I am super late to the party with this one since Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly was the first game released as part of Aksys Games’s “Summer of Mystery” otome game releases, alongside 7’scarlet and Psychedelica of the Ashen Hawk. Of the three games Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly was the one that got the most hate and I’m not gonna lie, it’s not my favorite otome game in the world. In fact, like many others have said, the romance aspects of the game is one of the biggest shortcomings of the story and I honestly could have done without it. But, is Black Butterfly really the dumpster fire everyone seems to think it is?
No, not really… Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly has many, many flaws, some of which really bog the story down, however, there was some good in there too. I want to stress that this game isn’t for everyone and if you are looking for a standard by the book otome game, this is definitely not the game for you. But, if you’re looking for a short game with an interesting premise Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly will keep you entertained.
The game follows Beniyuri, a young girl who wakes up in a mysterious mansion with no memory or who she is or how she got there. But, she isn’t alone, gruesome monsters roam the halls attacking anyone they come into contact with… After a run in with said monsters, she is saved by a group of guys who are also in the same predicament as she is, and together they attempt to find a way out of the mansion. Behind the scenes the enigmatic master of the mansion promises to free them from the mansion and return their memories if they collect the missing pieces of a strange kaleidoscope. With no other leads, the group sets out to locate the lost pieces of the kaleidoscope, uncovering the secrets of the mansion and its elusive owner along the way…
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly deals with some pretty heavy themes, such as death, loss, grief, regrets, forgiveness. This game delivers quite a few emotional sucker punches, this silly game had me tearing up on a public bus! But, despite the feels train that is Black Butterfly there are quite a few light hearted moments to balance everything out, and I really appreciated those moments more and more as the story progressed. Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is what Bad Apple Wars wishes it was, but it never quite gave me the feels of Re:Birthday Song or Ayakashi Gohan, probably because PBB doesn’t really know what it wants to be. On one hand it’s a mystery game and on the other it’s a “romance” game, however Black Butterfly doesn’t really go all out in either respect. The mystery is compelling and I quite enjoyed piecing together the hints and clues from each route, unfortunately the execution just wasn’t fluid enough to make it worthwhile.
I really liked the idea that there was a tragic incident in each of the characters’s pasts that shaped how they viewed death and grief. Especially Hikage’s past, since it is directly linked with the mansion and the kaleidoscope hunt. His story felt more like the framing device for the entire game, since his grief is what ultimately traps Beniyuri and the rest of the gang in the inbetween world. There’s even a cute picture book that Beniyuri finds that explains the existence of the black and white butterflies and the world between life and death, that poignantly sums up the message of the game.
In addition to that, there’s the incident from 10 years ago, where Beniyuri and the gang visited an abandoned mansion on a lake, that resulted in Natsuki (Kagiha) dying and Kazuya (Monshiro) comatose. Each of the members of the brat pack deal with the incident in different ways: Beniyuri shuts down and locks away the memories of the event, Yamato blames himself for his brother getting hurt, Karasuba is driven to become stronger so he can protect the people he loves, and Kagiha doesn’t let go of the life he lost. It’s an interesting concept that delves into the different ways people deal with grief and loss, and the consequences and benefits of each perspective and that’s really where Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly really shines.
The romance was almost non-existent or felt phoned in, like the writers forgot PBB was supposed to be an otome game and had to quickly make something up. Of course, romance is not all there is to an otome game, there are plenty of story driven otoges that downplay the romance in favor of a good, solid narrative. However, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is not that game. This is an otome title that I would have been perfectly fine without any romance. I’m not a fan of childhood romance stories at the best of times, but when you half ass it like they did in this game, it really raises my dander… and four out of the five love interests are childhood friends of the heroine…
I thought long and hard about whether or not I wanted to include spoilers with this review and Kagiha is one big spoiler, but since the Main/Best End reveals most of the major plot details I figured why no go all out. So, Kagiha is slightly older that the other guys and the mature, level headed one that everyone looks to for advice. He’s genuinely sweet and cares a lot about his friends, especially Beniyuri who he’s been in love with since they were little even making a cute marriage promise with her. In the real world his name was Natsuki.
