Games

Steam Prison Otome Review – A Deep and Immersive Steampunk Romance

Steam Prison is the newest otome game localization from MangaGamer, following their release of Poni-Patchet’s OZMAFIA in 2016 and the R18 otome, Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome. There is always a lot of hype surrounding new otome localizations, but, Steam Prison was the first big otome release of 2019, not associated with Idea Factory. Steam Prison, was originally released in 2016 by HuneX for PC as both an all-ages 17+ release (the MangaGamer release of the 17+ version). A Vita port was released in 2017, that added an extra route for the MC’s partner, Finn.

In the game you play as an 18 year old police officer named, Cyrus Tistella, living in the raised utopian city known as the Heights. Everything is coming up roses for our heroine, with a new promotion and her upcoming marriage into the high ranking Evans family. Things take a turn for the worst, when Cyrus is accused of murdering her parents. Unable to prove her innocence, Cyrus is banished to the Depths a place where the most brutal criminals are sent to atone for their crimes. But, when she arrives, Cyrus finds that the Depths is not the primitive wasteland she once believed it to be, she soon learns that all is not as it seems as the things she once held to be true start to fall apart.

Steam Prison Murder

Game Details

Spoiler Warning

Story

“In this world there are two kinds of people: the rulers and the ruled…”

In Steam Prison there are two very distinct populations of people: those that live in the lap of luxury in the elevated utopia that is the Heights and those sentenced to live out their days in squalor in the Depths. This division leads to quite a few distinct differences between the two populations, which is a central theme in Steam Prison. Discrimination and prejudice plays a huge role in the game, with people living in the Heights harboring a degree of contempt for the people living in the Depths, solely based on the fact that they’re “criminals”, however you soon discover that the people of the Depths hold a similar sentiment to those in the Heights. Otome games are known for dealing with complex themes and storylines, but, Steam Prison poignantly weaves the two building this fully realized world that is captivating in its social commentary. Whether that was its intent is neither here nor there, but the themes of Steam Prison are universal and that goes a long way towards making this an enjoyable and at times painfully bittersweet gaming experience.

Steam Prison 3

Characters and Routes 

Otome games tend to have a restrictive narrative lens, since we view the events of the game solely through the eyes of the protagonist, which limits the scope of the story. Steam Prison works around this by inserting special POV scenes that give us the chance to experience certain scenes from the perspectives of the love interests. This gives us key insight into events that Cyrus isn’t present for and allows for a more comprehensive narrative. Voltage Inc. does something similar with their mobile games, but rather than marrying the two perspectives like we see here, POVs are usually kept separate. I quite like the way they are handled in Steam Prison, since it really gives us a chance to get a more in depth look into the love interest without disrupting the flow of the story. The love interests are equally well developed, not only do they have their own unique personalities, but their individual character routes (while integral to the overall narrative) have their own self contained arcs.

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In Steam Prison, there are three distinct types of routes that determine which of the characters you can romance: Bodyguard routes (Eltcreed & Ulrik), Prisoner routes (Adage & Ines), and Servant route (Yune). Each route gives keen insight into a different aspect of the world of the game and there are minor changes to Cyrus based on her role in the LI’s life. Also, some of the endings in the Bodyguard routes and the Prisoner routes are linked. There are certain endings that you can only get by pursuing another characters; for example, in Eltcreed’s route the “Goodbye, My Knight” ending is technically an Ulrik ending, but you can only get it through Eltcreed’s route.

Suggested Play Order: Eltcreed → Ulrik → Adage → Ines → Yune → Fin→Grand Ending

Body Guard Routes

In the Bodyguard routes, Cyrus leaves the Sanctuary District and moves to the true “Depths”, which contrary to what she was told in the Heights is a technologically advanced steam powered country divided into independent districts. She hired by Eltcreed the leader of the district of Liberalitas as his personal bodyguard. These routes give more insight into the politics of the Depths and it’s history with the Heights. But, what I liked most in these routes was the friendship between Eltcreed and Ulrik, the other routes don’t have the same degree of camaraderie between love interests. It’s refreshing to see LI’s with relationships outside of the standard romance ones.

