Castle Fantasia 2 ~Sacred War~ Renewal

Written by Rillania

Read the full review over on Digital Cloud

On the continent of Synapus, a 200 year long war has been waged between two factions, those in power, the Injellans, and those trying to break from the system, the Rushierans. Our story follows Hewie, a newcomer fighting for the Injella empire and church. After a training battle with his friend and mentor Ducis, Hewie is called to the High Priests chambers along with several of his fellow comrades and friends. The High Priest tells them that it is time for the war and suffering to end, and for them to end the rebellion and destroy the “evil” Rushierans. His intention is to create a new army composed of seven “Holy Knight Corps” that will be the core of their force and handpicked by him personally.  Hewie is given the title of Seventh Holy Knight and two subordinates and Hewie, rather un-enthusiastically, accepts. Shortly after, the Holy Knights Corps are instructed to take back the Rusherian fortress of Borborade, which is key to breaking into Rushieran territory and ending the war. 
Castle Fantasia 2 Renewal is a remake/upgraded version of Castle Fantasia 2. In Renewal, most game CG’s were redone/redrawn in a higher resolution, 800×600 (The rest scrapped), voice acting for all characters and text was put in, one omake ending was removed, and additional endings were added along with an extended common route for these endings.  The original had only voiced h-scenes, 640×480 256 color resolution, and a yaoi omake ending, but it did have more CGs than Renewal.

The Seventh Holy Corps first mission is to rendezvous with the Injellan army that is headed to Borborade. Hewie decides that the best course of action, or inaction, is to stay in camp and “defend” it while the rest of the army attacks Borborade.  Hewie’s subordinates protest, but Hewie orders them to stay. After another day of lazing about at camp, the group stumbles upon a small Rusieran infiltration group in the camp and are dragged into a battle. Having successfully protected the provisions, Aria chases after them and gets knocked down and nearly killed by the Black Knight.  Hewie, saving her, explains to her that the Rusieran attempt to destroy/take their provisions means that the Rusieran withdraw around Borborade is close. Shoftly after, Hewie’s hypothesis is proved correct as the Rushieran forces withdraw from the battlefield and into the fortress. Thus we begin our journey and insight into the mind-blowing awesomeness of Hewie.

While the aspects of the Injellan and Rushieran’s are mostly ignored, bits and pieces of their society is talked about and hinted at throughout the game. Because of that, this section is pretty hypothetical, but based on statements in the game. I think once you understand the societies a bit more, the war becomes more understandable as well.  From the routes, it seems that Injella is a religious, caste like society. The High Priest is the supreme ruler of the land and sort of like the Pope in that their diety Injella speaks to the people through him. People are destined to be in life what their parents were, the child of a soldier will become a soldier, the child of a farmer will become a farmer, etc, and it is nigh on impossible, if not so, for someone in the Injellan society to move out of their caste.
The Rushieran’s were originally rebels who wanted to change/break from the Injellan society because they were tired of the caste society and wanted to be able to forge their own paths and choose their own paths, rather than have it pre-determined by the family and position they were born into.  For this, the Injellans viewed the Rushierans as evil, going against their diety Injella, and viewed the war as a holy war.
Castle Fantasia 2 features a turn based RPG system. This system, in my opinion, works much like Final Fantasy Tactics and older JRPGs. Each character can move a certain amount of tiles with basic attacks requiring you to be right next to the enemy.  Magic attacks have a certain range of tiles they can be used in.  Characters are also able to do limit attacks, which are initially high powered basic attacks that do 2x normal damage, sometimes more.  Each character has a limit point gauge and it fills when a character is attacked or attacks an enemy.  Once the gauge is full, that character can use their limit power. After you reach a certain level, your Limit “upgrades” to Ougi, which instead of being just a high-powered normal attack, turns into a special attack, so every characters Ougi is vastly different.  It still works off of LP points though.  Oh, and Ougis have neat little image sequences :D.
Enemy AI is relatively simple, and battles are easy for the most part until you get longer into the game, at which point battles begin to require some strategy and thought, such as large maps with groups on enemies at each end. They never get overly tedious though; I think I’ve only had to redo one or two fights due to losing. One nice little bonus/setting with the fight scenes is that after your first playthrough, you are given the option to skip battles you’ve previously played in subsequent battles, so additional routes are shorter since you don’t have to redo every fight every time.

