Visual Novels You Might Wanna Check Out: Kamidori Alchemy Meister

Following my last post on Majikoi, a lighter but typical Visual novel, today I will be touching on a Visual Novel-SRPG hybrid, Kamidori Alchemy Meister. 

The story takes place in a fantasy world, focusing on the story of a aspiring alchemist Wilfred Dion as he seeks to rise the ranks as a great alchemist as his father was while building up his own successful shop from scratch. Early on, due to various circumstances he meets foreign swordswoman Yuela, elf embasador Servalwi, and young mage Emelita, who he hires as bodyguards to help him gather alchemy ingredients and fulfill guild missions. 

As the story progresses, Wilfred accumulates various heroic accolades and gradually moves up in the politically, which (naturally) brings with it increasingly difficult problems for Wil and co to solve, ranging from diplomatic envoys to other species, slaying monsters, talking down a holy inquisition/invasion by angels, and stopping the (inevitable) demonic invasion. Along the way, he is joined by a colorful bunch of comrades (mostly female of course) from various extra-human species, from a slime to dryads to fox spirits to angels and demons, and they serve as individual units in the game's SRPG portion.

The main story route splits into three routes depending on choices made during the beginning chapters, but otherwise all other side quests and characters remain largely the same throughout. As far as the story and writing goes, this is probably one of the less impressive showings from Eushully thus far and doesn't do a whole lot to differentiate itself from a world-building perspective from typical fantasy-fare. But, taken as its own game it is still more than adequate as a fantasy adventure story and the individual story beats are engaging enough that there isn't really a true dull moment past the exposition heavy prolougues. But enough of all that, what this game truly excels at is its gameplay, and oooh boy this is a good one.

While it is not that uncommon for visual novels to incorporate gameplay and RPG elements, particularly in a fantasy setting, it would more often than not be either a modest SRPG (Utawarerumono) or just as a shoe-in to just you to the next H-scene (I don't have to give any examples here do I?). Kamidori on the other hand focuses heavily on the gameplay department. The title was made by somewhat oddball VN developers Eushully, whose emphasizes on making visual novels which are more also full-fledged games of various genres (RPGs, SRPGs, Card Games etc), characterized by decent-to-excellent writing and exceptionally good gameplay, with a quirk of having to voice every female character no matter how minor, but never the males (up until the most recent titles).

The SRPG portion is done in a grid-cased top down fashion, where the goal is to select and control individual player units to defeat enemies, complete objectives and gather alchemy ingredients. Anyone who has played any SRPG before ala Fire Emblem will be very familiar with this style of gameplay. Where it does distinguish itself apart is the sheer variety of unit variety owing to the unique properties of each race you control, the varied gear you craft and equip, and the surprisingly varied maps and quest objectives.

The second half of the gameplay takes place in Wil's alchemy shop, where has to craft items from the materials he gathered to not only create stronger gear, but also for sale. Managing gold income is crucial as it determines what you can buy, how fast you can upgrade the shop's facilities, and if upkeep overtakes your income Wil may eventually go bankrupt and the game will end (what a way to go...). Thankfully avoiding that is fairly easy and your shop will be fine as long as items are kept in sale and the store is run by anyone other than the default one the guild gives you, just leave someone there and their barter skill will improve over time. Personally I left the dryad twins in-charge and never looked backed. 

The gameplay loop of dungeon diving and store management akin to the Atelier games is surprisingly engaging and addictive, with ever increasing loot bringing in more money, and expanding the stores facilities in turn brings better gear for your units to tackle harder quests. While sounding pretty simple, in practice this is one off the better crafted SRPGs I have played to date and from a eroge to boot! I would go as far as to say this comes highly recommended for the gameplay alone if you are at all into fantasy SRPGs.

Some fans have brought up its difficulty and the need to grind some portion. Personally, I never had much problems with that as in my playthrough completing the main quest, side quests, client requests and gathering ingredient brought me pretty close to the required levels more often than not, and gameplay can be made a breeze if the correct units are used in the right way. There is an option to fight a dungeon with easy enemies for quick experience and no penalty other than being labelled a "deadbeat", which is hardly a problem for anyone looking to quickly get through the game.

Finishing the game allows access to New Game Plus, where all levels, items and upgrades are brought over. Enemy levels are scaled of course, but the real attraction are the large number of new characters, new story scenarios and new dungeons. The sheer amount of extra content in addition to multiple routes makes Kamidori's NG+ mode one of the best I have ever seen in any video game to date, and offers the game a huge amount of replay value.

Visually, the game performs admirably, with solid character designs, plenty of well-made CGs, and a colorful, clean art-style. Its soundtrack is fit-for-purpose at beat, and not really memorable. During gameplay, the interface is intuitive and all the necessary information is available at a glance, though it might seem a bit overwhelming at first.

And of course, being an eroge, Kamidori naturally has its fair share of H-scenes, and this one has... quite alot. Progressing the main story and completing character quests will lead to H-scenes with the many extra-human characters in Wil's party. They are fully voiced and Eushully does not skimp into the amount of CGs here, making them fairly lengthy, perhaps overly so for some. I wasn't too interested in them but Monster Musume fans may find something they like here.

In the end, what Kamidori boils down to is a VN-SRPG hybrid with decent story, excellent SRPG gameplay, an interesting shop management mechanic and tons of replay value. Clocking in a 120 hours in my playthroughs, I can say I enjoyed almost every moment of it. Anyone interest in a good fantasy RPG or want a most substance to their Visual novels will find a real gem with this one.


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