I’ve been playing Code Realize ~ Guardians of Rebirth ~ off and on for the past five or so years and despite the overwhelming love for the game I could just never seem to make much headway with it. So in 2019 I made a bit of an unofficial resolution to finish at least one route before the end of the year and at long last I was able to complete my playthrough of Impey’s route! Took me five long years, but I can finally say I’ve at the very least played Code Realize and I’m not gonna lie, I have some mixed feelings about it. This won’t be so much a review as some thoughts I’ve had about the game over the years—and after five years I’ve amassed quite a few.
Code Realize was one of the first major otome game releases to make its way stateside. Developed by Otomate for the PS Vita in 2014, Code Realize is a steampunk fantasy, featuring a cast of characters based on famous literary and historical figures. The game follows Cardia—a young woman whose body produces a deadly poison that melts anything she touches—spends her days in an abandoned mansion to protect others from her affliction. Labeled as a monster by the locals, Cardia resigns herself to a life of loneliness until Royal Guards break into the mansion and attempt to capture her. She is saved by infamous gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, who promises to help her find her father, the only person who might be able to remove the poison coursing through her veins.
The most interesting part of the game for me was always the setting, I’m a sucker for historical otome games, and Code Realize takes place in an alternate version of 19th century Britain during the height of a technological revolution. This period was marked by an increased interest in the fields of engineering and science, giving birth to some great technological advancements. Code Realize takes this and runs with it, re-imagining Victorian London as this sci-fi steampunk metropolis, aptly dubbed Steam London. This is the kind of world-building I love because it grounds the story and makes some of the more fantastical sci-fi elements much more natural. The Hakuoki franchise tried the same thing a few years earlier by weaving in a supernatural subplot with the historical exploits of the Shinsengumi, and it works for the most part. But, there’s this underlying disconnect between the two ideas that never quite felt like it fit together. I never felt like that with Code Realize, because it’s not so far-fetched to imagine London developing into a steampunk city state.
And then you build the world around these well know historical and literary figures and the whole thing is just poetry… This could have easily been an in name only kind of gig, but it’s clear from the start that the writers wanted to retain as much of the source material as possible when developing the personalities of these characters. Take Lupin, he’s upbeat, outgoing, and overflowing with confidence—exactly what you’d expect from self proclaimed “gentleman thief”—and I can’t say that even Maurice Leblanc himself could find much fault with his portrayal in Code Realize. There’s even a subtle nod to Leblanc’s 1906 short story, “Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late” in which master thief Lupin meets Conan Doyle’s master detective. Though after legal objections from Doyle, Leblanc changed the character’s name to Herlock Sholmes in later stories and reprints. So someone on the development team clearly did their homework!!
All of the characters are given the same treatment and it really makes for a more enriching experience when you can see direct parallels to their literary and historical counterparts. Most were pretty easy to place, like Van Helsing from Dracula and Victor Frankenstein from Frankenstein, but then you have characters like Impey who is loosely based on a character from Jules Verne’s novel, From the Earth to the Moon… which I had never heard of before playing this game. I mean everyone knows Journey to the Center of the Earth and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (where the side character Nemo is from), but From the Earth to the Moon was a bit more obscure. But, I was okay with that, since it was just another way Code Realize was shaking things up. Now, I’m not saying all the characters were perfect (cus they most certainly were not), but they’re about as close to perfect as you’re gonna get from an otome game.
Cardia is one of my favorite otome heroines… ever. Code Realize subverts the usual otome heroine trope—Cardia starts off as an emotionless doll—she has no will of her own and she just kind of goes along with whatever Lupin and the rest of his posse want to do. Over the course of the story, Cardia comes into her own, developing her own thoughts and feelings. She constantly strives to improve herself, learning skills from each of the love interests— tactical espionage from Lupin, combat skills from Van Helsing, and a bit of chemistry from Victor. During her journey she uses these skills to take down trained soldiers and even agents of the enemy group, Twilight. Cardia isn’t just some damsel in distress, she more than holds her own when things get tough and I can’t help but wish that more otome games would take this approach with their heroines.
