It took over a month to get here but I finally have my big ol’ yaoi hands on Side Kicks! I guess all those public holidays during April made it harder for it to get mailed to my door 😅 I was thinking of getting a special set like the animate set but decided to hold back bc I’m already drowning in badges and stuff and I’ve gotta think about saving money. Though the Imajin special shop bonus had a Rico
dakimakura cover–wall scroll/tapestry, tho I wouldn’t put it up on my wall bc I might be judged by others considering he looks like a 12 year old (he’s actually 19 going on 20). You can be the judge of that by looking at the sample image of the almost dakimakura-esque wall scroll/poster/whatever it is. The funny thing is that they don’t have the same treatment done to the other characters so Rico is just special.
I did however bought the limited edition of Side Kicks!, particularly from CD Japan which delivered on its usual bromide store bonus, however instead of giving 2 bromides of different CGs they only gave out 1 which I won’t complain bc I wasn’t expecting much lol.
Seeing that this post will be a bit short if I just talked about the stuff that comes with the Limited Edition, I’m gonna also talk about my first impressions on the game after playing it for 2 hours or so. Hopefully this post will give some ppl some insight into what kind of game Side Kicks! is, and hopefully I’ll get to finish it and actually write a proper review this time. Please be patient with me lol.
——Unboxing Limited Edition
Side Kicks! Limited Edition is the usual you’d get from any other otome game companies like Otomate: a booklet, drama CD, box packaging etc–though Side Kicks! is from a fresh, new otome game company called “eXtend” and this would be their second otome game.
Now I don’t want to be that pretentious prick who does a thorough analysis and comparison on a limited box packaging but yeah… I’m gonna be that prick. Comparing between the Otomate Limited Editions, Side Kicks! Limited Edition box actually seems of better quality. It’s got a nice gloss on it and isn’t 100% made out of flimsy cardboard unlike Otomate’s which makes me worry that if I spilt my drink on it it’d melt away into a soggy puddle of cardboard and ink. What I’m trying to say is that it seems a bit more durable than an Otomate Limited Edition. Also it’s the first time I’ve seen the illustration for the package be used for the whole box, rather than being on the front and have the back be the same design as the regular packaging where you get the cartridge out of. I didn’t really ask or wanted it like that but thanks for doing that anyway lol.
You get 1 drama CD that comes inside the limited edition titled “Episode Zero” which I’m not exactly sure about it’s contents but I’m gonna assume it might have something to do with before the things in the game occurred. You also get another drama CD just for preordering the game which is titled “Side Kicks! ~Season 2~”, if you can guess it’s got to do with discussing the future productions of Side Kicks! (tho this is between the all characters and not really discussing Side Kicks! the game… or maybe it is lol). The description on the website for the CD speculates what the future for Side Kicks would be, would the sequel be all in English? Would it be more focused on the detective work? etc, almost like they actually are discussing on a new game or maybe a new season as in a television season considering how the game feels like you’re watching a detective show 😆 The levels of promising meta in this CD bruh… Of course, I won’t be listening to them until after I finish the game.
Lastly my most favorite part of Limited Editions besides getting the cartridge and playing the game is the small booklet that contains neat bonus behind the scenes stuff. Most of all I enjoy looking at the sketches and rough designs of characters and luckily for me this booklet actually has character sheets with different doodles to express bits of their personalities so thank you for adding that to the booklet.
The booklet is even designed to look like a top secret file from the S.P.D (Sakrada Police Department) even though it has doodles and shit from the Side Kicks kids on the back lmao. Aw those rascals. Its the little details that counts, y’know?
The booklet contains key visuals from promotional material etc as well as character profiles that gives a bit on their bio and their “personal records” that just has some tidbits about them, prolly a heads up to what expect from them like Chika being terrible at handling electrical devices lol. There’s also CGs featuring the character on their profile (which may get into spoiler territory so I tried to squint may way through some of the profiles so I don’t spoil myself on their route) as well as some character expressions which I appreciate, like look at Chika’s blushing face and then his pouty facelol.