The story of CF2 focuses more on the characters than it does the war and overall plot.  While the war is an important aspect of the story, its not really focused on that much.  A good majority of the game focuses on character interactions instead of the war and battles, I’d say probably about 60-70% depending on the route you’re on.  While I love character development and interaction, I was a bit disappointed since the war aspect of the story was set up pretty well.  The game does give us some interludes though that explains the current tide of battle, as well as show paths and pertaining cities on the map, so you get a feel for what territory belongs to which faction, with Parmilla being the Injella capital and Rhuto being the Rushiera capital. Studio E.Go! set up a good, if slightly cliched, base story that sadly was neglected.  There was also a lot of potential for interaction with the other Corps, but again, this was neglected and very nonexistent due to that fact. One main beef was that Ducis, the First Holy Knight, is Hewie’s mentor, yet hes not seen that much, and there was a lot of potential for Hewie and Ducis together, especially on the battlefield. Needless to say, the story suffered from a few plot holes.
Hewie Elzard is our protagonist and leader of the Seventh Holy Knight Corps.  He’s also like one of the most bad-ass protags I’ve come across in VN’s so far. In the beginning, the only  people who have faith in Hewie’s combat and leading abilities are his mentor Ducis, his friend Gurou, and the High Priest. Many perceive him to be a bad choice due to him only joining the military to follow in his parents footsteps and his very laid-back attitude.  Hewie very much comes off as lazy and carefree, generally choosing to hold off on decisions or making the easiest, least demanding one; If inaction is a viable option, he will take it. Hewie has his reasons though for his attitude and personality, and behind his care-free whims is a true knight to the core. 
He is a tactical and strategical genius, and very often sees through an enemies plans, coming up with strategies that no other commander would even dream of, much to his success. At first his wild theories and tactics are laughed at and frowned upon, until one day many of his tactical and strategical theories about the enemy come to reality. Let’s just say that it was so mind-blowingly awesome that his genius isn’t really questioned afterwards. He’s still viewed as a terrible soldier and a care-free fool though. Hewie is very steadfast in his morals and beliefs, but as a soldier he understands that someday he may have to go against his morals in order to protect his troops. His subordinates come first, and in an us or them situation, he would always go with “us”. However, he will not needlessly kill civilians.  That’s what makes Hewie such an amazing character and protagonist. Despite his smarts and prowess, he does not let stress or pressure get to him and he willingly and purposely plays the fool.
There are also a chock load of choices in the game which lets you play Hewie a little bit how you want. A vast majority of conversation choices have 3 different ones allowing you to make Hewie somewhat serious, the class clown, or the lazy fool. Hewie’s character had so much more potential. One of the biggest reasons I think his characters potential was never fully realized was due to the length of the game, since most of the characters suffered from the same fate of having the ability to be so much more, but falling short. He has still gone down as one of my favorite protagonists though.

