Sunday, January 24, 2010

sense off ~a sacred story in the wind~

I am rather a fan of the eroge company Key (creators of ONE, Kanon and AIR), particularly for their distinctive style of story and atmosphere. Strangely enough, though, my favourite eroge that embodies what I see as the distinctive elements that make up a Key game is not a Key game at all. It's a little known science fiction title called 'sense off'.


The protagonist of the story, Naoya, was hospitalised after getting in a bicycle accident. During his treatment, it is found that he exhibits a number of unusual brain wave patterns, and he is asked to move into a particular Cognition Dynamics Research Laboratory to undergo further testing, along with a handful of other young people who exhibit similar characteristics.

With his newfound friends, Naoya takes classes, has fun and lives peacefully in blissful ignorance of the truth behind their gathering together. 'sense off' is an unvoiced 2000 eroge with seven winnable heroines and routes (two unlockable by completing other routes). Ambiguous endings, nakige and sickness/death are par for the course. While it is difficult to say much about the story without spoiling a good deal of the enjoyment, 'sense off' is not a title to underestimate, and in whichever route you end up going down, the story will quickly spiral into something far more intricate and detailed than you likely thought possible.

The art, while not exactly fantastic even for 2000, is of a fairly unique style and fits the storytelling and atmosphere of 'sense off' perfectly. The artist (Iuro) later did miscellaneous work on titles such as Haru no Ashioto, ef and Fortune Arterial. While there is the occasional usual/low quality shot in the game, particularly some of the ero CGs, most of the art is pleasing to look at despite being rather simple. The game has 63 base CGs (not counting differentials), which while on the light side (5 fewer than CLANNAD) is enough for 'sense off' and it doesn't feel as though there are too many events lacking in CGs.

The heroines are varied, and despite the above-average number, each enjoy sufficiently long and distinctive stories (with one exception, one of the two unlockable routes which was clearly an afterthought). The story follows a fairly basic general pattern quite similar to that of most of Key's titles - the trunk and the first part of each heroine's route is fairly lighthearted, the story becoming darker and more dramatic afterwards. Most of the endings are quite ambiguous, and it depends on your interpretation whether the majority of them are actually good ends or not. There is also an eighth generic end if you failed to get on a route.

The routes themselves, while distinct and usually breaking away from the other heroines to focus on the current one, are nonetheless part of a larger story that can't be understood entirely until certain routes are read. The writing style is fairly simple and elegant at first and can be read by most who are used to playing eroge, but beware; it does get harder later on, especially in Shiiko's route which loves to hit you with walls of text. It is nonetheless helpful to have Wikipedia open while reading it for looking up some of the medical, scientific, mathematical and information theory jargon you may be unfamiliar with (there's no real need to understand FFT or know what a C-BUS is, though). The writing is generally smooth and concise - it is not unnecessarily embellished, detailed or unusual.


As an eroge, it contains H scenes, a total of seven (one per heroine). The H scenes are without a doubt fairly unusual in their brevity and lack of detail. If you've played Kanon or AIR, the H scenes in 'sense off' are even more extreme in that regard. It's quite possibly the least 'eroi' out of any full-length eroge, including stuff like Sekien no Inganock and Shikkoku no Sharnoth. The H scenes have two HCG apiece, and they are entirely uncensored with mosaics, but only because there is literally nothing to censor. Nonetheless, the extreme brevity is a bit of a blessing here; if you are the kind of person to normally skip H scenes, you probably don't need to bother here - they will be over before you know it.


'sense off' was admittedly one of my earlier eroges, and from that I feel that I may treasure it a bit too highly - reviews of the game are generally positive but far from stunning. While it is one of my favourite eroges, you would probably be a bit disappointed if you played it expecting something spectacular like Cross Channel, Ever17 or Sharin no Kuni. Nonetheless, it is an unusual eroge and one most people should be able to enjoy whatever kind of story they like.

Overall score: 94%

(the official website for the game is dead and none of getchu, galge or any of the other catalogue sites have much to say about sense off)


  1. I was rather curious about this title, so thanks for reviewing it.
    By the way one can still find the website via the internet archives.

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