The possibility that we’ll meet again somewhere…
Wouldn’t it be nice, if it were possible for us to come together at that time?
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Ikari Shinji Raising Project
The player (as Misato) assumes control of Shinji Ikari, and decides how he lives his life. From the way he fights the oppressive Angels, what intensive training he undergoes at NERV headquarters, and even who he builds a relationship with is all up to you. Will you pave the way to his happiness, or will it all end disastrously?
You’re reading the synopsis, and alarm bells start ringing. An Evangelion VN/sim hybrid, where you raise Shinji? Most people, outside of Evangelion fans (and really, even then a minority would only want to play this) would instantly exit, never to come back to the page let alone entertain the idea of such a horrendous prospect. Why would you want to look after anime’s-poster-boy-for-moping’s needs? You wouldn’t, usually. But, what if there was the prospect of this also being a dating sim, leading Shinji to date characters outside of that insular spectrum so often composed of just Asuka, Rei, and Kaworu? If nothing else, that is the one thing which would appeal to someone. You’re also able to set your eyes on Misato, Mana (yes, that Mana), and three new NERV technicians, all of which have their own diverse quirks tailored to a player’s interests.
I dove in with the naive expectation that this would be a relatively short VN, featuring straightforward routes taking place in an Evangelion world which isn’t quite Evangelion. I was wrong, on all three accounts. It took me roughly ten hours to finish my first playthrough, and even then I only snagged a fifth of the available CGs which caught me off guard. Driven on by annoyance, I went a-googlin’ to see what other CGs and events I missed. And I missed… well, a ton. There were all these trips to the beach with the rest of the cast, parties, cherry blossom viewings, and general school events which I never even realised were going on. There was never any sort of flag for anything. I also saw all these frankly bizarre CGs of Shinji being a rock star, and helping foreign children. Oh yes, I definitely did something wrong. I assumed the images where Shinji was helping the children and playing the guitar had something to do with a job, something which you possibly have the option of doing if you choose not to join a club. So that was easily explained. But what about the parties? Did I have to have an even relationship with everyone I encountered? Have certain stats above a certain level when the event rolled around? All far too confusing to go through without a guide, for something I thought would be relatively simple.
The plot plays out exactly like the anime, much to the delight of fans who were fearing any adaptation decay. The first section of the game, right up until Shinji moves into Misato’s apartment plays out exactly like the series’ first two episodes, Eva fights and everything. That was another thing that I didn’t anticipate being in the game: the fights against the Angels. And it’s not just CGs with descriptions, there’s actual full CG movies which show the Evas going into battle. Although, the CGs do look hilariously dated and look like they’d fit right in on the N64 or PS. But it still manages to show the battles, despite looking horribly awkward. There are some things which just couldn’t be conveyed effectively, though. We all remember that scene where Unit 01 goes berserk in the fight against Zeruel, where it maliciously tore it apart while NERV staff helplessly watched (Maya even threw up). That scene in this isn’t… that horrifying. It’s almost funny, seeing Unit 01’s jerky actions as she tries to tear into the fourteenth Angel.
You don’t just witness the fights, but you also have your say in how to fight (well, how you direct Shinji). There are usually four or five prompts, in which you can attack, defend, or conserve power for the next round in which your attack power is double. Depending on the weapon you choose (yes, weapons can also be chosen, with more weapons becoming available after you help Misato rebuild the city), you can inflict great damage or barely make a scratch. You can also control Unit 00 and 02. Shinji is the worst person for not listening to orders. Even if his receptiveness is high (I’ll get to this later), if you tell him to conserve power half the time he goes off and attack anyway, saying a half assed sorry to Misato. Asuka also does this, but not as much. Rei is pretty much the only one who obeys her orders, but what else do you expect? The first time Shinji disobeys his orders, you can either scold him severely, or punish him severely. I decided to scold him, thinking that it’d be for the best (well, at least it didn’t result on him going on that melancholy trip which involved him sitting on the train and wandering around aimlessly).
As mentioned earlier on, the whole point of this game is essentially raising Shinji. You plan out his week, with him being able to do two things a day. There are, however, some small restrictions. For example, if you decide to attend club on Wednesdays and Thursdays, you must attend school beforehand. So if you attend your club, a full day is gone. But really, there’s no point in going to the club unless you have your eyes set on Mana. I don’t think that there’s any set number of days where you had to attend school. For example, Rei says that she only attends school on Wednesday mornings. I think Asuka attends twice a twice. I made Shinji go to school once or twice a week in case something went wrong. School is also helpful for raising stats, although they only go up by a little. And here, we get into the real part of the game: actually raising him, and in turn raising his stats. Various things you do have an impact on how Shinji reacts in Eva battles, and just in general. For example, the higher his receptiveness is, the more likely he will listen to you and not skip what he’s supposed to do (which would happen more often than you think – Kensuke and Touji ambush him, and then it cuts to a silly CG of the pair stealing Shinji’s food ; your stress decreases by six points, but your receptiveness decreases by two as well). Outside of of going to NERV, you can also buy books and the like which can increase or decrease points, which are actually pretty useful if you’re trying to keep a certain stat as low as you can, or trying to keep the rest of your stats equal.
I read on wikipedia beforehand that the higher Shinji’s sex appeal is, the more he’s attracted to girls, but the lower is, the more he’s attracted to guys. I found that totally irrelevant. At one point Shinji’s sexuality was hovering at around two points while almost everything else was in the five hundreds, and he still went out with a girl at Christmas. Sex appeal also rises from the most random, frustrating things. For example, if you went to sensibility class (where you just paint), your sex appeal would go up by perhaps two points. It also decreases randomly, like when you go to synchronization classes. At one point, if you happen to attend school while Asuka or Rei are there, his sex appeal will also rise. Going to certain classes will also build up your relationship with one of the new female NERV technicians. After going to any one of their classes for a while, your relationship starts building up, even if you don’t want it to which can be annoying if you just want to attend the class to build up your stats. After I went to mental strengthening class, Shinji was suddenly in a relationship with Kaeda, which involved her randomly popping up from time to time, and wondering about what she should get Shinji for Valentine’s Day.