His route is full of tragedy, like there really is no “good” ending for him and it gave me some serious Toa vibes, which I was not prepared for! He is willing to do anything to be with Beniyuri even if that means screwing everyone else over in the process (especially Beniyuri). I think he was at his worst in Monshiro’s route when he straight up convinces him that no one wants him just because he feels threatened by his closeness to Beniyuri… Dude has been holding a torch for Beniyuri for 10 years and somehow it’s more yandere than endearing. Despite that, Kagiha is the “canon” otome guy, in the real world he was Beniyuri’s first love and his death 10 years ago broke her to the point that she’s never been able to form lasting attachments with other people, which is explored further in the Real World Ending.
Hikage is a bit of a mixed bag, he’s very logical and direct (the unofficial leader of the group), but there are times when he can be just as naive as the others when it comes to mundane tasks. He can be very blunt and quick to point out flaws in the others, but he doesn’t shy away from helping the others when they are in need.
If Kagiha is the “canon” otome guy, Hikage is the non romantic canon route. He is the reason the inbetween world of the mansion exists and the person behind the hunt for the kaleidoscope shards. In some routes he’s this antagonistic entity, manipulating Beniyuri and the guys into doing his bidding, but in the Main/Best Ending and his own route we learn that when he was alive he lost his younger sister and did everything he could to bring her back to life, even delving into dark magic, when he failed he killed himself and wound up trapped in the world between life and death. With no memory of who he is, he wanders the inbetween world in search of the kaleidoscope shards in hopes of recovering what he lost, but his time between worlds corrupts him and his spirit becomes twisted as a result. It’s also through him that we learn about the Psychedelica (the inbetween world), which is based on a children’s book he used to read to his sister when they were alive. He is driven mad by his grief and like Kagiha shows just how damaging it is to hold on to one’s pain.
There’s always one tsun bun, and in PBB it’s Yamato. He’s a popular athletic guy who loves soccer and has trouble being honest about his feelings. He can be a bit pushy, but he generally means well, though he seems to butt heads the most with Karasuba. In the real world his name is Takuya and he is the older twin brother of Kazuya, though the pair are like night and day. He used to tease Beniyuri when they were little because he has a crush on her, and secretly resents his brother for getting along with her so well. He originally wanted to become a professional soccer player, but after Kazuya’s accident he gives it all up to take care of him. He blames himself for the accident and when he discovers that “Hikage” is his brother he loses it and transforms into a monster.
His route kind of reminded me of Beauty and the Beast a little (or Fruits Basket), since he spends the majority of the game in his monstrous form hidden away in a secret room. Beniyuri sneaks off to meet with him and the two slowly grow closer as a result. This was perhaps the most “otome” like route in the game since you really see Yamato and Beniyuri’s relationship progress from platonic to romantic (granted Yamato was in love with her in the real world). She sees beyond his flaws and excepts him for the person that he is, warts and all. In the real world ending the pair even bond over their shared losses and it really feels like that with time they might be able to help each other move on from their grief in a healthy way.
Monshiro is the mysterious guy wearing the ornate fox mask that saves Beniyuri and Hikage from the monsters at the start of the story. He isn’t a part of the main group, mostly showing up every now and again to help Beniyuri and he’s the main reason she is able to meet with Yamato after he turns into a monster. He is shy, soft spoken, and socially awkward. He feels more like a small child or a puppy than “one of the guys”, with his stilted way of speaking and the way he follows Beniyuri around all the time. Despite this, he is a capable fighter, able to take down monsters with little to no effort and he is very familiar with the layout of the mansion. It’s revealed that he (and not Hikage) is Yamato’s younger twin brother Kazuya, and that in the real world he has been in a coma for 10 years. Though in most of the routes he doesn’t know he’s in a coma, and simply thinks that he died, so he’s resigned himself to a life of solitude in the inbetween world.
