Game Info:

Fatal Twelve
Developed by: aiueoKompany
Published by: Sekai Project
Release date: March 30, 2018
Available on: Windows, macOS, Linux
Genre: Visual Novel
Number of players: Single player
ESRB Rating: Not rated
Price: $19.99

Thank you, Sekai Project, for sending us a review code!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one. A certain number of people have been gathered up to compete in a knockout killing competition taking place over several weeks. Each of the characters can be immediately (and accurately) shoehorned into a well-defined archetype. The game proceeds as presented, but twists and reveals lead to the inevitable conclusion that the rules given are not as clear-cut as it was thought. Do [main characters] have what it takes to win, and can they live with their consciences?

Were this an actual conversation, most of you could have stopped me at “knockout.” Did you think of Battle Royale? The Hunger Games? Danganronpa? Tomodachi Game? PUBG/Fortnite? In any case, add “Fatal Twelve” to the list of killing competitions in anime and the media at large. But before writing it off, consider: an overused premise must have qualities which commend that premise to so many writers. Killing games provide a spectrum of characters on a pedestal, free to display the best and worst of humanity. Consequently, a killing game lives or--if I may say so--dies on the strength of its character interaction and storytelling finesse more than on the specifics of the competition itself. Fatal Twelve knows what it’s doing as a visual novel and a story, and it builds a premise which inherently requires deep character interaction. This visual novel earns a place next to its many genre siblings. If some of its component tropes have been done better elsewhere, the tropes serve Fatal Twelve admirably regardless.

Shishimai Rinka was a high school girl who ran her grandma’s coffee shop in her free time. On the train one day, she saw a metallic glint in a fellow passenger’s backpack. It almost looked like a--Ah, so it was. Fatal Twelve’s cold opening ends in an effective fiery explosion which ends Rinka’s life and begins her participation in Divine Selection. This process, overseen by self-proclaimed goddess Parca, decides who will get a chance to undo their untimely demise.

Fatal Twelve

Strong Points: Premise leans into strong character interaction; good translation in general; consistent characterization backed by effective Japanese-only voice acting; helpful controls and navigation; consistent thematic tone
Weak Points: Formulaic elimination game setup; occasional distracting translation errors; lazy sound effects; romance could be seen as heavy-handed
Moral Warnings: Several kinds of death described and depicted, including suicide; intentional killing and “elimination” by multiple characters, including the main character; some revealing clothing; PG-13 swearing throughout, including s**t and the Lord’s name in vain; casual and pervasive homosexuality; lewd humor; alcohol consumption and drunkenness; goddesses and supernatural beings throughout; subjective morality and denial of a Supreme Being suggested

Rinka’s death coincided with those of eleven others across the globe. For twelve weeks, each of their deaths is undone, and the participants can live out their lives as they wish. However, only one will continue living after the twelve weeks. Every Sunday, the participants can encourage long-term survival by “electing” others for “elimination.” “Elimination” means the death which had been reversed is reverted; in other words, the participant dies at the original time in the original manner. “Electing” is performed by determining and announcing three pieces of information about another player: their name, their cause of death, and their life’s regret. In short: to eliminate competitors and survive past twelve weeks, find the names, causes of death, and regrets.

It is a shame that Fatal Twelve’s strong opening must be followed by an info dump even harsher than the one I just gave. Divine Selection has specific rules about the order of elections, multiple overlapping elections, what constitutes enough information to eliminate, and more. The details are important to the plot, as are the apparent holes in the rules. For example, competitors are referred to by numeral to hide their identities and define the order of elections. The main character Rinka is Numeral I and, therefore, must announce her election decisions without knowing what other competitors plan to do. Most of the participants are in Japan, making them more vulnerable than the others; an in-universe reason is provided by the end of the game. As game master Parka acknowledges, “I do not recall saying anything about fairness.” This is more than a lampshade hung on a convoluted premise; there’s a reason for nearly every aspect of Divine Selection, and Fatal Twelve parses out its secrets wisely. It’s not critical to follow everything at first, and the game makes sure you understand specifics when they become relevant.

Being a high school student, Rinka can do little to actively research her opponents. Furthermore, it’s a constant struggle to decide if she wants to win. After all, two of the participants are younger than she is. One of the participants is a school friend with a major crush on her. Election might not be active murder, but it does result in another’s death. Is that murder all the same? Rinka spends a large portion of the game considering this question with her friends. This group of four had been driven together by their shared ostracization at their competitive school whether for looks, talents, or simple association with the others. The friends are divided along expected lines: generically kind; popular yet isolated; quiet and smart; and spunky. Each character shows more depth as the story goes on, and each is shown to be true to core character traits in the end. A love triangle loaded with excitement, awkwardness, and tension rocks the group in convincing ways, especially because two of those involved are in Divine Selection. The romance plot comes off a bit strong at times (teenagers can be so dramatic), but it is well-written and believable within the context of the story. This group of friends provided a strong backbone to the visual novel.