Before I go into the routes though, I do need to comment a little on the heroines and their respective routes. I’m not sure what all was added into Renewal from the original aside from Somia’s ending, but I have a pretty good educated guess.  Aria, Hannah, and Tia seem to be the original and “actual” heroine routes of Castle Fantasia 2, with Somia, Ciruela, Renoir, Cecile, and Judy having endings for them added into Renewal. The first three characters have actual character routes after the common route, while the last five characters just have an extended common route, an H-scene, and an ending scene when pursuing them; Aside from those three things, the entire game for all 5 is almost exactly the same except for choice sequences in the common route. I honestly got done with each of these characters routes in about 20-30 minutes just speeding through everything, including skipping fights, because nearly everything was word for word the same.
They all have one common choice though that you don’t choose for Aria, Hannah, and Tia, which makes me almost certain they were added in on Renewal;  All 5 of these routes involve saving Somia, which I have read was NOT possible or an option in the original Castle Fantasia 2. Despite this fact though, I will still call the choice sequences to getting these characters endings a route in my review of the characters.
Aria Gartland is initially one of two soldiers of the Seventh Holy Knight Corps, under the command of Hewie. Her weapon of choice is a sword. Aria is the most serious out of the characters, often chastising them, mainly Hewie, for their relaxed, non-militaristic attitudes. She’s a stickler for rules and procedures, and often goes off when the gang deviates. Despite seeming like a perfect soldier, Aria admits that she does not like being a soldier and she is diligent because she wants the war to end quickly so the killing will stop. Out of the Corps, she is probably the most mature member next to Ciruela. Aria has one major weak point though…She’s scared shitless of ghosts. Aria acts as sort of the “mother hen” of the group and tends to be the balancer for most of the characters, especially Hewie. I felt that Aria was a great match for Hewie because she forced him frequently to take things a little more seriously and she kept him in check a lot. In certain routes, Aria ends up becoming the one person out of the group that Hewie trusts the most, especially with serious tasks.  He also makes her his second-in-command of sorts, having her lead groups of men, confiding in her and seeking her opinion, and giving her important tasks.  She really, really grows into this position.

Personally, I believe Aria to be the “true” heroine of the game.  Her and Hewie off-set each other’s weaknesses, she actually has a full on route section of sorts (Explained after route section), she has nearly a full page of event CGs while almost everyone else has a couple to maybe half a page, her character development was one of the best, and her and Hewie’s growth to a relationship was actually gradual instead of suddenly “I want to be with you, lets bang!” I really -felt- their relationship emotionally, while with most of the others it felt forced for the sake of a route with them. Her route is also very different from Hannah and Tia’s, which share a lot of similarities between them. Needless to say, Aria’s route was by far my favorite.  You also get to see a different, softer side of Aria in her route.  She even tries to learn how to cook better for Hewie even though she’s terrible at it! Her ending made me all smiles too. Oh, and she’s fucking hot as hell.  
Hannah Hamilton is the other soldier initially assigned to Hewie’s corp, and is the healer/white mage of the group. Hannah is somewhat childish and and sometimes a bit of a ditz, but she is very loyal and puts a lot of trust and faith in those around her. She gets along quite well with Tia and Renoir (Probably cause shes as immature as them…Well, close, I’d say out of the three she’s the most mature) and thus is constantly scolded by Aria for her whimsical attitude.  She is also totally crazy about Ducis, saying frequently that she is in the Ducis fanclub and wants to marry him someday; She even finds Hewie cool for being childhood friends with Ducis and talking to him like an equal. Hannah tends to do the “household” chores more than the others, since she can actually cook and do laundry unlike Aria and Tia. Hannah is also into cute things like stuffed animals and costumes.  In one scene, she buys a cow costume, which Hewie forces her to return due to how ridiculous it is.

 Hannah’s route was actually very sweet.  She ends up being willing to leave everything that she ever knew behind and her home for Hewie. Hannah profoundly confesses her love to Hewie, but Hewie is shocked and skeptical since she never made any hint at having feelings for him and believing that she was madly in love with Ducis. I got a pretty big laugh when she ends up unzipping Hewie’s pants and doing…things to prove her love with Hewie, saying that her brother’s wife had told her only people in love get intimate like that, and having sex is a proposal of sorts (She tells Hewie thats how her brother and his wife got married). Hewie asks her if she’s sure she wants to marry him, and after many “I love yous” from her, they declothe, woo!
 Out of the three childish characters (Hannah, Tia, Renoir), Hannahs like the only one who knows about sex and what it actually is, giving her mature brownie points in my book (Seriously, read Renoir’s section. Her belief on baby making is akin to the stork story….) Hannah’s route wasn’t amazing, but it was good enough that I actually somewhat started liking Hannah, when I saved her for one of the last characters simply because I really, really didn’t like her.