The character sheets were prolly the best part of the booklet, the part where they showed of Kirara’s menu was the second best because goddamn does that food look so good lol. Instead of showing scrapped designs they showed off some sketches of the different expressions and details to their character both personality wise and physical appearance.
There also things that I love seeing and that is when the artist draws a character who usually styles their hair up or has it slicked back with their hair just non-styled and thankfully there are a lot of characters who have styled hair so I can appreciate them more with their hair down lol.
Here are just some of my favorites:
From Left to Right: Chika, Hibari, Tatewaki and Rico (with his fringe up)
The rest of the booklet is a few extra stuff like the town map, prop designs, cute random doodles by the artist as well as staff comments and guest artists illustrations celebrating the release of the game. And that’s about it for the booklet, it was a very amusing experience to sit through it though I guess it’s best to look through it after I finish the game lol. I think I tainted my eyes & brain with spoilers…
Usually I would time myself playing the game for 2 hours but when I played it, it was late at night I just stopped playing when I started feeling drowsy (this was around 3am or something), so I’m not sure if it was 2 hours of play or not but I’ll just give my impressions on what I’ve experienced so far.
On first impressions, so far it looks promising. You can tell that they put a lot of effort into developing the visual aspects of the game as much as possible to make it more appealing to the player. I’ve forgotten to mention that this game is also co-developed by TOYBOX Inc., the company that also did a joint project with Otomate that was 7’scarlet which used a lot of FMVs/cutscenes to visually stimulate the story and go further than what most mediocre otome games do (I’m sorry y’all but I have to say it). In Side Kicks! they do use some pre-rendered cutscenes that sometimes uses 3D objects interacting in an almost 2D scene. A few things that impressed me was the first dinner scene where the background image is actually animated in a few places while the dialogue went on, small things like the fans turning and the tv going on and the neon lights of the jukebox flashing was pretty impressive (tho it stops doing that once a truck crashes into the dinner and the cool background stops lol).
I really wish I could record the gameplay on the PS Vita to show off the nice background but for now just take my word on it lol.
I’m not exactly if it’s 100% inspired on TOYBOX’s part bc they’re known to do this with a few of their games like in 7’scarlet where during the bus ride of the first scene you can actually see the trees go back the windows of the bus. Then again, the website of TOYBOX doesn’t show Side Kicks! as part of its products it developed and they don’t have a link on the official Side Kicks! website, so maybe they just mainly co-operated in helping develop the game with eXtend, maybe with the FMVs/cutscenes? Who knows. Another neat thing is how it transitions into a cutscene and using 3D objects in what you supposed was a 2D landscape to crash right into the scene… quite literally lmao.
Left image is during a cutscene where I can prolly say everything is done in 3D, right image is a still frame from the end of the cutscene used as a background image
The style of the cutscene and the background images share the same unique art style that it practically blends into the scene without it being too jarring (except for how the truck seemed to not have a scratch on the front which kinda breaks the illusion a bit haha). For an example on how a regular background looks like, here’s what the dinner looked like before the truck came crashing in:
Ngl I really love the art style of both the background art and the sprites, its really appealing to look at. So yeah, I appreciate all the effort that has been put into the art and feel of the game. Also I don’t know how long it’s been since i last picked up my vita to play an otome game but damn are these CGs crisp as hell, its a sight for sore eyes really. Props to the main character artist, it was mainly bc of their style that I was drawn to the game and as I keep playing I start to love their style more and more that I think I’m becoming a fan of it lol. There are a few things that stand out like long limbs or long fingers are sometimes the positions of the ears doesn’t seem to sit right with me but all in all it’s pretty clean and appealing.
Also whoever drew this menu deserves an award or something for making me so damn hungry for these dishes (I was playing it late at night too, the worst time to get hungry).
Anyway, having great art direction is all good and all but what this really boils down to is how good the story is executed. You can have great art but if your story fails then it’s not worth the time if there’s no effort in the story. Considering I’m early into the game I guess I can’t say much but for now I am a bit optimistic it won’t do anything stupid or fail to deliver on what would’ve been a good story.
To give a good run down on the story, it’s about a place (possibly in California, America) in a fictional place called “Sakrada” (which is spelt as ‘sakurada’ in katakana). So I’m guessing it’s a town that’s both American influenced as well as Japanese considering most (if not, some) of the cast has Japanese names.
