Friday, 15 May 2015

Review: The Reject Demon: Toko‏ - Chapter 0 (PC)

The Reject Demo: Toko Chapter 0 - Prelude is the latest visual novel project from Lupiesoft, a small studio that seems to specialise in visual novels for the moment. Toko is their latest project, which may have an interesting future if the talk of comics on the Patreon page is anything to go by, and this prelude acts as an introduction to the world & characters. So does this prelude manage to ferry a soul successfully, or does it fail & face ejection from hell? lets have a look.

Review Copy provided by Lupiesoft

The main bulk of the story in this prelude follows the exploits of a young demon girl named Toko, who finds herself expelled from hell. When the game begins, the story starts a little earlier than that and opens up with a young Toko and her father out in Earth to find a soul. Demons ferry the souls of the dead, and it so happens that Toko's first is to be this night. Toko unwittingly saves the girl, Nadia, who was supposed to die & have her soul ferried, much to her father's dismay. Nadia though is quite thankful, as Toko also helped find her ball, and so writes her soul onto a piece of paper and gives it to Toko. Mission accomplished. Or so Toko thinks. The story quickly shifts to the present day, and it's here we find out just how much of a lousy ferry demon Toko is. Over 400 tries and not a single soul ferried means she's the worst demon of all time. The brass have had enough, and so Toko is ejected from Hell & banished to earth (which also means she'll slowly become human) It's here where Toko bumps into Nadia again, and after going for a bite to eat and watching a movie, ends up staying with Nadia. The following day whilst hitting the arcades together, it becomes apparent an acquaintance of Toko's (Ginxhou) is keeping an eye in her whilst on earth. Later that evening it becomes clear to Toko what's been going on since she arrived on earth. Nadia is kidnapped by Devon, Toko's sister, as a bounty for Nadia's soul has been issued. Toko is absolutely battered by Devon, but what happens next surprises everyone. Epiphany, a soul that has always been residing in Toko, awakens and gives her the power to defeat Devon. The next day a letter arrives inviting Toko & Nadia to a meeting with the Dean of Nadia's school. It only takes a few moments of being in an elevator on a continuous downward path for Toko to realise where they are heading. It turns out the Dean is Pallatrix, something Toko isn't too happy about considering it was her that had Toko ejected from Hell. Here Pallatrix offers Toko a deal, as it appears her fight with Devon previously has bound the soul of Nadia, Toko & Epiphany together. Pallatrix believes this could help her circle of hell win the Intercircle Rock Competition — Hell on Earth Tour, what can only be described as a Rock festival competition for demons, and so enlists Devon & Ginxhou to make up the other members of a band. With victory offering Toko a return to Hell, with Nadia's soul also being free from anymore bounties, they all reluctantly agree to Pellatrix's plan...

 ...and that's where I'll stop divulging the story. As always when it comes to kinetic Visual Novels, I don't give you the whole story in the review and what I do share isn't everything -with more nuances & developments left for you to experience. There's still plenty more twists and turns to come with the story on Toko too, and more variety with characters as angels & witches are brought to the fore a little later in an encounter, so there's still plenty to be enjoyed in the Prelude. The cast are quite enjoyable and seem well written for the most part, with the chemistry between Nadia & Toko being a real highlight that carries the story during its quieter moments, although you may feel a little more backstory for some of the cast could have been offered. That said, even the supporting cast are generally handled well with more depth than meets the eye, with Ginxhou's deadpan demeanour for example being occasionally sprinkled with an understanding of emotions that demons don't have. As you would expect with the title being a kinetic visual novel, there is no interaction within the story for the user. There are no other paths or endings to experience, although that hasn't been ruled out for the chapters to follow. This allows kinetic novels to really hone their stories, and in the end Toko doesn't disappoint on that front. The story flows superbly, and the tone never deviates from its light-hearted approach, which sets up what is to come in future chapters perfectly if a similar tone is kept. You'll find the Prelude lasts for just the right amount of time too, almost 2 hours will see you reach the end, and it ends at just the right point in the story arc to leave you wanting more. It's a tad disappointing nothing like a gallery or soundtrack unlocks upon completion (I could gaze longingly at pics of just Toko for hours) or Steam achievements for those that lookforthose things, but Steam trading cards could be on the way at least. The lack of replayablility and unlocks are pretty much the only downsides to the title, it hits all the right notes where it should almost perfectly, and the relatively low price on Steam does offset the negatives a little.

A good design visually with a kinetic novel goes a long way, and it's here again that Toko doesn't disappoint. The visuals are packed with colour and a lot of personality. Characters in particular seem to be almost coloured in a way that's reminiscent of brush painting. There's a lot of variety to their designs too, with no demon or angel seeming similar (so far) with their overall design. Even Toko and her sister Devon don't seem to share much similarities aside from hair colour. You'll notice the only similar visual trait shared between any of the characters are to do with race, demons having horns (aside from Toko due to never maturing fully as a demon) for example, but even those are varied amongst the cast. Whilst the sprites aren't animated too much, facial expressions is pretty much about it, there's the occasional use of what I'd call 'moe' expressions (stars, exclamation marks etc) that help drive the light-hearted nature of the package. We are also treated to some downright cute situation CG's. The characters in them are styled a little differently, yet keep the same colour & technique, but they don't seem misplaced. They do look fantastic and boost the visual variety of the game. The backgrounds are also lavished with the same attention to detail and variety you'll find in the cast, with the atmosphere being complemented well by sound effects in each scene. I think it's safe to say that I love the soundtrack. The loud & brash Rock music is a far cry from what I usually find in Visual Novels, and it's perfect for Toko. Sure, in can sometimes be miscued with the onscreen action, but that could be down to how fast or slow the user reads afterall. Unfortunately there's no voice acting (Lupiesoft are looking into adding some for a post release patch) but you may, as I did, find the soundscape to be busy enough that it's hardly missed. Another downside could be the lack of any visual tweaks, like v-sync & resolution for example, that can usually be found in other visual novels. We are looking at a visual novel afterall though, so required specifications are as meagre as you'd expect. Resolution is currently locked at 720p, but Lupiesoft have noted a post release patch will at least add scalable resolutions. Overall, meaty audio & a stylishly cute visual design packing variety means presentation is top-notch.

Chapter 0 of The Reject Demon: Toko is a prelude, and in this regard, it succeeds perfectly at setting up what is to come. The gorgeous visual design, rocking soundtrack and well paced story will keep you invested till the credits roll in this light-hearted romp. There's downsides of course, kinetic novels aren't too keen on replayability and there's no unlockables to speak of, but these won't effect your enjoyment of the story & characters at least. It's going to be interesting to see what's in store for Toko in the days ahead.


Who Should Play This
  • Your looking for a well written light-hearted story
  • A varied cast to complement a fun story is a must
  • Great visual design, complemented well by feisty audio
  • Toko

Who Should Avoid
  • Kinetic novels usually mean only a single path, little replayability
  • No unlocks, steam achievements etc means little reward
  • No voice acting for the characters is a must for you

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