Release Date: April 14, 2022 (North America)
Publishers: Prototype, Production Pencil
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Once upon a time, in a topsy-turvy world…
In the beginning, you find yourself lost within a world of utter darkness. Your memories are gone; even your name is a mystery.
But just when the bitter loneliness threatens to break your spirit, you meet Alice—a blond-haired, blue-eyed young man who promptly christens you “Arisu.”
Like you, Alice cannot remember anything beyond his own name. Ignoring his protests, you drag him along with you through the darkness… until you happen upon a massive mirror made of crystal.
You stumble through the glass and into the Looking-Glass World, an antiquated fairytale dreamscape that feels oddly familiar…
There, amid a colorful cast of gender-swapped fairytale characters, you take on the role of the heroine and join them in their twisted tales.
How will the story end? It’s up to you!
ART AND MUSIC
The Japanese Illustrator Melo was in charge of Taisho x Alice’s overall character design. Those not new to otome games can probably recognize their art style from older otome titles like Suran Digit and Gauken Club. Over the years, Melo has also worked on a couple of cover arts for the Drama CD “Calling, Darling…?“ and one of Ichijinsha’s Light Novels 悪役令嬢らしいですが、私は猫をモフります (Reincarnated into an otome game villainess who can talk to cats).
Taisho x Alice offers a pretty solid soundtrack too. While it isn’t my favorite otome game OST, I have to say, it was remarkably memorable, and I love that the OP song changes its harmonics as you gradually play from episodes 1, 2, and 3. The soundtrack was arranged by love solfege, who’s worked in so many otome titles in the past, such as Cafe Enchante, Reines des Fleurs, Clock Zero, Amnesia, and Shinigami to Shoujo.
Daisuke Hirakawa “Cinderella” – Saint Germain (Code Realize), Laito (Diabolik Lovers), Shintaro Nakaoka, Shiki (Dance with Devils), Lucas (Shuuen no Virche)
Maeno Tomoaki “Red Riding Hood” – Yamanbagiri (Touken Ranbu), Lupin (Code Realize), Keisuke Sanjou (CollarxMalice), Camus (Utapri), Radius (Period Cube), Riku Nishijima (Lover Pretend), Kunitaka Tojo (Kimi wa Yukima)
Takuya Eguchi “Gretel” – Kazuki Hoshina (CollarxMalice), Tenma Sumeragi (A3!), Nomura Risaburo (Hakuoki), Klein (IkePri), Lee Gyu-hyuk (Buried Stars), Reon (Dynamic Chord)
Toshiki Masuda “Kaguya” – Kashuu Kiyomitsu (Touken Ranbu), Mergo (Period Cube), Ieyasu (IkeSen), Momose Hiroto (Dynamic Chord), Snow (Shiro to Kuro no Alice), Rei (Ensemble Stars)
Shouta Aoi “Snow White” – Ai Mikaze (Utapri), Ishiki Yasuhiro (CollarxMalice), Ranmaru (IkeSen), Isaac Newton (IkeVamp), Takayuki Konparu (Kenka Banchou Otome)
Wataru Hatano “Wizard” – Gekkamaru (Nightshade), Adonis Otogari (Ensemble Stars), Lindo (Dance with Devils), Noah (Cafe Enchante), Kyoushirou Kawamura (Kimi wa Yukima)
Yoshitsugu Matsuoka “Alice” – Akaza (Olympia Soiree), Monshiro (Pyschedelica of the BB), Rin Okazaki (Spiral Memoria), Takuro Miyashiro (Chaos;Child)
Natsuki Hanae “Wolfe” – Libera (Period Cube), Satoru (Bad Apple Wars), Nova (Amnesia World), Ken Kaneki (Tokyo Ghoul), Akito Sera (CollarxMalice), Kakuto Momonashi (Jack Jeanne)
Tomohisa Hashizume “Ryoshi” – Matias Archibald (Iris School of Wizardry), Liam Miller (Renai Princess), Bertolt Hoover (Attack on Titan)
Storytime… Remembering the E2 Gaming Fiasco
Before we head into the actual review, I think it’s important to remember the whole E2 Gaming fiasco that happened back in 2016 to early 2017 when Taisho x Alice was first introduced into the Western Otome Market. The running gag was that the now-defunct, one-man show that is E2 Gaming surprisingly and out of nowhere announced that they are bringing Primula’s otome game, Taisho x Alice to the western audience (circa 2016). No one really knew what happened behind the scenes between Primula and E2 Gaming, but it looked like some shady business owner dude named “Shion” (prob not his real name), with some basic programming skills and a bit of pocket change, *bought* the premature rights to translate this title. I say “premature“, because while they had Primula’s thumbs-up back then to translate the game, they seem to have run into millions of issues getting the full rights of TaiAli’s IP. One of their biggest snags was when they completely stripped the entire game with its Japanese voice acting and replaced it with uncooked-homemade English dubs that seemed to be done by just one guy (LOL). Apart from this, there were many other laughable and infuriating issues, regarding this past release – from their failed marketing, horrible PR – to providing the users who bought the game; a PDF file for its MENU translations.😂 These problems went on for an entire year! It was just… the lowest of the low on bad localizations! Anyway, If you’re looking for a very detailed read regarding thee E2 Gaming disaster. The wonderful Elly from FigurativelySpeaking.me has written an awesome comprehensive trilogy post about this fiasco.
