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A Vory Good RPG

  • Dyhalto
  • 09/20/2016 04:28 PM
Itoshi Kokoro, also known as Luvly Heart, is a game that lies somewhere between traditional jRPG and Eroge.
There are no explicit sex acts, and very little in the way of pixelated nudity, but there is a myriad of various fetish items. If they happen to be your jam, then you'll be happier than a pig in poop. And even if they aren't, Itoshi Kokoro is still a damn fine game.

Visual: 5/5
As advertised on the gamepage, IK features 99% custom assets, with the other 1% being RTP doors and I think a grass or floor tile here and there. The artwork and sprites are all beautifully crafted with vibrant colors and proficient use of gradients. But the most impressive aspect to me, as a fellow RM gamedev, was in giving the enemies animated attacks despite using the default battle system. Frankly, I didn't even know it could be done and certainly not so well. They also have a knack for doing other things, like moving their lips when talking and flipping the bird at me.

The party attacks don't disappoint either. Every single basic attack and MP-based skill, and there are gobs of them, are distinct and flashy, never settling for mere palette swapping of older techs. Gravity Punch in particular is hugely satisfying, with the hero Javoo's fist raised in the air, all kinds of dark matter shit blowing up everywhere, and a voice clip of him coldly saying "Fuck you!". Awww, yeah. Take that.
Speaking of voice acting...

Audio: 5/5

This made my day.

I normally despise voice acting in jRPGs. There's nothing more condescending than having on-screen text read to me like I'm a toddler.
Itoshi Kokoro's voice acting, however, is kooky and fun, never taking itself too seriously. Rather than plainly reading dialogue aloud, the gist of a message is either embellished with a single quip like "Tcha!" or "Duuuude", or done as ham-handed as possible like the above clip. The team understood that they weren't performing high drama, and the game is that much better for it.

Meanwhile, the BGM, also completely original, is excellent and in full flavor with the rest of the game. Two thumbs up.

Storyline: 3/5
One of the genre's most familiar opening cliches, the hero being woken up by his mom, is employed here. But there's a slight difference. The hero, Javoo, gets out of bed in his underwear and his first "quest" is to find clothes, complete with celebration fanfare upon dressing. "Well, that's different" you might be thinking. I assure you, it's in tune with the rest of the game.

For the most part, the fetish material is confined to Game Over cinematics, although bosses love to descriptively taunt our heroes before battle. The predominant idée fixe, cleverly hidden in my review's title, does take over in the latter half of the game, to the point of even becoming a dungeon.

Only as long as it takes to digest me, bitch!! And then... umm.....

If that or Hair aren't your thing, then the game might be laying it on thick depending on your tender sensibilities. But if you take all the ecchi away, at heart Itoshi Kokoro is a simple jRPG featuring colorfully-casted teenagers fighting a scary bishounen who wants to rule the world. Nothing particularly innovative, but boy does it have a one-of-a-kind style.

Gameplay: 4/5
This game has it all. Touch encounters, challenging bosses, puzzle-laden dungeons, a job system, collectibles, several minigames, and I'm probably missing a few. I haven't seen this much content in a single RPGMaker game since Final Fantasy : Endless Nova.

But not all is kudos and accolades. The puzzles, while certainly clever and well thought out, can be frustratingly difficult to solve. The clues aren't always apparent, and sometimes it boils down to interacting with everything until you come upon the next step. To be honest, I wouldn't have made it to the end without using the handy Walkthrough* that somebody put together.
To be even more brutally honest, I wouldn't have gotten past the Piano puzzle without opening it in RPG Maker 2000 and checking the event sequence. I am ashamed o|^|_

There're also two unnecessarily grindy points. The first is relatively early on, where you're forced to level up your newfound Jobs before you can advance the plot. The second is at the very end of the game. The last dungeon, really, because the final boss is so over-the-top powerful. I think it was a case of the developer carelessly deciding that, because it's the home stretch anyway, it might as well be a son of a bitch to defeat.

*I always say that Walkthroughs should be written by players for players. This is exactly what this particular one is. Awesome >.<)b
Overall: 4.5/5
Itoshi Kokoro is comprised of equal parts nonsense and seriousness. It's a unique RPG that draws you in with it's characters' silly personalities and dopey adventures, then hooks you by virtue of being genuinely fun.

The question prospective players must ask themselves is : Can I handle being wrapped up in hair and eaten? Do I... enjoy it?