Title: Before Dawn Daybreak
Company: Black Cyc
Release date: 10-24-08
Black Cyc was once a king of dark eroge, known for their impressive stories with generous amounts of both erotic content and detailed plots. While it is now a deceased company, the exact point of their death is still popularly debated, but the general consensus is that Before Dawn Daybreak was the beginning of its sharp decline. Common complaints are that it’s not as gruesome as other titles, the production values are notably lower, and it lacks the same professional polish as its predecessors. Yet contrary to the popular opinion, I consider it to be neither without redemption, nor an awful game in its own right.
In the slums of the city, where the corrupt rule and the black market thrives, lethal medicines are tested on ignorant citizens, drug wars rage viciously on, and deep within the concrete jungle, the skyscraper Behemoth looms over it all with impenetrable security, rumored to contain the worst horrors modern science can produce: from illegally cloning humans for trafficking purposes, to breeding supernatural creatures with hypnotic voices.
In order to survive, the innocent must become corrupt, and Eiji Browning is a man who has learned well how to navigate the toxic labyrinth. Intending to smuggle in his latest shipment of drugs, he comes across a young girl desperate to escape from her prison, begging him for help.
She introduces herself as Leonora, but she is not human: her singing can either enchant or enrage, capable of influencing emotions, or even to force others to do her bidding. Although naïve about the outside world, after having been captive in research facilities all her life, her only wish is to be free. Eiji agrees to provide her with shelter and protection from those hunting her down, on the condition that she sells her body to him in exchange. With the contract between them complete, Eiji and Leonora form a tentative alliance, but all is not peaceful.
While Leonora enjoys the freedom of her new life, her twin sister is wreaking havoc upon the city, using her powerful voice to ignite a gory series of violent deaths and sexual torture, making men her slaves and interrogating women without mercy. Sala is eager to cause riots and chaos in the name of her cause, determined to bring Leonora back to their home, and delights in terrifying and trapping her until there is nowhere left to go, except to return to her family.
The system, per usual for Black Cyc, is difficult and occasionally frustrating. There is a map one must navigate Eiji through on his various deliveries, choosing his clients and then tasked with locating said client within a certain time limit. If the errand isn’t completed in time, more locations will not be unlocked and the story won’t progress, but with a guide or patient guesswork, it can be cleared without too many attempts.
As for the art, some may find the saturated colors, harsh lines, and exaggerated proportions to be unappealing. Not to say that it is by any means bad: a softer style would look inappropriate in such a bleak setting, the character designs are all unique, and event CG are illustrated in dark detail.
The music is primarily hip-hop and techno pieces with heavily synthesized instruments and vocals, matching the extremely modern, almost futuristic feel of the city. It’s a rare and unusual choice, and there are a number of softer tracks, with more traditional instruments, as well.
While certainly one of the weaker titles of Black Cyc’s lineup, to consider Before Dawn Daybreak as simply a desperate final attempt to squeeze out profits would be an injustice. To constantly compare it to eroge which were intended to push the limits of grotesque sexual violence, when this was meant to be a lighter, less brutal approach to the genre is comparing two completely different things. Although without extreme violence or visuals which haunt the readers, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is any less because of it. Rather, it should be viewed for its own merits, of which there are plenty. It may not be perfection, but it is far from mediocre.
While his self-serving attitude is considered inappropriate for someone involved in black market dealings, Eiji is not cruel or merciless as his cohorts might expect him to be. He cannot be bribed with money or sex when it comes to guarding important shipments or information, although he does indulge in both of them gratuitously in his leisure time. He wields guns as his weapon of choice, but prefers to use them for protecting, rather than killing. In his heart, he is just a man who has learned to adapt, but he has not fallen as low as he would lead others to believe.
Leonora is insatiably curious about the world, but also considers herself detached from society, not quite a part of it, but desperately wanting to blend in. Despite her best attempts to be prim and proper, her habit of speaking her mind without restraint betrays her innocent mentality. While she is prone to complain about something she dislikes, she can just as well show unbridled affection and adoration towards someone she favors, making her loyal beyond compare.
Sadistic and arrogant, Sala orchestrates violence just to savor the ensuing bloodbath, taking particular pleasure in watching weaker minds crumble beneath her influence. While her sibling uses her singing to heal or soothe, she uses hers to sow despair and misery, using both her voice and a combination of drugs to subdue her victims. She feels nothing but loathing towards anyone except Leonora, as her obsession with capturing her borders on a twisted kind of affection.
With her sharp tongue and coarse behavior, helped by binding her chest and hiding her long hair, Lyui tries her hardest to be as masculine as possible to keep herself safe in a city where crime against women is not only common, but expected. She fights viciously with a stiletto blade and trusts no one except Eiji, but even to him, her manners are blunt and unforgiving. As the daughter of the drugstore owner Eiji supplies narcotics to, she often joins him on smuggling operations.
Sweet, soft-spoken, and timid, Norma scrapes together her earnings through being hired to protect her customers, saving their lives while risking her own. However, her delicate appearance hides a terrible bloodlust and incomparable skill with a scythe in battle, as she becomes an emotionless weapon of carnage, unflinching in the aftermath of her violence.
Ru is an unlicensed doctor who supplies medical care for the poor and destitute. Her unwavering logic and serious demeanor is a significant advantage for the organization she has allied herself with, whose aim is to take down the immoral research facilities that swarm within Behemoth, after their questionable studies killed hundreds in the Lancaster Chemical incident years ago.
Despite her youth, Sharon is a drug dealer who grudgingly works with Eiji when she must, and makes an enemy out of everyone she meets. Her ability to talk tougher than she acts is an invaluable asset when others attempt to intimidate her, but it can also lead her into trouble when she is caught in her deceit. She is considered trustworthy, but her loyalty has its limits.