euphoria Review

Developer: ClockUp
Publisher: MangaGamer
Platform: PC
Release Date: November 27, 2015
Price: $44.95 – Available Here

Warning: This title is rated for 18+ audiences.

When a visual novel is announced for official English release, many of these titles start out fairly unknown by the fan base with only a few exceptions that were given anime adaptations or held such a high reputation that Western audiences had already heard about them. In the case of eroge titles, the list of well-known visual novels grows smaller but it is also here that many fans of the genre are also widely familiar with particular names. One of these happens to be euphoria, a nukige style visual novel with a hardcore reputation. Now that euphoria has been released, does it live up to that reputation?

The visual novel begins with the main protagonist, Keisuke Takatou, waking up in a sterile looking white room. Still in his school uniform, Keisuke has no memories of how he ended up in his situation but shortly after waking up he finds that a strange collar has been placed around his neck and that he is there with six other women, all of which also attended his school.

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After trying to find a way out, these seven people find that they are trapped within a strange facility with every door locked to them. It is then that an automated voice informs them that they are to play a game that, if completed properly, will allow them to escape from the facility. There are five locked doors that will be unlocked after certain “conditions” are meant involving an unlocker and a keyhole and with only five total stages available, one failure can lead to being trapped forever.

Or at least that would be the worst of it. You see, the conditions laid out in this game find the women labeled as keyholes while Keisuke, the only male, is deemed the unlocker. At every stage Keisuke must select a keyhole and perform a sexual or degrading act with them until the completion of parameters that will change every time. Those who fail to obey any rules or commit the acts required will be “punished” and euphoria is quick on laying out exactly what it means here and just how rough things can be in this game.

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Keisuke and many of the trapped girls are shocked by the announcement but only one of the females immediately takes a stance against the game and openly refuses to ever participate. After making such a claim, the characters are given a horrific taste of what these game operators are capable of. The room darkens for what appears to be a blink of an eye and the girl vanishes, only to be found being executed with an electric chair.

euphoria takes this death as a chance to show just how brutal and, literally shocking, the title can be. What one would think should be a relatively fast way to be executed turns into one of the lengthiest sequences in the game as numerous details about the execution are described in agonizing detail, showing just what players may be in for if they find themselves on a bad route. I’m not kidding in this regard, as the scene features small amounts of gore, scat, and urine. Some elements of this can be visually toggled off, but more on that later.

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Those who are able to take this initial presentation will find that the scene is something of a gatekeeper, either scaring those off who weren’t prepared for just how brutal things can become in the game and how graphic some elements are or allowing those who are able to bypass it a chance to see just what else lies further along, which surprisingly is fairly tame more often than not, compared to what is shown here.

Forced to watch the execution of one of their own, the cast agree to obey but it is the player character, Keisuke, that finds himself in the most unique situation. Not only is he the only male character, but he has a rather dark secret hidden away. Rather than being scared off by such sadistic methods of torture and death, Keisuke enjoys seeing such acts. Unfortunately for him, his secret is soon discovered by one of the girls, a mysterious beauty named Nemu who is as cunning as they come.

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While the rest of the girls all fit into a fairly typical role, with Keisuke’s childhood friend Kanae, the one year younger Rika Makiba who acts childish to get her way, the stoic Rinne from a separate class, and the popular English teacher Natsuki, are all trying to cope and know nothing of Keisuke’s darker desires, Nemu’s discovery places him in a difficult situation. Not only does she appear unfazed by their new situation, but she takes advantage of Keisuke’s arousal, tempting him to unleash the beast that he is keeping hidden away for an unknown agenda.

From then on players are given a fairly predictable choice pattern that primarily consist of simply selecting a girl for the game. While they may appear simple at first, each girl begins to come into her own through some rather surprisingly, for the most part, well-written dialogue that takes place before and after completing their task. These girls end up opening up far more than one would expect as Keisuke continues to select them. Unfortunately, due to certain twists and the outcomes of routes a few of these routes feel overly simplistic with very little detail actually being put into the storyline. While these routes are optional routes separate from the main route, there are numerous poorly explained twists with a few of these girls as well as some hanging plot threads that never really get tied up even in the core story.

