Demo Review: The Villain and the Gentleman

The Villain and the Gentleman, from a team led by Kaynu Katsuragi, takes us to the city of Crimson, where the moon glows red at night. After a violent first encounter, go with Demetri and Max as they team up to uncover all the hidden secrets of their high-tech home.

A review for this game demo was requested through the VN Game Den review request form.

A Quick Slide into Action That Gets a Little Confused

The game starts in the middle of a high action scene, then immediately clips the story along, dropping the reader quickly into the setting. Through the actions, reactions, and perceptions of the main character, Demetri, the reader is very efficiently and effectively introduced to the world they’ll be playing in for the rest of the game. It gets right to the story without fussing about with long, drawn out bits of exposition or dragging you along by the hand.

While the overall scene-setting is fantastic, at smaller story beats and characterizations it falls apart a little bit. It switches character perspectives a number of times between the two presumably main characters (Demetri and Max) and a young monk character. It’s an interesting concept, and it works, at first. The characters each have very strong voices, and through their perception, the world continues to build up fairly easily. Sometimes, though, the perception switch comes at just the wrong time, and the action starts to get a little confused. Who am I now? What am I doing? When the story is also introducing new worldbuilding, what began as a really, really fun narrative mechanic ended up creating mild confusion. Its language in regards to specific characters, especially unnamed ones, is also a little strange. In an effort to create maybe a sense of mystery or ambiguity, it uses phrases like “that guy” or “unlucky guy.” So when a fight breaks out, it’s a bunch of “guys” fighting that you can’t always follow. For the important characters, it’s becomes pretty clear who is who, but you have to work through the more oblique parts first.

Great Art Assets That Strain Coherency

The art is hard to nail down with a broad stroke. Each individual asset is lovingly rendered and beautifully crafted. And while I’m not a huge fan, personally, of a few of the sprite aesthetic choices, the attention that went into making them is apparent. The backgrounds are sharp, sleek, and moody. The two main boys are fun and charming. Everything, by itself, looks good.

When comparing the sprites to the backgrounds and even the character designs to one another, they don’t always quite feel like they exist in the same world or the same game. A lot of it comes down to the costuming, but there’s also a bit of inconsistency in anatomy and facial structure. I don’t feel like the characters that are meant to be adult men look like adult men, especially when compared to the teenage boys. It strikes me as a visual design that isn’t totally holistic and a game that still struggles with its tone a little, even at the demo stage.

The sprites and CGs also have a bit of an odd overall implementation. There’s a very long time before you actually see what Demetri looks like in his current state, despite him being the one that opens the narration. You’re introduced to him in a rather lovely CG, but that’s the only view you have on him until he appears as a sprite in another character’s perspective. In all, the sprites they had available weren’t as effective in service to the story as they could have been.

Rough Around the Edges

This particular demo is also touched with some very minor technical oddities that are just pervasive enough to occasionally distract from the gameplay experience. Some sound loops and background musically don’t quite blend, and it’s audibly apparent. Playing the browser version in Chrome would either crash or never load to begin with. The preferences screen doesn’t control anything. My progress also didn’t seem to save when I played the downloadable version. As a demo, a few small difficulties like this aren’t totally unexpected, but it does take off a layer of sheen from the overall polish.

Overall, The Villain and the Gentleman is a lovingly-crafted game in a fun setting and an interesting premise. The story it’s promising in its full release looks like it could be a fun one. It still feels like a very rough demo, however, as it says it is, and has a lot of places where improvements will be highly encouraging.

You can download or play the demo now on itch.io.