What was sad about this incident was that everyone thought Taisho x Alice was a total lost cause. A lot including myself, thought that Primula would probably never allow any localization companies to work on their games again, let alone, bring them to the west due to this unfortunate mishap. It was in November 2019 that our doubts were proven wrong, when Primula took to their Twitter page and announced the re-localization of Taisho x Alice (Episode 1). This time, with a stunning English translation done by localization expert/consultant, Molly Lee. Everyone in the community was so delighted to hear the glaring news. It not only proves that Primula hasn’t completely given up on us, but it also welcomes the possibility for the company to bring in more of their games to the west in the foreseeable future.
The first episode of Taisho x Alice’s re-release was successful enough to bring in episodes; two, three, and lastly, the epilogue, which basically concludes the game. Now, we’ve come full circle as the “All-in-one” Nintendo Switch port finally landed in western eshops! ( ´ ▽ ` ) Pretty amazing redemption arc if you ask me! (laughs)
PS: E2 Gaming has up and vanished after their whole hecking mess, and we will probably never hear from them again but make no mistake, their stories will be told for generations to come...
MAIN CHARACTERS AND ROUTES
Because the title was originally released as an episodic series, it is required to play them in the order they came out. You will need to play Episode 1 (Cinderella & Red) before you can unlock Episode 2 (Gretel & Kaguya), and finish Episode 2 before you can play Episode 3 (Snow White & Wizard). In Episode 3, you are required to play and complete Snow White’s route first to unlock the Wizard’s story. The epilogue unlocks once all routes in every episode are completed. My play order was Cinderella → Red Riding Hood → Gretel → Kaguya → Snow White → Wizard → Epilogue.
A womanizer who possesses an arrogant attitude and believes that money can solve all the problems in the world. He owns a coffee shop, where he also resides along with his younger brothers. While he maintains a pompous angle upfront, beneath his guise is a fragile side as delicate as glasswork.
Unlike the actual Cinderella in fairy tales, this character is seemingly the exact opposite. He’s lazy and quite the squandering fella who leaves all cafe responsibilities to his younger brothers. Clearly, there’s more to Cind than his problematic side, which you’ll get to unravel going into his route. I can say that this route was quite the mixed bag. I love Cinderella as a character. His backstory was great as far as highlighting the depth of his persona and the baggage he carries, and I like how his ending was slightly on the bittersweet side but still managed to appease that ‘itch for happy endings’ you normally seek in otome games.
What I didn’t like was that some events here were obnoxiously unrealistic; that I had to double down my suspension of disbelief. The issues that were presented seem to have been easily resolved in just a matter of the heroine snapping her fingers and clicking her tongue, and then bam! Problems gone! (I guess I just wanted more drama? lol There’s absolutely no way you can convince me Yurika has single-handedly persuaded the shoddy loan shark folks and going home without a mere scratch!) Then again, this is a fantasy-fairytale, so who am I to say what goes what… (laughs)
RED RIDING HOOD
- is afraid of women
Red is a lone wolf police officer. He wears his red hood every day as his trademark. He is afraid of women and freaks out when they’re close to him.