Rather than deal with Rinka’s limited perspective, Fatal Twelve freely hops to another perspective character for interactions that would otherwise be hidden. At first I was suspicious, and sometimes Fatal Twelve sloppily resorts to an omniscient narrator who says things like, “He was acting selfishly out of his wish to survive. That desire, at least, was not wrong.” When confined to a character’s inner monologue, the perspective shift was appreciated as it gave me more time with the rest of the participants. On the surface, they are only so many conniving slimeballs, adrenaline junkies, and cowards. But an important theme of Fatal Twelve is each person’s unique life and perspective, so the player will learn about why these disparate people might be the way they are. The need to discover regrets often fuels these interactions.The interpersonal nature of Divine Selection is what makes this killing game premise special. The theme of individual personalities lends itself to subjective ethics and relativity; indeed, Fatal Twelve addresses those issues head-on with a very clear stance. There are few monsters; there are many desperate souls. I found the discussion interesting, but its conclusion earns a spot in the coming paragraphs on moral issues.

Fatal Twelve
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 86%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 42%
Violence - 4/10
Language - 2/10
Sexual Content - 3/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 6/10

Whatever one’s stance on the litany of potential ethical concerns, Fatal Twelve presents itself well. The graphics are good rather than exceptional. It’s a visual novel, so come for the story and forget about gameplay. There are a few dialog choices which control the multiple endings. Most of the ending-critical choices are packed after the half-way mark. Despite getting all the endings, I could not tell you with certainty which choices are innocuous and which steer you to a premature bad ending. I can tell you, though, that the endings tended to feel like a natural result of the choices made. Previously-seen dialog can be skipped. This, combined with saving, means it is easy to see all Fatal Twelve has to offer. An epilogue of sorts is hidden in plain sight after the True Ending; I leave its discovery as an exercise to the reader.

Fatal Twelve is localized into English from Japanese. The Japanese-only voice acting is well done across the board. Music is good; alas, effects are provided by weak stock sound bites. The translation is better. It hides honorifics from English speakers, so if not reading “sempai” bothers you, pay attention to the voice acting. Avoiding honorifics is indicative of a translation focused on localization. In one sense, this is great. Idioms are understandable, and grammar irregularities are far between (though a few stand out in the opening song). Those who are used to visual novels or anime will feel right at home. And yet, Fatal Twelve is set in Japan without effort made to acclimatize the uninitiated to the cultural festival, geography, Tanabata, seniority, and other Japanese norms. It is dissonant to set such an accommodating translation next to thoroughly-foreign and unexplained content. While I expect those new to Japanese media to get along alright, Fatal Twelve might give such people a slight fish-out-of-water experience.

Fatal Twelve could also shock with its one female character who walks everywhere in, more or less, her underwear. Dialog dips into lewd propositions from male adults to teenage girls at times, though this behavior is never condoned. Hand-holding is as “sexual” as the action gets. There is a good deal of combat between characters, along with guns, knives, and explosions. Characters regularly consume alcohol, sometimes to the point of drunkenness. One character cuts and acts suicidal; another is a child soldier (like I said: archetypes). Most characters swear at a PG-13 level and take the Lord’s name in vain. Some murder takes place. Of course, characters “eliminate” each other. While the game acknowledges the inherent “evil” of this action, it contends that the human drive to survive explains and, maybe, condones this behavior. Divine Selection takes place in an abstract moral realm outside of death, so the ethics are creatively muddled. Philosophically, the game promotes relativism. It is stated and shown repeatedly that perception shapes reality. Despite the atheistic bent of a few characters, Divine Selection is run by a so-called goddess, and a “something” more powerful and essential to the universe is alluded to at times.

One thing this game is unambiguous on is homosexuality. Every romance in Fatal Twelve is lesbian, including the adolescent love triangle. One character is openly bisexual and confesses her romantic love for a woman. A different confession and player-determined response is tied to the final resolution of the plot. Maybe this comes off as heavy-handed homosexual promotion. If anything, I’d say Fatal Twelve is notable for how mundanely it treats homosexual relations. Sexual orientation is never a defining characteristic. A few characters state that they don’t find lesbianism unusual. I think the writers truly believe that, even if the need to state it indicates that the writers know not everyone believes it. The romances are written and integrated into the plot with as much care as any heterosexual relationship might have been. This stance is not unique to Fatal Twelve, but you should be aware of it nonetheless.

Fatal Twelve derives ideas from a variety of sources, which is arguably the best way to be inspired by previous works. Visual novel fans who are bothered by a lack of originality might balk at the premise. The game nevertheless distinguishes itself among elimination game stories. It gave me over 16 hours of engaging story couched in an excellent visual novel interface. Its ethical and philosophical questions appealed to me personally. The questions are tied to characters from many backgrounds who feel like humans because, like me, they all want to live.

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Sam George

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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