Note: Review Code Provided by Sekai Project.
Originally I planned on saving this game for later down the line after covering other titles on my game review log but then some most reliable compatriots dropped by and said “DOOD! You gotta check this VN out. It’s amazing!”. So I was like “Alright then. Guess I’ll check this one out sooner”. Question now is whether it lived up to the hype surrounding it from when its Kickstarter was announced. Let us find out as we take a look at Fatal Twelve by aieuo Kompany. The developers that brought us Sound of Drop – Fall Into Poison.
WARNING! While not a very bloody or gory story there are scenes, subjects and themes that are not suitable for all players. Viewer discretion is advised.
Genres: Action, Battle Royal, Drama, Mystery, Psychological, Supernatural, Suspense, Visual Novel, Yuri
Themes: Life after Death (sort of), Existentialism
Length: 20-30 Hours, give or take
Plot Summary: Shishimai Rinka was a highschooler who ran a small café named Lion House in place of her grandmother. She lived her life much like any other person her age, but one day, she was caught up in an explosion while returning home on the train alongside her friend, Hitsuji Naomi. In an attempt to save her friend’s life, she shields her on instinct the moment the explosion goes off, losing her life in the process. However, before she knew it, she was back at Lion House, happily chatting with her friends as if nothing had happened in the first place.
A few days later, she found herself in a strange world. Here she met Parca, an odd girl claiming to be a goddess. It turns out that she had somehow become a participant in Divine Selection, a ritual carried out over twelve weeks by twelve people, which allowed them to compete in order to undo their deaths. What shocked Rinka most of all, however, was the presence of her friend Mishima Miharu amongst the twelve.
In order to make it through Divine Selection, one must eliminate others by gathering information regarding their name, cause of death and regret in the real world, then “electing” them.
This turn of events would lead to her learning about the truth behind her death, as well as her own personal regrets. She would also come to face the reality that Miharu was willing to throw her life away for her sake, as well as the extents to which the other participants would go to in order to live through to the end.
Far more experiences than she ever could have imagined awaited her now, but where will her resolve lead her once all is said and done…?
I will not beat around the bush and instead start off by stating that Fatal Twelve is one of the best Visual Novels I have ever “plread” (Play-Read). It is a tale of people who were given the opportunity to reclaim the lives taken away from them but only one could survive to the end. Essentially a “Battle Royale” but not as violent or gory despite there being some intense action/fight scenes every now and then. First of all the participants are immortal until they are elected, though they can still be physically injured. This “BR” is more a mental game where participants go around looking for clues to uncover the necessary cards to elect other participants, thus increasing their own chances of survival. However, that is easier said than done.
Let us discuss how participants elect others to be eliminated. Three cards are required: Name, Cause of Death, Regret. This is where the meat of the story unfolds. Allow me to elaborate by briefly going through each card and the depth pertaining to each one.
Name: A participant’s name may be, for the most part, the least difficult of the three cards to uncover but there is great weight behind a person’s name. Think about the reason parents think long and hard about what to name their child, discussing the meaning behind certain names. My own name, for example, carries nobility/royalty behind it. I believe it is no coincidence my favorite color is purple. Somehow it has connection to the meaning behind my name. Point being a person’s name can play a huge role in creating their identity.
Cause of Death: A person’s cause of death gives a sign of the kind of life they lived, the people they grew up/were associated with, their actions before their untimely demise and more. The middle of the road card.
Regret: The most difficult card to obtain unless the participant got a Regret card at the start of the Divine Selection. A person’s regret may hold the most important emotions within them. It not only shows what the person holds dear and what they fight for but also what they could not achieve or were not able to/capable of achieving before their demise. The card holds the key to uncovering the participant’s greatest value and strongest source of morality.
So basically every participant has a story to tell and while the tale of the first two to be eliminated are the least lengthy this game is so good that even the participant whose scene is the shortest (the first one who “plreaders” learn more about much later in the story) is very telling of the kind of person they are/were. Most of the participants have their own ways of gathering information on/from the others be it through connections, personal intelligence/perception, forming alliances or the good ol’ fashion plain direct approach. “Plreaders” witness most of the participants give it their all and fighting for different reasons such as power, the thrill of the game, finding a sense of belonging/meaning/existence, the need to survive and of course…love. Without spoiling anything, there is a BIG reason why I said “most” of the participants. Another interesting facet of the plot is that the answers our heroines and the other participants find is not as simple as uncovering the three cards. Expect many plot twists ranging from the expected to the mind blowing depending on the deductive skills of the “plreader”. From personal experience there were times my jaw dropped after some of the big reveals.
Besides the secrets each participant holds there are other mysteries throughout the story such as the ones revolving around Rinka herself, her friends and of course everything pertaining to the Divine Selection. As mentioned above in the warning some of the personal struggles and scenes in the story can be hard to read/watch. while not extremely violent/gory it is not suitable for everyone. I will say the touchy subjects are sexual in context.
The backgrounds and character all look quite stunning. It reminds me of FLOWERS with its standout art style and character designs. A nice touch is that while most of the story is set in Japan a majority of the participants in the Divine Selection come from different countries such as France, India and Italy though they are all voiced by Japanese seiyu of course. It is the little things that make it all worthwhile. The soundtrack is both fitting and pleasant to listen to having a solid range of tunes with the melancholic main menu theme, some chill, peppy, somber and intense tunes. The OP and ED are also really good.
