PC/Mac/Linux
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Game Info:

Baldr Sky
Developed By: GIGA
Published By: Sekai Project
Release Date: December 20, 2019
Available On: Windows
Genre: Visual Novel, Action
Number of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: N/A
MSRP: $49.99

Thank you Sekai Project for sending us this game to review!

Over the years, I've reviewed quite a few visual novels, always reviewing censored versions where applicable (I will not play something that qualifies as full-on porn, like some uncensored visual novels are). I find the format interesting, and the stories engaging. Often I am rewarded with a deep and compelling story, and that's certainly the case here. What did surprise me is just how close to the (appropriateness) edge this game did get, though.

Baldr Sky stars Kou Kadokura, a cyberspace mercenary who is investigating the truth behind the events that happened on 'Grey Christmas' - a tragic event where Kou lost the woman he loves, not to mention almost everyone else in the city he knew at the elite college he attended. While deep in an investigation, he blacks out from a powerful blast - that not only kills most of his crew, but also wipes out several years from his memory. Those memories hold clues which help unravel the mystery of this deep and engaging tale.

The story takes place some time in the 22nd century, after brain chips become commonplace, and AI computers control the whole of cyberspace. Interestingly, there was a technology race late in the 21st century, where mechanical computers (not unlike what we have now) and biological AI, which are made of organic materials, were competing for supremacy; the organic AI came out on top. Mechanical AI (and computers in general) were relegated to existing systems where they control common activities like climate control; the new AI systems manage everything else.

The relationship between the AI and humanity is mostly symbiotic; the organic AI is almost certainly the most advanced life form on the planet, and manages cyberspace for humanity - as humans dream of more things to do, the AI will create, modify, and even upgrade the simulation for your mind and virtual avatars to travel to. Certain exceptionally gifted people, often called 'wizards', can create almost anything you can imagine in cyberspace - an NPC (non-player character), any items you wish, or even an entire city, and the AI will maintain that space for anyone who wishes (or is allowed) to go there. It's a fascinating vision of the future, and one that real-world companies are even now trying to make happen. As soon as I saw how the brain chips worked, it immediately brought to mind the possibility of a really advanced version of Elon Musk's Neuralink.

Baldr Sky
Highlights:

Strong Points: Deep, engaging and interesting story; lovable characters; overall excellent translation; great art, even if low resolution; very good music and sound effects; action battles can be fun; one of the highest-rated visual novels of all time; extremely long
Weak Points: Battles can get a bit frustrating at times (thankfully there is an easy mode); extremely long; in one part of the game I had stability issues
Moral Warnings: Foul language of every kind, including liberal uses of 'f*ck' and God's name in vain, not to mention 'd*mn', 'b*tch', 'sh*t', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', and likely others; violence, including blood and death, though most of it is in the form of simulacrums fighting (virtual reality robot avatars); sexual content is almost everything you can imagine, including premarital sex, rape, incest, hints of homosexuality, human trafficking, orgies, and more; characters in various forms of undress, including completely naked, and even in sexual positions on screen, though nipples and private areas are censored out (on the Steam release); an uncensor patch is easy to find, which then would offer full on-screen sex; atheism is shown as generally positive, and the only religion mentioned is a doomsday cult who uses an upside-down cross as their symbol and preaches that

 

 

everyone must die online and join the AI to become 'wired ghosts'
; genocide and human experimentation discussed

This form of cyberspace even includes the concept of limiters - if present, you can experience whatever you like, without fear of serious injury or death. On the flip side, experiences there are not as intense - if all limiters are removed, you can certainly die from an experience, but it also fully feels real. This is a feature that places like the 'Love and Pleasure Forum' take advantage of to the fullest, and virtual sex orgies are a common occurrence there.

As a result of the sudden influx of such advanced technology, there are various factions that have sprung up. These include pro and anti AI factions, as well as a religious cult called Dominion that believes that all humanity should become one with the AI, and upload their consciousness into cyberspace - allowing their bodies to die in reality. In another remarkable coincidence, this idea is also something mirrored in reality - the US company Nectome wants to do the exact same thing here in the real world. Hopefully, they don't create a suicide cult that uses the symbol of an upside-down cross to spread their message, though.

