Originally released back in 2013, The Shadows of Pygmalion was localized and was made available in English during late Februrary 2017. I actually first found out about MangaGamer’s plans for the game back in June 2016, so I’ve been waiting for Pygmalion for over six months (and I’m sure many people have been anticipating this release for much longer). Was the game worth the wait?
In my opinion, I would have to say it is. Although Pygmalion has a few flaws, the visual novel provides an interesting read with thought-provoking aesops. However, the game is slightly overpriced, does contain violent and intense scenes which may overwhelm some players, and its bittersweet endings is likely to cause players to feel depressed.
Also Known As: 願いの欠片と白銀のアグリーメント, 願いの欠片と白銀の契約者, Negai no Kakera to Hakugin no Keiyakusha, Negai no Kakera to Hakugin no Agreement, Pygmalion of overlapping shadows
Length: Medium (15-30 hours)
Lewdness: 2/3 (Kissing, Hand Holding, Naked Embraces; Occasional Nudity)
Price: 34.99 USD (MangaGamer’s version is $0.04 cheaper than Steam’s version)
In The Shadows of Pygmalion, the main character is Hajiro Mina, a first-year high school girl who enjoys visiting a doll gallery she recently discovered. She especially admires Ruka, a beautiful doll that inspires both fear and awe.
However, it turns out that Ruka is no mere doll and is actually an Eidos, a god-like being. And because Mina unintentionally resonates with Ruka, Mina becomes able to see and destroy Puppets, inhuman entities which blend within crowds and manipulate events in order to steer mankind to specific outcomes.
Due to her new powers and responsibilities, Mina is essentially forced to join an organization dedicated to the destruction of Puppets. Some of her fellow members include Jessica, the elementary school genius; Sumerami Riko, a composed girl who also attends Mina’s school; and Yang, a cold Chinese businesswoman. Despite an initial rocky start, Mina starts to become closer with her comrades over time. However, all is not as it seems…
I think the first thing that stands out is the game’s price tag. Some people consider paying 30+ USD for a visual novel to be exorbitant and I’m inclined to agree. It doesn’t help that Pygmalion is an older title that was released almost 4 years ago. However, it’s around the same price range as Kindred Spirits on the Roof and Nurse Love Addiction, which are both older yuri visual novels which take around 30 hours to play through. Perhaps it’s just expected for yuri fans to pay around that much for games of this length at this point.
Something which differentiates Pygmalion from the other two aforementioned games is its lack of choices. There’s a single “decision point” that occurs after 14 chapters; before reaching that part of the game, however, Pygmalion plays much like a kinetic novel and players can just sit back and watch the plot unfold.
This is a feature that can be viewed either postively or negatively. Some players may dislike how there’s almost no choices to be made (after all, many visual novels have tons of choices that players must select in order to complete routes to the point that this is the typical definition of a visual novel) whereas others may prefer this format since that minimalizes the amount of save files players will have to make in order to keep track of their progress. As a side note, the game gives players 100 save file slots, which is relatively generous for a game with this playtime expectancy.
Be that as it may, there’s another controversial feature which ties into the game’s single decision point. In order to unlock the true end, the player has to complete the three provided routes. This part is fine since the player gets to see things through Jessica, Yang, and Riko (I’m a sucker for these kind of perspective flips in visual novels).
However, once the player has seen the three “alternative endings,” the player then has to start restart from the very beginning of the game in order to be able to select the choice which leads to the TRUE ENDING. While that is already a little frustrating, the true kicker is that there’s no true Skip button to take you straight to the decision point. As a result, the player has to sit and rewatch 14 chapters’ worth of material zip by for at least 30 minutes in order to arrive at the crucial decision point if the player wants to see the true ending. While this process is rather tedious, I imagine that the developer intentionally did this in order to give the player an opportunity to revisit particular scenes. After all, the game uses abstract terminology at times and players may find the words and meanings hard to keep track of due to a lack of an in-game dictionary or glossary. Forcing players to replay through the game’s events give them a chance to jog their memories and to enjoy the little instances of foreshadowing which may have been missed during their first playthrough. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the feature is clunky and potentially unnecessary due to the high amount of save file slots (since the player could basically save at any important scenes and replay them at their own leisure).
EDIT: I’ve recently learned that there’s a True Skip Option that players access by pressing right shift. That renders one major concern I had with the game moot.
As for the story itself – it’s heavy. I mean, the game begins with a character committing suicide! There’s a reason why there’s a warning/disclaimer that plays every time the game starts up. MangaGamer and Steam likes to claim that this is an all-ages visual novel because there’s no “adult version,” but there are instances of implied rape as well as vivid descriptions of gory murder and troubling depictions of hallucinations. Frankly, it’s probably the most disturbing visual novel I’ve played since Saya no Uta. But hey, at least there’s no visible nipples, right? That makes the game kid-friendly apparently!
At any rate, I couldn’t perceive any glaringly obvious plotholes. In fact, the story is actually rather deep and gets better with each additional playthrough due to the intricate layers of foreshadowing and subtlety. There’s also some sensitive topics that are explored, such as “what does it mean to be human” and such. The character department was not a dissapointment, either; they were all interesting to some degree and I did not find myself considering any character to be poorly written.
