It’s pretty easy to see why Aksys has localized and released many of the otome visual novels the company has picked up. With Hakuoki, we’re looking at an established series with anime tie-ins. Picking up subsequent ports is simple enough, since nearly all the translation work is already done. Picking up Sweet Fuse: At Your Side made sense due to Keiji Inafune and artwork by Kumiko Suekane, who drew the characters from Ace Attorney, helps. But Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ is a bit of a mystery. It doesn’t have those influential connections, making it a more risky endeavor.
Trust me, though. Code: Realize makes sense. That incredibly long title may look like something off of a Fall Out Boy album, but this is a game with substance that is suitable simply because of the season. Not that Code: Realize is some sort of horrific experience. It’s really more of a traditional romantic adventure with various dramatic elements. The heroine Cardia, however, is what will help sell people on the game this Halloween and beyond.
Cardia is a monster. She looks adorable, right? It’s a ruse. She’s constantly spewing out an incredibly destructive poison due to a gem known as the Horologium being embedded in her chest. When we first meet her in the game, she’s in a dilapidated mansion and is about to be taken in by the royal guards due to her destructive nature. She destroys everything simply by existing. She has to wear specially treated clothing, and her hair is the only part of her that doesn’t kill on contact.
Code: Realize gives us numerous examples of exactly how dangerous Cardia is, making an unrealistic situation seem more plausible. If anything comes in contact with her skin, be it organic or inorganic, it dissolves. This includes metals like titanium, people’s flesh, and food. Shortly after meeting, Lupin actually has to ask her if she can eat, due to her nature. (The answer is yes, but the food dissolves in her mouth.) Should a person be sealed away in a room with her, the air would begin carrying her poison and slowly kill anyone unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity. Cardia is a living weapon.
Couple that with the exact nature of her existence and she becomes more mysterious and unsettling. She has no memories of anything that happened two years prior to the events of Code: Realize. Nearly all she knows comes from books in the mansion and instructions from her father that say never to leave. When the guard comes in to kidnap her, it’s clear she’s been in one room, sitting and sleeping, for an extended period of time. It’s far from ordinary human behavior.
Which is why she’s the most compelling case for playing Code: Realize. In media, we don’t often see things from the monster’s point of view. Following Cardia’s exploits almost reminds me of John Gardner’s Grendel, which retold the story of Beowulf from the antagonist’s perspective. She’s a true innocent in possession of an unconscionable power and, while this game is about her finding love in spite of her affliction, it’s also about how someone would survive knowing that they are absolutely a monster and can do nothing about it.
It’s that exploration about Cardia’s sense of self, her roots, and her terrifying ability, that makes Code: Realize compelling. With many otome games, it can end up being about experiencing new things with a virtual man. You’re going through the everyday adventures of falling in love. Here, it’s about survival and greater understanding, with love being something that happens along the way.
Code: Realize will come to the PlayStation Vita on October 20, 2015. You can get it digitally through the PlayStation Store, but physical copies will also be available through stores like Amazon in case you need a treat this Halloween.