We took a look at an overview of how Evenicle works as a game back when I shared my first impressions of the game, but it’s time to delve a bit deeper.
Much like AliceSoft’s other games, Evenicle is an RPG in which its narrative and mechanical elements are intertwined rather nicely, giving the whole experience a pleasant feeling of coherence. The party members you gather over the course of the game feel like people rather than collections of stats and abilities — but there’s some interesting mechanical depth there for those who care to explore such things.
Let’s dive in, then.
MILD NSFW WARNING
In contrast to the last AliceSoft game we explored here on MoeGamer — the excellent Rance VI: Collapse of Zeth — Evenicle draws many of its mechanical influences from 8- and 16-bit computer and console role-playing games by Japanese developers, rather than first-person PC dungeon crawlers. The action unfolds from a top-down perspective, towns are functional and primarily menu-driven rather than fully-realised explorable environments in their own right, and you’ll run into numerous random combat encounters on the world map. Exploring the world and fighting are the two main things you’ll be doing in mechanical terms throughout the entire duration of Evenicle; there are occasional dungeons, but they tend to be quite small and straightforward.
There are a few nice quality of life features that set the game apart from its obvious inspirations, however, with one of the most prominent being the use of an “encounter bar” that indicates when you’re about to get into your next fight. This fills up most slowly when you keep to the paths, and more quickly when you go “off-road” — this is a bit of a callback to how Nintendo’s Zelda II: The Adventure of Link did things, since that game spawned encounters once you stepped off the path, though you could see your foes and perhaps even dodge them in that case.
Taking some cues from certain modern dungeon crawlers — Demon Gaze is a good example — Evenicle also includes visible encounter triggers across the world map. These come in three different forms: spiked balls represent a normal encounter for the region that rewards 1.5x the regular amount of experience; a difficult-to-see purple mist, usually situated well off the main routes, indicates a challenging (though not impossible) encounter, either involving rarer monsters or greater numbers of the ones you’re used to fighting in the area; and visible specific monsters with a purple aura around them are “Megamonsters”, extremely powerful foes that are generally much too strong to be defeated when you first come across them.
These latter triggers have an element of persistence to them. The red spiked balls and purple mists disappear once you defeat them, for example, but respawn after you visit a church in any town. The Megamonsters stay dead, however; a record of them is added to your “Collection” so you can keep track of which ones you’ve defeated, but otherwise all that remains of them is the piece of scenery they were decimating, or the path they were blocking, now freely accessible.
It’s actually in your interests to try and get into as much combat as possible throughout Evenicle. Not only do you earn the usual experience points for completed battles, but you also add to Aster’s “Love Gauge” in the corner of the screen, representing the fervent ardour he feels by fighting alongside the women he loves. This meter increases by roughly 3% for every battle you complete, regardless of its difficulty, and, after the point early in the story where Aster and his first wife Ramius obtain a house to call their own, once it hits 100% you are able to return to the family home to see an event with one of the wives Aster has married at that point in the story.
There is a hard cap on how many events you can see according to your story progress, however; if your Love Gauge is maxed out and there appear to be no further bride events available, that’s your signal to move on, make some progress in the main story and try again in the next main chapter. You can do so immediately, since the Love Gauge doesn’t reset, which is nice.
Evenicle gradually grows in mechanical complexity as you progress through the story and Aster marries more wives. At the outset of the game, you control Aster by himself, and you have a bit of time to get used to his various abilities. He has both physical and magical attacks at his disposal — though his magical attacks only use the lightning element — and early equipment allows you to either emphasise his raw physical attack power or bolster his magic at the expense of a bit of this strength. As you progress, you add a tank (Ramius), a mage (Riche), a physical attacker/assassin (Gurigura) and a tactician (Kath) to your party, each of whom bring their own unique lineup of skills to the table.
While you can’t “build” your characters completely yourself in Evenicle, they do have a degree of customisation about them. Each character, as noted above, falls into the archetype of a particular class and earns a series of skills appropriate to that class through a combination of levelling up, finding them in the field, completing quests and simply using the skills in combat. There’s a limit to how many skills a character can have equipped at once, however; each skill carries a skill points cost, meaning you’ll need to build an appropriate “deck” for the situations you’re likely to come across in the immediate future. Additional skill points are earned at various level milestones and through the bride events, so this is another reason it’s in your interests to get in as many fights as possible and max out that Love Gauge.
Skills fall into several broad categories. Red skills are physical attacks, which typically have a damage multiplier and/or a bonus against a particular type of enemy. Some physical attacks can hit multiple targets, too, but they tend to be more costly to both equip and use.
Purple skills, meanwhile, are magic. Aster gains access to some of these, as previously mentioned, but it’s mostly Riche who makes most frequent use of them. Riche has access to fire, ice and light element spells, and using her single-target versions of these eventually unlocks a version that does marginally less damage but hits all the targets in the battle.
Blue skills are support abilities. These include simple functions like using an item — a skill that costs nothing to equip and doesn’t even finish a character’s turn, allowing them to both heal themselves and then take action without penalty — as well as escaping from combat, buffing and healing the party and triggering special effects. Once you get Ramius in your party in the early game, you’ll quickly learn that her main support skill makes her more effective as a defensive tank than an outright attacker; her “Ally Guard” skill buffs her with a stacked status that makes her more likely to take damage for a comrade the more stacks it has, up to a maximum of four. Likewise, Kath, who you get much later in the game, primarily uses her Tactician support skills to increase the party’s overall effectiveness.
