Final Impressions: Daibanchou – Big Bang Age

daibanchou1As promised, here is my review of Alice Soft’s 2003 eroge RPG Daibanchou: Big Bang Age. I’m honestly not sure why I started playing this game to begin with, but I’m pretty sure it’s because I found an intriguing image of one of the heroines and a little bit of research here and a little more there, and voila, next thing you know I have the English-translated version of the game downloaded on my computer. As a fan of RPGs and cute anime girls, this seemed to be up my alley, even if it did have erotic content. I had played Utawarerumono previously and that game was amazingly fun even though there were sex scenes in it, so I figured I’d give Big Bang Age a try.

I’m glad I did, because even though the game has a really steep learning curve, it was incredibly addictive once I started figuring it all out. So let me do my best to explain why.

Plot

Taken directly from the Wikia page, here is the plot summary, as it states it better than I ever could:

In the year 200X, a giant hole erupted in the middle of Japan. Called the Demonic Hole, its appearance caused the sea to split and the lands to bend. The entirety of Japan was twisted out of shape, and dark B-crystals appeared everywhere, bestowing special powers to some people. Special Students, as those people were called, became the object of fear. Japan became ruled by violence and terror and was cut off from the rest of the world.

A year after the appearance of the Demonic Hole, a Special Student with extraordinary strength and will managed to unite the Special Students throughout Japan. He formed the Student Union (S.U.) to bring order back to Japan, and Japan entered a new age. But the peace did not last long…

Enter Rouga Zanma, a nomad of strong mind and body, who transfers into the Seijou Academy in Tokyo with two goals in mind: Conquering all of Japan in order to restore order and finding a powerful B-Crystal that can help his fiancee, Kunagi Tenrou, transform out of the wolf appearance her body has become stuck in. Seijou Academy is currently ruled by a banchou (gang boss) who rules with an iron fist and has his way with the girls in the school as he sees fit. But once he sends his lackeys to bring him Sanae Hibiki, the class president that Rouga has come to know and respect, all bets are off, and Rouga decides to oust the current banchou and take over the school as his first stepping stone towards total conquest of the country.

The game is actually divided into three chapters. It starts with the School Chapter wherein Rouga takes over the school, then on to the District Chapter where he suppresses the many districts of Tokyo. The final chapter, and the point at which the game truly begins – even though you’ve probably already been playing for 5-10 hours at this point – is the National Chapter and involves the conquest of the territories throughout Japan proper (and Hawaii for some reason).

School, District & National Regions

School, District & National Regions

The shape the story takes is determined by which faction the player chooses to destroy first in the District Chapter, sending them down one of two paths, either the Kunagi route or the Senna Kyoudou route. The main story changes little, but the information and history gleaned differs depending on which heroine you focus on, combining to reveal the full story when taken as a whole, as well as determining which characters can be recruited. The split route is a Sophie’s choice situation, however, as whichever heroine you don’t pick will leave your party permanently because they will die. So that’s a bummer, and as such, I’ve only played Kunagi’s route since she’s the reason I started playing the game in the first place.

Characters

Daibanchou_CharactersWhere Big Bang Age excels is with its characters. There are 90 recruitable characters in all, a handful of which are only available in Hard mode, and each has a unique personality and are surprisingly given a fairly decent amount of characterization for such a huge roster. Unfortunately due to turn restrictions, the player won’t be able to learn everything about all of the characters. It’s also impossible to get all of the characters in one play through. Some characters can only be recruited at the expense of others, while some are exclusive to either Kunagi’s or Senna’s routes. Others may require you to have a specific character in your party already to trigger their event or some may refuse to join if you have already recruited a certain character.

For example, you can only recruit Erika Miyazuki’s gang or the Nakanashi sisters, Kendo and Kyoudo, depending on which one you talk to first. Or you can only recruit either the baseball star or the swim star depending on which one you choose to rescue; you can’t rescue both.

How each character is recruited is different for each. Some, like Kunagi and Gou Zanma, Rouga’s seemingly weak but shrewd older brother, join automatically. Others can be recruited through certain events or suppressing a region. A good number can only be gotten by capturing them in battle and recruiting them from prison.

Most characters have five star events to clear, which will raise their stats a bit as well as increasing the likelihood of seeing their status during the ending sequence. These stars can be achieved through conversation or by triggering a character-specific event through proper placement on the map or choosing a starred event during the event phase of the game. Each star has specific requirements for each character, some easier than others. They also can be dependent on other characters you may or may not have in your party, which may make clearing the character impossible during that play through. My understanding is that characters that are cleared will retain their stat upgrades in the following play through.