Tia joins the Seventh Holy Corps later on in the story at the town of Telgia as their newest member, having been sent from the capital. Her weapon of choice is a giant poleaxe, and she’s one of your more heavy hitters in battle. Tia ia a giant airhead…Oy, the Seventh Holy Knight Corps deserves more than just the military rejects ;_; If you like them sexy, cute, blonde, and stupid as a brick wall, Tia is your girl! First off, after meeting her in Telgia, you find her in the woods outside on the way to Zeber and she doesn’t even realize that THERE IS A GIANT FUCKING BEAR BEHIND HER ABOUT TO MAKE HER HIS DINNER. She is a total loli in personality, just with a grownup body. Even her voice screams like, high pitched 12 year old and she also likes to prolong her e’s and a’s to “speeeak likeee this”. She also ends up blowing up the kitchen, refers to herself in the third person, and cries all.the.damn.time.
Hewie has giant feet in this CG, lol. In one of Tia’s events, Tia tells Hewie that her parents died when she was young and her grandfather raised her.  He told her that her parents will always be with her, and Tia says this is why she always tries to be cheerful and happy. Good reason, but she’s still annoying as hell. Anyway, in her route, Tia falls down a hole and Hewie comes to save her. One thing leads to another and…They get it on in a damp, dark hole, no pun intended.  THIS MADE ME FEEL LIKE SUCH A STATUTORY RAPIST AND CRADLE ROBBER THOUGH. At least she seemed to understand what sex was though…Unlike…RENOIR. Plus she wears what looks like is probably a thong.  Bitch is totally a tease pretending to be childishly stupid! Tia is my least favorite character and her ending was…meh.
Ciruela Prisner is the childhood friend of Hewie, and starts out as the commander of the Sixth Holy Knights Corps but after certain events, joins Hewie’s Corps. Her weapon of choice is a naginata. I honestly don’t have much to say about Ciruela.  Ciruela is wayyy in the background until a couple chapters till the end of the game, and when she makes a major appearance again, she’s suddenly acting head over heels in love with Hewie and gets all uppity when any lady is being too friendly with Hewie. What the hell happened to that calm and collected woman who understood duty and NOT THROWING YOURSELF AT THE PROTAGONIST LIKE A DOG IN HEAT!? Ciruela goes through some hardship in the common route and so it’s understandable she’s happy to see Hewie again, but it doesn’t mean you have to drool all over him…Gesh. Ciruela suffered from neglect to her character, route, and was dripping with childhood pal archetype flaws.  I thought she was going to be a major player since she’s slapped all over CF2 paraphernalia, but nope. Only dissapointment. Due to the way her “route” was (and lack thereof), I’m pretty sure Ciruela’s route was added into Renewal and wasn’t in the original CF2. 
Cecile Forward is a witch from the borderlands, and essentially the black mage of your party. You find Cecile in an abandoned village near Zeber protecting and watching over a dozen orphans who were left behind when the town was abandoned. Cecile is extremely self-confident and egotistical in both her looks and powers, often commenting on how great her magical abilities are and her beauty. She has a somewhat annoying laugh, constantly going “Oh ho ho ho!”. Cecile comes off somewhat as an obnoxious bitch, but from the start with the orphans, you can tell she deeply cares and is overall a good person, if somewhat self-absorbed. Many in the group affectionately, but to her dismay, nickname her “Lobster”.
Later on, you find out Cecile is actually really shy and phobic, and without her glasses she turns into this really shy, submissive, and quiet person, the total complete opposite of her normal personality.  It’s not that she has split personality, it’s just that, as Cecile explains,shes actually anthropophobic and so the glasses give Cecile this form of confidence that she simply does not have without them. In her route, Hewie begins to try and make her take off her glasses more and try to become confident like she normally is without them.  The other members of the group freak out when they see the docile Cecile.  Overall, Cecile’s route was interesting, and her ending was pretty cute. Cecile’s revelation and transformation from overly-confident to docile to somewhat confident felt pretty rushed though and missed out on a lot of potential with it. Cecile didn’t have much of a route though (Hers was the most developed of the “added on” routes though); Most of her character development and revelations were done on events during the common route.
Renoir Seron is the leader of a group of bandits…*cough* I mean “honorable thieves”, having taken over the position from her father. She ends up capturing the gang after a hilarious, and rather retarded, event where Hewie once again plays the fool and goes along with Renoir’s plan. Renoir prefers being called an honorable thief because she views her and her gang as sort of a Robin Hood, stealing food from caravans and giving it to poor people in the nearby village. Renoir dreams of a man stronger than her coming and whisking her away to marry her. After one of Hewie’s intelligent and insightful genius moments, Renoir decides that she is going to marry Hewie. She then starts calling Hewie “Hewie-Pewie” (Hewie-pon in Japanese/Vocals). She also is the one who makes Cecile’s “Lobster” nickname.
From that point, Renoir starts introducing and calling herself as Hewie’s wife (Even if you’re not on her route…) and is constantly clinging to Hewie and doing “wifely” duties such as cooking for and serving Hewie. She also has this obsession with feeding Hewie all his food….Her route is another hardcore neglected route, with real route specific stuff on her only coming up at the end when you deflower her.  While Renoir has a big rack and her voice is somewhat mature, she made me facepalm by saying stuff like babies are made when a man and woman sleep in the same bed (As in, literally) Ok, how the hell can an obviously somewhat grown female not know jack shit about sex and baby making when she was the leader of A BUNCH OF MALE BANDITS? Her H-scene option is “teach her about sex for her own good”, I loled so hard, I’ll admit. Even after showing her the “true” way of baby-making…She still believes that she’s like, going to have a litter of kids all at once. *Sigh*
                                            
