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H-Games: Salva Nos

Written By mista sense on Thursday, April 5, 2007 | 11:45 AM

We play games, among many reasons, to connect to experiences and identities that we probably will not have the means to actualize in our normative lives. We can be a god or a criminal, an alien or an assassin.

And we can have sex with an entire family of beautiful nymphomaniac women, from the MILF down to her adolescent daughter. We can use a glassy-eyed subservient housemaid as our personal tissue. We can traumatize young virgins with bizarre vibrating devices.

In the real world, this will get you a knock on the door from Chris Hansen and probably some serious social ostracism, if not hardcore jail time. In a Japanese hentai game, however, this gets you nothing short of Jesus-el-Savior-Christ hero status. And who doesn't love to play the hero?

Nocturnal Illusions is a dreamlike, surreal immersion into emotional purgatory. Playing as nondescript college student Shinichi Kashiwagi, you find yourself, under mysterious circumstances, essentially trapped in an elaborate mansion, where odd characters-- who happen, in overwhelming majority, to be hot girls of various ages-- drift in and out of your periphery. It's a sort of Limbo; these girls are all trapped, in a sense, by fear or madness. Some of them are ghosts, stranded in the wrong era. To escape the strange mansion-- and to save every last lovely darling-- you've got to enlighten them all, liberate their spirits, introduce them to their true selves. Translation: You have to screw the brains out of every last one.

The game offers an impressive suite of weird beauties-- there's a big-booty house Madam and her submissive maid, an uptight reporter (like you, she has no idea why she's there), a redheaded tomboy and a mentally traumatized schoolgirl. Crossing the line into the realm of the fantastic, there's also a mermaid, a sort-of vampire, and a juvenile doll-ghost. Some of your potential partners are fairly disturbing-- a shrine maiden who has an incestuous, bestial relationship with a voracious monster who happens to be her brother, and the apparition of Little Red Riding Hood.

The oddest thing about this game is not the girls themselves, who are actually refreshingly variant, nor is it the tedious and repetitive "interactive fiction" linear lulls between sack sessions. It's the weird concept that your often forcible intercourse with these women somehow holds the key to their individual salvation and self-realization. Even after rape, the girls are tear-filled and blushing, grateful and transcendent. Given that this is a game where a good many of the characters blatantly mock the tedious claim by publishers and retailers that "all characters depicted are 18 years of age or over" (and yet, there are patches available to show the underage nudes), playing the Heroic Penis is partly laughable, partly unsettling, and obviously more than a little appealing to more than a small segment of the H-game audience, since Nocturnal Illusions is not at all unusual in this respect. It's not a new game by any means, either-- hence its ready availability on the Internet-- merely a classic illustration.

You can end up with your bride of choice in one of multiple different endings-- where you'll instantly get a warm, fuzzy feeling from the fact that you rescued some girl from sexual bondage only to put her into yours. Oh, yeah, and suddenly you realize you love her, you moral savior, you.

Is the concept of well-intentioned, or "life-saving" rape simply a way to assuage players' guilt about playing smut, or an attempt to enrich the game experience by adding, albeit poorly, some emotional dimension? Or-- is this a hero story first, with sex scenes secondarily, the materialization of a wish that we could screw Zelda after we rescue her? It's a whole new way to"save the princess," that's for sure.

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