Stories about characters transported to different worlds are becoming more and more prevalent. Truthfully, that premise initially made me curious about the otome title Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~, as the game was toted as a visual novel/RPG hybrid given the fake MMORPG world that the heroine finds herself trapped in. Having played through multiple routes of the title, I come away with mixed feelings about my time spent with it.
At the start of Period: Cube, high schooler Kazuha is a gaming novice. She’s currently more concerned with her missing older brother Shiki than anything else. Yet, when she and childhood friend Hiroya discover cryptic connections between her brother and an unknown server called World V in the online game Arcadia, Kazuha decides to get involved despite her newbie status. Logging into World V somehow causes the two to be transported into a version of Arcadia where, if your character dies, you suffer the same fate in real life.
Kazuha is deemed the Almighty Amadeus: a third sacred “sword” necessary to complete Arcadia’s final dungeon and bring the people trapped in World V back to the real world. The journey through Arcadia is naturally fraught with peril as characters clamor to acquire Kazuha’s abilities for their own ends, and Kazuha meets several interesting people along the way. Naturally, given that this is an otome title, she can ultimately form romantic relations with some of them.
That is pretty much the plot of Period: Cube in a nutshell, and the story tends to stay within predicted story routes and tropes for that type of narrative. There was really only one twist to the formula in regards to a certain character that caught me off-guard. For the most part, none of what Period: Cube does is going to surprise players. It’s a serviceable narrative, but one that is constantly bogged down by “game” mechanics explained to Kazuha at every turn and the general uncomfortableness of several scenes throughout many routes.
If I’m honest, there are some disturbing and upsetting moments that Kazuha is forced to endure during the course of the game. Out of the four story routes I played, I found three had scenes between Kazuha and the route’s respective bachelor that left me feeling quite uncomfortable. Fortunately, the plot does eventually acknowledge these moments as unwelcome if leaning towards a Good Ending in particular, but that doesn’t make them any less uncomfortable to watch unfold. I was truly grateful for the reprieve from that type of storytelling when I finally played Libera’s route!
Truth be told, the characters are something of a mixed bag in general. When it came to many of the bachelors who comprised the main cast, I was left feeling either indifferent or finding them relatively unlikable, though I warmed up to both Libera and Hiroya in particular as I played through routes. Kazuha herself is very much a blank slate heroine in many respects with a “lost babe in the woods” mentality when it came to every plot matter. I found that her characterization had me very much missing the likes of Cardia from Code: Realize and Ichika from Collar X Malice.
Beyond just feeling bad for Kazuha at certain plot points, I can’t say I felt much for her character or got a strong sense of a personality at all. In all honesty, it was the supporting cast that I found myself gravitating toward the most, as they were surprisingly likable and featured prominently in certain routes, such as innkeeper Domina or the Demon Clan guild Forte. Truthfully, I would’ve preferred it if the game had focused more on them than the actual bachelors!
The world of Arcadia in Period: Cube is brought to life with lush backgrounds and gorgeous, colorful artwork. Even the character portraits have an air of movement to them, so they aren’t just statically standing while dialogue is being spoken. A lot of attention to detail went into the art direction here. Likewise, music and sound effects were handled nicely throughout, and I enjoyed the vocal intro song and opening particularly. The voice acting was stellar quality too. Every character conveyed an incredible amount of emotion whenever they spoke, and the deliveries were always clear and loud enough to be heard even when actors purposefully murmured or whispered their lines. The localization was also of the phenomenal quality I’ve come to associate with Aksys’ visual novel titles, allowing for an easy following of the script.
However, Period: Cube classification as a visual novel/RPG hybrid is a bit misleading. Having played Winter Wolves‘ actual VN/RPG hybrids in their Aravorn titles and Planet Stronghold games, and seeing RPG elements (such as exploring different areas of a town and talking to characters on a World Map) in another otome title, Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk, I expected there to be more of a balance between the RPG mechanics and the VN elements here. Instead, Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ plays more like a traditional visual novel than anything else.
Though there is a World Map of sorts, the game ultimately picks where you go. The “battle” segments, a turn-based system with the player deciding one course of action for Kazuha to take before the game goes back to the plot, are sporadically placed throughout the differing story routes. In actuality, picking a battle action is somehow directly tied with advancing a given route, which is frustrating because there is no clear indication of what to do in these segments if you are trying to reach specific character endings. I considered Period: Cube’s slight RPG leanings to be so minimal that they didn’t really appeal to me much beyond their loose ties with the overall plot of the characters themselves being stuck in a game.
Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ is a hard game to recommend. I’ve played better VN/RPG hybrids and feel that there are stronger otome titles available on the Vita. I also think there are stronger “main character stuck in a different world” plots out there. However, I can recognize that a lot of care went into it, and there were elements of it I truly enjoyed. I’d probably only recommend giving the game a shot once you’ve exhausted your better otome options.