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Kiss the Demiurge – Review

Written by azure_dawn

Kiss the Demiurge is a western visual novel full of yuri romance, drama, comedy, and a lot of surprisingly dark themes. The game was recently published by indie developer YuriEureka, and let me tell you, this game is worth playing. That makes the measly 6 user reviews the game has accumulated on its Steam page an outright crime. Because while Kiss the Demiurge is not perfect, it in no way deserves that level of obscurity.

This visual novel is well written, has a flawlessly executed protagonist, and is packed to the brim with thrills, twists, romance, and comedy. The side characters may seem a little shallow at first, but you can tell by the end of the game that the writer put a lot of thought and work into them. And while the art style is a little basic, that absolutely should not prevent you from enjoying the story to the fullest.

If you value good storytelling, Kiss the Demiurge might just be a good pick for you.

(It is worth mentioning that at some points the game can be rather heavy due to the topics of death and suicide being a prominent part of the story. If you are sensitive to such content, you might be better off skipping this one.)

Introduction

I hate long visual novels. It’s actually rare for me to even attempt to play any VN with a runtime longer than your average movie. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played my fair share of 50-100+ hour visual novels—it’s just that I’d often find myself bored while playing them. The kind of bored where I’d skip over several lines of dialogue or even whole scenes altogether.

My biggest gripes with those visual novels often center around how little substance they pack into each individual scene. Sometimes the writers will even incorporate scenes with absolutely nothing but empty (and not even funny) slice-of-life scenarios, which don’t move the plot forward in any significant fashion at all. To me, it feels like the devs do all this work just to stretch a 10 hour plot into a 70 hour one, just to justify the price of their game.

That’s precisely why I mostly play short western visual novels, the type that are made by a singular person for some obscure game jam.

Kiss the Demiurge was different for me. It managed to hold my attention all the way through its 15-hour, 3-route storyline. With the background I just gave you, I think you can see how significant that is. There were a few caveats to that, of course—the game has its occasional slow moments, but they are incomparable to the ones you encounter in most other romance-focused visual novels.

In KtD, every scene serves the plot in some way or gives you critical pieces of characterization. When set against your typical romance visual novel, which love putting in eye-gougingly tedious slice-of-life segments, this VN reads like an action thriller, one that barely pauses to catch its breath for even a second. In reality, the pacing isn’t nearly so quick—it’s normal, or what should be the norm, at least.

Sadly, slow pacing is the default in the visual novel scene, so VN’s like KtD aren’t always the easiest find. Despite that, I wouldn’t say the game’s approach was particularly innovative—we’ve seen a lot of western VN studio’s realize recently that their inability to write 100+ hour games doesn’t necessarily need to be considered a problem. It’s just nice to see another story in the romance genre (which is especially prone to filler) embrace this sort of faster-paced approach to storytelling.

So, What’s the Plot?

The story of Kiss the Demiurge is about Nakahashi Minori, a mage who works for a powerful, secretive organization called U.M.I., whose purpose is to keep magic hidden from the rest of the world. The reason Minori has chosen to dedicate her life to U.M.I and to protecting humanity from magic is a simple one—when she was young, she accidentally sent her parents to the Demon Realm using her newly awakened magic powers.

In the world of KtD, magic only occurs naturally in a race of devious, evil creatures called demons. The only way for a regular human to access magical power is to make a contract with one of these demons—that is, if you survive. Humans that are not biologically fit to wield magic’s immense power typically just perish when making a contract, though there might be some fireworks too—exploding is a rather unpleasant side effect, but it’s pretty common.

One day, while investigating a demon who made a contract with a student at the local school—and caused a fire, to boot—Minori stumbles upon something alarming. The school has a club dedicated to learning magic! Minori immediately becomes concerned that the demon will entice the members of the club into making their own contracts, which would no doubt result in more unnecessary death.

Minori decides to investigate further, and ends up getting acquainted with three girls who foolishly believe they have magic powers of their own. She finds herself both deeply offended at the unbridled passion they have for magic (whose true, destructive nature she is intimately aware of) and worried over how naive they are about the demonic power.

Minori decides to contact her superiors, who give her a new mission—she’s going to transfer schools, infiltrate that magic club, and force each and every one of its members to abandon their magic studies.

That summary takes up pretty much the entire first 20 minutes of KtD. After that, it’s all Minori trying to dissuade Akane, Tomoko and Chitori from liking magic by manipulating them or lying to them in every possible way you could think of.

One thing I can really compliment the game for is its premise. Even without getting into specifics, it’s a ton of fun. It isn’t weirdly niche or all experimental, but it’s definitely not boring or unremarkable either. It falls right into that golden mean between tropeyness and innovation, which is exactly what makes it both accessible and unpredictable.

Another great thing about KtD is our main character, Minori. She’s by far the best character of the game, and is fun to spend time with all the way from the beginning to the credits (though there are no credits in this VN, which is weird). The visual novel genre is sorely lacking in good protagonistsmost of the time we just get blank slates or avatars, the sort of characters that are made for projection. Minori doesn’t fall into this trap at all; she’s written in a way that keeps the relatable and unrelatable parts of her in perfect balance.