Eltcreed Valentine

CV. Shirai Yuusuke

  • Flirty Playboy
  • Would totally be into Role Play
  • Both a Lover and a Fighter 

Eltcreed Valentine is the leader of the district of Liberalitas and the head of the Valentine bank—power and money, already off to a good start—and unlike the other district leaders he’s young and attractive, which makes him the most eligible bachelor in the Depths. Unlike the other folks in the Depths, Eltcreed is very curious about the Heights and openly praises the place, much to the distain of those around him. He secretly wants to leave the Depths and travel to the Heights and he tends to have a very rose colored view of the world in general. He sees Cyrus and Sachsen’s fight and immediately enamored with her, since she reminds him so much of a fairytale knight. So he offers her a job as his bodyguard and with no other options, Cyrus takes him up on his offer, going with him to the bank and helping him track down criminals who refuse to pay their debts. 

Despite having so much power, Eltcreed is a pretty easygoing guy, he loves stories and enjoys teasing Cyrus and I really liked the brotherly bond he has with Ulrik. Most megane men are studious and so, serious, but Elcreed is a guy who knows how to have fun! We rarely get to see playful and flirty megane and I for one demand we get more of them! While Eltcreed is a pretty upbeat guy his route does get a bit dark political upheaval in the Depths threaten his position as leader of Liberalitas and tensions between the Depths and the Heights reach an all time high. While Eltcreed isn’t my favorite LI, I will say that I really loved his chemistry with Ulrik (I ship them hard) they’re the only family they have and Eltcreed is always willing to do whatever he can for Ulrik.

Ulrik Ferrie

CV. Takatsuka Tomohito

  • Eltcreed’s sassy best friend
  • Secretly a book lover
  • Easily bribed with chocolate

My forever bias will be tsundere boys, there is no sweeter delight than making a stubborn boy fall in love and Ulrik is the ultimate project for tsun bun fans! Ulrik is Eltcreed’s informant and his man on the ground for everything going on in the Depths. He isn’t much of a people person and the only person he truly gets along with is Eltcreed, and even then he’s more of a sassy best friend. He is even less enthusiastic when Eltcreed brings Cyrus on as bodyguard, and while he is polite to her, he makes it well known that he’d rather she not try to be his friend. It’s only after Eltcreed starts playing shipper on deck—bribing Ulrik with chocolate and insisting they spend time together—that the ball really starts rolling on their relationship. While he can be a bit prickly, Ulrik is a good guy; he trains Cyrus how to use a gun and he takes her to his secret library, where he nerds out about his favorite books. 

Unlike Eltcreed, Ulrik hates anything related to the Heights (which is part of the reason he’s so cool towards Cyrus in the beginning) and he’s secretly a part of a street crew that’s plotting to overthrow the Heights. But, unlike the blind hatred the rest of the Depths have towards the Heights, Ulrik’s motivations are much more personal. His route reveals a lot about the past, explaining the events leading up to the great flood.  

Prisoner Routes

The Prisoner Routes are start of similarly to the Bodyguard routes, except instead of accepting Eltcreed’s offer, the Cyrus decides to make her own way in the Depths. She spends much more time among the regular folks in the Depths and learns a great deal about their lives there. Cyrus takes refuge with a young mother and her son, named Rhietel and Merlot but let’s just say that doesn’t end well… and it’s her first real experience with the hardships people in the Depths face on a daily basis. The HOUNDS are the major antagonists, especially Sachsen, who is hellbent on catching Cyrus and… torturing her, because he can. 

