Searching for clues about your missing brother, you and your childhood friend Hiroya begin playing an online RPG called “Arcadia.”
You’re suddenly enveloped in a flash of light, and awaken to find yourself in a mysterious fantasy world. You discover you’ve been sent inside of the game, and learn that the only way out is to complete it. In a deadly world on the verge of collapse, you become the “Almighty,” the key to clearing Arcadia, and the secret weapon everyone is after.
You and your companions undertake a perilous journey, where love grows as the world falls apart.
Both April and May of this year have been quite fruitful for otome games since so many came out and Period Cube was one of them! Although I finished the game some time ago and it took me awhile to finally write my overall thoughts of the game. This will mainly be centered on the the main character, story lines, and the central story.
** Please note that this isn’t a spoiler free reflection.
An MMORPG Fairyland: Arcadia + Kazuha
The story starts with Kazuha Hanamiya looking for her brother, Shiki Hanamiya, and in her search with Hiroya — her childhood friend, she ends up learning about the MMORPG world of Arcadia that seems to be quite popular. In searching for Shiki, she ends up in World V of Arcadia where certain players live within the actual game world and dying there means also passing away in real life, while most players are falling into idiopathic comas with none really knowing the reasons why. With all these potential dangers, more get pilled on-top of Kazuha when she is given the title of “Almighty” within the game, thus she becomes one of the strongest weapons in the game and a lot of people are looking to use her, even if she can’t control her powers that well. Thus, Kazuha’s journey becomes one of survival, while at the same time falling in love with the person that has been by her side during this perilous digital excursion.
It should be noted that the common route is very short, only 2 chapters, it is just takes one small choice to decide where and who Kazuha ends up with, which is very different from the usual games that have long common routes like Hakuoki and Code:Realize. It can take some people by surprise, but it does make it a quick playthrough at times.
Kazuha Hanamiya is a normal high school student that turns into a sort of digital Alice-in-Wonderland when she is pushed into a world that she knows nothing about, but she tries her hardest to play catch in order to understand what is going on around her. Unlike Shiki, she has no experience with video gaming and from some flashbacks it seems that she has had a very sheltered childhood with Shiki constantly watching over her until he suddenly became distant in recent years. While, she is there looking for her brother, she also makes quick friends with other players and wants to help them while also want to learn to get better with the game’s mechanics. She seems to be very easygoing, to the point of seeming naive, but she is also very emotionally strong in certain points of the story, especially with all she has to deal with in certain routes. However, there are times where the player expects her to have some emotional response to an event and nothing happens, and there are times where she pushes everything aside to help or be with someone. She seems to fall in love quickly, but like her brother becomes very protective of them to the point that her choices lead to some interesting bad endings. Nevertheless, she keeps moving forward regardless of what happens to her.
I am writing about each route in the order I played them: Hiroya –> Radius –> Libera –> Zain –> Astrum –> Demento –> Poyo-Poyo.
A Promise to Protect: Hiroya
Hiroya Tachibana is Kazuha’s childhood friend, though it seems that they haven’t talked for quite some time. However, once they reunite in order to find Shiki, Hiroya is shown to be very overprotective of Kazuha and tries his best to support her within Arcadia. At the same time, he is shown to have a deep admiration towards Shiki, even if the older male always chastises him for not being able to protect Kazuha, which leads to Hiroya to having a small complex towards the matter. Due to all this, Hiroya tries he hardest to be strong and kind of looks up to certain people that are, such as Radius and Astrum. He can be a little rough around the edges with some people, but he is actually very shy and has a hard time expressing his feelings, especially when it comes to Kazuha. Yet, as they spend time together trying to find Shiki, he comes to express the feelings that he has had for some time.
When Kazuha comes to Hiroya for help in looking to look Shiki, he doesn’t seem to have the happiest reaction in seeing her once more, but decides to so after coming to understand the situation and how strange Shiki seemed to be acting before he left. In Arcadia, Hiroya tries his best to teach and protect Kazuha within the new setting and they manage to work well together, as they reach the Twilight Capital and meet Dormina and Forte. Hiroya is always shown willing to protect Kazuha, but her time to shine and protect him comes when they are attacked and she is supposed to keep researching in the real world. She gets some of the strongest players in the game to team up and attack the Ark and while Shiki might berate him for not being able to protect Kazuha in the past, Hiroya seems to come to the understanding that he can protect Kazuha in his own way. It takes them awhile, but after everything settles down Hiroya is able to confess and they become on official couple. If they fail, Kazuha takes over the Ark and creates her own world where Hiroya can be with her forever.