Somia Arusta is the head of the defense force in the remote town and region of Zeber, and is rumored to be a homicidal maniac. She is from a long line of Shinobi, assassins. Hewie however gives her the benefit of the doubt from the beginning, rather than believe the rumors surrounding her. Somia comes across as pretty level-headed and laid-back person who still manages to tend to her duties and her subordinates quite well. I cannot say much of Somia’s route due to major spoilers, but Somia eventually ends up doing a horrendous act. Hewie is the only one to witness the scene, and decides not to tell the rest of the gang.  Somia becomes a bit of a bitch afterwards though and frequently butts heads and battles with the group.

Somia’s dickery is just compounded on every single time you come across her from that point.  She’s eventually, and shortly, made the leader of a new Corps, the Eighth Holy Knight Corps, and this really weird event goes on and she loses her shit a bit.  I mean really, it was pretty random and wtf. I really wanted to like Somia, I really did, but her route was one of the worst hit by character neglect. Not only is her interaction with Hewie and the group pretty minimal, but her personality flipped around too quickly and for the sake of time constraints, Hewie’s emotions and reactions never feel genuine. I think Somia’s character was meant to show the hidden suffering and abusive stereotyping that the Injella Empire’s hierarchy causes, and E.Go! was sitting on finely crafted  foundation with Somia, but fell short, very short. Seriously, the difference between getting on Cecile or Ciruela’s route and Somia’s route is one choice.
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The game also features one kind of “hidden” route featuring a woman named Judy Annemarie.  She’s prevalent throughout the game, but her identity remains a mystery for most of it. This is probably the least spoiling CG in the game for her, as she is usually hidden behind garb and her clothes in other CGs would give away her initial character identity. Judy’s route was the first route I did, on accident, as usually on my first playthrough in a game I go without a walkthrough and I stumbled onto Judy’s route and ending. Judy is a fierce, loyal, strong, and cunning woman. She has her own set of principles and she sticks to them, never deviating from a mission close to her, protecting her people. Initially she is the source of much woe to Hewie and the gang, but as her route goes on, she begins to grow fond of Hewie.  I’m not sure if you could call it love, maybe respect, but there is a sense of romantic feelings towards the pair in her ending. Ironically, Judy is presumably the only older heroine and non-virgin (this for sure, all of the other characters are stated virgins) Hewie can end up with. I liked Judy; She was a mature, experienced woman who knew what she wanted. Its too bad she wasn’t a true heroine and she was basically just a “default” route.