Adage

CV. Furukawa Makoto

  • Faithful Marie Kondo follower
  • He can cook, but it tastes awful
  • Daddy issues

Adage was a former doctor from the Heights, who like Cyrus was banished to live in the Depths. He’s well liked in town because he takes care of the townspeople’s health needs at little to no cost. But, let’s just say his people skills could do with a bit of work, he can be a bit blunt, but he means well (at least I hope he does). His path crosses with Cyrus’s quite a few times before they start cohabitating, as our dear heroine has a knack for getting into trouble/hurt. However, when the family Cyrus was living with is killed, Adage offers to take her on as an assistant and whisks her off to his cabin at the edge of town. And let’s just say, Adage is a loyal follower of the Marie Kondo way of life—he likes his home kept a certain way damnit if anyone is gonna mess up the feng shui of his bachelor pad. 

However, that doesn’t stop him from introducing her as his wife when they’re out and about in town. Of course this confuses Cyrus, because love is a big taboo in the Heights and you’d think being from the Heights as well, Adage would be in the same boat, but get this, he’s read a few romance books so he basically knows all there is to know about the subject. And not gonna lie, this was the funniest part of the route—the two of them getting teased by the ladies in the market (there’s a hilarious convo about their non-existent bedroom time) is the highlight of their relationship. Their chemistry is interesting, both Cyrus and Adage are awkward when it comes to their feelings, but, Adage is the one that “educates” Cyrus on the ways of love (like Eltcreed he can be a smidge aggressive in that department). His route focuses a lot on the HOUNDS and some of the crimes against the townspeople, so if you didn’t hate them already, trust me you’re really gonna hate them after this route. 

Ines

CV. Kimishima Tetsu

  • Age gap romance
  • Country boy at heart
  • Loyal soldier

So, Ines is the Vice-Commander of the HOUNDS and what appears the be the only decent human being of the bunch. He doesn’t delight in tormenting the common folk in the Depths and he’s usually the one to reign in Sachsen’s more sadistic tendencies, however he is a member of the HOUNDS and when given a direct order he will fulfill it regardless of whether or not he agrees with it. He is 11 years older than Cyrus, and while that might be a bit cringe in other games, Ines is a decent enough guy overall. Before coming to the Depths, he was raised by a family of farmers and through sheer force of will work his way into the police force, and he explains that if he is able to make it through his sentence with the HOUNDS he’ll be allowed to go back to the Heights and start over. So, he hires Cyrus to be his personal tutor, so that when he does eventually go back, he’ll be on par with the other nobles. She agrees and they start having late night study sessions after Ines completes his HOUND patrols. 

Ines isn’t a bad guy, just a stickler for the rules, which balances well with Cyrus’s general lack of worldliness. Their relationship was really cute and out of all the routes I liked their chemistry best of all. As former police officers they have a lot of shared experiences, so they get each other on a level you don’t see in the other routes. Ines even shows her how to cook and there is the cutest scene where they try each other’s food and it is squee worthy. Of course, because Ines is a part of the HOUNDS so we get to see a lot of insight into the inner workings of the group and a lot of background Sachsen and what led up to him being the raging asshole he is today (and trust me it makes him such a sympathetic character. 

Servant Route

Yune

CV. Takase Yasuyuki

  • Way older than he looks
  • Simp for Sweets
  • Tragic boy who needs all the hugs 

I will be honest with you, going into this route I wasn’t really sure how I was going to feel about Yune—he looks like a 16 year old boy, but technically he’s kind of like a living god who is worshiped by everyone in the Heights. After playing Lost in Secular Love, I feel some type of way about romancing men of the cloth. However, his route does give a lot of great background about the Heights that you don’t really get in the other routes.

