If you stop by Everybody Plays fairly often, you may have noticed we have a slight... addiction to otome visual novels. Combining our love of cheesy romance and story-driven games, we've played through pretty much every one going in recent years - we've swooned over samurai, fudged our way through a bought of amnesia and flirted with fowls, and we still leap at the chance every time a new one comes along. Because nothing beats going to bed with a good book, and the choose-your-own-adventure style of many a visual novel is just as good. Our latest acquisition? Code: Realize ~Bouquet of Rainbows~, a Playstation 4 remake of one of our favourite otomes so far, Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~, now with a whole host of post-game extra content to swoon through too.
Code: Realize ~Bouquet of Rainbows~ is pretty much a game of two halves - at least, if you're playing on the Playstation 4. 2015 saw the release of Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ for the PS Vita, during the height of the handheld's otome boom - and now, several years later, it's been remade for the Playstation 4. Boquet of Rainbows is essentially a combination of Guardian of Rebirth, and a whole load of extra content, under the name Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~. If you're playing on the Vita, you can actually download the ~Future Blessings~ extras as a separate, standalone PS Vita game, saving you from having to buy the same game twice over in order to see everything.
Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~
The game where it all began, the first part of the ~Bouquet of Rainbows~ collection is a direct port of Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~, originally released on the PS Vita a couple of years ago. There's no additional scenes or anything special thrown in here for good measure, with the game essentially being exactly the same as on the Vita.
Story-wise, the game begins in a remote village in Wales, as a girl sits in a mansion, waiting endlessly for her long-gone father to return. 'Monster' and 'demon' the locals call her, thanks to the strange gem embedded in her chest in place of a heart - the Horologium - which has the unfortunate side effect of turning her blood into a deadly poison, which melts through anything her skin touches. One day, her world turns upside down when soldiers storm the house, under orders to retrieve the girl, Cardia, for undisclosed reasons. Fortunately, a knight in shining armour - or rather a gentleman thief in a top hat - gatecrashes the mission and steals Cardia away, believing her to be central to a terrorist plot to level London. Under the care of the aforementioned gentleman thief Arsene Lupin and his eccentric engineer partner Impey Barbicane, Cardia's adventure begins, as she sets about trying to uncover the mysteries behind her father, the poison in her veins, and the aforementioned plot to blow up London.
Heavily story-driven, you play as Cardia as her story unfolds, with periodic conversation options letting you steer the story down a particular path. A bit like a choose your own adventure novel, ~Guardian of Rebirth~ has several different endings on offer, each based around a different one of the eligible bachelors - all members of Lupin's gang you'll get to know as the story unfolds. Alongside the gentleman thief and all-round charmer, Arsene Lupin, there's his big mouth engineer friend Impey Barbicane, who dreams of reaching the moon, and a soft-spoken royal alchemist-come-doctor, Victor Frankenstein.
Before long, the hot-headed 'human weapon'/war hero, Abraham Van Helsing, and the rich French noble with a mysterious secret, Saint Germain round out the group, each helping out Cardia in their own way. By picking the right options in conversations, you'll grow closer to one of the bachelors, before the story splits off onto their own unique path, letting you learn more about the guy in question, and watch the blossoming romance unfold, whilst trying to unravel Cardia's unusual circumstances along the way. Unfortunately, there's still no easy way to check your affection levels with the guys to find out if you're heading off on the right route - often, it's fairly obvious that hanging out with Impey will get you closer to him rather than Victor, but some scenes can be a bit harder to call, and some kind of feedback would have been nice.
Speaking of Impey, we're particularly fond of loveable goofballs ourselves, but all of Code: Realize's characters are pretty darn good, and the alternate history steampunk version of London is an interesting backdrop to the epic tale. There's government conspiracies, nail-biting airship races and dramatic train robberies; run ins with vampires, terrorist plots and mad scientists galore, all wrapped up in a rather outrageous plot with plenty of twists and turns. The banter between the guys is on point too, whether it's Van Helsing blowing off Impey, or Lupin coming face to face with his cunning rival, Herlock Sholmes, there's plenty of giggles to be had too.
Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~
Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ meanwhile, is what's known in the biz as the 'fan disc' - essentially, a compilation of extra scenes, "what if" scenarios and side stories based on the original game. As such, it's not really a true sequel, and is fairly short compared to the ~Guardians of Rebirth~, more of a collection of short stories than anything else. Included as part of the ~Bouquet of Rainbows~ collection on the Playstation 4, you can also download a standalone version of the ~Future Blessings~ portion for the PS Vita, for an eye-watering £40.
Unless you've played through the original Code: Realize game, either in this Playstation 4 collection or on the PS Vita a few years back, ~Future Blessings~ is definitely one you want to come to after, as there's more than a handful of spoilers in the stories you'll find inside. Perhaps the most obviously spoiler-ific are the 'After Story ~White Rose~' routes, which catch up with the heroine and her beau of choice after the events of the main game, to see how they're getting on. Whether it's building a submarine with Impey, hitting up the shops with Van Helsing or enlisting the help of her friends to solve a Lupin-related dilemma (with hilarious consequences), they're all fairly light-hearted tales that last an hour or two at most, with no branches or anything. While it's nice to catch up, and there's plenty of sweet or funny scenes to play through, they're perhaps not the main selling point of the collection either because of how brief they are.
You see, most of ~Future Blessings~ is about the characters that got left behind - the characters and stories that happened in the background of ~Guardian of Rebirth~. Arguably the best of the bunch, the Extra Story ~Herlock Sholmes~ gives you an extra romance route staring Lupin's nemesis and London's favourite detective, Herlock Sholmes - a four or five hour jaunt, complete with conversation options and a hefty nod to Conan Doyle's famous detective in the process. Likewise, the Extra Story ~Finis~ is a similar length 'what if' scenario that assumes Cardia went off with her brother Finis instead, setting various events in motion - for this, you really do need to have finished the main game, as it delves into an awful lot of the game's ending themes, involving Twilight, the Apostles of Idea and Code: Realize, to name drop a few. Finally, Another Story ~Lupin's Gang~ puts faces to the London Mafia referenced at several points during the main story, and sees Cardia befriending the daughter of a Mafia boss, before getting mixed up in a Mafia showdown on a cruise ship. With no conversation options, this is just a straight story, and assumes that Cardia has no particular allegiances either way with the bachelors, with everyone from Lupin to Sainty-G, and even loyal hound Sisi, having their own parts to play in the rescue mission.
As nice as the extra ~Future Blessings~ content is - and we're particularly fond of the Herlock Sholmes route, and Lupin's White Rose after story - we're not sure that there's enough of it to really justify a full-priced PS Vita release. As a 'freebie' on the Playstation 4 collection, it's a nice thing to have, but taken as a standalone, it's rather pricey for what is effectively about 20 hours of story time, versus the 50 or 60 of the original Code: Realize (if you replay for all the routes and true ending). There's also a few quality control issues that crop up on occasion, namely typos and lines where the wrong character is referenced - although this does seem to be a fairly common problem for most of these otome games.
Set in an alternate steampunk version of 1850s London, and with one of the best casts of characters in an otome game so far, Code: Realize is one of the best of the bunch - and if you haven't played it already, then the Code: Realize ~Bouquet of Rainbows~ collection is well worth the investment for that alone. The additional fan disc content that comes from the ~Future Blessings~ pack is really just the icing on the cake, although being much lighter on content than the other half of the collection, whether it's worth a standalone purchase for PS Vita owners is a bit more debatable.