Hiroya’s route does a good job in setting the main problems and the world of Arcadia to the player, but for someone that has known Kazuha a long time it really doesn’t feel like it. Outside some flashbacks, neither of these two establish any previous feelings of friendships that they might hold for each other other than guilt for whatever Hiroya did that displeased Shiki in the past, which isn’t fully explained until Shiki’s own route. It also doesn’t help that Hiroya ignores her for some time before she explains what is going on. No time length is given into how long they haven’t been talking to each other, though it seems that Kazuha tries to every once and awhile (and they live in the same neighborhood), which makes the overall development of their romance a bit stiff and rushed — something that most of these routes face.
A Lonesome Knight: Radius
Radius is the mysterious demon that holder of the Infernal Shadow’s Edge, a weapon similar to the Almighty. He is considered one of the strongest players in the game, but he is distant and doesn’t want to form a party with anyone, after something happened in his past that he seems quite remorseful over. He tends to look down on Kazuha in the beginning because of her low power-level and it takes sometime for that to change. However like Hiroya, he has a hard time expressing what he really feels, which makes certain comments that he makes seem rude or mean, especially when Kazuha is trying to get to know him early on. However, he is still shown to be kind in his own way as shown with how he treats her and tries his hardest to protect her. In the real world, Radius seems more unreachable as the idol named Rei Aijou, though he seems to be taking a break from his promising career.
Radius meets Kazuha after she gets lost within the forest and while he doesn’t want to form a party with her, they do so and he leads her to the Twilight Capital. There she meets Dormina and Forte, who seemed surprised that she is connected to Radius, though he doesn’t want anything to do with them as they help Kazuha learn more about Arcadia and level up. After a successful mission, Kazuha ends up back in the real world, where she realizes that Hiroya is stuck in the hospital and while she is there she meets another person — Rei Aijou. Realizing how they know each other, Kazuha explains what is going. They spend time together and while researching World V a plan begins to form. They all end up attacking the Ark and destroying the world, Kazuha and Rei start dating and seems very happy together. However, in the bad ending, Kazuha sacrifices herself and Radius creates a sick semblance of what they could have had.
Like Hiroya, it is kind of hard to detect where Radius start falling for Kazuha, especially when he looks down on her sometimes, but it is truth that he treats her differently from most people early on. It is good to see some of Radius’ background story and why he feels a certain way towards being part of a party and that fear sort of resolves itself in order to help Kazuha, but there isn’t really much seen of Rei’s story. While, we are told in some materials that he is disillusioned with being an idol and seems to be taking a break, there is no clear explanation as to the reason why and the aftermath of this now that he is dating Kazuha. However, it might be because Rei uses the game as a means of escapism that the player isn’t really shown that aspect, though the player doesn’t get a more well-rounded character that we could in the process. Rei might be an emotionally frail person in the aftermath of losing his previous party and that moves onto Kazuha, as shown with what he does in the bad ending, but that is all speculation on my part. There are some cute moments when you can find them, but there is still something lacking in the long run.
Mischievous Coward: Libera
Libera is a mischievous and cheeky demon that Kazuha and Hiroya meet as they head to the Twilight Capital. He seems to have his own agenda when it comes to things, but his cheerful and almost fun-loving nature makes him friends (and admirers) that are also happy to see him, even if Libera doesn’t feel the same about them and only uses them to get gifts and money. To be truthful, Libera is a bit a of coward that doesn’t like going on missions and is pretty stubborn about what he wants to do and whether he would actually help Kazuha’s cause, though he doesn’t mind staying close to Kazuha to see what could be used to his advantage. However, in the real world, Riku Yuuki is a sickly junior high school student that has a self-deprecating attitude towards himself, while still living in his older brother’s shadow. He might be a bit mean towards Kazuha at first, but they come to realize that they have much more in common than either of them knew.
Libera is the only other person there to first witness Kazuha using the Almighty’s power and helps her get to the Twilight Capital. They end up meeting Forte and they help Kazuha learn about Arcadia and level up a bit, but Libera refuses to do any missions which seems to disturb their forming friendship. Yet, after returning to the real world and going to the hospital, Kazuha ends up meeting a young man boy named Riku who seems familiar. Though, he is a bit more weary and self-deprecating, these two seem to connect well and they soon find out that their older brothers –Natsu and Shiki– knew each other and created the world of Arcadia. Going back to the MMORPG, they move to attack the Ark with Forte and through all that Libera comes to understand the reasoning behind everything that Natsu did and with his support they are able to defeat Shiki. Once they have returned to the real world, it seems that Riku and Kazuha start dating and in a few years time Riku ends up going to university in America. However, in the bad ending, the stress is too much for Riku and Kazuha ends up creating a world where both brothers and her can finally be happy.