Despite this game being old, and some would say dated (Original release was in ’98, with renewal in ’00), it was still an enjoyable game.  Hewie is one of the best VN protagonists I have come across so far, and there were some memorable characters. This game was dripping with potential and for those who enjoy that sort of thing, theres plenty of women to woo (8 routes in total with one optional h-scene with a 9th) and every scene was done to progress the relationship (With the exception of Milka, the optional scene, though that sort of felt like a sympathy fuck); there’s no boinking just cause Hewie is horny. You have a heroine archetype for just about everyone. For the time this game was created, the graphics are pretty good, if a bit awkward sometimes in h-scenes, although many scenes reuse backgrounds. The RPG battles are fun as well for those who enjoy turn based old-style JRPG fights, and the skip battle option is a great addition that I feel is necessary for any rpg VN.
Even with it’s age and flaws, I would recommend Castle Fantasia 2 Renewal to anyone who is a fan of fantasy or gameplay oriented Visual Novels; While not the greatest, I feel CF2 is a classic for the genre and Studio E.Go! was very neglected and unknown by most of the Western base, much to my dissapointment. The company came out with some great RPGs and was around for over 11 years for a reason (CF was one of their best known series, along with Men At Work and Izumo, Izumo actually having gotten a one season anime). I think Renewals main issue was that they tried to add too many new routes into an updated version, causing many of those characters to suffer and be neglected due to time and budget constraints.
Final Score: 74%
Extremely fun RPG sequences with skip battle option in latter playthroughs, amazing protagonist, Aria was awesome, good core story, h-scenes are treated as sealing a relationship rather than just sex, interesting side characters, great potential, good voice acting.
Cons:
Music was not terrible, but not memorable either. Almost every route added into Renewal was the exact same thing with a different ending, many characters development suffered due to time constraint, game had so much potential but fell short of what could of been a great game instead of just a good one, various plot holes, main heroine that smells like a loli but looks like a busty lady, most routes failed to emotionally engage me. Lots of possibility with side characters that were not explored, Renoir’s baby making stork shenanigans, all endings end in only one conclusion for the war.
Release Info:
Japanese Only release with English Fan-TL Patch. No longer being printed (Details after release info)
VN by Studio E.go! with Fan-TL patch by BTAxis
18+ Visual Novel
Castle Fantasia 2 was never sold as a digital download. Physical copies are no longer being printed and used are somewhat hard to find due to several reasons. One is that CF2 was released 15 years ago in 1998 (Renewal being released in 2000 with another edition in 2002) and Studio E.go! is no longer around. (Most of their staff, including most of the writing staff and the artist, split and created a new company named Debonosu around 2009) Even if Debonosu holds rights for Studo E.go! games like CF2, it is unlikely we will ever see a remake or official English release due to age of the game.  However, reasonably priced copies of CF2 Renewal can still be found on used sites such as JP Amazon (Where I got my copy) for those interested in obtaining a legal copy of the game.  While BTAxis has gone on to do commercial translations now, his translation patch for the game is still floating around for download online. Please keep in mind that, as far as I know, his patch only works on the Renewal edition of the game, not the original. (I think it works with Campaign edition as well)

Read the full review over on Digital Cloud

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Rillania

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