There was one or two particular characters, however, who I wished had received more screentime and elaboration concerning their motives and mindsets, but the player still receives an acceptable amount of information for these two regardless. EDIT: it has come to my attention that there’s extra side stories that can be accessed after playing through the true ending. The story’s loose ends can be tied up because of this.
The art itself is gorgeous. The women (and Jessica) are all beautiful. Heck, even the dolls that were shown on-screen looked pretty. The relevant guys (admittedly few in number) weren’t rough on the eyes, either. However, there were a few instances of off-model characters (in my opinion) as well as some minor discrepancies between what was written and what was actually shown on-screen. One particular character supposedly had one green eye, for instance, but she was always shown with two red eyes. Still, that’s a minor complaint.
Also, it seems like I’m missing a few pictures in the graphics menu option (which is unlocked after completing a route) despite clearing the game in its entirety. EDIT: players will have to play through the story several times in order to unlock all the images, but the right shift -> skip to unread parts function can help in that regard.
To be honest, I’m not sure if this issue is due to my dated laptop or the game’s own aged engine, but the words within the textbox would slow down dramatically whenever there were animated elements within the screen, such as rain.
Personally, I felt that the best part of Pygmalion is the voice acting. I always love hearing seiyuu’s passionate voices and we get plenty of that in this visual novel (the guys don’t really get too hammy, but their voices are still very alluring). Plus this game, which is fully voiced, has some big names for its voice cast. Hanazawa Kana voices Jessica, for instance!
The emotional yelling that happens during stressful situations really helps the viewers understand that this is a serious visual novel (but there are a few funny moments here and ). It’s actually a bad idea to play this game at night since the voices do get very loud. Thankfully there’s sound settings, where the player can adjust both general voice volume levels and individual character voice volume levels, as well as headphones.
The music was also enjoyable, I felt. The songs didn’t get on my nerves within 5 minutes of listening (a rare feat in itself) and suited the game’s tone and mood. The soundtrack can seamlessly transition from being soothing and calm to high-strung and tense in an instant. It was very atmospheric, in other words! There’s also a music menu option, which is unlocked after any route is completed, where the player can listen to individual tracks.
In regards to the yuri, Pygmalion is rather light. Mina is pretty popular with everyone and gets kissed by many characters (and it’s actually explained why she’s so beloved so please don’t call her a Mary Sue because she has plenty of flaws and is a reasonably good main character) and there are several instances of her considering other girls to be pretty and cute. Other than that, she holds hands with Riko and Jessica often, wakes up to a girl embracing her while both of them are naked, and basically gets raped by a doll… Some other girls are also implied to have been really close friends with other girls, at the very least. I personally think they were all lovers, but that’s just me speaking as a yuri fan.
Two minor complaints before I conclude this review. One: I wish that the localization kept the honorifics in. That, of course, is only due to personal preference. I think I am obligated to mention that there were very few typos (I did not spot any, to be honest) which makes me very impressed with the QC team. Very well done!
Two: I heavily recommend getting this via Steam. It’s been a while since I’ve installed a visual novel that wasn’t on Steam, it seems, since I had a bit of a struggle doing so for Pygmalion. I guess it didn’t help that I had to download two 1.5 GB portions first (which took me a few days since the download kept failing) before extracting said files (which was confusing for me). Maybe other players have better internet than me and aren’t as dumb as me, so these issues will be irrelevant. But the fact remains that it’s a lot easier to take screenshots when you’re playing a game that is inside your Steam library.
While I wouldn’t exactly call The Shadows of Pygmalion an all-ages visual novel due to the depictions of death and other mature content, this yuri action narrative is still worth purchasing. With beautiful art, stellar voice acting, and intriguing characters, Pygmalion manages to stand out with its darker content without becoming too self-absorbed and lost with its own edginess.
However, some players may dislike how there’s only a single decision point (that only comes up after many, many hours of reading),
how players are forced to restart the game from the very beginning in order to see the true ending, and how there’s only a Fast-Forward button instead of a true Skip button. Also, please be aware that I did not include any pictures of battle and action within this review. There’s a lot of that within Pygmalion, actually. It’s the point that the action is what drives the plot within this visual novel. So if you’re not a fan of action, this game isn’t for you.
If you want to play through other yuri visual novels that are around the same price range (35 USD) and length (15-30 hours), then consider trying Kindred Spirits on the Roof (also known as Okujou no Yurirei-san) and Nurse Love Addiction (also known as White Robe Love Addiction). While both games have elements of the supernatural tied into the plot (just like Pygmalion), Kindred Spirits is much lighter in tone, more aggressive with the yuri, and has a lot more fanservice due to the considerable amount of erotic and intimate scenes whereas Pygmalion is primarily limited to bathing scenes. Nurse Love Addiction is in-between Kindred Spirits and Pygmalion in terms of tone and also skimps on the fanservice much like Pygmalion (the yuri is plentiful, it should be noted). However, both games feature a plethora of choices compared to Pygmalion‘s single decision point.