One of the biggest problems in this route is the connection that Riku has with Natsu, and how that affects his current relationship with his parents. It is good to see that the brothers’ relationship is looked into and they still care about each other within Arcadia. Due to Natsu’s death and Riku’s ill-health, their mother says certain things that pushes Riku’s self-depreciation and while he cannot do it on his own, it is good to see that Kazuha is able to help him stand up for himself and have a positive outlook about himself. Through the younger siblings, it is good to see how Natsu and Shiki interacted and see what they wanted when they were creating the game. On the romance side, Libera and Kazuha don’t start off on the right foot as he seems to be using her early on, but Kazuha is very persistent and her caring attitude eventually wins Riku over. Yes, it still happens quickly, but there is a bit more depth and background to their relationship.
Can an NPC feel?: Zain
Zain is a soft-spoken, kind, and somewhat of an airhead NPC that Kazuha meets after getting lost in the forest. He is initially there to give players a small quest to escort him from a small town to the Twilight Capital, but his interactions with the group and Kazuha seem to suggest something more human to his person. Nevertheless, he still seems to have a strong connection towards Kazuha after barely meeting her and even if he doesn’t remember much, he wishes to stay by her side and is even a bit of a deviant towards her sometimes. What he is and what he thinks he should be cause him a lot of confusion and at times even physical pain, as it seems that he is fighting something from taking over his body. His desire to be with Kazuha and be a “real person” clash, which ends up giving him a certain possessiveness over Kazuha and it ends up getting worst when he melds with Demento — he just ends up with no remorse of killing anyone that gets in his way.
After getting lost in the forest, Kazuha ends up meeting a sleepy Zain and they end up spending some time together there, though they do eventually end up heading to the Twilight Capital. However, during a simple mission, both him and Kazuha end up getting attacked and Zain ends up merging in some strange way with Demento. There is a new side to Zain and he ends up trying to kill Poyo-Poyo as well, as they end up going to the Ark in order to attack it. After beating whatever was trying to take over his body, Zain uses the Period Cube to create a new world where everyone is “immortal”, but there is some instability which leads to Kazuha trying to restore the world to what is once was. She manages to win Zain over and once everything is back to normal, they can both be together as Zain’s personality has taken over Demento’s human body. However, in the bad ending, Kazuha stays stuck in World V and appears to be in a coma in the real world. Shiki and Hiroya fight over how she ended up like this, but she seems fine with Zain by her side.
To be honest, Zain and his route weren’t what I expected them to be. Prior to melding with Demento, Zain is sweet and kind of shy, even if he does show some possessiveness tsome people to handle. One thing that isn’t fully explained is Zain’s connection to the Hanamiya siblings because while he cares deeply about Kazuha, he seems to have disturbing connection to Shiki that isn’t touched upon at all in any routes and leaves the player guessing what it could. The same can be said about how Zain ends up in Demento’s human body in the end — Zain’s story just seems to have a lot of plot-holes that aren’t explained or just seem to go against what the player has been showed about World V in the other routes. Zain might be kind and sweet, but his route still leaves a lot to desired.
An Overdramatic Angel: Astrum
Astrum is the over theatrical but strong leader of the Angel faction in World V, as well as the possessor of the Divine Blade of Light — a sword that corresponds in power with the Almighty. He is serious about keeping a distance between angels and demons, while holding onto the narrative that comes with Arcadia to the point that he makes speeches here and there. Some find his attitude rather dramatic and tend not to pay much attention to it, adding a comedic side to his serious personality, but everyone seems to trust his leadership abilities and strength as shown in the latter half of his route. To Kazuha, he always seems to have a gentle but persistent personality, he wants to get close to her for whatever reason and he seems to be willing to do anything that she asks of him. In the real world, Toru Asou is anything but what he pretends to be in the MMORPG. He is a withdrawn, antisocial college student that has a deepl love for the game, but doesn’t really inspire his peers and he seems to have a grudge against a certain 1st place student within his university.
After getting lost in the forest, Kazuha ends up getting saved and going to the capital of the angel faction in World V. Though, there are people that just see her as an item, Astrum tries to make her feel comfortable and tries to help level up, even if he just wants to protect and defend her. As she struggles to find out more about World V and how it is connected to Shiki, she ends up at his university where she has an awkward first meeting with a certain someone. After trying to get Toru to realize that she isn’t there to make fun of him, they work hard in trying to find out more about World V and though there is a minor scrummage with Demento, they set forward to attack the Ark. With some helpful hacking and large group backing them up, they are able to defeat Shiki and Toru later confesses rather awkwardly in the hospital. However, in the bad ending, while trying to defeat Shiki something goes horribly wrong and the world conforms to Toru’s idea of everything being an RPG with Kazuha being all too aware of the truth, but not being able to do anything about it.
