Artificial Girl 2By 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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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 Games.net/Ren'ai Games.com.