Marin Umino (Cafe 0: The Drowned Mermaid) *Major Spoilers*

A while back, I reviewed Cafe 0 which is still one of my favorite visual novels due to its Twilight Zone feel.  I also recreated all three versions of the main character, Marin Umino, as best as I could using the Azaleas Dolls game (Snow Queen Scene Maker), which you can check out for yourself on  Despite the premise of Marin being a ghost who relives the past seven days of her life, the game is more tragic than it is scary.  For those of you who haven’t played it yet, be sure to check out the game on and be warned that there are major spoilers in what I’m about to say.

To me, what makes the game tragic is Marin and the characters that surround her.  To an outsider, it seems she has the perfect life.  Marin’s the most popular girl in school, she has a nice apartment, she’s the swimming team’s ace, dating the most popular boy in school, boys want her and girls want to be her.  However, just because she’s admired doesn’t mean anyone loves her.  Marin’s best friend, Ami, is only hanging out with her because they’re both popular.  Ami has no issue with stabbing Marin in the back if she benefits.  Marin’s boyfriend, Tooru, is only dating her to further his own ends and blackmailed Shou, her doctor who is also Marin’s secret boyfriend, into making Marin date him.  As for Shou, he’s an adult and Marin is a teenage girl.  So the fact that he’s involved with her in private means he’s basically committing statutory rape and also prostituting his girlfriend to protect his own career because Tooru made it clear that he will expose Marin and Shou together if Shou doesn’t make Marin date Tooru.  Keep in mind that Marin doesn’t even want to date him and is only doing whatever Tooru wants to make Shou happy.  Really think about that for a minute.  To anyone asking, “where’s her parents in all this?”  They’re off in who knows where and leave their kid to fend for herself without even a pet for company.  Even Marin wonders if she’s an unwanted child.  So this girl had no genuine love in her life.  Just people who took advantage of her and used her for their own ends.  Marin dies unloved and no one mourns her death.  I’ll admit, I’ve been used myself and I have trouble telling who my real friends are, but the worst that I ever happened to me was that I got called out on the internet, or I had a pool installed and people I’ve never even talked to suddenly wanted to be my friend.  Even if I was used to such an extent I know that, through it all, I’ll always have my mother and I also have pets that love me unconditionally.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in Marin’s shoes.  I’ll admit, usually, I hate the popular kid is sad trope, like how Smallville portrays Lana Lang, but here it works.  Marin is Lana if the writers of Smallville actually took the time to write her better.

Duplicity: Beyond the Lies (

Requested by kristi78968.

Yukina Kudou may seem like your average high school student with health problems, but she hides a dark secret.  She works as an assistant to her principal’s science experiments; her current job is to observe Youji Kataoka.  If she fails, her principal can’t be responsible for the consequences.

I try to avoid giving anything away in reviews, but I’m not sure if I can do so in this one.  If you have not played the game, let me warn you there might be spoilers.  The game is about identity, people who put on a fake personality in front of others and hide their real one from the world.  Yukina seems like a shy and sickly girl, but is actually a determined assistant.  Youji seems like a nice and polite guy, but is actually a withdrawn rebel without a cause.

Kouichi seems like a polite gentleman, but is actually a scientist with a dark secret.  The mysterious boy seems like a happy observer, but hides his own pain deep down.  Even Yukina’s friend Nao actually has a separate personality inside of her.  Yukina has four routes she can go on, she can become Youji’s girlfriend for real, she can have a deeper relationship with Kouichi, she can discover the truth about the mysterious boy, or she can find out the truth about everyone else.  I have to admit, the relationship with her principal is somewhat creepy.  Yukina has memories of him raising her and admits that Kouichi is her legal guardian.  Not to mention the fact that she’s a clone of his dead girlfriend.  It gives me this stalker vibe and it feels like wife husbandry.  Maybe I’m supposed to be feeling like this, it’s difficult to tell with this game.  At least with Cafe 0 you’re supposed to find the protagonist’s relationship with her school counselor creepy.

You might think the game is just another visual novel, but you couldn’t be more wrong.  It starts out as a life simulation, you choose what path you want to take and after it’s set you play through a story.  You can choose between gossiping, studying, observing Youji, helping Kouichi, or resting.  During weekends, your only choices are studying or resting.

Your skill rises depending on the activity and you activate events depending on either skill or love points.

In the middle of the game, you take a test.  How well you do affects Yukina’s status among her classmates and the ending you get if you fail to find a set path for Yukina.

The game is intriguing and addictive.  I give it 8 out of 10, not as good as Cafe 0.

Cafe 0: The Drowned Mermaid (

When a young girl wakes up in a strange place called Cafe 0, a waiter tells her that she’s a ghost.  In order to ascend to the afterlife she has to experience the last seven days of her existence all over again.

During the story, you are constantly asking questions about the main character’s past and about the people in her life.  Ami is her best friend, Tooru is her boyfriend and Shou is the school’s doctor and her counselor.  Each one has secrets that not only affect their lives, but the life of the main character as well.  The game has six endings and always at the exact same place that the main character dies, but the objective is not to keep her from dying.  Your goal is to find out who killed her and why.  Only by getting all the endings can you have that question answered.

As I said earlier, you are playing the last week of the main character’s life.  During each day, you have the choice to visit Ami, Tooru, or Shou.  You can only visit one character a day so choose wisely.

Tooru and Shou each have two endings, a good one and an evil one.  Their storylines only serve to bring up more questions about the story and to collect an item when you’re done.  You also have two dialogue options when talking to them.  Your character will go down a light or dark road depending on what choice you pick.

After you’ve collected all four items, you show them to Ami to discover the truth. When you’ve gotten all the endings, you get an extra where you ask the mysterious waiter questions about the game, otherwise known as breaking the fourth wall. Well, not every ending; it doesn’t matter if you get the bad one.  You can also change your character’s name, but if you’re playing the voice-activated version just go for the default name.  The actors forgot that you’re supposed to avoid saying the protagonist’s name if it can be changed.  Did I mention that you can pay extra for Japanese voice acting?  Don’t worry, the text is in English and the acting’s not that bad, whether it’s worth paying five extra dollars is up to you.

DO NOT READ THIS PARAGRAPH UNLESS YOU HAVE PLAYED THE GAME!  IT CONTAINS SPOILERS!  I’m not sure that many would agree with me, but I feel that the game does have a theme about life in high school.  Tooru uses the main character and every other popular girl to attain status as the most popular boy in school.  Ami pretends to be her best friend but stabs the protagonist in the back.  Shou is the predator using his position of authority to seduce lonely innocent girls like the protagonist.  Perhaps it’s a little extreme, but that is what high school is like.  Everyone uses each other to further their own ends.  Some, like the protagonist, believe that these people actually care for them and are heartbroken to find out the truth.  After playing the true ending, you look back on the others and wonder which of them were truly the happy endings.  Is it better for the protagonist to go on to the afterlife, unaware of how these people used and betrayed her?  When she chooses to stay on earth and haunt either Tooru or Shou for the rest of their lives, what will she do when they die?  Will she go to hell?  Will she become a wandering spirit forced to observe but have no part in human interaction?  Are they even worth ruining your afterlife over?  SPOILERS OVER!

This game is ironic, suspenseful and psychologically scary.  I give it 10 out of 10, it left me wondering what it would be like to have people all around you and have no one care for you.  I also had a dream about this game once.  I do hope they make this into a series; it could be a visual novel version of the Twilight Zone.