A good example of this is how Minori relates to the other characters in KtD. When she thinks of the girls in the club as “degenerates” or rants over how much she hates their naivete when it comes to magic, we can relate to her since we know her backstory. It’s only when we realize how manipulative (and at times, egotistic) Minori is toward them that we feel that sense of distance between ourselves and her character.

We also discover that Minori lies to most everyone she interacts with—and she lies a lot. This isn’t because she’s a compulsive liar, but because she’s trying to protect the world from magic.

You would think these aspects of her would make us dislike her, but Minori also shows deep remorse for a lot of her actions, to the point that she even suffers from suicidal tendencies. She clearly believes everything she’s doing is for the right reasons. We can see this aspect of her character perfectly illustrated in her relationship with her grandfather, who has spent years and much of his money searching for Minori’s parents. He’s convinced he’ll be able to find them one day, and that they are still alive somewhere in the human world.

Minori can’t tell him what actually happened (her mission with U.M.I. is to keep magic a secret, remember), so she’s left with nothing to do but tell him things he wants to hear, which are half-truths at best. Lying to him pains her deeply, but she knows it’s the right thing to do, so she continues to live that way despite of how she feels.

A big chunk of Minori’s depth as a character is thanks to her relationship with her grandfather. He gets a substantial amount of development not only within the story of a single route, but throughout all the routes—no matter which one you choose to play, you and Minori will get to learn about a new, previously hidden side to her grandfather.

Her parents also get this multi-route mystery treatment. They are a surprisingly big part of the story, despite not being present in it for most of the runtime.

Routes

There are three routes in Kiss the Demiurge: Akane’s, Chitori’s, and Tomoko’s. KtD is delightfully without complex choice trees and secret endings—the route you take will be decided by a single choice you make around 30 minutes into the game. 

The order in which you play those routes does not matter, but I would strongly recommend the following order:

  1. Akane’s Route
  2. Chitori’s Route
  3. Tomoko’s Route

Why, you ask? I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the routes were actually written in that order (though granted, I may be totally off on that). If they were written that way, it would explain why Akane’s route feels a bit empty compared to the others, and why Tomoko’s route feels like the story’s true ending, where we get the most full and satisfying conclusion to Minori’s story.

That’s why I recommend the above reading order so strongly—if you read Tomoko’s route first, you’re going to be disappointed when you read Akane’s. 

If you’re someone who wants to play the game, but doesn’t have the free time to play through all the routes, I definitely think Tomoko’s is the one to go for. It is the most deep, the most complex, and the most interesting route the game has. I absolutely loved it (despite not being the biggest fan of Tomoko myself).

Each route is around 4-5 hours long. They share a lot of content with each other, but it’s not to the point that it feels so repetitive that it gets annoying. And at the end of each one, you’ll get to see several beautiful CGs! (But…not the credits for some reason…?)

Music, Art, and Direction

The presentation of Kiss the Demiurge is sadly…a bit subpar. The only thing I truly loved was the soundtrack. Curiously, it was not comprised of original tracks but instead of some royalty-free music (I recognized some of the songs from other games I’ve played). To be clear, I’m not saying that the soundtrack is bad because of this—I fully support developers who use royalty-free music in their visual novels. Not everyone has money for composers, after all.

The direction was kind of a hit-or-miss for me. Some scenes had great direction that felt very unique (for example, some of the more shocking scenes appear on screen without using the dissolve transition, which amplifies the feeling of suddenness), but other than that most of the scenes are pretty boring.

The only thing that saves those (visually) boring scenes is the use of a subtle mechanic—the sprite of a talking character is highlighted, while the sprite of a non-speaking character is dimmed. This allows you to know who is talking without ever looking at the sprites or their name boxes directly—you can gather all the information you need from your peripheral vision, allowing you to focus entirely on the text. Don’t get me wrong, I admit that this trick is used pretty often. My point is that is should be used by everyone.

The art is…meh. It took some time for me to get used to it, and even then I would constantly catch myself thinking “If this scene had industry-standard art, it would be a favorite of mine.”

That said, the CGs are beautiful. It’s kind of odd to me that they put all their money into the CGs and not the sprites, but…what do I know, right? Let’s all just collectively hope that KtD gets a remaster in some distant future.

Conclusion

Kiss the Demiurge is only YuriEureka’s first project, and they’ve impressed me more than many big studios. I hope that KtD or their next visual novel takes off—the VN sphere is always in need of fresh and unique stories.

If you’re interested, give the game a chance. It’s worth playing and it won’t take you 50+ hours (despite my Steam telling me I spent 42 hours on it—that is a lie and fabrication). If you choose just to play one route (and reminder, that route should be Tomoko’s) this visual novel with barely take up even 8 hours of your time.

In conclusion, despite Kiss the Demiurge‘s many flaws, it’s still a very solid visual novel, and it deserves your attention and your money.

My personal rating is: 8.8/10

(If the art was beautiful, it would have been 9.5-9.7)  

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