Each character also has a loyalty gauge and a pre-set attitude towards Rouga. After all, not all of the recruits are 100% behind him given that they were once enemies or have their own agendas. Required characters like Gou, Kunagi and Sanae have a Bond status of Trust and therefore their loyalty gauge will never drop. Most recruitable characters will have Normal bond stats and their loyalty will gradually deplete. Then there are some, like major king of the douchebags Sparn or defeated former banchous, who will be hostile towards Rouga and their loyalty gauge will burn rather quickly. Loyalty can be recovered through conversation events, which unfortunately means you’ll be eating up a lot of turns establishing trust with hostile members of your team. If their loyalty gets into the red they may randomly just leave your party permanently.

Game Play

Game play consists of a turn system, and each chapter gives the player a set number of turns to accomplish their goal of conquest. The School and District chapters give the player 25 turns each while the National chapter is restricted to 100 turns.

Each turn consists of a structured order of events. At the start of the turn, an event will play advancing the story or further establishing characters. What scene plays is wholly dependent on priority and where certain characters are placed on the map. Rouga or story-related events always take priority while character-specific events will appear if and when they are triggered based on the game’s designated priority levels.

Starting in the District Chapter, the second turn consists of the sex scenes, hereon referred to as H-scenes, which only appear every third or fourth turn involving the many women of Rouga’s harem. Initially there will be only two girls to choose from – Kunagi and Sanae – but as the game progresses and specific characters are recruited, that number will bump up to six in total. Due to the split-route narrative, however, you’ll only have five available throughout most of the game; Kunagi and Senna will only overlap for a few turns before one of them permanently leaves your party.

Heroine

Heroine Phase screenshot

Each H-scene is a longer, drawn out affair consisting of several CG stills and very intimate narrative detail of the sexual encounter. These tend to be the parts I just fast-forward through since I get bored with them easily after the first go-around, but obviously these scenes are the primary reason that people play eroge. Each heroine comes with a bonus after the encounter, so in addition to raising the love levels of each heroine with each encounter to determine whose ending you get, the player also needs to think strategically to determine which bonus is most needed at that particular juncture. Kunagi and Senna will restore some of Rouga’s HP (hit points), Sanae will give you 50BP (currency), Shion slightly raises the loyalty level of all of the characters in your party, Sae will restore Rouga’s stamina and Kaen nets you 500BP.

KunagiTenrou

Kunagi Tenrou

HibikiSanae

Sanae Hibiki

KyoodouSenna

Senna Kyoudou

Shion

Shion

Sae

Sae Takabane

Kaen

Kaen Himenomiya

These are the females that make up Rouga’s official harem (though obviously not the only girls he’ll sex up in the course of the game):

After that will be a Prison turn, if you have prisoners, wherein you can recruit, interrogate or release one of the characters you’ve captured. Not everyone will join up with you on the first attempt and some require you to collect a specific item or for specific events to take place before that character will follow you into battle. Interrogating the prisoner usually results in a comedic confession but can also net you an item from time to time. It also permanently removes the prisoner from the list. You can also just release the prisoner, which will net you some BP, the value of which is determined by which generic NPC you’ve captured.

Team manager and financial guru Gou will then update Rouga on the status of the districts and occasionally give a clue as to a future course of action the player can take.

Once that is done, the player enters the Region phase, where they can do some clean-up to certain districts or construct buildings to improve income (tip: build Curry House franchises everywhere as soon as possible). When you’re done with clean up, you can select one of the numerous events that have popped up all over the map, whether it be a date with one of Rouga’s women, suppressing landmarks, exploring dungeons or triggering an event that could lead to recruiting a character or advancing the character background of an already established member of your party. Unfortunately only one event can be done per turn, so there is no way to do them all since you will run out of turns before then. So choose wisely.

Region Data

Region Phase screenshots

This is followed by the conversation phase, where Rouga can converse with one of your party members, which helps increase their loyalty as well as advancing that character’s plot. It can also net you character stars or set up an event related to a star clear. After each talk, the player then has the option to spend BP to perform one action, whether it be to raise a character’s stats or fully recover their loyalty, HP or stamina. Personally, I never spent money to raise stats and it didn’t hurt me any in Normal mode.