No one really knows the reason why Red keeps his hood on damn near all the time. Going into his route though, will surely let you in on some fluffy surprises! Red was such an awkward adorable mess, and I would 100% protect him at all times!😤 Kudos to Maeno for making Red Riding Hood’s character even more precious than he already is. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this route as much plot-wise.
There were a couple of things here that didn’t work for me. First was Yurika’s aggressive advances on Red, which I’m not gonna lie, I actually REALLY enjoyed at first. It was really funny, and god knows how many times I’ve cackled during their back-and-forths. However, the funniness died down in the long run as this became repetitive. The heroine’s actions from being all fun-n-flirty became pushy and imposing. It was borderline uncomfortable to watch (for me, at least). The “twist” that happened, in the end, didn’t do this route justice either. It was more like Yurika pretty much again, knew everything while you as the player did not? It concluded with the heroine just patting herself on the back and calling it a day. The ‘big’ reveal was a big exposition dump. Why…
Episode One Overall Thoughts: I am basing this on my notes from three years ago when I first played Taisho x Alice! (laughs) And I believe I wasn’t too smitten on Episode 1. The characters were great, but the events and pacing were just too convenient for the story. Yurika, as the heroine, was one of a kind, but her actions sometimes rubbed me the wrong way. I’m probably being too harsh here, and understandably so since I’ve only played one-third of the game, which I’ve realized (now that I’ve finished everything) was very surface level compared to the rest of the episodes.
Gretel is a bright and polite student. He is soft-spoken most of the time and is very skilled when it comes to adapting to other people. He enjoys baking sweets and often makes too much for himself that he’d wind up serving them to others.
In Gretel’s story, he’s introduced as the heroine’s adoptive younger brother… and oof, we actually start this route with Yurika locked up in a lonely cottage in the middle of the woods, with only oniichan by her side. No kidding! This is literally an early yandere start!😂 As for my impressions, I’m not even going to mince words… Gretel squicked me. Big time! Not even Eguchi’s voice saved this route for me. I could not stand him nor Yurika here. I was uninterested in their memey banters & their ‘kittypunches‘ or whatever dilly-dally that was. I admit I sped through this route, all because I couldn’t stomach Gretel and Yurika’s dynamic, which was kinda crazy on my part, given that I’m a big yandere apologist by heart 😂LOL. Perhaps it was the cringey banters that turned me off? Idk.😓
One thing I did like was the subtle foreshadowing in this route. Clearly, something’s brewing around the corner and we are a step closer to unraveling the truth of the ‘Looking Glass’ world. So yeah, I think story-wise, this route wasn’t so bad at all. The romance, however, (to me) was an absolute cringefest ngl. It just wasn’t for me, unfortunately.😩
Kaguya is a handsome man who’s very affable to everyone he meets. He normally can’t say no when it comes to women asking him out, so he ends up getting into numerous relationships with all the ladies he’s met.😂 Due to his unique way of speaking and his peculiar appearance, he easily stands out from the crowd.
So this route was kind of a slow burn where it starts really dull, same ol’ banters here and there between the characters. And the heroine, Yurika does her usual rollicking swagger. The angst here doesn’t hit you until its last thirty minutes. And when I say ‘hits you’, I mean, awfully and forcefully. Consider this a trigger warning. This route showcases very sensitive topics that are not for the faint of heart.
I really like Kaguya as a character, and I thought the reverse portrayal of the actual princess Kaguya his story went for was interesting. I’m a little conflicted with his ending though. Mainly because it was resolved in a very illogical fashion that just didn’t go with my morals, and I hate that I seem to be having a lot of issues turning my brain off for this game. (cackles)😂 Having said that, if you’re feeling a bit let down as I am about Episode 2, but still curious about the entire premise of ‘saving your prince’… just keep playing! I promise, it’ll all make sense in the end.
Episode 2 Overall Thoughts: TaiAli’s second episode is much like the first one but darker. Yurika is still on her quest to save all the guys from their personal traumas. It’s also important to keep in mind the content warnings the devs put out for this sequel, which are: mental illness, self-harm, suicidal ideation, and sexual assault. Overall, I’d say, Episode 2 was ‘okay’ in my book. None of the characters stood out to me, but their stories were told interestingly, that I couldn’t help but chug along on this wild ride.
- precious bby 🥺
- must protec at all cost!