But what really sets Cardia apart from most other otome heroines is that her character arch isn’t reliant on the love interests. Sure they help her develop as a character, but ultimately what drives Cardia is her desire to know more about herself and to do that she has to find her father Isaac Beckford. An acclaimed scientist, heralded as the “modern Prometheus” Isaac was renowned for achievement in science and engineering. But at the height of his career he seemingly vanished from the public eye. In secret he raised Cardia alone in an isolated mansion, forbidding her from interacting with other people for fear that she’d be labeled as a monster by others who don’t understand her. Unbeknownst to everyone, Isaac embedded the Horologium, a stone believed to possess great power, into her chest and it is the cause for her poisonous touch. Even Cardia doesn’t know why the stone is there or what her father’s intentions were, so she joins up with Lupin and his friends to uncover the truth behind her past and the mystery stone.
Each route reveals something new about the overarching storyline, so you need to play them all to understand the bigger picture, with Lupin’s route serving as the true ending for the story. Someone suggested that I play Impey’s route first (because his route is the least intense) and that was probably the worst piece of advice I ever got! Impey’s route is dull and because the common route has such a hard on for Lupin it’s kind of hard to see any of the guys as actual love interests and the common route is long! A third of the runtime is spent reinforcing how super special awesome Lupin is and then he just kind of fades off into the middle distance while Cardia and her chosen love interest run off on their own adventure. I made my peace with that, but Impey just didn’t do it for me at all! I wanted to like him, I really did, but his constant flirting just rubbed me the wrong way. It just came off really disingenuous, and his route didn’t really take enough time to develop the relationship between Cardia and Impey.
Code Realize takes its time building the romantic relationships in a way that is both natural and satisfying (for the most part). However, there just wasn’t as much chemistry between Impey and Cardia to really get me invested in their lurv. They felt more like good friends than lovers and it really killed the route for me when they started confessing their feelings. I’ve only played the one route, but I kind of think this is an Impey only issue. I’m definitely interested in the other characters, especially Victor and the Count… so we’ll just see where things go.
Short answer: Yeah.
I’ve only played the one route, so I can only really speak on that, but I get it. Code Realize is like the holy grail of otome games—a good premise, gorgeous artwork, well developed characters, and a heroine that doesn’t make me want to bash my head in. It’s damn near perfect, so I totally get the hype!
I’m not gonna lie, the common route was a bit on the long side and I was a little put off by how hard the game pushes Lupin on the player. I get it, he’s the canon love interest (he’s even on the box art for crying out loud), can we maybe show the other guys some love too? The common route spends entirely too much time dangling Lupin in front of us like a prized ham. Even when you choose options meant for the other LIs, Cardia’s internal dialogue makes it clear that Lupin is the guy she’s really after… Which completely undermines the romance in the individual routes, because the game has been force feeding you Team Lupin subliminal messages.
Even with that aside, I really enjoyed Code Realize as a whole, I am a sucker for historical otome games and the writers did a phenomenal job of blending steampunk fantasy with the historical setting and the characters themselves are all pretty spot on with their real world/literary counterparts.
However, I did not like Impey’s route, partly because I’m not a fan of flirty genki guys and partly because his route was a smidge on the bland side. It had some nice ideas and the pacing was good, but I just wasn’t invested in Impey or his conflict. The only saving grace of the route was Cardia, who proved that well rounded otome heroines do exist and can be just as dynamic if not more so than the LIs.
Will I keep playing Code Realize? Yeah. It won’t take me another five years to get through it, but I’m not in a rush to finish it either.
Thank you for reading and Supporting Blerdy Otome! If you like what you see be sure to drop a like or a comment to let me know what you thought about Code Realize ~ Guardians of Rebirth ~.
Follow Blerdy Otome!