Code: Realize is a visual novel, and an otome game, where romance plays a strong role in the story. Thankfully, the romance is tastefully and meaningfully included such that even straight dudes can enjoy this ( I say this because so many straight guys who label themselves as such are worried this won’t interest them). Code Realize is also one of my favorite games and one I would recommend without reservations to anyone interested in a grand, sweeping story.
The focus of this visual novel isn’t romance, despite how the game eventually heads down that path. There is a lot of violence, disturbing content, and character growth. Characters face their demons, come to terms with past mistakes, and learn what truly matters to them. Though they endure these horrors, the heroine, Cardia Beckford, isn’t there to save them. She is there to learn about her past and through that, she helps the people around her grow. As such, the cast all respects one another.
The story is not just about Cardia, a girl whose body secretes a deadly poison that melts all she touches. It encompasses the lives of people brought together to unknowingly prevent a grand-scale act of terrorism. It’s about humanity doing all it can to overcome fate and to perfect science during a time where intellect was becoming the next sensation. But most of all, this is a story about what it truly means to be human.
Unlike most otome games, Code doesn’t give you a lifeless heroine who can’t defend herself, think for herself, or lend anything useful to the team. When she meets all of the people who become her closest friends, she develops. Not just for them, but for herself. Cardia grows into a badass, learns how to care of others, and ultimately, discovers she isn’t the monster she was led to believe she was.
The characters she shares this adventure with are Arsene Lupin, Victor Frankenstein, Van Helsing, Impey Barbicane, and my unexpected favorite, Count Saint Germain. While liberties are taken in regards to these literary (and one historical) figures, everything blends seamlessly. All of the characters care about each other, and this is not some harem for Cardia to choose from. They feel like real people, and once you start their stories, I can guarantee you’re going to sit back and think “Holy crap…”
If there’s anything that bugs me about otome games is how often the cast of suitors have nothing but rude, brash men. Maybe it’s due to the fact that this is set in London, but I was pleased to find that all of them were likable.
The common route has 8 chapters, which at first might be a little underwhelming after the exciting prologue. These chapters introduce us to the rest of the cast, hint at the bigger picture only revealed in Lupin’s route (locked until you reach an ending in all 4 routes) and ultimately paints a picture of intrigue.
The next 5 chapters are dedicated to character routes. And Cardia definitely isn’t there to stand there or woo them. Some of these stories will really hit you in the gut and you’ll be wondering how it could possibly conclude.
Arsene Lupin thankfully lives up to his role as the “main hero” as his story wraps up EVERYTHING. If anything, his route alone is worth the purchase…but of course you can’t until you’ve played the other 4! His route, like Impey’s, is decidedly more light hearted but there are plenty of dark turns and lots of action.
Which is why it’s such a relief to tell you that all of them are not just enjoyable, but all matter to the plot!
Impey Barbicane is a genius engineer and the obligatory pervert who falls in love with Cardia the moment he sees her. While his route doesn’t reveal much, it’s the most light hearted. Despite being the comedic relief, he provides tons of darker scenes and action packed sequences. Expect tons of steampunk aircraft battles, mad scientists, and crashing into a flying aircraft’s window.
Van Helsing is your badass of the game who is caught in a web of deceit and revenge, and his route was painful as the poor guy goes through a ton of shit. Most of the more disturbing events take place in his story. Psychotic serial killers? Check. Gore? Check. Vampires? Check. A twisted, sick truth? Check. Cardia did bother me a little in his route. She abandoned everything just to be near him, but thankfully, it did flip the tropes. She became the hunter.
Victor Frankestein, the alchemist accused of a horrendous crime. He provides a lot of insight in the plot, and thankfully, gets one of the better endings. He also goes through a ton of bad things and I couldn’t help but love his character the moment he was introduced. Who doesn’t want a kind, glasses-wearing, nerd boy?;) Don’t worry-he proves himself capable in battles, which is good because this game has a lot.
And FINALLY, my favorite, Count Saint Germain. When I first started his route, things spiraled down into creepy-ass territory so fast I was ready to quit. He wouldn’t open his eyes more than slits, he smiled all the time, and something felt off. Thankfully, after a few days spent in what could have remained a horror game, things are revealed…and I ended up loving him.
I’ve never went from hating a character to loving them as quickly as I did with Germain. Like Van, Germain has one of the darker routes. Unlike Van, Germain can’t escape fate. No matter how hard he fights. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I adored his route-it was gripping, dark, tragic, and worked so well. I even started thinking he should have been the main hero. If you play his route (which I HIGHLY recommend!!!) pay attention to the other routes….it’s chilling realizing he is trapped in this darkness throughout the game, and the endings of every route will have you wondering if he didn’t go back to France on business…
Aksys did leave some typos, but it didn’t hinder my experience.
The art is absolutely gorgeous. The music was also beautiful and fit every scene perfectly. The plot and characters were brimming with life and the development was handled with care. Personally, I had issues with Van Helsing’s route as I couldn’t see any romantic progression between Cardia and Van. However, many others swear by this pairing and it was still an enjoyable route.
As for the audience, I’d honestly say guys can have a great time with this: I made my brother, father, and 2 of my guy friends play this. All of them really liked it and they were surprised it wasn’t just romance, especially since this is marked as an otoge. Saint Germain and Van won the popular vote among them for being “gritty and deep” with Lupin next for being “a pretty cool hero.”
If you have ever wanted to try out an otome game, a visual novel or just a very good story in general, this is a game you shouldn’t pass up. Gender doesn’t matter here: anyone can enjoy a great story, no matter who it is. If you can’t be bothered because the story is told through the P.O.V of a girl…I really hope you rethink this. 🙂
There will be an anime releasing this October 2017, so please look forward to it.
If you’d like to pick up a copy, please consider purchasing through my affiliate link to keep this blog going ^^ Thank you!
How was Code Realize? Were you surprised by how dark some of it was? Who was your favorite character?
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