Snow White is a princely-looking boy with a very strong sense of inferiority. He doesn’t ever show his emotions to anyone and he rarely talks which makes him look icy-cold and apathetic upfront.
Snow White was my favorite route in Taisho x Alice! Wow, finally! I have a favorite! (laughs) I suppose it was both Snow’s mysterious allure and Aoi Shouta’s voice that charmed me as well as consistently kept my immersion throughout this route. There’s also the fact that Ryoshi (Huntsman) played a major role here, which certainly amplified the plot’s foreboding mystery. Finally, we get to have answers! If you pay close attention to Snow White’s events, you can probably tell it had a lot to do with another LI’s story (Red in particular). Both their stories coincide with each other, which sort of now gives you an idea concerning the truth behind both their identities.
I can’t really say too much on Snow’s route without treading into spoiler territory but I very much loved the uncanny vibes in this route building up to its disturbing twist at the end. I never saw that coming, so that was quite a shock! I didn’t even care about Yurika and Snow’s romantic relationship (if there was any). This route evidently didn’t focus on that too much, but story-wise, everything was finally coming together that the romance was placed slightly on the back burner, which I didn’t mind at all.
- incoming ugly crying
Wizard is the mysterious bachelor who keeps appearing in every route, offering advice or assistance to the heroine whenever she’s caught in certain predicaments. He will either be your friend or foe, depending on the circumstances. He always travels with his black cat and always seems to have a cryptic goal. What is his secret?
Alright, so there’s a LOT to unpack here, but typically this route, just like any other previous ones in Taisho x Alice, starts very slow. This time with an even weirder narrative where Yurika is engaged to all five of her brothers.😱 If you’ve been playing all of the episodes religiously prior to this one, you’ve probably gotten used to the outrageous oddities this game throws at you. So this isn’t anything new.
This route is where everything finally made sense. All the missing puzzle pieces – finally laid out in front of you. Issues I’ve been wondering about, complained about, and rolled my eyes in the previous routes were finally addressed! Yo! I was gobsmacked!😭 To put it simply, this is the climax episode of the entire game. This is where the world-building expounded and went full circle. It explained how each route was connected and divulged the Wizard’s important role in this series. Again, I won’t be talking too much about it because this route is legitimately a walking spoiler tag lol. On another note, similar to Snow White’s story, the romance here was secondary due to how the plot revelations unfolded one after another. It did have some bittersweet moments that I absolutely cherished.
The epilogue tells the story of boy Alice. Yes, the
unapologetic, screaming gremlin guy Yurika first met at the start of the game. The boy who continuously appears on every route and constantly barrages you with a bucket of wet insults. Best boy? He absolutely is! (This isn’t sarcasm, I swear!) 😅
This was such an exhausting yet emotional journey. But everything leading up to this route was honestly a good payoff, in my opinion. The unexpected callbacks on the previous routes, but this time, told from Alice’s perspective hit so close to home. Experiencing Alice’s “true story” was both heartbreaking and cathartic… And oh mann, I loved every bit of it!😭😭😭 In addition, Matsuoka’s voice acting puts the icing on the cake in this entire game! One of his monologues here really broke me bad! Just…wow!
YURIKA ARISU (Main Heroine)
- !!Warning Spoilers!!
Yurika is a very energetic heroine. She’s smart, excels in academics, and is very skilled when it comes to cooking. She’s over the top sassy and will see to it that she gets whatever she wants. She’s also someone who will do anything for the love of her life.
To be quite honest, I have very mixed feelings about Yurika. She’s definitely a heroine like no other and, if I may add, a great character study. First of all, let me start by saying I just couldn’t, for the life of me, stand her in episodes 1 & 2. I don’t mind sassy and assertive heroines, I think they’re a breath of fresh air, but too much sass and being aggressively too pushy with no sense of boundaries is downright off-putting for me. This is probably why I didn’t like the first two episodes that much. It’s more to do with the heroine’s behavior than the LI’s baggage. She’s always in everyone’s faces, and she gets way too controlling most of the time. Her manipulative attitude towards the LIs was very uncomfortable to sit through. I was disappointed with her, to say the least.
It was only when I played Wizard’s route that I started realizing all of my complaints regarding Yurika in the previous episodes were rightfully merited as she was written to be this manipulative psycho all along!😱 Well, I’ll be damned! I see what you did there writers! Her toxic behavior in the previous routes was pretty much justified, for a very specific reason. Hence, I feel like it’s necessary to play through all the episodes till the very last, to understand the depth of her character and her goals.
