Artificial Girl 2
By mikey
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

In all the various forms of games that have one or the other thing to do with anime girls, romance, and also quite a lot of sex, the classic forms are the visual novel, which is like a sophisticated form of an illustrated Choose Your Own Adventure book, and the dating sim, which is mostly based on statistics and event planning. These two forms are so dominant, that there are hardly other forms that could claim as much popularity.

However, there are also a few games that are based on something else. Full 3D environments, and, logically... 3D girls. There are several companies specializing in 3D games with anime-style girls. And some of them are quite popular in the West. So popular in fact, that there are one or two unofficial translation projects - and given the fact that some of them fully translate the relevant text, there is a game or two that more or less can be played "in English". Games like Sexy Beach 2, Biko 3 or the probably most popular of them all... Artificial Girl 2.

So, Jinkou Shojo 2, as it is called in Japan, is a bishoujo game. And, the following is a review of it.

Hopefully, at the end, we will get to the very point of this game and find out whether 3D bishoujo games have something to offer to the fan interested in ren'ai. How do we start then? Obviously, many 3D games will try to lure the ren'ai fan with graphics, because classic forms like visual novels and dating sims usually have "only" 2D artworks. So, if graphics are to be the selling point, how are they in this game?

To be brutally honest, they are catastrophic. Even though this game is from 2003, its visuals are horrifying by any standards. Because this is a 3D game, you'd expect the graphics to be worth at least something. But no. The 3D environment is simply insulting. The "terrain" is nothing more than low-polygonal elevations, and the "textures"... don't get me started. They look like the sort of thing that you'd expect to see in low-budget Flash games, in fact, it seems like anyone could program the whole engine and make textures from randomly googled-up images in about a week. And this is not mentioning the lighting and transparency issues. The environment does change luminosity and color (night, etc...), but the characters seem to always stay the same. Glowing like they just came from a nuclear reactor.

The resulting effect is bad beyond belief. I mean, each of the 10 or so areas you can visit in the game is about thirty steps long. To get to the other one, the game then has to load the other area. It's incredibly annoying, very lengthy and feels cheap. There is no sense of engine stability either. Inside buildings, cameras are fixed, but normally, the camera is positioned at a set distance behind the player and just goes through any obstacle, so you're feeling that the game is actually running in some strange debug mode.

But if there's anything more annoying than the quality of the environment, it's the game's control system. It's hugely unintuitive and its non-customizable layout with three control zones appears to have been designed for people with... well, three hands. A prime example for the ridiculousness is the movement system, which is done with the mouse and where left click means walk. Eventually though, you will get the hang of it, but not before some painful re-teaching of basic 3D game control layouts. And you know, it will still feel unnatural and come a situation where you'd like to react quickly, your mind defaults back and you'll make a mess of everything.

Luckily, we can say that the story of this game is not as bad as the graphics. Although this probably has something to do with the fact, that there is no story. Hence, it can't be bad. Or can it? Because you see, the game not only has no story, it has no goals. This means it has no beginning and no end. It's pretty much obvious then, that people who are interested in a good story (and most of the ones who appreciate complex visual novels are) can now more or less stop reading, because for them, the case is closed. Sort of.

So what is all this control idiocy for? What are the atrocious graphics, the few polygons with slapped-on textures that are the so-called "environment" really for? Or the see-through fixed camera? Or even an option (and I'm not joking here), to turn the environment OFF, so your character simply floats in black nothing... Does it have any meaning at all? Well, it does.

Because the only purposeful thing you can do here... is to have sex. The engine is made primarily for the comfort of you being able to attain any viewing angle while you have three-dimensional sex - that's why the camera ignores obstacles, that's why the environments are so basic and that's why you can switch off the environment. Stripped down like this, this the true nature of the game. A sex simulator. It all makes sense then. Suddenly, when in sex mode, controls become much more obvious and natural as well. It's actually a really smart design, highlighting the only thing that matters, and then, building the environment as a secondary element. Speaking in game design terms, Illusion know their focus.

And the second area of focus is obviously - the girl. There is just one, but you can customize her body measurements and looks to make it just right for you. Like a doll, you can choose hair, eyes, colors, styles, accessories, even personality, and at special points in the game, loads of clothing with more that are unlockable (by having sex). The girls is so detailed, even down to the errr... "physics" of certain body parts, that it looks like more effort has been spent on her than on the entire rest of the game. But being a bishoujo, this is actually also a good thing.

Yes, I am praising this as focused design, but I'm not so sure that people reading an article on a site with the word "ren'ai" in its title will be thrilled. This is a good game, make no mistake about it, but it's a good sex game - make no mistake about that either. The only point is to go around the island and look for places to have sex.

So, this review wasn't incredibly helpful. I mean all of this, all I have written, you would be able to guess. Just imagine...

What would instinctively come to your mind if you heard the one-liner summary "Artificial Girl 2, the popular 3D game where you can interact with a doll girl you create, in exciting environments"? Surely enough, as a halfway intellingent ren'ai fan, even without this review, you'd be right to assume that there is no story. In fact, there isn't any text in the game at all, and there is no mission, no real goals. So, even without my unhelpful commentaries above, you'd also be right in guessing that sex is the only type of meaningful action you can take in the game. Besides, the 3D environments are really cheap and hopeless - ultimately, the game is no more than a customizable sex tool for all one's tastes, which is also something you'd be able to figure out. You would rightfully think all this. This game is the epitome of what's poisoning bishoujo gaming, it's the complete opposite of the quality visual novel, it's a game for adolescent boys with lots of acne. It's no wonder 90% of all the translated English bishoujo games are just sex romps. Artificial Girl 2 is the more pathetic in that it doesn't even really need an English translation - it's the purest form of a mindless sex game. You would think this, and you'd be right.