Baldy Sky was originally released in Japan in the form of two separate games, Dive1 and Dive2. Dive1 focused on setting up the plot, and explored three relationship arcs for Kou - Rain, Nanoha, and Chinatsu. In each of their stories, you romance them - and premarital sex with them is unavoidable. You also see different sides of the same conflict, determine some of what happened during the disaster you lived through with your school friends, and glimpses into how to stop the coming war.

Dive2 picks right up where Dive1 left off by actually starting at the same place, but it opens up new dialogue choices, as well as giving you access to a fully contiguous Reminiscence feature where you can watch the entire last year before the tragedy play out in order, giving you more and more backstory on what happened to you and those you love so much. You also romance Aki, Makoto, and Sora in these routes. Again, premarital sex is unavoidable. This release combines both Dives into one contiguous package.

Your time reflecting about your school days revolves around Kisaragi Dorm, where you, your second cousin Aki, your buddy Masa, your childhood friend Nanoha, as well as other close friends (Chinatsu, Makoto, Sora) all live together under one roof. Almost all of them suffer with some personal tragedies, and the love and deep relationships formed together there is the closest many of them have to a family. This is all extremely well written, and I personally came to appreciate every character, especially those in Kisaragi Dorm.

Unfortunately, as mentioned before, Grey Christmas happens, and Kou loses the woman he loves - and he's not the only one dealing with huge losses. Every character's arc deals with the aftermath of this in some way, as well as shows how they approach the future. Everything is very well written, and quite engaging.

Given that this takes place in a future where cyberspace is a place of human dreams come true, naturally man figures out a way to battle in giant robots. These are called simulacrums, and they are used in virtual combat both for sport and real cyber warfare - where lives are lost in the process. Anyone with access to the appropriate software can access a battle robot, and of course Kou finds that he has a natural talent - no doubt in part because his mostly-absent dad is also a legendary simulacrum pilot whose seen countless battles.

About thirty percent or so of the story is told through these battles, where Kou fights various viruses (combat programs) or other human-controlled simulacrums, often to the death. All combat is performed in real time, where you have three different attack buttons, a dash button, as well as a way to move around to line up or avoid attacks. The game plays perfectly well on a gamepad, though mouse and keyboard is also supported. I played the entire game with a gamepad.

Combat can be really intense, with each button having assignable attacks, so you can have up to sixteen of the available weapons equipped at any one time. During combat, you earn Force, which you can then spend on weapon development, or even unlocking various interface plugins while you play. Force is quite a valuable commodity, and you can earn more by doing more damage to your opponents. Since enemy health scales up as difficulty increases, a great way to earn more is to increase the difficulty, if you can still win that way. While I played most of the game on normal, there are five difficulty settings, ranging from very easy to very hard. I sometimes played on hard when I wanted to earn a bit more, and dropped to easy or even very easy when I struggled. Once I found a good set of weapons, I rarely went below normal.

Weapons range from melee attacks like punches and kicks, to missile barrages and lasers, and everything in between. Some of the harder to unlock weapons, like bits, are incredibly powerful and are practically required to do well later on in the game. Each bout generally lasts no more than a few minutes, with some exceptions, though back to back fights happens quite often. The story can be told in pop-up text during fights, or with dialogue that happens between bouts. Some scenario are made based on how well you do in certain battles. For example, if you win or lose against some enemies helps determine what ending you get. You need to see all good endings in order to get the final, true one.

In the first three routes (originally Dive1), there are humiliation scenes that have been thankfully mostly been censored out, but your effectiveness in combat determines what happens. To make a long story short, if you take too long, your female companion gets raped by a total scumbag. While nothing is shown in the censored version of this game (as shipped on Steam), what happens is implied. Apparently little is left to the imagination if you apply the 18+ patch.