Conversation

Conversation Phase screenshot

After all of that, we finally get to the battle portion, where characters can be placed in regions on the map. Each district can hold up to six characters, and it’s important to strategically spread your characters out and station at least one person in each region to be able to restore order if necessary. You also don’t want to risk losing the territory you’ve conquered to rival factions. In addition, each character has set Law and Income stats, so it’s wise to place your units strategically to keep the law stat of each district close to 99 to prevent declining order in the region or to reach the income level of a particular district during income turns to ensure you get as much money as you can, because trust me, money is tight in the early stages of the game. Each fight costs 10BP, including defensive turns, so money is crucial.

Station

Deployment screenshot

You can station parties in multiple regions you wish to suppress but you only get one attacking turn where you can gain a foothold in a territory, so it’s wiser to just field one attack team at a time. However, the enemy will then get a turn where they can reclaim lost territory, so it’s important to station a defense team in regions that border territories you’ve recently suppressed or that belong to the faction you are currently at war with. No ground can be gained during these defenses, but if you lose or do not oppose them, they could take the region from you.

The turn ends with Experience Points distribution and the option to save your game. Another turn then begins.

While this may seem like a lengthy or monotonous process, trust me that it is not. Each turn only lasts a few minutes, and the desire to claim new territory or get to the next event to advance a character is incredibly addictive to the point where it is difficult to not hit the Advance button after saving. I spent far more hours in a given day than I probably should have playing this game.

Battle Mechanics

I’ll touch briefly on battle mechanics because this is probably the most difficult part of the game. As I mentioned before, this game has a steep learning curve and involves a lot of menu management. The biggest problem is that there is no real tutorial and it is totally not intuitive. You’ll probably flounder for a while before you get used to it. I certainly did, as I didn’t capture a single character in the District chapter because I didn’t know how, and one of my regions started swarming with rats. There may be a tutorial in the FAQ section of the Extras but I didn’t check. My advice is to check online for a video tutorial or something.

As stated before, you can place up to six characters in a given district. However, the more characters in a battle, the less Experience Points each will earn. As per typical RPGs, you have a command system when battling. The number of rounds (attack chances) in a given battle is determined by the side that has the most combatants. There is no ATB gauge or turn order, so you can have any character Attack or use their Special skill (if they have one) at any time. I didn’t realize it at first, but a character’s attack stat determines the exact number of hit point damage if a blow lands; so an attack of 50 means that you will do 50HP of damage to the enemy. Each attack will cost one stamina point, and each character has a different amount of stamina. The enemy works the same way, and they won’t attack until you do since the game works on a Counterattack system. The higher the Counter percentage, the more likely you will be to strike a blow after taking one yourself, and likewise for the enemy.

Battle

Battle screenshot

This is where the Range of each character comes into play. Each character has one specific set range, either Short, Medium or Long. Generally you’ll want to use a Medium or Long range fighter to attack Short range fighters, since they won’t be able to hit you if they are unable to counter. A combatant unable to counter, yours included, will just stop dead in their tracks and the turn will end. A Long distance fighter is better for handling those with Medium range. Short range characters do more damage however, and tend to have higher evasion stats for dodging enemy attacks, so they can be useful against long distance attacks or face-to-face brawls.

Rouga has a high attack, a lot of HP, good evasion, a lot of stamina and a high counter rate, so he’s a beast in any scrap. Kunagi has decent attack but an unbelievably high evasion, making her virtually untouchable throughout most of the game. She lacks in stamina, however, so any item you can give her that will bump that up will make her a killing machine.

Kunagi fucks some shit up!

Kunagi fucks some shit up!

H-Scenes

Okay, let’s get into the part you really came here to read: the H-scenes. Though there are many H-scenes, they aren’t really anything to write home about, so if you’re looking for a fap-fest, look elsewhere. The art is good, but there is only one static image per scene, so you won’t get any animated motion or the heroines making different faces based on the ecstasy they’re experiencing like you might in most other eroges.

Obviously Rouga will have sex most often with the six heroines he adds to his harem. Each heroine has several CG stills, ranging from oral to varying positions, sometimes with a little kink thrown in depending on the heroine, and you will unlock more for longer scenes the higher the heroine’s love level gets. Reaching the max of 8 will unlock the final one. If you’re a lolicon, you’ll love Shion, and Sae appears to be into S&M. The others are relatively mild and more on the conservative side in their tastes.

Sae H

Masochist in hiding

Almost every other female character has at least one H-scene, though if a character has two it means one is most likely a rape scene. Most of the scenes are with serial philanderer Rouga and can be unlocked by clearing one of their stars or occur when recruiting them. Unfortunately, not every female gets a nice scene with Rouga. There is a character you are tasked with catching later in the game that provides lurid sexual fantasies to some of the girls (at least I was under the impression they were fantasies). I don’t know whether these fantasies were supposed to be their subconscious desires or if the guy was just being sexually and psychologically abusive, but either way scenes of humiliation, violent gang-bangs or tentacle rape are not pleasant and, in my opinion, not necessary.

