Video games are ageless. They exist beyond time. While a title can be indicative of the age in which it was created, it’s also an entity unto itself. Such things are intended to have a staying quality, a nature that ensures anyone who comes to it might get caught up in the moment, undistracted by external affairs. A wise developer recognizes this and adjusts their work accordingly so it can be enjoyed regardless of the era.
This is not an article about one of those games.
This is an article about Yo-Jin-Bo: The Bodyguards, from Two-Five and Hirameki International. It was one of the first otome games released in 2006, and it’s probably a good thing it isn’t more famous. If it was, there’s a decent chance no one would have ever wanted to fall in love with anime men ever again.
Yo-Jin-Bo‘s problems are rampant, ranging from an unfriendly interface to stereotypical characters, but today we’re going to focus on the Hirameki International localization. This is a humorous visual novel, to be sure, but instead of focusing on more timeless material, it often relies on pop culture innuendo that is jarring, out of place, and unamusing.
I picked up Yo-Jin-Bo for the first time a while back. Groupees offered a JAST USA bundle, I was always curious about that title and a $3 investment didn’t seem too bad. (I still haven’t been able to pawn off the copy of The Sagara Family that came with it.) Worst case scenario, I’d experience a little bit of visual novel history.
Yo-Jin-Bo started out promising, if generic. The art had its issues. The translation was rough. Still, everything was passable until the story sent our heroine, Sayori, back in time. It was time to live the life of Hatsuhime, a Mochizuki clan princess from what appeared to be the Sengoku and Edo periods. It was then that the inexplicable pop culture references came into play.
We’re introduced to Hatsuhime with a quote from one of the singer P!nk’s first hits, “Get the Party Started.” If you’d think referencing a flash-in-the-pan pop hit was Yo-Jin-Bo putting its worst foot forward, well, you’d be wrong. It digs itself deeper into a hole that will leave you regretting any investment in the game.
How bad is it? In a twenty minute span, Hatsuhime and Yozaburo “Yo” Shiranui have a “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” exchange, Yo brings up elephantiasis, an adviser named Yahei references ER, the fourth wall is broken and, this is my favorite part, the princess busts out with some Spanish and a “Peace out!” It’s a train-wreck. All you can do is keep clicking in shock, wondering how everything pans out. It ends with a debate about capturable characters among the entirely undesirable lot, if you were wondering.
Yo-Jin-Bo is one of the best examples of how not to make a visual novel. The script is filled with unbearably egregious storytelling sins. An attempt to make something topical has created a monster, an abomination likely mocked when it was relevant and (thankfully) forgotten today.
The only redeeming factor is that we can look to it now and see how far visual novels and otome games have come. Look at these screenshots and know that we will never, ever have to endure a localization like this again. Everyone knows better, and we’re all better for it.
If, for some reason, you feel like putting yourself through Yo-Jin-Bo, you can get it for $17.95 from J-List.