Last Bullet is a visual novel/sniping game developed and published by Furyu Corporation. I know them better as dungeon-crawler developers, but I recently learned that they occasionally dabble in otome games as well, so I decided to give Last Bullet a shot. And you know, it was actually pretty good. I’m not a fan of visual novels in general, but this was a fast-moving dialogue-based game where even the bad guys were likeable, plus the monotony was broken up by frequent sniping missions and the whole game is only 5 hours or so long, so I had a pretty good time in general.
Since Last Bullet is 90% story and I plan to spend some time in this review pointing out just how ridiculous said story is, I’m going to have to do a lot of spoiling in this post. If you were planning to play the game (and it’s not bad at all so you might as well) you might want to look away now.
The story: Karin Hibiki thinks she’s an ordinary college student, but she’s not. Her dad went missing 10 years ago and is presumed dead, but he’s not. You must have seen that coming. One day her English teacher Mr. Sakuma calls her in and tells her that, contrary to her beliefs but not ours, her dad is not dead but has actually been in hiding all these years.
It turns out Daddy is really a secret agent who works for a secret organization called Village Shrine (V.S. for short). They’ve been combating an international terror organization called FREEDOM for years. Dad infiltrated FREEDOM and came out with a microchip that contains information that will destroy FREEDOM once and for all. The only problem is that FREEDOM, sensibly enough, used the best encryption methods possible to secure that data. Dad has therefore spent the past 10 years pretending to be dead while figuring out a way to crack the encryption and get the data.
Where does Karin come in? Well as long as FREEDOM thought Dad was dead she was safe, but now that they’ve got wind that he’s still alive and on the verge of exposing their secrets there’s a good chance that they’ll try to kidnap her and use her as a bargaining chip. And by “good chance” I mean that Mr. Sakuma’s explanation is interrupted by a terrorist who has snuck onto campus in the hopes of carrying out said kidnapping. No time like the present, after all. Luckily Sakuma has a present for Karin: a lovely sniper rifle! Good thing Karin’s late mom trained her to be a sniper, eh?
Now then, Karin has a sniper’s rifle. What will she do with it? Shoot the guy, right? Wrong. Not only does she (naturally, I suppose) balk at the thought but Sakuma won’t even let her do it. It turns out that as a peace-loving Japanese organization (yes, they said all this completely straight-faced), V.S. absolutely does not kill anyone. No, not even machine-gun wielding, bomb-detonating, RPG-launching terrorists. That was the point where I stopped taking the story seriously and just went WHAT.
I mean, seriously. WHAT? I’m all for not killing people if it can be avoided, but you’re going up against terrorists. They won’t hesitate to kill you if they can, and there’s always more than one of them. Nevertheless V.S. insists on No Killing, so all 20 sniping missions in Last Bullet will give you an automatic Game Over if you dare hit a body part, even by accident. Instead you have to aim for their guns or their detonators or the wheels of their motorcycles, usually small moving targets. It makes for fun, challenging gameplay, but it also makes absolutely no real world sense at all.
The only reason Karin and the rest of V.S. even last more than a few seconds is because the writers nerfed the FREEDOM fighters to fit this namby-pamby way of fighting. They had to. Any sensible terrorist group would have a field day which these guys since their No Kill policy is known to all and sundry. And there are so many ways to do it. For example, their preferred method of defeating enemies is to i) shoot their weapons out of their hands and then ii) close in and take them out in hand to hand combat. So why not carry a concealed weapon under your clothes? When they close in, you let them have it. Indeed that’s what the last boss did, and almost killed Karin too, so I’m amazed none of his underlings ever even thought of it.
Better yet, keep your weapons hidden at all times and only take them out right before you use them. V.S. can’t shoot any part of your body, so don’t give them anything else to shoot at. And for more kicks and giggles, how about a concealed bomb? They close in for the capture and kaboom, no more V.S.
Another option: send several guys out so they can get disarmed. Use that to pinpoint the location of the sniper. Bang! Problem solved. Oh, oh, here’s another one: have a second terrorist hidden somewhere with a gun out of sight. When the first terrorist is disabled and the V.S. guys come running, ka-pow! let them have it!
And you know, FREEDOM did think almost that far. Almost, because they tend to have someone on standby to kill any member that fails a mission and thus prevent interrogation. But if you can do that much, why not fire at Karin or Sakuma instead? They want Karin alive if possible, but they can shoot at her arm, right? As a bonus that takes care of her sniping skills for good, making your missions that much easier.
The story is dumb in other ways as well. For some reason Karin continues to go to school as normal, even though she’s supposedly in grave danger. She continues to live in the same barely-protected house, walk down the same barely-protected streets, hang out with the same non-vetted friends and work at the same barely-protected burger joint even though it makes zero sense for her to do so.
Look, V.S. is on the verge of a major breakthrough and FREEDOM is desperate because they know that. Would it really be so hard to just squirrel Karin away for a couple of months while Dad completes his code-cracking system? At least change her name and dye her hair and transfer her to another college in another part of Japan until the trouble dies down. If you want to give her a gun for self-protection, fine, but why enroll her as a member of V.S. and take her on all these dangerous missions if you’re actually trying to protect her? It’s ridiculous.
