On this entry, I'd like to write.... well, some sort of review of Photo Kano, love simulation game for PSP handheld originally released on February 2nd 2012. Photo Kano is developed by Dingo Inc, published by Kadokawa Games, and copyrighted by Enterbrain.
Actually, I played this game to kill time while waiting Haganai and the second OreImo game back then but turns out it really consumed my time as I really enjoyed playing it, despite my poor understanding of Japanese, lol. I never played any love simulation game before, except for Love Plus, so I don't have any other game as benchmark, but I thought this game is really enjoyable. Great character design, great acting by all the voice actors and actresses, great music, enjoyable stories, and good game play. Wait, why I wrote the conclusions even before the actual review, silly me. Well then, here's the review~
The story revolves on a 2nd-year high school boy who just got a camera from his dad on a summer vacation. To try it, he brings the camera to his school when the second semester begins and thanks to that, he is scouted by two photography clubs on his school and it leads to meeting with some girls. Depends on what the player choose between the Photo Club and Sasshin (Photography) Club, you will go to Story L(ove) or Story H(appy), respectively.
What's the difference between Story L and H? Story-wise the basic foundation of each girl's story is the same but as the same time different because Story L takes more drama-ish approach while Story H takes more comedic approach. Gameplay-wise, Story L gives heart icon often while Story H gives note icon often. What's a heart and note icon about, I'll tell you later.
So, either club you choose, in the end, as any love simulation game usually is, you have to raise affection of the girls. As you do that, you will get to their own story and by the end of the game, if you do things right, you'll end up confessing to the girl.
This part may become a deal-breaker for certain people, because rather than 2D sprite, characters from Photo Kano appeared on 3D CG model. As good as PSP graphic can be, it still looks jaggy here and there but it's not bad, at least for me. But I do notice that the character will looks weird when they were shown from side view.
And if on most of VN game there's a CG artwork for some events, on Photo Kano it's replaced by special scene and of course still with 3D model. One thing that make it bad is you can't access the special scene if you don't save it. And saving the picture consumes a lot of space on your memory stick, though you can always convert it to JPEG file after that so you can store it on your PC with smaller image size.
The objective of this game is within the 2 months deadline (weekdays only, without counting Saturday and Sunday) you have to get at least one girl to (what I call) Level 7 relationship level. There are 6 relationship level, each has 2 main events where it will increase the affection bar. To see your relationship status with each girl, almost every night you can ask Kanon, the little sister, to show you the chart, like above. What we have to do to increase the affection bar? Go to school!! XD
Every day at the school, you'll be given 4 periods to visit a location you want once per period. It's a random encounter so you won't know which girl will appear on one location, though you can check the possibility of which girl appear on which location every period on Photo Kano wiki. And if you wonder why on the picture above the girls are there, it means you can see their sub event (marked with "?" balloon) for one or two increase in affection bar, or main event (marked with "♥" balloon) to increase the relationship level.
If you're frustrating because you don't get to meet the girl you want to, you can use Usa Power. Usa Power displayed on the upper-right of the map, with rabbit and heart icon. To get this Usa Power, meet Kanon every night or you can randomly get it if you meet Kanon when you visit Club Room location. By default, you can stack up to three Usa Power icons and use it one by one or all together. Playing further, you can stack up to five Usa Power icons for greater bonus. The list of Usa Power effects are:
- 1 Usa Power = Love Love Shuffle; cards with all available heroine will be shuffled and you can choose one
- 2 Usa Powers = Love Love Shuffle; same as above but with slower speed
- 3 Usa Powers = Love Love Choice; you can immediately choose which girl you want to meet
- 4 Usa Powers = Love Love Choice+Roulette; after choosing one girl, some bonuses will be rouletted so you can pick one. Available bonuses are:
- Changing girl's attire depending on the location
- Heart icon +1
- Note icon +1
- Enabling alll Topics
- Usa Power +1
- Changing all Note icons to Heart icons
- Changing all Heart icons to Note icons
- 5 Usa Powers = Love Love Choice+Roulette; the same as above but with slower speed for the roulette
Above picture is the interface when you meet a girl after you choose a location. The primary way to increase the girl's affection is by talking to them. After you name your character and before the prologue, you can choose your character's personality. It doesn't affect any flag but it will affect the Topic for this talking segment.
See the icons listed above? There's a color on their background, representing its category (blue is study, yellow is entertainment, green is sport, orange is food, pink is love, and grey is physical contact). Each topic, even though their on same category will give you different result, as in heart icon or note icon. See the heart and note icon shown on upper left? Let's just call it affection bar. If your affection bar is filled with heart in majority, by the end of main event on the relationship level, the girl will move up on relationship chart; while if you get mostly note icon, the girl will move down in friendship zone. Too many in friendship zone you can't get her as your end girl. That's the deal about heart and note icon. You can see the Wiki to see which topic on each relationship level will give you heart or note icon for each girl. This talking segment will ends after you talk, succeed or failed, 5 topics or you choose "Yamero" icon (icon with X mark).
Move on to the big heart on upper right, it's representing their heart beat. Some topic will make their heart beat race faster, and if the gauge is filled, they will become too embarrassed to talk to you and excuse themselves, and you don't want that. Topic that usually do this is pink and grey topics. And yeah, level 3 grey topic will allow you to touch part of girl you want (limited by hair, cheek, shoulder, and breast) :3
And what's the biorhythm thing below the heart beat gauge? It shows you which topic is good to bring out. See the blue thick line? If the icon is on top of it, choose any of same colored topic because it will grant to succeed. On above picture for example, you can choose any grey or green topics. But beware, if there's two same-colored icon on the biorhythm, the game will count the most left-positioned so if there's a left below-the-line icon and same-colored above-the-line icon on its right, even if you choose the right color you'll still be failed because the left icon is what's counted.