Finally, green skills have various passive effects that do not need to be actively triggered. These can be simple multipliers to a character’s strong points — Aster gets an attack multiplier, for example, while Ramius gets a boost to her HP — or, in some cases, add functionality to the game interface. The automap facility is a skill that needs to be equipped, for example, as is the ability to see information about enemy types and weaknesses. Gurigura even has a fantastic skill that allows you to completely skip combat against enemies significantly weaker than you while still getting all the experience, loot and Love Gauge benefits. You are free to unequip these skills if you see fit, and there’s a certain amount of redundancy in these passive skills as the party grows, allowing you to mix and match a bit more than you can do in the early chapters — though at most points in the game you will be unable to equip all of your available skills simultaneously.
In order to actually use active skills in battle, you make use of a resource called “BP”. A character is able to store up to five of these at once, and “charges” a new one every time they get a turn in battle; Kath also has an optional skill that allows her to take an entire turn charging an additional BP. Skills will then cost between one and five BP to make use of, with the more powerful or multi-target abilities typically requiring four or five, while simple single target attacks need one or two at most.
The interesting thing about the BP system is that it allows you to “prepare” for a difficult confrontation you know is coming. Prior to engaging a Megamonster or event battle, you may want to deliberately take the time to get into some random fights to ensure everyone’s BP is charged to capacity — and in the process you’ll need to make sure you actually don’t kill those random foes too quickly, since if a slower character doesn’t get a turn before the battle is over, they won’t charge any BP! This aspect can be mitigated to a certain degree through the “BP Juice” item that can only be used outside of combat — but much like in the Rance series, consumable items become significantly more expensive the more of them you have in your inventory, so it’s impractical and undesirable to stockpile them unless you can find them out in the field rather than purchasing them.
There are a few other twists on the formula, too. Certain skills not only carry a BP cost, but also a limit as to how many times they can be used in a single encounter. Riche’s Healing ability is one example; rather than this being a skill that relegates her to the role of “healslut”, its 5 BP cost and the fact it can only be used once per combat in its initial form means it’s more of an “oh shit” button than anything else.
Ramius’ “Capture” ability is another good example. Yes, much like in the Rance series, you are able to capture “gal monsters”, which rewards you with both an erotic image to add to the Collection and the gal monster herself as an item; she can either be sold for a tidy profit when you get back to town, or used as an equippable item to boost your stats in some way. Those who found the somewhat sadistic gal monster “training” scenes in Rance VI a little hard to deal with will be pleased to know there are no such scenes in Evenicle — though I hasten to add this isn’t to say there aren’t any distressing, gruesome scenes elsewhere in the game; this is AliceSoft, after all. Those who enjoyed them, on the other hand… well, replace the word “pleased” with “disappointed” — though the capture images will probably slake your thirst at least somewhat. But I digress.
While Rance is able to repeatedly attempt Capture on a gal monster in his games, Ramius can only do it once per combat, so you’d better make sure it’s going to work. It won’t work at all if the monster’s HP is above 25%, and it’s only guaranteed to work if their HP is 10% or below — though a passive skill she unlocks later can buff these chances. With that in mind, successful Captures either require you to be very careful about which attacks you use on which enemies — or make use of Gurigura and Kath’s “Mercy Attack” abilities, which are half-strength physical attacks guaranteed to never kill an enemy. This is just one example of how the various characters’ skills interlock with one another nicely, allowing them to complement and support one another rather than feeling like they’re acting completely independently.
Pretty much every one of the skills in the game has some sort of narrative justification, however subtle. Some, such as Ramius’ ability to protect others, are pretty self-explanatory. Others, such as Riche’s Staff Whack, are explained through optional side events — in this case, it’s clear that she wants to feel more “useful” when the party comes up against the completely magic-immune Hanny enemies, a recurring foe in AliceSoft games. Given that Riche’s physical attack power is utterly pathetic, Staff Whack is next to useless, but the game does such a good job of making you feel bad for her that you’ll probably find yourself wanting to use it when confronted with Hannies anyway — particularly once you see how much joy she gets from smashing the little ceramic perverts.
A significant sidequest in the game involves a hidden castle called Camelot (there are a lot of Arthurian references throughout the game, particularly in the second chapter), in which a mysterious (and possibly pre-recorded) voice challenges you to complete a series of tasks, with new skills for Aster on offer as a reward. These challenges typically require you to do something specific and unconventional in battle; one tells you to “be kind to girls”, for example, which means either allowing gal monsters in an encounter to escape, or capturing them rather than killing them. Another demands simply that you finish each battle in a “cool” way — this actually means ensuring that the last blow struck is a skill that causes a character cutaway to appear on screen, signifying that it is a “special move”.
As you can hopefully tell by this point, there’s a lot of substance to Evenicle in gameplay terms as well as in its narrative. It’s a classic example of AliceSoft doing what it does well: providing an experience that seems highly accessible — perhaps even simplistic — on the surface, but which actually has a surprising amount of depth if you look a little deeper and progress further into the game. There’s a pleasantly gradual curve of both challenge factor and mechanical complexity as you advance through the story, and it remains consistently enjoyable through its intoxicating blend of delightful characters, dramatic narrative moments and satisfying mechanics.
To put it another way, if you’re a JRPG fan and haven’t yet explored anything by AliceSoft, perhaps on the grounds you find the adult content offputting much like I once did with Rance… I urge you to correct that as soon as possible. And Evenicle is a great place to start your journey. Haniho!
More about Evenicle
MangaGamer generously provided a copy of Evenicle for the purposes of these articles.
If you enjoyed this article and want to see more like it, please consider showing your social support with likes, shares and comments, or become a Patron. You can also buy me a coffee if you want to show some one-time support. Thank you!