Next let us briefly go over the gameplay. Like most visual novels Fatal Twelve has a multiple choice system leading to different outcomes. The way FT works is that it has some “Bad Ends” that are both depressing and mean the “plreader” has to go back and see what went wrong in order to proceed with the rest of the story. Then there are the actual Endings with a bittersweet one, a calming one and the TRUE END. Oh and keep in mind this a visual novel, not a puzzle mystery game ala Ace Attorney or Professor Layton so do not go in expecting to solve mysteries. It is an engaging story with choices that affect what ending the “plreader” gets while getting to see pretty background and character portraits that have multiple expressions and really good Japanese voice acting.
Before getting to the leading ladies I will briefly mention my favorite side characters. The first being my second favorite in the game, the beautiful femme fatale with the strength and intellect matching her tall and magnificent physique, Odette Malencon. She enjoys the thrill of the game and is willing to get her hands dirty but only when the need arises. Otherwise she has her partner in crime do the grunt work while she focuses on the more challenging tasks off-screen. Most of the action scenes in the game feature her. Like most of the other participants there is more to Odette than meets the eye. Let me put it this way. Even some of the arguable babyfaces in the Divine Selection are not saints.
Besides the participants there are our heroines’ closest friends who play an equally important role in the story. Those friends being Mao and Naomi. Mao is the jokester/mood maker of the quartet. She appears to be super chill and just wants to relax and hang out with her home girls but she is also very, VERY perceptive. Naomi as mentioned above is the clumsy friend. She is friendly but timid, especially around Miharu. She gets along better with Rinka and Mao. However, little do she and our heroines know that she would play an integral role in the Divine Selection despite not being a part of it.
The only character I disliked in the story is a man who can be identified by his laugh “Haha”. “Plreaders” will know who it is the moment he laughs.
Now let us talk about our lead duo. First up is the star of the show Rinka Shishimai. She starts off as somewhat anti-social but not by choice. Her red eyes and black-gold hair gave most people around her the wrong impression. She got used to it to the point of it no longer mattering. She did not really get bullied but did not mind being seen as “unapproachable” to anyone other than her friends. Rinka is an excellent leading lady whose life is forever changed by the Divine Selection where her experiences, good and bad (bad bad), help mold the kind of girl she would become, greatly changing her outlook on life and the people around her. While not the most studious she has the courage, willpower and determination to fight whatever gets in her way…not in hand to hand combat of course…usually.
And finally we get to the second leading lady, Best Girl and the main source of yuri goodness in this spectacular tale, Miharu Mishima. A tall beauty whose good looks and impressive intellect make her unapproachable to all but Mao, Naomi (sort of) and the love of her life Rinka. Let me put it this way. In her VERY, FIRST, SCENE, she makes it clear who is most important to her. Now how to best describe Miharu without giving anything away…She is not a pushover and is blunt to both strangers and even her friends, especially Naomi. Like everyone else there is more to her than meets the eye. Put simply there is a good reason why she is the way she is and it is connected to both her life story and unrelenting love for Rinka. A small hint I will give anime fans is a certain black haired girl from a certain “Moepocalypse” anime. Not exactly like her but something along those lines. Perhaps a semi-hybrid of said black-haired girl and another “Moepocalypse” anime girl with big breasts and a wheelchair. Think of the Yuri Grade of the story as Grade 2 (From the Yuri Anime List), meaning that while it is not the main focus of the plot it plays a VERY IMPORTANT role.
If there were one minor flaw worth pointing out that I noticed it would be with the English translation. Not that it is bad, far from it, but that it has the usual grammar mistakes pop up every now and then. The other mistakes have little to do with the grammar but more the lack of honorifics. This is something I noticed in several visual/kinetic novel translations over the years. Some of them include honorifics such as “-san/-kun”, “-senpai”, “-sama” and a few translations of proper addressing such as “Ojii-chan” while other VNs/KNs do not. This is one of those that does not. If I were to give the English translation a letter grade it would either be a B or B-. Good but not without some errors here and there.
Overall, as I said after the plot summary Fatal Twelve is one of the best visual novels I have ever read. It goes into great depth exploring as much as there is to explore with our heroines, their friends, the other participants in the Divine Selection and the mysteries behind said Selection along with its host. Some of the subject matter can be a bit rough for some so keep that in mind. While the game is (like everything else on Earth) not perfect, there may be some plot threads that can cause certain players to nitpick or criticize and there are noticeable grammar mistakes and lack of honorifics, it is still a very enjoyable title I highly recommend to readers looking for an intriguing mystery drama that explores existentialism among other things. Oh and of course the main yuri romance is legit! Give it time.
Pick the game up on Steam.
PS: Besides Miharu…keep an eye out.
PPS: There is a hidden surprise for “plreaders” who found everything (Endings and CGs). Be sure to have save files to make things easier. The extra few surprises are small but worth finding. Call it a mini New Game+
PPPS: Yes. There are male characters. No. They do not get in the way of the Yuri.