Zettai Meikyuu Grimm is a standard otome visual novel with cute designs but many dark turns in the plot. I finished it twice and got Akazukin’s (Red Riding Hood) and Ibara-hime (sorta-Sleeping Beauty)’s endings. The more of this sort of game I play, the easier it becomes for me to recognize the sort of visual novels I can stand and the sort that drive me round the bend.
The type I can stand
- Nice art & character designs, where “nice” means whatever I can stand to look at for hours on end
- Interesting characters
- At least one target I want to pursue
- Fast-moving plots that aren’t too stupid
- Fast-changing scenes
- More dialogue based than description-based (very important!)
- Less telling, more showing. Since it’s a visual novel, I don’t need descriptions of scenes and characters and anything I can see on the screen.
- Good sound and voice acting – optional
- Has a relationship value-system instead of an event flag system – optional, but highly preferred.
The worthless type
Anything that does not follow the above. With a handy checklist like that, all I need is an hour with an VN to figure out whether it’s right for me or not. Result: less time wasted, less frustration, lower blood pressure. And everybody wins.
Back on topic, Zettai Meikyuu Grimm: Nanatsu no Kagi to Rakuen no Otome (Absolute Labyrinth Grimm: The 7 Keys and The Maiden of Paradise) was a decent VN that had pretty much everything I was looking for. The character designs were cute, the story was simple but fast-paced (MC Henrietta Grimm falls asleep for 5 years and wakes up to find her brothers missing. She goes on a search for them and has many wacky adventures along the way), on my first run through I took a liking to Akazukin and got his ending without too much trouble.
In the past I wasn’t too fond of the “Hyper guy who may or may not be a shota” type, but watching Fruits Basket and Ookiku Furikabutte made them grow on me a little bit. Plus Akazukin was the best out of my other party members: Hamel, the money-grubbing piper who is a total rip off of the Violinist of Hamelin, Rapunzel, who is a bro but is also a girl, the Frog Prince who is, well, a frog (though you find out later he’s pretty handsome as a human) and Ludwig, who is the MC’s brother, and you know I don’t go there.
Akazukin’s story was standard Red Riding Hood stuff. Tra la laa, picking fruit, eating pie with grandma, turning your back for a second to find out… What are those giant blood splatters all over the walls?! Grandma has been eaten by a wolf?! Like, really really eaten and not just swallowed whole? I thought this was a KID’S GAME!!!
And that sort of thing happens a lot throughout the game. Massive mood whiplash at every turn. One moment you’re all having fun, taking things easy, having a laugh or two. The moment something nasty, violent and gory is happening, your party is getting hurt, your MC is half-dead… and then suddenly everything is fun and happy again. And back, and forth, and as the route progresses the happier moments get fewer and shorter and the bad moments get longer and longer and nastier and nastier. At least the ending was good, but the whole route just left me a feeling disturbed and more than a little bit down. This isn’t really a game for anyone who likes cheery fairy tales.
The downside of the Akazukin route is that it didn’t wrap up the story of Henrietta’s missing brothers or the mysterious golden keys, so I played the game a second time to see if I could sort that out. I was hoping to get either the Frog Prince or Bropunzel’s ending, but it was not to be. Turns out a large part of what route you go on is decided very, very early on with a series of seemingly random choices you make at the start of the game. Before I knew it I was on Ibara-hime’s route with no chance to turn around. Her route didn’t have as many depressing ups and downs as Akazukin’s did, but Ibara-hime herself is pushy, selfish, violent and annoying, and her ending has her snatching Henrietta away from her barely-rebuilt home and pressing her into a lifetime of vain stupidity at her castle, so I hated every minute of it.
The only good thing is that I did at least find out what happened to Henrietta’s older brothers. Jacob got possessed by the Demon King and Wilhelm went along to try and save him. The 7 golden keys are the only way to unseal the goddess Brunhilde, who is locked away within Henrietta, or something bizarre like that. After plenty of waffling and whining, Henrietta managed to seal the Demon King away along with the Grimm brothers. Good riddance. There are probably endings where you get to save either or both brothers, and endings where you find out what the deal is with Muma/Alp, the guy who put Henrietta and Ludwig to sleep for 5 years, but getting two endings is enough for me.
Summary of Zettai Meikyuu Grimm‘s good and bad points:
+ Cute, quirky character designs
+ Some likeable characters (Akazukin, Bropunzel, Frog Prince, Ludwig is okay)
+ Fairly short, dialogue-driven routes
+ Can check characters’ affection for you any time
+ Nice to see how they twisted some of the fairy tales
+ Accordion music started out annoying but grew on me after a bit
– No quick-save/quick-load function
– Some routes are hard to get on without a FAQ
– Some unlikeable characters (everyone except those I named above)
– Sudden dark, disturbing turns keep you on pins and needles
– Sudden dark, disturbing turns also make it impossible to enjoy the cute, happy moments because you’re too busy being depressed over the bad things that happened last time
– Akazukin’s “happy” ending isn’t all that happy once you realize the Demon King is going to be after Henrietta in a bit
– Ibara-hime’s ending was made of excrement and failure
– Voice-acting wasn’t all that good. Akazukin and Ibara-hime were especially annoying
– Demon King routes have you saving the world *yawn*
That’s about it for Zettai Meikyuu Grimm, but I’m going to be trying a few more VNs in the coming months.