I don’t know whether to call this a route or an aside, there really isn’t all that much in the way of new content. All the “big” reveals we get in this route were already explored in the other routes and endings. It’s more of a supplementary route that expands on the story a bit, for example, the other routes mention that the Abyss is the place souls go when they give into despair, but in Monshiro’s route we actually see what the place is like when he and Beniyuri are sucked into it. We also discover that Monshiro and Kagiha both helped Hikage trick souls into finding kaleidoscope shards for him, however, Monshiro didn’t like manipulating innocent lives and left to do his own thing. Like everyone else, he also has “special feelings” for Beniyuri, however, his are much more downplayed since he isn’t a complete jerk like oh, let’s go with Karasuba…
Karasuba is on my sh*t list. He is the worst character in the entire game and that’s including the deranged Hikage and manipulative Kagiha. At first it seems like Karasuba is going to be a flirty version of the genki guy, but then you realize he’s actually a selfish, manipulative yandere who gives no fucks about giving Beniyuri lots of unwanted touch. Like the other guys, he’s one of Beniyuri’s dear sweet childhood friends, however he was bullied because of his general softness and timid nature, which led him to develop a deep distrust of other people. However, that doesn’t stop him from getting all touchy feely with Beniyuri every single chance he gets, most of the time WITH HER STRONG OBJECTION! He is constantly trying to kiss her, lay in her lap, touch her in inappropriate places, even after she clearly tells him she doesn’t want him to. And God forbid anyone else shows an interest in Beniyuri, because he turns into a full blown yandere at the drop of a dime!
If you can’t tell, I hated this route and everything Karasuba stood for. His actions aren’t cute, NO MEANS NO, not go ahead and force yourself on someone! And don’t get started on how awful he was to Beniyuri and Yamato in the Real World Ending! Bruh, they’re helping each other work through their grief and you’re so caught up in your own delusions that you’re acting like a creep!
I have played a LOT of otome games, with a LOT of different love interest, but Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly has the some of the most disappointing love interests I have ever had the displeasure of romancing. They constantly remark on how different men and women are, and not in the most flattering sense… Most otome games are just a smidge sexist, but this game really liked driving home the belief that men were the hunters and women are the homemakers. And this is coming from all of the love interests, some are better than others, but they all remark at some point or another about how useless the MC is (and trust me she is useless, but that’s besides the point)! If I had to rank them in order of “best” to worst, I’d go with: Yamato, Hikage, Monshiro, Kagiha, and Karasuba. There’s a bit of flexibility with Kagiha and Monshiro, but I absolutely LOATHED Karasuba… he can go kick rocks!
And then there’s Beniyuri… she isn’t the Amnesia heroine, but she comes pretty damn close most of the time, however that’s more a product of her amnesia than any inherent character flaw. When she isn’t being treated like a damsel in distress by the LI’s (mostly Kagiha), she’s busy trying to make everyone into the bestest of friends by planning fun team building activities with everyone. She’s pretty bland as far as otome heroines go and I couldn’t relate to a lot of her decisions throughout the game, there were quite a few situations where she could have been a bit more selfish…
But, despite that I can’t say that I hate Beniyuri, she’s flawed, however she embraces them and never tries to be something she isn’t. In the beginning when she can’t manifest a weapon like the rest of the gang she gets up in the middle of the night to practice. When Yamato turns into a monster she doesn’t abandon him like everyone else, she tries to help him. The same can be said for each of the guys (except Karasuba), there is at least one moment in each route where she does something that motivates the others. But, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Beniyuri’s personality is how she deals with the loss of Kagiha. In the real world, she was the one that suggested they explore the mansion on the lake, so she blames herself for Natsuki’s death. She’s closed herself off to other people, to protect herself from losing anyone else in her life. Even when she chooses to be with the other guys she never truly forgets about Natsuki or the incident, it’s a part of who she is and she accepts that side of herself. There is just something really endearing about that and ultimately what makes her such an interesting otome heroine.
Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is at the complete opposite end of the otome spectrum when compared with my last otome excursion, Collar x Malice. Where CxM presented a clearly thought out story that builds on itself with each respective route, Black Butterfly feels like a disjointed collection of events that struggle to form a cohesive narrative. Each chapter is a snapshot of a moment in time and while they do connect with one another to some degree, there’s a staccato rhythm to the story that never really fits together like it should.
There’s a Flowchart feature that helps you visualize exactly where you are in the story and which of the many alternate paths you are currently on. However, as you work your way through each route the Flowchart can get a bit confusing since you can’t really see the whole thing at once and there are so many variations to some of the chapters… Not to mention the Short Episodes which exist outside of and concurrent with the main flow of events (yes, I am aware that is a contradiction). Short episodes can be anything from memories from the real world to day in the life scenarios with Beniyuri and the guys in the mansion. Most give insight into the characters and their motivations in the main story, while others are just fun little slice-of-life interludes that offer a reprieve from some of the darker elements of the story.
Short episodes have to be unlocked with points, that you gain from playing the Butterfly Hunt Mini Game. You are forced to play the mini game at certain points in the story, but depending on how well you do on those you may not have enough points to unlock all the short episodes available. When that happens, you can access the mini game from the main menu, and grind away until you have enough points stored up. There is a ranking system to the mini game and trophies attached to the higher ranks, so if you like collecting achievements keep that in mind. I’m kind of ambivalent about the mini game, it’s fun the first time around, but the more you have to do it the more of a chore it becomes.
Now, this is a biggie, play order matters in Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly, more so than in any other game I have played so far, because there are quite a few game ruining spoilers sprinkled throughout the later routes. I strongly suggest playing the Main/Best End first and the Summer Camp End last, for your sanity… trust me on this one! The game almost forces you to follow a certain path, but even then there are still ways to work around it and I don’t recommend going out of order. It doesn’t do you any favors with the overarching mystery or when piecing together Beniyuri’s memories. However, I will say this, there is a lot of copy pasta in this game, so you’ll most likely just jump between points on the flowchart anyway to unlock new scenarios between routes.
I am going to be honest and say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the art, it’s the same anime style we see in most otome games, but somehow more anime than usual. If I had to compare it to something I suppose it would be like the difference between 90’s shounen anime and more current shounen anime; angular faces and elaborate character designs. However, I really did like the use of color. Most of the inbetween world is drab greys or blues, while the characters themselves sport these elaborately bright color palettes and outfits so they really stand out against the more plain settings. The CGs are pretty much the same, but with an added watercolor like blending of colors which seem to help the images leap off the page! And the backgrounds were GORGEOUS!!!
Like most mainstream otome games, Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly is fully voiced and for the most part I liked all of the VAs, however Beniyuri’s VA was something else entirely. Usually I am excited when I see that the heroine is voiced, but after an entire route of her VA’s high pitched delivery I turned that mess right off for the rest of the game. I just could not do it to myself, there’s a scene in Hikage’s route where she calls his name over and over again and I could totally relate to his mounting frustrations… Voice acting aside, the soundtrack was definitely one of the better parts of the game. The BGM tracks in the inbetween world were otherworldly sounding a perfect fit for the supernatural setting, while the tracks in the real world were more upbeat and less surreal.
Right, so the translation… this was the first game released during the 2017 Summer of Mystery promo, and it shows. Out of all the games Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly has the most translations errors and typos. Most you can easily overlook, but there were times when a line of dialogue would repeat itself even after I pressed the X button to move on… But, so far as I saw there were no errors that severely impacted my enjoyment of the game.
So, despite my gripes, I didn’t hate Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly. I really enjoyed the darker plot and focus on grief and ways people cope with the lost of a love one. And while I was frustrated by the disjointed storytelling, I did like that PBB strayed away from the more linear storytelling format of traditional otome games and visual novels. It definitely makes the game stand out from the rest of the games I’ve played even if the execution was flawed. The characters are flawed, some more than others (I’m looking at you Karasuba), and Beniyuri is definitely on the list of my least favorite otome heroines. All in all, I don’t hate this game, but do I hesitate to recommend it….
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