Except... you'd be wrong.

You see, this game has a second face. Touching. And emotional. It is one of the most wonderful games I have ever seen, and quite possibly the most romantic one I have ever played, much more involving, much more direct, and with more romance than any visual novel or dating sim ever gave me.

Right, so by now, you're probably thinking I am hallucinating, that the low refresh rate of my monitor has caused me an interesting medical condition. But it's the truth. Artificial Girl 2 is so much more than a sex game, even though the reason for this may not (and probably will not) be apparent unless you actually play it. This game differs substantially from the other titles we mentioned were from this family. But before we get to that, let's talk about the girl.

Yes, when you are creating her, you can suit her to your liking, even down to her name. But don't think of it as a tool for being able to have your way with some popular anime girl you replicate. Put something more than just hormones in, and think of it as dreaming about your perfect girl. The offer of styles and parameters isn't overwhelming, but it should really be enough for everyone. Already at this stage, some of the romance sets in. You find yourself painting this beautiful image that will become reality. And it does. When you're done, everything goes white and you wake up on a strange, deserted island. There is no one around. Time does not flow, only day and night, rain and sunshine are cycling. An island far away from everyone, far away from everything. There is nothing you are forced do, nothing you must accomplish. In fact, the island is the very definition of paradise. Because it's the place where you are with her. And there is really nothing else that matters.

So, you will think, this is just some emotional blabber. There's nothing to do except have 3D sex with the girl, and where's the romance in that? Well, that's not entirely correct. You see, the thing about the whole pointlessness of being able to wander around the island forever is what makes this game what it is. As was mentioned earlier, you don't have to do anything. Which also means, you don't have to have sex within the first minute of the game.

The single defining feature for this kind of experience has to be the option of walking hand in hand. It's such a basic and simple, even pointless thing to implement, but it's one of the most wonderful things in life. This means you can go and take a nice walk with your girl together. You can let her go and then chase her around, or she will try to hide somewhere and wait for you to find her. From time to time, she will take your hand and lead you somewhere, where she wants to run around. Whenever you feel like it, just stop, give her a hug and kiss her. Just so. Then, go somewhere and just sit down, relaxing in each other's presence. And unlike any other game, you even have the option of hugging her after you made love.

You know, I am a huge fan of the Grand Theft Auto game series. When playing Vice City, I got to a point where there was a garage you could own. You could take part in races, earn money and have a life. The GTA series is known for this kind of free-roaming gameplay, meaning you can even ignore the actual game line and play it your way. I love GTA's gangster gameplay, but I love racing even more. It just took over and the feeling was great. I would spend weeks just being this faceless racer with no other agenda.

And my point? Artificial Girl 2 has the same kind of active freedom. Perhaps it's not really intentional, and there's a big chance that it isn't, but that doesn't matter. I make no secret out of the fact that when playing visual novels or dating sims that seem to be too sex-oriented, I try to end the game with the bad ending, try to cause the girls as little harm as possible. It's my way.

And here, in Artificial Girl 2, the game-makers gave me all the freedom I need. Maybe others will play it for the sex, and it's perfectly fine, because it's a great sex game. Me, I found romance in going against the system. I would save my girl from the intentions of the 3D game industry, I would not let her go through the scenarios like they had thought, and I would give her love and respect. And so I did. In essence, the girl and you on the island, it's just limited freedom and a bit of the Tamagotchi mechanic with the only parameter being love. But it feels like nothing else.

And that's what this game is - it's everything you make of it. You can play it as a sex game, mindless, pointless, but you don't have to. You can spend long hours just being with the girl of your dreams, living in that house with her, and maybe there will come a time, when you feel you want to be close... and that's when you'll make love. In fact, it will never feel in any way perverted or cheap this way, because it just can't. If you play this game, if you really are willing to give it your heart, you'll find it can give you back just as much.

I could still go on at this point, telling you about how names can make the game even more intense, telling you about how the fact that your girl speaks in an unknown language makes the scenario even more special, but I'll leave it. I guess everyone will ultimately make their own luck. Sometimes, people will short-sightedly blame circumstances, even other people for things that happen. But maybe you can take control more often than you think. Romance just isn't something that can be defined as a few memory loss or time shift scenarios, it isn't defined by the presence of snow or rain, it isn't defined by how touching the dialogues are, and it isn't even defined by how big a role sex plays. Maybe it's even impossible to define what romance is in games and Artificial Girl 2 certainly won't help you with the answer.

But we're not looking for an answer here. At the start of this review, I was just hoping to find out, whether games like this have something to offer to ren'ai fans. And by now, they probably already know.

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mikey runs ATP Projects, has released several English bishoujo games and maintains the
English Bishoujo Games Encyclopedia.

"Artificial Girl 2" © 2006 mikey. All rights reserved.
Contents of this article are purely the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect those of Ren'Ai'ai

Content© 2005 &, unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved.