miyu.
Tetsu, on the other hand, is the trio's "dumb, fat guy". His morality is (slightly) better-set than Joe's, but easily looses his composure around Emiri. He is, thus, a proven lolicon.
Story Structure and Game Engine
The story takes place over eight days (December 16th to December 24th), but the actual span of time comes close to one month, since Yuugo lives through the same eight days three times before the game ends. The routes are determined by a set of choices during the first and second loops, and are officially limited to Miyu and Natsuki, with Emiri and Saki's scenes tied to their respective main heroine. An interesting thing to note is that Natsuki and Miyu's routes reveal more details as to the events surrounding the days leading up to Christmas with each passing loop. The first eight days play out as your standard high school story. After Yuugo gets sent back to December 16th the first time, however, he realizes what has happened and aims to prevent his own death. The final loop comes about after he discovers that even with him staying alive, something terrible will happen to the girl he chooses to end up with. In an attempt to encourage replay, two hidden routes (Kagura and Hikaru) can be played through after unlocking all scenes and CG for Natsuki, Miyu, Emiri and Saki.
The game engine is decent, though nothing really new other than the pop-up system menus, with a built-in shortcut bar at the bottom of the screen. The text box itself is transparent white, and seems to be overlaid on top of the artwork (thus making it seem less intrusive). The game packs a text log that can be scrolled, and the shortcut bar features Auto Mode, Skip Mode, Quick Save, Quick Load and Voice Repeat options.
Music & Video
Milktub has once again brought about a very nice and fitting soundtrack, mostly focused on synthesizer with some rock elements tossed in. A couple of tunes (like Kagura's theme, Otome Kikyou) go outside of the rock genre, with great results.
As for video, the OP for RE: can be viewed here.
The game was released with an OST disc containing all the music from RE: (limited edition). Aside from that, there's not much as far as extras go, though I guess we could count the secret routes for Kagura and Hikaru as unlockable extras.
Not a groundbreaking game from the technology side, but a rather unique take to telling a story nevertheless. While Team NGX and Milktub's stint with SML was short-lived, RE: managed to leave an impression through it's use of comedy and play on tragic-based drama. The only real weakness to this game, IMO, is that due to the emphasis on time and a repeating loop of days, it doesn't feel like we learn much about the characters. Still worth it if you're looking for something different in terms of story, though. Anyway, that's my two cents on the matter.
"プレゼントと一緒に、女は勝負下着を買い、男はコンドームを買う、そんな夜！" - Morikawa Yuugo
PS: If I have left anything out or if I'm not clear enough, please let me know in the comments section and I will answer any and all questions...and if you can translate my little quote, all I will say is, Yuugo's words, not mine!