Review: Virtual reality and real love in Period: Cube

MMORPGs are a social experience. People make friends as they play. Relationships form that start out as digital, but become physical. Some even fall in love as they go through these games. Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ is an otome game that explores that notion. Folks who have found themselves sucked into an MMO, à la Sword Art Online or .hack, also have a chance to find love.

Period: Cube begins in the real world. A young woman named Kazuha is distressed, because she hasn’t heard from her brother, Shiki, in a number of days. (Note: you can rename Kazuha.) She and her childhood friend, Hiroya, decide to visit his apartment and college to learn more about what’s going on. Shiki is nowhere to be found, but his computer says he’s accessing World V, a mysterious server that isn’t supposed to exist in Arcadia. But, Shiki warned Hiroya not to visit World V. The two decide to head into the game to find more information on his disappearance.

People’s souls are being sucked into Arcadia, while their bodies remain in an Idiopathic Coma in the real world; this means they die in the real world if they die in the game.

Kazuha insists on joining Hiroya in his Arcadia investigation, and that’s where the trouble begins. Though she attempts to make a Therian minstril and side with the in-game demons, so she can more easily work with Hiroya, she finds herself listed as the Almighty after logging in and not aligned with either side. Both have found themselves transported to World V, the one place they shouldn’t be. Even worse, Kazuha has been dubbed the Almighty Amadeus upon creating a character and logging in. She is now part of the Trinity of Swords needed to clear the Ark.

Why is this such a big deal? Because as I mentioned earlier, Period: Cube borrows heavily from the .hack and Sword Art Online series. People’s souls are being sucked into Arcadia, while their bodies remain in an Idiopathic Coma in the real world; this means they die in the real world if they die in the game. Since the monsters are extremely powerful in World V, player killers like Demento are running around and a phenomenon called the Jaws of Death are gradually advancing on the land and destroying all data in their path, its a race against time to conquer the Ark and set people free. Even then, there’s another caveat. Only the people from the faction that complete the Ark first get to survive.

While this is a recurring concept in multimedia projects involving MMORPGs, Period: Cube handles the idea well. Partially because it does offer opportunities to see its characters in the real world. When people complete special quests, they are given an opportunity to briefly return to the real world. This allows us to enjoy interactions between characters in two different environments. It allows for more diverse situations. Another perk comes from its heroine. Kazuha is a beginner. She’s new to gaming in general, which offers a more refreshing look at the game as a whole.

I just wish Period: Cube didn’t talk down to the player. It sometimes makes the assumption that we are as clueless as Kazuha. Otomate games almost always offer some sort of in-game glossary to help people understand different phrases and concepts. In other titles, this is used to explain lore or historical references. Here, you’ll find entries explaining things like private messages, forming a party and other gaming concepts that any person in possession would know. There are some references that do come in handy, but it really took me out of the moment when the game was basically explaining a term like “dungeon” or “player” to me.

Kazuha comes across as a young woman who is interested, wants to do her best and is clearly trying in the face of overwhelming odds.

On the other hand, Period: Cube does a wonderful job of portraying a heroine who is unfamiliar with gaming. Games can be overwhelming to people who are new to them, especially MMORPGs that involve quickly jumping into an adventure and pulling your own weight in a party. Kazuha comes across as a young woman who is interested, wants to do her best and is clearly trying in the face of overwhelming odds. In the Radius route especially, we see her grow as a player as she works on her own to travel across the world, learn skills and improve. She’s definitely concerned with the people around her, which helps the player become more invested in these relationships.

Period: Cube also does a rather good job of mimicking the MMORPG experience. This is 100% a visual novel. The game will even tell you when your decisions cause you to go from one route to another and display an animation showing when a correct response causes levels of affection to increase. But, it also occasionally has battles and the summary page shows characters stats, health and equipment. When a fight occurs, Kazuha will have three possible actions. Each one can cause the story to change. It might even cause characters’ health to rise or fall, something that’s important in a game where dying means you are gone for good. Kazuha even has an “Almighty” gauge that rises and falls depending on her power usage. It lends a sense of ambiance to the overall experience.

The fanciful nature of Period: Cube may be what ties everything together. This is a gorgeous otome game. The character designs fit the theme of a world where angels and demons so well. Every character is suitably supernatural, and the environments have an ethereal element to them. The real world is much more stark and better defined in contrast, though the character designs have an otherworldly beauty to them. This helps you see the connection between people in both actual and virtual reality. Even the music is as soothing and evocative as the sounds you’d find in any MMO.

Period: Cube ~Shackles of Amadeus~ is a wonderful otome game. Though it may have some moments where it talks down to the player, the design is exceptional. It does a fantastic job of both portraying the MMORPG experience and putting us in the shoes of a young woman who has never gone through a game before. Players will enjoy going into Arcadia again and again to uncover all of its secrets.

Score: 9/10
Publisher: Aksys
Release Date: April 28, 2017
Developer: Otomate
Platform(s): PlayStation Vita
Questions? Check out our review guide.
A review copy was provided by the publisher or developer for this review.

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