In the Servant route, you bypass the Depths all together and stay in the Heights under the employ of Saint Yune. Because you spend most of your time in the Temple with him, you learn a lot about the inner workings of the Heights and uncover the corruption in its governing body. Yune is a very interesting character, he’s lived over 400 years, but he still acts like a 16 year old, he has a fondness for sweets and he’s never really fallen in love. He’s tired of living such an empty life and he just wants to die, but anyone that tries to harm him kind of explodes, so he’s had to get crafty.  So when Cyrus is up on the chopping block for killing her parents he steps in to “save” her because he figured if she could kill her parents, she’d have no problem killing him too and if she dies in the process, no one will mourn her death. She starts off as his servant; getting his meals and tending to his needs, but the more time they spend together the more Yune comes to care for her, which is actually what starts to kill him. Falling in love is a death sentence for Yune in more ways than one and not gonna lie, his route is more on the tragic side of things, even the happy ending is a bit bittersweet. But, I liked the chemistry between Yune and Cyrus, both of them don’t have much experience with love or romance, and it was cute to see them fumbling around with their feelings. 

In order to get the full grasp of the story and the world, I strongly recommend playing through each of the routes, and if you’re aiming for the Grand Ending… you have to clear all of the individual endings for each route.

Fin Route

Fin Euclase

CV. Shingaki Tarusuke

  • Victorious childhood friend
  • HE DESERVES TO BE HAPPY
  • Devoted buy

So, finallyFINALLY, FINALLY Fin gets his happily ever after and IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME!! This boy went through hell in every other route: mental breakdowns, becoming a serial killer, dying bloody; so, I know I’m not alone in feeling like our boy Finn is due some much deserved love! But, of course his route has to start off with a bit of pain—the roles are reversed and Finn takes the blame for the deaths of Cyrus’s parents and is sent to the Depths. But, because of a weird Heights rule, Cyrus is also sent to the Depths to work in the HOUNDS. Cyrus’s relationship with Sachsen is still pretty rocky and she spends most of her time there ducking and dodging him. While out on patrol in the market she runs into Finn, who is kinda living his best life in the Depths, he’s got a nice-ish place and he has a little side hustle—not gonna lie, getting banished is probably the best thing to happen to him… Of course he confesses his love for Cyrus, and like in all the other routes she rebuffs him and the route sees their bond gradually progressing from friendship to romance. 

The Heroine 

Cyrus Tistella 

Steam Prison Cyrus Fight

Cyrus was born and raised in the Heights, so her worldview is severely limited in that respect. I’ve seen a lot of people finding fault with her naivete about the world around her, namely her lack of experience with love. I’m not gonna lie, I found her innocence about love and sex to be more than a little frustrating, there were quite a few scenes in Eltcreed’s route where he was blatantly coming on to her and she just sits there like a bump on a log… and don’t get me started on Adage’s route. They pretend to be a married couple and he literally has to teach her everything from BREATHING during a kiss to where babies come from… But, given the fact that people from the Heights are not taught about love nor are they able to freely express romantic feelings towards other people, it makes sense in context. And for that reason, Steam Prison is one of the most unromantic otome games I have ever played.

Cyrus has to learn how to love in just about every route and even by the end of it, I’m unsure if she even really fully understands what it means to be “in love” with someone else. Sure, she has affection for each of the guys, but, if we’re talking heart pounding, all consuming love… nah. It definitely reminds me of Fuka from OZMAFIA, which makes sense given the fact that the same writer worked on both games… She takes naive to a whole new level and it will be frustrating, believe me there will be times when you just want to shake her. It also didn’t help that most of the “romantic” CGs had Cyrus looking like she was absolutely disgusted by her chosen love interest’s romantic advances. But, where Cyrus really shines is in her convictions to her beliefs and her battle maiden level sword skills. Where other otome heroines wait for their love interests to save the day, Cyrus is more than capable of saving her own skin. Even at the expense of her own life, Cyrus will always do what it takes to ensure that justice is upheld.

Nintendo Switch Port Additions

So, since writing this review, HuneX released an updated port of Steam Prison for the Nintendo Switch that does include Finn’s route from the Vita port and some nice extras, like After Stories for all the LIs and short stories that expand on the world of the game. When I first played the game back in 2016, I really enjoyed learning more about the history of the Heights and the Depths, Ulrik and Eltcreed’s route had some phenomenal world building, but the other routes kinda gloss over most of the finer details—but, the short stories fill in the gaps, giving much more depth to the story. 