Personally, Astrum’s route was my favorite, mainly because of his personality and the interactions that he has with Kazuha throughout the route. While, Astrum might be able to talk a big game in Arcadia, the complete opposite can be said about his real life persona, but he still cares deeply about Kazuha in both worlds. It is great to also that even though he can be quite dramatic, the rest of the angel faction still look up to him for strength and leadership, even when he doubts that he can really provide that. He also seems to form a bond with Hiroya, who at the same time looks up to Astrum due to his strength though they do seem to bicker like siblings at times. Toru seems like the type of person that pushes people away from him, but there are actually a lot of people that depend on him, even if he has a negative perspective on himself. Though it takes awhile for Kazuha to make her intentions known to Toru in the real world and constantly make him sure that she isn’t making fun of him. However, it can easily be said that Toru is one of the sweetest guys in the game!
Kill Kill Kill: Demento
Demento is considered one of the worst players in game as a “Fallen” — someone that has been stripped of their original status and for him it was due to killing other players. While, Demento was once an angel and possible one of strongest players in that faction, he become obsessed with Arcadia and in seeing other players suffer, which eventually lead to him killing of players at his whim. While Astrum still struggles with what happened to him, Demento seems to be perfectly happy in his lust for murder. In other routes, Demento seems to have some type of fascination towards Kazuha and tries his hardest to kidnap her and he finally succeeds here. In the real world, Minato Karasuba seems like someone that isn’t happy with the current state of his life, as he is trying to find a way to permanently stay in Arcadia. He is easily irritable and isn’t picky about getting violent when something doesn’t go his way, as shown with his first meeting with Kazuha.
Demento’s route starts as an offshoot of Astrum’s during their fight where the fallen angel ends up kidnapping and threatening Kazuha. She seems to get used to the treatment as they travel together, though they end up separating when they go back to the real world. However, through some strange coincidence, Kazuha ends up meeting Minato and he ends up attacking bur she runs away this time, but Stockholm syndrome seems to start settling in for her. Back in Arcadia, Kazuha ends up being safely rescued by the angel faction, but she always seems to be thinking about Demento. They eventually end up attacking the Ark and Shiki with the Period Cube being used in the aftermath. In the end, Minato ends up waking up with Kazuha by his side but no memories to recall, thus he has a different perspective to his life and it seems that him and Kazuha eventually start dating as well. However, in the bad ending, Demento is the one that ends up using the Period Cube and Kazuha ends being trapped forever with him in order to protect everyone else, though she doesn’t seemed bothered by it.
One question came to mind after playing this: Why did Demento need a route? It is extremely short and there is no real formation of the romance besides Stockholm syndrome because Demento doesn’t answer these feelings until after he loses his memories. He is too far gone that he needs reboot and possibly be lied at about his connection to Kazuha in order to him to fall in love. Demento has no tragic backstory and he doesn’t have any redeeming qualities or even remorse for anything that he has done in the past or what he does to Kazuha. It is just really hard to believe that he is romantic material and there is literally no logic as to why Kazuha or the player should have any sympathy for him, even less as to why they should develop romantic feelings towards him.
Dearest Brother: Poyo-Poyo + Shiki
Poyo-Poyo is the small fairy that seems to care deeply about Kazuha and tries his best to protect her, at the same time he seems to be very shady as he has information about everything within the game. He likes teasing Kazuha, but seems to be distant and almost mean to the rest of players that seem to know of him. He can go from laughing to being extremely serious as if something is resting heavily on his shoulders. In reality Poyo-Poyo is the missing Shiki Hanamiya trying to complete the final stages to his plan with the Period Cube — to create a world where Kazuha can be safe. Through all the routes, Shiki is shown to be protective older brother that cares deeply about Kazuha, though he seems a bit distance as of recently. He is also a genius that helped create Arcadia with Natsu Yuuki and is the top student within his university, though he is sociable and seems to get along with most of his peers. However, the route shows him to be manipulative with an obsessive love towards Kazuha, which is shown in several different ways.