The last part of the segment is the affection gauge below the affection icons. By doing above things right it will fills and if it's fully filled, before this segment ends (ie. the fifth topic selection) you can ask the girl to be a model for you by choosing "Attack" icon (icon with camera lens).
If you succeed to ask the girl to be your model, you will be given option to choose what pose the girl does. On the beginning you only have two choices, standing pose and sitting pose. But as the girl's relationship level increases, more choice will appear, even later on level 6 you can ask the girl to do bolder pose!
And the choice is also depends on the location. Some location may have more spots for photo session so your choice may wider while some has more fewer spots.
After you choose a pose, you can move the main character and set up the camera. Not really sophisticated, just choosing angle, lens, and zoom level.
On early relationship levels, the girl will be embarrassed or angry at you if you're too close to her or aiming for too low/too high angle. If you still take picture while they're embarrassed or angry, the score of your picture will reduce.
Score? Yes, every picture you take, be it on photo session or main or sub event will be scored. There's 4 category. Beautiful, Erotic, Duck, and Bad. Beautiful is for normal picture with score 300-ish to 1000; you'll get Erotic if you're taking ecchi picture (aiming for the girl's breast, for example); and Bad if your picture is scored below 300. But since this is only a game, sometimes even a normal picture can be scored Erotic, or vice versa. But if you're aiming for Erotic, just take the girl's body without their head/face on the frame.
And what's a Duck? Duck will be given if you take a picture of Ahoge Appi, a duck mascot. There's 4 Ahoge Appi on each location and it's spot is fixed, but it won't appeared again on the same location if you have taken one. See the Wiki for each Ahoge Appi location.
If you have accumulated certain points of either Beautiful, Erotic, or Duck, there will be "?" mark on Club Room location. And if you go there, the club president will give you a bonus. The bonuses are varied depending on the points and categories, there are closer zoom, closer lens, even bonus to unlock second swimsuit for the girl and screencapture the game every time.
If you think your activities are limited on 4 periods on the school, then you're wrong. After the fourth period ends, option for going home will appears and most of the time there's two chances to meet girl and ask them to go home together in a locker or in front of school gate (sometimes it's only once, or even nothing). But once again, it's random so you can't choose which girl you're going to ask. Most of the time it's the girl with the closest relationship to you, but there are times when the girl closest to you won't appear no matter how many times you load the game. Yeah, if the girl you want won't appear, you can just load the game to retry, so be sure to save before you going home.
And why should I ask girl to go home together, you ask?
And it's just getting better. If you filled the affection gauge on this part, when choosing "Attack" icon, rather than asking the girl to be a model for you, you will have an after-school date with her to some date spot, score!!
The after-school date spots available are: book store, landscape section of the park, children section of the park, shopping mall, variety plaza on shopping mall, food corner on shopping mall, cafe, darts cafe, photo booth on game center, karaoke, or MC's room! But unfortunately, we can't choose the date location by ourselves because the date location is fixed, but it will be changed each relationship level.
So there are 6 after-school date events you can access for every girl. But that's not everything, each event has up to 4 variants. So even if you have gone to one location with a girl, the next day you can ask the same girl to the same place but you'll get different conversation, and sometimes it gets more interesting :)
Out of all after-school date locations, karaoke is special because here you can ask the girl to sing and play Rhythm Photo Session, a simple pressing right button in right time mini game. If you get good score, you can choose to get up to 3 heart icons or note icons by your choice.
There are two song to be choose for each girls, "Moonlight Starlight" or "Photograph Memory". The latter will be unlocked after you get the girl's ending. And after accumulating certain number of photo scores, a bonus to unlock Rhythm Photo Session mini game will appear so you can play this mini game via the main menu.
The last game play feature I'll review is the date part. After you reached the end of Level 5 relationship level, you will promise the girl to go on a date on Sunday. To fulfill the promise, keep the affection icons filled (heart or note icons is fine) until Friday ends. There are some conditions that will reduce the icon: talking about the Topic when it was below-the-line on talking segment; see the girl's underwear on sub-event (not all the girls will get angry and reduce the icon, though); the girl see you go home with another girl after the school (this is random, but happens often to a girl with filled icons).
If the condition is met, then on the Sunday rather than staying at home, the character will going on a date event. The date event is different depends on Story L or Story H, but the locations for the date usually is beach, pool, or theme park.
By the way, you can also go to club room most of the time and you'll get club event. After three times (once a day, usually), on Sunday you'll get another club event. If you keep doing this and don't have any girl to reach level 7 relationship, you'll end up with the sub-character exclusive on each club. I'll get to this sub-character (and main character) on the next Photo Kano post.
SOUND & MUSIC
All the voice actress and actors played their role just great. My favorite here is Mariya Ise as Kanon, she's really great here :3 I'll list all seiyuu/VAs on the next blog as I write description summary of each characters.
The musics of Photo Kano are great too. I like most of the theme of every character (especially Haruka's and Mai's), background song ("Epilogue" are simply great), while I'm not really into the ED song ("Photograph Memory") and "Moonlight Starlight" insert song but they are good song too.
The insert songs are already compiled and sold as Photo Kano Original Soundtrack CD, while the ED song (normal version and specific character version) and character song are sold separately as Character Song from vol 1 to vol 9 just like shown above.
Okay, to sum up, as my second love simulation game I played, Photo Kano left really good impression for me. I really liked this title and almost all heroines here. If you haven't played this but has interest, there's a campaign from yesterday until September 5th that reduce the price for downloading this game from the 5800 yen normal price to just 3800 yen!
On next Photo Kano post, I'll write about the characters, manga adaptations, and probably the summary of some girl's story. Until then guys~