Mix a strategy RPG, a visual novel, and a judicious helping of tentacle CGs and what you get is VenusBlood Frontier International.
This review is based on the uncensored version of the game and it is worth noting that there is a lot of adult content in this game to unlock. I would estimate that about a third of the scenes in the game are only shown in the 18+ version. That said, these scenes do get replaced, if not with scenes of equivalent length or unique CGs in the all-age version. Being fairly heavy on the adult content, it’s no surprise that this is a PC-only title.
As noted, tentacles do play a major theme and appear in the majority of adult scenes, but it should be noted that non-consensual sex often plays a part too. There are other themes that some readers may find extreme including but not limited to interspecies intercourse (with demons and animals), gender changes, mind control and what seems to be underage participants. One of the scenes is titled ‘anal slime injection’, so this gives you an idea of the type of content in this game. It’s not one for the fainthearted.
While the game is very heavy on the adult content, it does have a clearly defined story. In short, you play as Loki, the grandson of Dark Lord Surt, who rules over one of the empires of the demon realm. Loki was forcibly driven out of the family, his father having been killed for treason and his mother taken away. Perhaps due to this background, Loki both lusts for power and to find out what happened to his mother.
As the story opens, so does the contest to see who will succeed the Dark Lord Surt as emperor. Surt tells his five grandchildren to conquer the floating island of Yggdrasil and bring him back a powerful item that has been hidden away there. This item is said to hold up the island and that to take it would be to destroy the island itself, bringing it crashing back down to land. This would not be an easy task for anyone, as the island is protected by five goddesses, including one who previously fought Surt himself.
Loki is very much the underdog in this contest. As the disinherited grandchild, he does not have a fleet of airships, a massive army or magical weapons like his cousins. Instead of this, he has his wits and a plan. A plan that involves tentacles, which can seem to do just about anything, including weakening goddesses.
As the story unfolds, you encounter the various goddesses and run into Loki’s cousins. While it is essentially a story of how Loki attempts to conquer Yggdrasil, you do find that there are quite a few hidden secrets that come to light and you learn more about Loki and his history.
One point that I have to praise about this game is the incredible amount of choice you have. The story has choices to select. You can choose to corrupt goddesses or let them remain pure. These choices affect both the CGs you see and the ending. You can choose the order you face the goddesses in. You can choose to play in normal mode with a reasonable difficulty or on hard mode where you have to be more strategic to survive. You can even choose to play mostly as a visual novel by skipping battles. That said, I wouldn’t recommend the skipping battles method, as you need to enter each battle to click to auto-win and this can get quite tedious. After completing the game once, you have some further options for the new game+ mode.
Most of the time spent playing this game will be on the SRPG section. This is essentially how you conquer Yggdrasil. This can be broken down into two sections – management of your assets and battles to clear the enemy out of a city. Visual novel sections pop up between these and depending on your choices, some may pop up when you gain enough points.
Battle is fairly simple and almost automatic. In the majority of battles, I had a command unit use a special skill to do an area attack, a strong attack on a powerful enemy or a healing spell and the rest of the units used a normal attack. Only one unit can use a special skill per round. Each battle is limited to five rounds and if there are units still alive on both sides, the battle ends.
After the main battle, there can be a number of encounter battles if you have more than one squad. These have your other squads automatically fight against the enemy. One way of clearing out a city of a high number of enemies holding it is to kill the most powerful enemy manually, then have several other squads either kill or wear down the other enemies through encounter battles.
Overall I found the battles to be relatively easy, but that was likely due to my efforts on the management side.
Quite a lot of aspects of your conquest can be controlled. You can hire and fire your soldiers. You can equip each soldier with two types of items, which differ depending on the type of soldier. You can arrange soldiers into squads and set their tactics. You can build on captured towns to generate different resources. You can even choose the type of moon you start the game under.
While the game does a great job of giving you options on how to run your campaign, it does a terrible job of teaching you how to do it. It is not intuitive at all and while there are tutorials, they are accessed via the menu and often just explain via text which does not particularly help. By the end of the game, I had mostly figured it out but I can’t say I completely understood every feature.
As well as not being particularly intuitive, there are quite a few areas where it could make improvements in how the game is controlled. For example, at the end of the game, I had over sixty soldiers. There was no way to tell which soldiers were using outdated equipment or to filter to soldiers who use a certain type of equipment so I could easily choose who to give a new piece of received equipment.
One nice bonus feature was that at the end of each chapter, it gives you a grade on how well you did. This gives you some incentive to beat it when replaying the game.
I felt that the CGs of this game were quite high quality and extensive in number, but I did think that the SRPG portion had quite basic graphics. There is also that it is in a 4:3 aspect ratio instead of the modern 16:9. The sound was fairly basic, but all of the characters aside from the main character and some unnamed extras were fully voiced.
VenusBlood Frontier International is a very in-depth SRPG. While the systems are unintuitive, I really appreciated just how much control you have over your conquest of Yggdrasil and the sheer amount of CGs. The story was good if not amazing, but I enjoyed finding out Loki’s motivations and seeing his schemes unfold.
VenusBlood Frontier International can be purchased from the JastUSA Store. A Steam version is planned, but not available at the time of writing.
Many thanks to JastUSA for providing a review code of the game.
Nook has been gaming since the Amstrad and DOS. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years.