After Stories and Novel Mode

The After Stories take place after the endings from each of the main character routes and follow Cyrus and her chosen boy into their happily ever after. Some of the After Stories have a bit of an omake feel to them, focusing more on the cute (and sometimes funny) moments between Cyrus and her baes, but what I really like is that all of the stories give us a chance to get to know the boys better… you know, now that all the life or death situations have been taken care of… 

Most don’t take place too far in the future, so if you’re expecting babies ever after, there’s none of that here But, if you’re just looking to spend more time with Cyrus and friends this is definitely a fun addition. 

New Opening Theme and Character Songs

With the move to the Nintendo Switch HuneX updated the opening theme song and sequence to include all six of the game’s love interests. New Switch Edition Opening Theme is “Brilliance”, which is sung by the VAs of the LIs and I’m not gonna lie, I like this one so much more! I am a sucker for ensemble openings and endings like this and hearing all the boys singing is just PERFECTION!! But, if you’re a fan of the other themes, the PC and PS Vita Opening Themes can be viewed from the Video Playback Mode.

In addition to the new opening there are new Character Songs for Best Ends, which really gives the finales a much more intimate feel to them!

Overall Thoughts 

A story is only as good as its characters, and Steam Prison has a phenomenal extended cast of characters. Usually otome games tend to focus only on the heroine and her respective love interest. However, Steam Prison has a strong supporting cast that help fill out the expansive world of the game, from citizens of Depths to members of the Heights aristocracy to members of the HOUNDS. Each of the side characters give life to the various aspects of the world and have their own distinct personalities and motivations. Even more, many of the side characters don’t just fall to the wayside, rather, they play an integral role in the progression of the story.

Sachsen Brandenburg, the leader of the HOUNDS serves as an antagonist in many of the routes he’s in, particularly in the Prisoner routes, but in the Bodyguard routes he’s more of a nuisance and not an actual threat. There’s also a mother and son that Cyrus stays with early on in the game that are integral in integrating her into life in the Sanctuary District. Through them Cyrus experiences first hand the hardships of living in the Sanctuary District and go a long way in helping to change her opinion of people in the Depths.

I really enjoyed everything about Steam Prison (qualms about Cyrus aside), this is seriously one of the most beautifully crafted games. The art is simply stunning! There is a distinctive steampunk style to some of the character designs, though it is much more toned down than say, Code Realize. Though there are quite a few designs like those of the HOUNDS and the police that are reminiscent of military uniforms, and boy do I love a man in uniform. Even the nobility have their own distinct style, with their ornate blazers and flowing dresses. I also noticed that you can tell the difference between the nobility and the common folk based on the colors of their clothing. The nobility in the Heights especially, wear clothes with lighter colors (mostly pastels or white), while the people in the Depths wear more earthy tones (browns, tans, greens). The backgrounds are all full of great details that really bring the world of the game to life, especially the sweeping shots of the various locales. The Heights is all manicured lawns and clean neat buildings, while the Depths is a rustic steampunk wonderland! The CGs were all gorgeous, however, I couldn’t get over the fact that Cyrus always looks like she is in distress in all of the romantic ones… The Nintendo Switch release does add some extra CGs for the after stories and Fin’s route that are much better to look at. 


final thoughts 2

So, final thoughts: I absolutely loved Steam Prison, the game pulls you in with its dramatic opening, but you stick around for its masterfully crafted world building and its well developed cast. Steam Prison tones down the romance in favor of a deeply immersive story that attempts to explore darker themes than you’d usually expect from an otome game. And while, I will admit Steam Prison isn’t without its shortcomings, but its strengths rarely miss the mark. Stunning visuals, unforgettable characters, and a deep contemplative story only scratches the surface of what Steam Prison has to offer.

If you haven’t already picked up a copy of this amazing game, I strongly suggest you do so ASAP. You don’t want to miss out on this wonderful game!


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