Apparently there’s been this distribution of highly toxic drugs going around that kinda makes ppl go berserk called “Rip Code” or something, which makes them lose their minds and turn violent. Because of such cases on the rise they decided to form a new task force under the S.P.D (Sakrada Police Department) called “Side Kicks!”, each member has a special ability which is why they were chosen. Rico has a superb photographic memory, Shishiba is the hacker man, Hibari is the psychological analysiser aka The Mentalist that can read you like a book, while Chika is just some dude that is really physically fit and prolly can kick the shit out of you and Tatewaki’s special skill is….. leadership? Boyo wtf. Nora isn’t really considered part of the SK but he’s a good informant.
The heroine is a new recruit that predicted that a truck would crash into the dinner and asked the SK to help her get the ppl out of the way before the truck would crash. Now why does she know this? Apparently ever since she was born she had this ability to predict things through dreams whenever she dozes off (like day dreaming or suddenly spacing out during the day or something) and she keeps a memo of it in her phone right after the dream. Tatewaki recruits her out of nowhere after learning of her involvement of predicting the truck incident and she was thinks that hes prolly not serious until he invites her to meet up with SK again and gets a tour of S.P.D.
The story is kinda segmented like a TV show where after a chapter it teases what’s gonna happen next time, kinda like in Scared Rider Xechs (If I remember correctly lol, I can’t remember shit anymore). I think it’s going for one of those Detective Shows and it does show with the little mini theme that kinda plays around in the beginning of the chapter after the prologue which also plays in the promotional video here.
That’s about as far as I’ve gone, but there also seems to be another mystery going on which is “Who is the Rain Killer?” Obviously they don’t mean the Raincoat Killer from Deadly Premonition…. wait a minute…. “Deadly Premonition”…. the heroine has a power that gives her premonitions…. F.K… in the coffee…… What could it meeeeeaaaannnnnnn???????? (Fun Fact: TOYBOX helped publish the directors cut of Deadly Premonition, tho considering TOYBOX is credited as co-orporating with development to Side Kicks! it might not be that deep lol)
System wise, you can choose to view which chapter you want to do (depending you have unlocked it), you have a glossary of words and terms relative to the world building of the story and did I mention you can skip to the next choice? I haven’t really tried it yet but there’s a jump button which I will assume that it jump to the next dialogue choice. I’m not sure if the jump function warns you that you can’t jump bc there’s unread text but there is a way to see if you have read the text or not and that is based on the color of the text, same goes for changing the color of the dialogue option you’ve chose in the past.
Sadly there is no status screen to see which boy’s heart you’re gonna snatch based on an affection meter. However you have got to keep an eye out for some eye catches (or as Otomate would call that system as “ai-catches”), whenever you choose the right choice for a dude a different sound effect than usual will play when choosing the option as well as a flash of color right next to the dialogue choice. What the color is depends on the guy whose affect went up for the dialogue choice, red for Chika, light blue/turquoise for Shishiba, pink for Rico etc. Luckily the dudes are all color coated for you, like the color of their eyes and the color highlight at the ends of their hair is what tells you is their main color motif. It ain’t that hard.
There’s also a chat log feature that I have yet to experience yet and also an archive of “On Air with S”, which is these little portions where Showtaro Morikubo–I mean, Shisui does a little bit of expository dialogue that may give a bit of a hint on whats to come or what to expect as the story goes on.
All in all I still haven’t scratched the surface of Side Kicks! and I’m hoping there’s more that it has to offer. I’m beggin’ ya Side Kicks! please don’t disappoint me, you’ve been one of my anticipated games of 2017…. Lately I’ve been trying to subvert my expectations when it comes to Otome Games bc you’ll never know which one turns out to be a kusoge because the writing was handled poorly and its kinda sad, can’t really seem to enjoy some of them anymore lol.
Anyway thanks for reading, here’s the edgy opening movie sung by Shisui–I mean Showtaro Morikubo to outro this long ass post.
Nothing says otome game like naked dudes taking a shower together and being emos to the sweet vocals of Showtaro Morikubo