After losing Hiroya in the forest, Kazuha ends up meeting Poyo-Poyo who gives her advice on how to get to the Twilight Capital. There she meets Forte but as she gets used to this new place, she seems something disturbing and familiar when it comes to Poyo-Poyo. Though everyone sees to be worried about about the Jaws of Death, Kazuha ends up in the Ark and is being kept there by Shiki in order to keep her safe, as he keeps moving forward with his plan of feeding souls to the Period Cube in order to use its full power. As Shiki prepares to complete his desire, both Natsu and the Akashic Records help Kazuha turn back time and stop Shiki from ever wanting to create Arcadia and World V. They are able to return to the real world together and they eventually confess their real feelings towards each other. However, in the bad ending, Kazuha ends up reliving the same day over and over again with everyone, though her body belongs to Shiki.
Throughout the game, the player is shown that Shiki loves Kazuha deeply but the extent of it is shown in his route, which shows that Shiki loves Kazuha as a woman and obsessively to the point that he has a hard time controlling it. At the same time, the accident that she went to traumatized him to the point where he does all this for her safety, though without ever asking her what she really wants. Shiki goes through a lot of extremes for love, but there is never an explanation as to how he got to this point and why the Akashic Records and the Period Cube seemed like the best thing he could do in order to protect Kazuha. There are a lot of things that aren’t explained in regards to Shiki, which sort of makes his cause kind of hard to connect to.
First off, Period Cube has a lot of great things to it. It has some lovely art in terms of both character designs and backgrounds that let the player experience the world of Arcadia really well. All the characters have very unique designs in both the real world and Arcadia that remind the player of who they are, but make them completely different people as well, as shown with Toru. The colors are also very vivid in this game and meld together really well within all the designs. The art also does a good job in differentiating the classes within the game and along with the GUI gives it a really good MMORPG feel. The music also does a great job in contributing to this, especially during the short battles that Kazuha is part of. However, all its pretty aesthetic don’t hide the underlying problems of the game.
Period Cube is severely short with a rushed storyline with some giant plot holes within several routes. The most rushed thing being the romance between Kazuha and her chosen bachelor. At most, the two spend a week together and suddenly fall in love and for someone that enjoys to seeing the process of this happening, it just falls way too short. They save her and they meet once, thus they are suddenly in love! The game does a lot of showing while giving no explanation to how these feelings evolved within Kazuha, they just happened and the player is along for the ride — all these come to a accumulation in Demento’s route, which just leaves the player confused and possibly less sympathetic towards what Kazuha is going through. At the same time, bachelors that do have a past with Kazuha, well that really isn’t shown. They have just been in love for Kazuha forever, but have just never told her for whatever reason and just grew distant as a result — like it is her fault for their feelings being unanswered. Both Hiroya’s and Shiki’s attitudes at this didn’t really make sense to me within the routes and with only one significant childhood event being shown, it was hard to understand their previous bonds with Kazuha.
In the general story line, there is a lot of information that is being withheld from the player that seems crucial to the story line but is never revealed. Personally, the most important being: What exactly is the Akashic Records? It peeks its head into the story from time to time, but it is never given a clear explanation as to why it is there and why exactly is chose Kazuha and Shiki of all people to show its power to. A lot of Shiki’s ideas and actions (like how he got the Period Cube?) are left unanswered, even in his own route and the player is just left guessing. This goes for several other things within the game, such as how Zain ended up in Minato’s body. It is not just one thing, but a whole bunch of little things that pill up and leave the player with more questions than answer — and don’t get me started on the whole accident that Kazuha had and whether she is still alive or not.
In terms of characters, the story has some great ones, especially in Forte as the supporting cast. However, when only a bit of their problems are shown or little details here and there, it is hard to connect with them or personally give them any emotional depth. Forte is a great supporting group for all its members and Kazuha, the angel faction headed by Astrum is as well since they all look out for each other and seem like a big family, which something an MMORPG guild can feel like. This is missing in the other routes, though it is shown more a bit in Hiroya’s and Libera’s routes for obvious reasons.
In terms of Kazuha, I will not be going into whether she is “stupid” or “useless” but it does take a certain type of strength to keep moving forward in the ways she did within Arcadia. Whether her naivety when it comes to video game is believable to the player really depends on them because while it might not seem that way to a younger generation, there are those who grew with every limited access to the internet, either due to money limits or strict parents. However, it is interesting to see that a lot of the bad endings come from Kazuha’s wish, which sort of makes her similar to Shiki in that aspect.
Period Cube has a lot of interesting ideas and concepts within it and a lot that could have been explored well with the main setting being an MMORPG, but it just falls short of that. A lot of things are either rushed or not explained at all, which leaves the player questioning a lot of what they played instead of understanding what is going on around Kazuha. Do I regret buying Period Cube? No, because it is a beautiful game and it had some great characters, but a game shouldn’t be leaving its players with unsatisfied feeling of what could have been.