‘Grand Kokoro’ is a visual novel game, part of of the ‘Grand Series’ by Seram Studios. The series, at the moment, has two separate games with the same characters, one ‘Grand Damasu’ is a steamy dating sim while the other, ‘Grand Kokoro’ is a tragic romance story. Our protagonist in both these stories is a young man called Elijah, who lives in a world that is pretty much ‘Mean Girls’ x 1000. In his world, people are divided into class systems, from a super class called ‘the pures’ to old money and new money, common workers, and SURs at the bottom. SURs are the survivors of the colonnade, a terrible incident that happened 5 years ago, over the years the survivors have started exhibiting psychosomatic symptoms with many ultimately taking their own lives. In ‘Grand Kokoro’, Elijah, a SUR, must conceal his past and his mental illness from his friends and lover as he tries to live a normal life and not be labelled as an ‘outcast’. ‘Grand Kokoro’ was released a the end of July, and Seram Studios has been kind enough to give me a review copy of the game.
Number of Romance Options: 1, no choices.
Total Play Time: ~ 4 hours
As you can guess from my brief overview, the game does touch on some quite sensitive topics. From suicide, bullying, stigmatisation and society’s addiction to social media, at times the game can be quite confronting and ask you to re-evaluate certain parts of your life. Would you stand by and watch someone be treated like dirt? ‘Of course not!’ Well, what if your entire social standing would be destroyed if you intervened? The game isn’t scared to point out the hard truths of society – sometimes people care more about themselves than each other. But that’s not to say the game is all doom and gloom. Elijah’s friends bring a refreshing light to the game, reminding us the kindness of people and the strength of bonds.
But the real highlight of the game is playing as Elijah. With his mental illness, he (and by extension the player) can never be 100% sure of what is real and what isn’t. The game switches between ‘dream-like’ states, the past and ‘reality’, the player must work out how these interconnect, and what Elijah’s mind is trying to tell him, and what it is trying to protect him from. On top of Elijah’s mental health, there’s a bunch of interweaving stories happening around him, friends turn to foe, shock revelations and hidden secrets. Playing the game is like a mixture of ‘Inception’ and ‘Gossip Girl’ – trust no one, not even yourself.
While I really enjoyed the game, I do have two criticisms of it. First up is that there aren’t many CGs in the game. Many of the romantic moments between Elijah and his lover were the same sprite pictures of them hugging and kissing. I felt the emotions in these scenes could have really been elevated with a nice picture (or two). The second is that the story is linear, so choices within the game do not matter and there is only one ending. This is just a personal preference of mine, but I like to have a bit more of autonomy in the games I play. I like the idea of steering a character towards a positive ending through the actions I choose for them, rather than passively watching it happen.
I truly enjoyed the time I spent in Elijah’s shoes, over those 4 hours I felt I knew him, I laughed with him and even sobbed with him. The game manages to balance a quite dark storyline with some really lovely light romance and comedy. I’m really excited for when episode 2 of the series comes out, and of course the spin-off 18+ dating sim! If you’re a little unsure if the game is for you, there is a free demo available. You can keep up to date with all of Seram Studios’ game news through their Twitter over here!