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That being said, the real story here mostly follows Keisuke, who is trying to keep himself from embracing his fetishes despite being forced to perform these same acts he has fantasized about on the girls that are unable to refuse. He simply wishes to return back to a normal life once they escape, but if he exposes what he really feels, the acts of debauchery will haunt him far beyond the locked doors, but on the other hand, he also feels at times that this wouldn’t be such a bad thing. Or at least that is what happens for a while until the game rather abruptly opts to abandon this internal struggle. For the most part, the various routes do explore Keisuke’s desires and his struggle, but after certain points in a few of the side-routes the game appears to forget about his internal issues.

Of course the other main issue happens to be the mystery of just what exactly is going on. Who is running this game and why are the captives being forced to partake in such an immoral game. This mystery serves as the core plot point and also one that serves as euphoria’s spiral into something of a twisted mess that completely changes the way players will look at the game and certain characters.

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While it may be something of a spoiler, once the characters do manage to make an escape they only find themselves in a world where things are completely different from what they may have expected. Not only do certain characters completely appear to change their personalities but a number of new themes and mysteries are quickly introduced to players. Thanks to the massive amount of mysteries and twists thrown at players, the various routes they go down will vary wildly at this point as the story either reaches a separate conclusion that may leave certain threads hanging or aim towards the real truth.

This does mean however that the plot of the game can be described as fairly convoluted at times, especially with how things are handled in the second half. In many ways euphoria may have been known for how sadistic some of the sexual content has been shown in the past, but the way that the storyline also messes with the player’s view of the game’s world is also quite a feat, and one that does come with a fairly satisfying conclusion once the true ending is found.

As mentioned, euphoria is a game that offers certain levels of customization regarding what is actually shown to the player. While scenes will still be presented and given the same narration as before, players have the option of disabling any feces or gore that would normally be present in these scenes, removing such themes from the CG work and making certain visuals a bit more palatable for those who don’t exactly enjoy those types of fetishes.

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This is a game that caters to such a wide range of fetishes that include bondage, electrocution, tickle torture, drugging, and more, that there is something for pretty much everyone here and thankfully the title also supports standard skip functions, allowing players to fast forward past events that may make them uncomfortable but I must say that, despite the game’s reputation, euphoria’s sexual content leans heavily on hardcore rape, humiliation, and torture sequences but does contain tamer scenes that are bordering on vanilla, albeit vanilla that is still a bit rough.

As standard, once players complete a route in Euphoria the game’s Bonus section opens up, allowing for the viewing of previously scene CG and the ability to replay the various sex scenes that have been unlocked. A rather interesting inclusion here is the addition of a Staff Comments, including comments from voice actors for the game, as they talk about certain experiences with the title in a fairly brief manner. Another pair of fairly interesting additions to the game is a possible countdown timer for the in-game ejaculation as well as the ability for players to do more than simply hide the text window like usual visual novels. Instead Euphoria allows players to zoom in on the CGs during events.

Visuals & Audio
The character art isn’t extremely detailed here but it does feature some down to earth character designs that present the girls as beautiful and mostly innocent despite the horrors that await them. With this release MangaGamer has presented Clock Up’s euphoria with uncensored sexual content. This means that everything is presented as raw as possible with players given the option of preventing certain visual elements from being presented. The background for the game is extremely simplistic most of the time as the majority of the game takes place in white tiled rooms where absolutely no detail is presented. This is disappointing since orders are given to the characters via red text that is never actually shown, but this also serves as a method to surprise players with what situation will be unfolding in the room and just how unsettling the whole setting is.

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The background music in euphoria does an excellent job providing a feeling of dread during tense sequences as well as serve as a great support for the more action oriented events that unfold. The voice actors in this game are also rather adept at handling their roles here as they never sound like they are breaking character despite how painful it had to be to make some of the noises that the characters make in this game.

MangaGamer delighted many and shocked others with the idea that they would be bringing euphoria, a game with such a firmly established reputation of being as hardcore as they come, out to English audiences. Moving past its reputation, euphoria does prove to be an extreme sexual game with a massive amount of sex scenes and routes to play through but it also contains a rather enthralling storyline that, while rather convoluted and a bit of a mess with certain endings, will keep a hold of the player as they try to discover the truth behind the game.

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Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.