With that in mind, my impressions of her character gradually changed for the better. Like, okay ma’am I see what you’re doing now! (laughs) While I still cringe over Yurika’s memey prattles and American jokes, she definitely grew on me, especially after Episode 3. This protagonist was an experience for sure! Without a doubt, an unforgettable one. Before I played the game, I was told that the heroine Yurika, was an acquired taste, and I very much agree!
SYSTEM AND LOCALIZATION
The All in One Switch version of Taisho x Alice is equipped with a digital manual that covers the instructions on how to play the game, its basic controls, and a few added features that aren’t in the PC version. I love that it utilizes the L button as its Rewind feature. This made backtracking certain dialogues, including in-game choices so easy!
A couple more options that were added to the Switch version were: the color adjustments, the rumble feature, font selections, and the “jump forward and backward” (which allows you to skip to the next already-read choice). Another useful feature was the option to switch between the English subtitles to the Japanese ones. Perfect for those currently practicing their kanjis!😄
The localization for Taisho x Alice was pristinely done! I barely saw any glaring typographical errors, and I like the choice of translating Kaguya’s endearment word “hii-san” (short for ohime-sama) to the British English word “poppet”.🥺 Speaking of Kaguya, I really like how they adapted his nuanced Kansai accent into the British tongue. I thought that was kinda clever.
The Drama CD titled, “Looking Glass Masochist Tournament” was added as a bonus content which you can unlock after completing all the routes. What’s really cool was that it was converted as a visual novel instead of just the normal audio drama, so you’re actually seeing the character sprites on-screen during their hilarious skits. This content is exclusively on the switch version only.
I originally played the PC version, so I’m going off on the hours I’ve put on each Episode via Steam. I believe you can finish one route in 4-5 hours tops. So my average total was around 40-45 hours (playing blind). My second run (this time on the Switch version) was a combo of skip reading episodes 1 & 2 and fully playing episode 3 and the Epilogue again on auto mode.
I don’t think you’ll be able to thoroughly appreciate Taisho x Alice’s beautiful overarching narrative by just playing one or two episodes alone. In my playthroughs, I found the first and second episodes slightly underwhelming, and it took me until Episode 3 to actually hold the game in its highest regard. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the trepidation and suspense leading up to the grand finale, and in no way did I feel the ride was a chore. Another thing this game does so well is that it lets you appreciate the characters and their routes more after reaching the finale’s ending. I couldn’t emphasize this enough, but the epilogue really managed to tie the story together (plot holes and mysteries included) into one brilliant, tight knot.
For my personal nitpicks, I feel like some chatters were gaudy and unnecessary. Yurika’s tumblr jokes got old fast for me, and the pop-cultural reference in some conversations (that didn’t go anywhere nor helped the plot) annoyed me at times. Looking back at it, I feel like I’m just too old for the humor it was going for.😅 I think it’s also important to note that Taisho x Alice is a ‘plot over romance’ title, so if you’re looking for some spice in your otomes, you probably won’t get it here.
As for the love interests, like it or not, they’re all a problematic bunch, with each having their own demons to address. I loved Snow White’s route so much, but after finishing everything, Alice managed to win me over by a mile! I know I said I didn’t like Gretel in his route, but I still think he was such a good character in the game that he eventually grew on me, especially during the finale.🥺
Do I recommend this game? YES.
While this game gets my instant thumbs-up, please be reminded that this title heavily deals with mature themes such as mental illness, violence, self-harm, suicide, and sexual assault. So as long as you can stomach these triggers, you should really try this one out.
Taisho x Alice: All in One, at its core, is an otome game about saving and healing your prince. A role reversal fairytale with some unexpected twists. It’s a game that will definitely get you invested in its very long and deeply involved story. Having played it the second time around on another platform, I realize how emotionally taxing this journey was 😂 (laughs). I meant this in a good way. It’s one of those unforgettable cathartic titles that just hits you right in the feels (and you won’t even see it coming).
I’m so happy Primula brought this game over to us, despite its rocky history on localization. I look forward to playing Taisho x Alice’s fandisc ‘Heads and Tails’ sometime this year.