The game is fully voiced with everyone having their original seiyuu. The use of music was, as you expected, wonderful. Iconic tracks like ‘The Beast’ were played when they were supposed to, but some tracks were definitely overused. ‘A Crystalline Night Sky’ popped up far too often, with tracks like ‘NERV’ not popping up enough. Several tracks weren’t played in the scenes that you’d expect them to, though. For example, when Shinji and Asuka had to team up to fight against Israfel, the glorious ‘Both of You, Dance Like You Want to Win!’ was annoyingly left out. The opening song for the game is a midi version of ‘Cruel Angel’s Thesis’. The game was also divided up into chapters, with next episode previews and all which I found very nifty with Misato going, ‘next time, on Shinji Ikari Raising Project!’. Each chapter also had its own name, done in the style of episode names in the original series.
As expected, there were some slight differences from the series, but I’m not sure if that was because of the choices I made or not. When Asuka and Shinji had to team up when fighting against Israfel, Rei also had to come, despite not having anything to do with the battle. She wore a white version of their infamous music note tops. Lilith also looked… startlingly different, and the reason for her appearance change puzzled me. She certainly did look more feminine, and I couldn’t help but smile when Kaiji still referred to her as Adam. The deep introspective mind rapes which made Eva what it was were all also absent here. After Shinji got absorbed into Unit 01, we saw… nothing. I understand that things were partially from Misato’s point of view, but still. We also don’t see Rei II dying, instead hearing her shriek just before anything happens. Screen then cuts away. The exact same thing happened with Asuka. We see her freaking out inside Unit 02, but that’s it. She disappears for like a month, and I think that she’s casually mentioned once before the game’s end. Yep, I definitely triggered a bad end there. Kaiji does get shot, but we don’t get to see Misato’s reactions to it. Shinji also meets Kaworu at school, instead of the beach. We don’t even see him getting to kill him, instead seeing Unit 01 and 02 awkwardly grappling for a minute. A few subtle things were also slightly expanded on, like Misato speaking with Ritsuko before she leaves to fetch Shinji at the start, for example.
The ending I got plays out exactly like Evangelion, but was most likely the series’ default bad end, as I also saw CGs were Shinji got to marry the girl he chose in the game. Everything starts going downhill, and SEELE begin having a discussion talking about mankind’s elimination. Cut to scene taken straight out of the End of Evangelion which shows various soldiers in their own pools of blood, and NERV HQ with only uniforms being left behind. Shinji is apparently the only one left, and both Rei and Kaworu appear speaking about a world that Shinji wants. Cut once more to Kaworu walking on that beach, saying that it’s unfortunate that his time with Shinji and the Lilim wasn’t longer, expressing his hopes for them to meet again at some point. Cue to credit roll with the poignant ‘Kanon D-Dur (Quartet)’. At this stage, I was like, ‘what the hell did I just play through?’. To make things even more trippy, there a rewind of time of sorts, with a next episode preview narrated by Ritsuko of all people mentioning a Kaworu Nagisa Raising Project. I can assure you, I am definitely not joking. It then showed up as an extra option on the main screen, highlighted in pink. Thinking, ‘ah, here is where I can a proper ending… right?’, I dived straight in. SEELE basically entrusts Kaworu to Ritsuko, and you’ve a total of three weeks to gain Shinji’s affections before the world turns to shit once again. But oh no, it’s not that easy. You’ve to go to great lengths to match your schedule exactly to Shinji’s, or another BAD END is heading your way. This extra section was most likely tacked on to please the fujoshi crowd as an optional thing who bitched and whined about Shinji not actually being able to date Kaworu in the actual game. And oh wow, the BL level really is turned up to 101% here, with countless ‘K-Kaworu-kun!’s.
I seriously messed up the first time, only getting one scene (with a CG) between the two. Just one, in the three weeks. I nearly deleted the whole thing in annoyance until I found a Japanese walkthrough which had Shinji’s schedule down to a tee. And, I pretty much nailed it. Kaworu and Shinji had a bunch of silly and sweet scenes together, but it still didn’t make an impact on the ending in any way. The final scene between the two involves them going to Ritsuko’s apartment, and sleeping in the same small sleeping bag after they ate ‘hamburger steaks’, with a luminous blushing Shinji voicing his fears and anxieties about the world around him. Kaworu comforts him, and the screen fades to black. Nope, definitely not suggestive. Not at all. But, back to the ending. Shortly after that scene occurs, the world pretty much ends, showing the player an awkward CG of a bare Shinji diving into Kaworu’s arms before the credit roll. And that was it. SEELE still said that the world had ended and everything went to shit. Was it all worth it? Most likely not. There were things that most likely could have determined if I got a good ending or not (like not killing Touji, oops), but after I finished that ending I seriously could not be bothered going through all that again.
So, was it all worth it? I suppose it was, for an Eva fan. I was severely put off playing this for a while after playing the dreaded Girlfriend of Steel 2 which left a definite bitter taste in my mouth, but this was an improvement. Much longer, with an actual plot, and featuring the characters that we know and love (within reason…). If you’re a big fan of the series, you might like this, even if the only pull is playing it for another look at the world of the series. If you’re a casual fan, you shouldn’t really bother. For example, if you cannot stand Shinji, then this certainly isn’t for you as you’ll have to guide him. And no, plotting reader, this doesn’t mean by putting him in the worst situations that you can think of.