Baldr Sky
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 17/20
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 3/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 36%
Violence - 5/10
Language - 0/10
Sexual Content - 0/10
Occult/Supernatural - 5/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 8/10

Not only is sex (and rape) a recurring theme in the game, but as mentioned before premarital sex is seen as a reward for getting close to each girl. One even goes so far as to use it as a wager to try to keep your relationship closer. As the story goes on, one character whom you treat as a sister becomes your lover; others are closely biologically related to you, though you don't know that until later. That knowledge makes no impact on your relationships or choices, however. Several routes have you travel to the previously mentioned Love and Pleasure Forum, where your characters observe orgies and other group sex acts in large numbers. In order to infiltrate this location, you have to take a virtual drug which instantly makes you feel strongly sexually attracted to the girl you are with in order to get past the 'horny' test. Speaking of virtual drugs, there is also a scene where some of the Dorm members get virtually drunk - and another person drinks real alcohol by mistake.

While most outfits are reasonably modest most of the time (with the exception of some significant cleavage, and girls wearing sports bloomers or bikinis), some scenes, especially endings, hold little to nothing back. One ending has you and one of the girls basically together in a many-hours long sex escapade, day after day; the image on screen shows your bodies together in a sexual position, but all nipples/privates are covered or whited/clouded out. Nevertheless, little is left to the imagination. There are also shower scenes with similar streaks and so on. Another time you carry a naked woman, and a light streak covers her private parts. A back alley doctor's office has an adult sex toy shop as a front, and a mannequin there has nipples; ironically these are the only visible nipples in the censored version of the game. Several lines in the dialogue also talk about sex, or joke about it. Two of the female characters are in a sexual relationship with each other. Because of the Steam version's censoring, all actual sex scenes fade to black, but you do know more or less what happened. According to the Sekai Project, approximately 4% of the original content was censored or removed for this release.

As mentioned before, there is plenty of violence, including deaths of various kinds. Blood is rarely shown, but there are a few scenes where there is. In a few cases, powerful weapons wipe out life on a massive scale. Foul language is relatively common, but not gratuitous; no character swears just because, so it makes sense on context, but Kou in particular is known to drop quite a few f-bombs. Pretty much every other common curse word is also present, including 'd*mn', 'b*tch', 'sh*t', 'd*mn', 'h*ll', as well as God's name in vain. From an occult/supernatural perspective, everything is based on technology; the biggest negatives is nearly no mention of God other than as a curse, or the Dominion cult that is almost a parody of a Christian-like cult, with upside-down crosses as their symbol, and it's being led by a psychotic leader named Father Gregory. He will use almost any method to help progress his movement, including violence with his twin chainsaws.

From a technical perspective, it's a pretty good and solid game with some notable exceptions. The system requirements are vanishingly low - it should run on almost anything made in the last fifteen years, as the art is all 2D, including the battles. The graphics resolution is 800x600, though I found the upscaling to work much better than I expected. Sure it can be pixelated, but given how much is hand-drawn art, that didn't bother me at all, and some scaling algorithm is applied to battle content that blurs the pixels in a really effective way. The only major problem I had is that near the end of one of the last routes, I had the game crash a bunch of times - enough where I actually had to launch the game on another computer to get past that. It sure was strange. (This was after 100+ hours of perfectly stable gameplay.)

The art overall is well done, with a unique character art that my daughter called a 'tall person' anime art style. It's quite different from the more typical 'chibi' style and looks really good. The music has around sixty tracks, and is quite excellent as well.

Baldr Sky has a really interesting story and characters, and is even a good value - it took me about one hundred and twenty hours to finally see the true ending, and I enjoyed my entire time with the game. If I wanted to, I could easily get more out of the game by playing the survival mode, where you get to fight against wave after wave of enemies. It's a fun game and an engaging story, but man, that appropriateness pushes the edge so far that it's a really difficult recommendation. If you have any struggles with lust, you may want to avoid this title.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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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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