All I can say is, it’s really lucky for them that FREEDOM was so half-assed in their attempts to kidnap Karin, or V.S. would be in a world of trouble. FREEDOM is desperate to capture her but at the same time they don’t want to cause a big fuss by doing it openly… wait, what? Are you really desperate or not? Make up your minds! Either way, Karin and Sakuma give them the slip several times just by going somewhere with lots of people. “Haha, they won’t dare try anything with all these people around!” and shockingly enough, they’re right.
If I were in charge of FREEDOM, I’d throw caution to the winds. If the microchip gets out, the whole organization is going to come crumbling down and you’re worried about creating a fuss? I’ve heard of the Japanese love of “Wa” or “harmony” but this is an international terror organization! By definition the last thing they should care about is “Wa” unless it’s like “Waah, you just blew up the World Trade Center!” Basically terrorists should act like terrorists, and even more so if they’re game terrorists. Barge into the burger joint guns akimbo and just straight up take her captive, why don’t you? DO something terror-like, is what I’m trying to say.
…Though I must admit the method they eventually succeeded with (because they had to succeed eventually or there’s no drama) was quite… genius? In a “Wow, I can’t believe someone actually fell for that” kind of way? They just rang up Karin’s burger joint requesting a delivery and she walked right into their arms like a moron. Everyone in this game is a huge idiot. If they weren’t also so funny and likeable I would never have made it through this game.
Btw, there’s a spoiler right on the cover! And I’m going to spoil it for you! Look at the cover way up there. The girl in green is Karin. The guy on the right is Professor Sakuma. So who’s the guy on the right and why does he look so shady? Why, that’s Karin’s crush Daiki. He’s on the cover, so he must be important. Yet he only shows up very rarely in-game. Hmm, I wonder why. Then Sakuma drops the hint that one of Karin’s buddies is a spy… if it doesn’t click for you immediately, your gamer-fu needs more work. And now that I think of it, since Daiki was working for FREEDOM all along, why didn’t he just invite Karin to his house one day and have her walk into an ambush? More of FREEDOM’s half-assedness at play.
Characters: Last Bullet can’t decide whether it’s a serious game or not. One moment the characters are cosplaying at Comiket, the next moment people are getting killed for real. But since the story is very silly I decided the rest of the game was silly as well and straight up ignored their laughable attempts at drama.
That way I could enjoy things like the second-baddie’s poor attempts to hide her real name (Yamada Tsuneko) without worrying about her ruthless way of killing off ex-team members. And I could laugh at Sakuma’s pachinko addiction and love of playing dress-up without being annoyed by the terrible “We played together as kids but then you forgot” reveal near the end.
Basically all the characters have a silly side and a serious side to them. The silly side meshes well with the game while the serious side just ruins immersion. It’s all a matter of whether you can look beyond that or not, and fortunately I could. And btw, mad props to my girl Karin. She’s a cool girl, always keeping her head up a smile on her face no matter what the game throws at her. I was rooting for her all the way through, which is rare for me in an otome game.
Gameplay: What haven’t I said already? 20 sniping missions aimed at foiling FREEDOM’s abduction/terror attempts. They’re all timed, usually with a 1 minute limit. Karin looks through a rifle scope like the one in the screenshot up there, aims, and fires. Only it’s not that simple.
1. The scope shakes a lot due to Karin’s breathing. A lot of Japanese fans whined about that, but I enjoyed that slight condescension at reality.
2. Not only is Karin moving but targets are frequently moving as well, making it even harder to aim at them.
3. You have to deal with things like rain, fog, darkness, obstructions and reflections clouding your view.
4. You have a very limited number of bullets, usually less than 5. If you run out of bullets before fulfilling your objective, it’s game over.
5. Sometimes the enemy is actively aiming at you as well. If you don’t disarm them quickly, they will fire. Another game over for you.
But since you get unlimited, unpenalized retries, plus an Easy Mode retry if you fail twice, you just have to keep trying and trying until you finally succeed. At the end of each mission you’re rated S-D depending on how quickly you finished and how many bullets you used. Ratings affect the ending you get. AFAIK none of the endings is actually bad, it just determines whether you get together with Sakuma at the end and if so how quickly. I got the middle ending where you meet up again after several years, which I think is better because it doesn’t have any squicky student-teacher dating implications.
Anything else to note? There’s very limited voice-acting, but what little exists is quite good. They got Yui Horie to do Karin’s voice, so they should have used her a little more IMO. The character designs were done by Ju Ayakura, who supposedly also did the art for the Spice and Wolf light novel series. I didn’t like Spice and Wolf and am not a fan of his art, but I am the kind of person who is easily attracted by nice art, so I see what they tried to do there.
Nothing else to note. Play Last Bullet if you like short, action-packed(?!) visual novels with rather silly plots. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s actually kind of fun.