Updated: Mar 21
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Android
Genre: Trainer Game
Reviewed by: Soniram
Before I get into the review of Jikage Rising by Smiling Dog, I have to make a confession. My knowledge of Naruto is limited to memes. Any inside jokes and references made by Naruto fans go completely over my head. I've never seen any episodes nor have I read up any in-depth information except for a little on the characters featured in Jikage Rising.
I also don't normally get drawn in by games that feature mind control. It just isn't my personal cup of tea.
THAT'S RARE AND SPECIAL
So why would someone like me play Jikage Rising? That's where we need to start. 2d animated? Check. Harem? Check. Several females with medium to small breast size? Check. Despite mind restraints, I'm just a rat fapping in my cage. As usual, I will try to keep the spoilers to a minimum.
The basic premise of the game involves taking the male main character (named by the player) and trying to build his clan again. Since he was the last surviving member, and just about to get killed in a rather messy way, the player is transported through time by a magical being known as Saru to the Shounen era of Naruto. Not only is Saru an ethereal, magical guide, he is also an ancestor of the main character and wants to use him to repopulate the clan.
Though the player begins by seeking out other characters, the end target is Tsunade, who controls the village. Between Saru and the main character, they plan to take control of the village by taking control of Tsunade. To get control of Tsunade, you have to get control of several others, starting with Sakura, Ino, Tenten, and Hinata. You know what that means -- harem building.
Like other harem games, the main character has to complete tasks to bring the girls into his harem. The girls are not exactly willing participants at first, so Saru helps the main character use his "chakra" to bend them to his will over time. This is how the main precept of the game, mind control, is used. Similar to other adult visual novel games, it's generally a magical power that allows the character to infiltrate and bend the will of other characters, mainly for sexual conquest but also to use them to influence others later in the game.
Even putting the Naruto backdrop aside, Smiling Dog has created a sweet game here. The characters are well-drawn, the story is interesting without being too complicated, and the available various sex is a definite plus. Animated and 2d? That's cool. Animated pretty damn well? That's rare and special.
Jikage Rising plays differently than most, giving the player the option of doing things in whatever order he or she wants to, but the general end result is the same. It also has some sandbox-like qualities, requiring the player to amass money, items, and stats to complete certain missions. Without alternate endings like some visual novels, this makes Jikage Rising into something like a chimera: kinetic with a sandbox-esque structure and a not-quite-illusion of choice. You can choose to ignore specific actions, but to continue on in the game, you need to engage with all the characters, and whatever path you take merges to the ending Smiling Dog has placed there for the first arc.
When a developer adds sandbox qualities to a game, even just slightly, there's a lot of balancing that has to take place to not lose players right at the beginning. It can't have too much grind. You have to have enough content for them to keep them from feeling like they aren't doing the same things over and over again. The reward has to be pleasant enough to lure the player onwards. The story has to be strong enough to support the sandbox, otherwise, it becomes a "click until next sex scene" finger exercise.
Let's take a look at the grind. It's there, no doubt, though I've seen a lot worse. Interestingly, much of the grinding takes place within the sex scenes themselves, with a little more grinding required to raise the main character's stats. Money and items are relatively easy to come by, and with a little bit of understanding of how the day cycle works, the grind doesn't end up being too slow and monotonous... until we get to the content.
BOY OH BOY
I found myself actually clicking through some of the sex scenes to reach the next ones. This isn't really a failure on the developer's part, but more along with the problems inherent to adult games themselves. A developer has to ask themselves, "What content do I want in my game, and how do I spread that out?" Because a lot of the leveling in the game is set in the sexual scenes, and certain actions aren't available for certain characters, the player can find themselves clicking through the sex scenes to achieve the next "level" in the hopes it will open something better, especially if they don't like the options available at the time. I don't think this is a flaw in Jikage Rising, but rather a circumstance of creating the game itself.
But when you get to that newly opened content, boy oh boy, does this game deliver. The player gets over a half-dozen things to do with each of the main four girls, including a few different threesome scenes, along with further scenes in the second tier of the harem building, many of which are also threesomes. While I might not be a fan of every sexual act the main character can participate in, there's a wide choice of pretty damn good animated 2d scenes -- easily the best part of the game.
Then, to add to this, the main character can outfit the girls in different clothes and change their attitudes/reactions in the sexual scenes to add some more variety and appeal. Such a small change adds a great deal of width to the game, giving it a bigger 'net' to snatch up players with differing tastes in mind control and clothed sex genres. In the game overall, it's a minor part that adds a lot, which isn't easy to do.
IT EVEN HAS FANS THAT AREN'T EXACTLY INTO ALL THAT - FANS LIKE ME
Anything I say about the story is going to sound like nitpicking. Without being a fan of Naruto, it is likely I can't get into the narrative as someone who likes Naruto could. Even leaving everything regarding the setting on the sideline, my issues with any of the dialogue are still going to sound like nitpicking, however, there is one thing I think Smiling Dog missed. I feel the dialogue in the sexual encounters could have been a little longer and more intense in some of the scenes. Most were nicely written and enhance the story, but with these scenes being basically the true grinding in the game, not to mention the main reason we play adult games, I feel a lot more could have been put into them so there would be more reason to not just click through them. A missed opportunity, in my opinion.
Like all adult games, Jikage Rising has its audience. Naruto fans, mind control fans, and corruption fans. It even has fans that aren't exactly into all that -- fans like me. If I add up the really good artwork, the not-so-grindy chimeric sandbox-like style, the various sexual acts available with the harem, and a simple but easily understandable GUI, it makes Jikage Rising good in my book.
[STORY]: Even non-Naruto fans can enjoy it, though some dialogue could be improved. 15/22.
[VISUALS]: Very good 2d visuals. Simplistic form but well executed. 17/22.
[GAMEPLAY]: Some light grind, easy interface, but sex scenes getting old hurts. 15/22.
[ADULT CONTENT]: Lots of different content, though slightly low on depth. 16/22.
[SONIRAM LIKEY?]: Not a lot wrong with this one. Yes, Soniram likey. 9/12.
[VERDICT]: It's a keeper.