Title: Yukkuri Panic Escalation
Company: Rolling Star
Release date: 8-31-07, 6-7-08
While JAST USA combined them both within a single package, the official English-language release of Yukkuri Panic Escalation is actually two games: Escalation (Kuruai no Fugue) and Yukkuri Panic Escalation. The former is a traditional eroge with the usual choice system, while the latter has an emphasis on arcade-style gameplay, wherein a short minigame must be completed to unlock erotic content. For clarity, this review covers the combined release of the two games.
Having been orphaned at a young age, her love both unrequited and scorned, and betrayed by her adoptive family, even a simple life of modest happiness is unattainable for Rie. She seeks out a new school, hoping to begin a better life, but her broken heart is not easily healed. Overwhelmed by despair, her beliefs are further crushed when she witnesses two female schoolmates in an illicit affair. Disgusted and bewildered by her feelings of lust, Rie’s religious views and her moral code are threatened as both girls, Midori and Naomi, approach her with promises of love and affection. Yet their true intentions remain dubious, and Rie’s own pure heart is not incorruptible…
Both titles feature the same characters and setting, but there are differences between the two. Escalation (Kuruai no Fugue) focuses on brutality, manipulation and corruption, and all kinds of taboo relationships. On the contrary, Yukkuri Panic Escalation‘s primary focus is on casual friendships and pure love. They’re almost like parallel worlds, in that sense: one is a cynical story of affection turning to hatred and cruelty, while the other is much lighter in atmosphere, without a malicious undertone to the heroines’ actions, nor do their personalities seem to be as twisted and damaged.
Before elaborating on the negatives, there are a few sparse positives which must be noted. To its credit, both do deliver on the promise of yuri content, and that in itself is rare in the Western market. The characters are likeable and interesting to a degree, even if they’re left rather incomplete. Both titles have many significant flaws, but neither are they the absolute worst examples of the genre, even among other nukige.
That said, however, both have been tremendous disappointments. The character development is weak, the pacing of the plot is rushed, backstories are lacking depth, and the moments which are supposed to have emotional impact are unrewarding.
As a whole, I do not dislike the combination release of Yukkuri Panic Escalation, but considering it has very few merits and much more flaws, to praise it just for its yuri content is not enough. It made no effort at detailed characters nor an intricate plot, and even in terms of romance, it didn’t measure up to my relatively low standards. Those seeking yuri-ge would best turn their attentions somewhere else, but considering the limited English-language selection of such titles, it is admittedly better than nothing.
“Everything’s going to be okay! Don’t give up, me! You can do it!”
An energetic, peppy young girl who wants nothing more than to make friends and leave her past behind. In an attempt to suppress her feelings of resentment, including her own lingering grudges, she tries to believe wholeheartedly in the good nature of other people. However, her gullibility and innocence also draws her into terrible trouble, with consequences she cannot imagine.
“The whole world is like that. Everyone keeps their true feelings hidden and just pretends to be friendly. Nobody really cares about anyone.”
Arrogant beyond all reason, Midori’s seemingly infallible sense of entitlement is but one hint to her mental instability. Though disenchanted with the world and with inclinations towards sadism, she is also desperate for intimacy and frighteningly possessive: violence, betrayal, and sexual torture are among her favorite methods of manipulation. And yet, being treated with sincere kindness will reveal a softer, more hesitant nature, and the emotional wounds of one who has been victimized before.
“They call me the Madonna of this school. There are countless girls who would love me.”
Revered as the perfect example of both religious devotion and academic brilliance, Naomi is the object of affection and admiration for almost all of the student population. Her maternal nature may be genuine, but her kindness comes with ulterior motives, and her seemingly innocent comments tend to have a hidden meaning. Considering the cruelty Midori is capable of, it raises the question of why Naomi would take such a volatile girl as her lover, and what it implies about her own personality.
“Is there something on your mind? If you need to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to see me.”
Despite having devoted her life to her biblical studies, her lack of both authority and strictness causes students to underestimate her. She is a modest woman who is concerned with the troubles of her pupils, but due to her position, she tries to distance her emotional involvement with them.
The artwork is merely average, as a rather simplistic style which tends to be lacking in detail. The charming character designs are attractive enough, with plain shading and reasonably bright colors, although it could benefit from being further saturated. But in exchange, the backgrounds are nondescript and contrast with the character art. The variety of paper dolls are also very limited, in both poses and expressions, with only a single costume for each girl.
The music is surprisingly minimalist, consisting of a maximum of seven tracks total for both games. None of the pieces are particularly melodic, and they’re hardly used at all, as there are several scenes with nothing but silence accompanying voices. The few instruments used are piano and synthetic organ, and while it’s not terrible, neither of which are notable in the slightest.
The voice acting is decent, or at least, sufficient enough to be believable, but the lack of emotional investment in the characters is audibly noticeable. Particularly, Midori comes across as appropriately bitter and harsh, as should be, although Naomi’s soft-spoken tones are flat at times. Immersion in a story is owed partly to the sound, and the atmosphere suffers severely for it.
Many of the erotic events are consensual love-making, but these moments unfortunately feel lukewarm rather than heartwarming. There is simply not a very romantic atmosphere, whether due to poor timing or lacking characterization, which can make immersion into a tender scene difficult for the reader.
However, for those interested in darker sex, there are several different varieties of kink, from mild exhibitionism to blackmail, drugging, even sadomasochistic orgies. Furthermore, the most extreme scenes, while lacking in gore and gratuitous blood, are written in excruciating detail.