Then of course there’s the rape. This game has a lot of rape. Like thirteen scenes, which is thirteen scenes too many, and it is implied with a number of characters that rape is part of their past history. Most are thankfully avoidable and occur only when you don’t recruit the character or they’re defeated in battle, but some you can’t avoid. In order to recruit kick-ass mother Kyouko Senpuuji (one of my favorite characters), you need to wait for a scene to play out in which she gets gang-raped while trying to save her daughter or you won’t be able to recruit her. She does get a nice scene with Rouga later and she literally rips the dicks off of the guys who raped her, so that’s a plus, but the scene was wholly unnecessary to begin with in my opinion.

The example I gave before of recruiting the baseball player versus the swimmer means that whichever one you don’t save gets gang-raped. In hard mode, there are also obscene sex dreams of women getting sexually abused in various ways that is part of a side-quest to catch the culprit. Again I ask, why?

One of the things I personally found the most disheartening about some of the sex scenes is that it felt like the female characters I liked the most were subjugated to the most egregious sexual acts or ones that I either actively despise or am very uncomfortable with. Pictured are a few examples of what I’m talking about.

Tennouji_Mio

Leashed like dog, anal, implied enema

GinjouTomoka

Dominated sex slave to creepy guy

Futanari (hermaphrodite)

Futanari (hermaphrodite)

Ninja torture sex fetish

Ninja torture sex fetish

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Camilla_uncorrupted

Perceived incest

SenpuujiKyouko

Horribly raped

Sodomized by food

Sodomized by food

Urine

Urine

.

.

.

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.

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When I stated in my eroge pet peeves post that I found the ‘cater to every fetish including sex on the kitchen sink’ notion of game-design disconcerting, here is a prime example as to why. It’s difficult to feel good knowing your favorite character has been raped or abused, or to fully respect a character who’s into weird kinky shit that you totally are not into or find disgusting. I suppose almost everyone has a fetish of some sort, some more wayward than others, and I’m okay with that (within reason, of course), but I guess I, and I’m sure a lot of other people, want to believe that the characters I like have similar tastes to mine. I know that may seem ridiculous, but it definitely sets me off-balance when that is not the case.

Overall

Overall, Daibanchou: Big Bang Age is highly enjoyable in spite of all the rape and weird sex fetishes. Expanding your roster, getting to know characters better, conquering territories and unlocking character events are great fun and incredibly addictive. Of course, I also enjoyed unlocking the H-scenes simply to see the often-humorous context surrounding them. I was addicted to unlocking them all (except the rape ones of course) for the sake of collecting them and clearing as many characters as possible.

There is quite a lot of quirky humor sprinkled in to palate-cleanse the bad stuff and the characters are all unique and interesting. Rouga, while a womanizer, is actually a pretty decent guy and other than playful teasing, he’s not one of those controlling dick-bags that a lot of male protagonists turn into during sex, so that’s a plus. He has a straight-forward, over-confident alpha male attitude, but that’s his natural personality throughout the game so it’s not out of place during the H-scenes.

Gou is absolutely fabulous with his cock-sure attitude despite him being really weak and useless in combat – he only does 1HP of damage – but there is more to him that the player learns in the end, at which point he earns my total respect (and Rouga’s).

"I'm fabulous!"

“Captain Fabulous at your service!”

I loved Kunagi, naturally, and animal-lover (not literally – you never know with these types of games) Mio Tennouji was labeled a delinquent but she really wasn’t and I really liked her. Namu Sanada kept popping up and getting fired for her gross incompetence in the workplace, so I found her very amusing. In spite of the urine stuff, Mummy was pretty funny when she would keep drying out and Ninja Captor Zakuro was eccentrically humorous with her ninja prints (and as another blog/review stated: “Cutest serial rapist ever”).

The heroine H-scenes were kind of tedious so I ended up fast-forwarding through most of the dialogue, but the short one-offs with the other girls were occasionally fun. Not in any way fappable fun, but entertaining enough. The game takes about 30 hours to clear on one play through and you unlock Hard mode after the first time you beat it. I doubt I’ll play it again anytime soon, but overall I would recommend that you check this game out. It’s a really solid game and could stand alone without all the ecchi stuff. For those who like that stuff, though, that’s your cherry on top.