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Devil Prince Capriccio

(Black Joke Freak)

I bought this game because it had a good review on Boy's Love Games headquarters: nice graphics, good plot, just too short. So when it turned up on eBay, I didn't hesitate. It installed nicely on the Japanese W98 partition. Since it looked like a Flash application, I thought it could simply be copied to an English-only computer. It started complaining about missing files, maybe a reader, maybe a font; at any rate, it wouldn't run. So it's not one of those games that can play on any language version of Windows.

Background: Prince Zale ("Zare-ooji-sama") is the last descendant of the king of Hell. Apparently the king is dead and so are all his older brothers. Since he looks like a minor, the prince has a guardian, a sleek dark-haired slant-eyed vampy-campy character called Belphegor, "Belphy" for friends and close enemies. He also has a devoted and very naive-looking servant of, by the looks of it, his own age: Haruka, who is also his bodyguard and doesn't like Belphy. Zale, though too arrogant to have feelings for anyone but himself, is congenial towards Belphy and will happily bring this guardian and regent of Hell what he needs: a White Soul. This soul takes the mortal form of an ordinary youth on planet Earth who lives alone (no parents to foul things up) and whose name I've already forgotten, because he's the least interesting character in the game. And I'm glad this info was provided in abovementioned review, because the game is not voiced. It only has the usual text box (generally overlaying the lower part of the image where the mosaic bits are) full of kanji - this is not quite beginner's Japanese. It does, however, have background sound. It also has, as that review stated, quite professional graphics (and a nice little gallery for the ending scenes) and, again I agree with the review: its gameplay is way too short. But in the course of that short game, quite a few things happen.

The opening scene has quite a few oohs and aahs in the text box and starts with the main character in the bedroom, sitting on his guardian. Ah, it's that kind of relationship. No wonder he's so prepared to do his dear Belphy a favour. It must be said that Zale is a randy little bastard and tends to drag anyone he knows off to the tall grass; Haruka doesn't escape bed duty and Mister White Soul gets a grope, too. The difference with Zale's other victims is that Belphy - and this is why the honest, simple & true Haruka doesn't like him - is manipulative, power-hungry and quite prepared to sleep his way up. The various endings have him attacking Zale, holding Mister White Soul hostage, being killed (or at least getting a fist punched through him) by Haruka and - surprise - abdicating his position entirely out of love for his master, which leaves everyone including said master gobsmacked. In another bit of background info on a webpage somewhere, it says that Belphy is not a real demon, but a fallen angel. In the strictly Christian definition, a demon is nothing but a fallen angel, but in the Japanese animist way of seeing things, a demon is a spirit, and hell is the place where these spirits live, and where angels, belonging to a foreign religion, are intruders. In Apocripha/0, the game that is considered the founder of the BL genre although it has no BL content, hell is a parallel reality to the human world and as pleasant to live in, but is also - as I read in a large spoiler - the place where naughty angels (from the tyrannical theocracy called "heaven") are dumped, and these sometimes maimed and hysterical angels are a source of trouble, and therefore hunted and killed; and the two guardians of the rival princes of hell who must fight each other for the throne, are fallen angels in disguise. Insofar as themes tend to repeat themselves in the anime/game world, "fallen angel" means "trouble".

However, no one needs to be offended at a grown man character shagging a little boy - although it's really the other way round - because Zale is a spirit who only chooses to manifest himself as a child. He has an adult form, which appears in one of the endings. Haruka also has an adult form, to which he reverts whenever he has to fight. Which is often, as neither Zale's father nor his rivals for the throne seem so dead after all, and in the course of his White Soul hunting he is targeted repeatedly by ninja types and clowns with scythe-blade hats. The prince can defend himself to a certain degree, being a master of the element of fire, which means he can shoot red-hot butterflies at attackers.

No one needs to be too shocked at playing a game where two demons go soul-hunting, either, because like the demons in Fragrance Tale, and in anime generally, they are not really evil - I have an especially hard time seeing anything evil about Haruka - just dangerous to humans. The two ways the game can play is i. Zale collects White Soul and becomes king ii. the little brat falls in love with this human (quite an accomplishment for such an egocentric character). The first direction is taken by having Zale first appear to his target as a kind of firebird, because if, at his first encounter, he appears in person, he'll forget about his mission and start groping, which of course paves the way for romantic attachment (and a possible banishing from hell). This target can also find himself saved by something that looks like an imitation Greek god but might, if I transcribe correctly, be an "Elohim", because there are other creatures out there that hunt for souls. There is also a good ending for Belphy (and no one else) and a possibility of tentacles.

None of it needs to be taken too seriously, because, like most games that addict me to them, this is a comical game. It's a real shame I can't follow the language, because that's where the main attraction of the game lies. The graphics are standard BL fare - a background overlaid by static characters with a few stock poses and expressions, and sometimes a screen-filling scene, which ends up in the gallery - but these poses, especially Haruka when he's ruminative or shocked, already hint at comedy, and so does the tiny bit of text I can understand. After the opening scene, Zale is seen in his bedroom with a sleepy expression, his nightgown hanging open (which it always does) while a voice apparently does a "rise and shine, tralala" with musical notes inserted, to which his Highness responds: "SHUT UP!" Haruka's jaw falls when, asking how he can serve his master, he's given the choice "on top or below". Haruka's cross little "hmph!" face when he protests that Belphy is a bad person (as if anyone can't tell from the chara design) is designed to draw a giggle. Belphy is funny because he's so transparently greasy (despite putting on a sad/displeased face when his motives are called in question) and the irreverent Zale, who believes the universe revolves around him, goes "No way!" when he faces what appears to be his long-dead father. And these are just the bits I can understand or guess. I must be missing a treat.

This game, playing like a Flash game as long as its player is installed, runs very smoothly and doesn't hog resources, unlike some games that need DirectX8.1 and freeze every now and then. It has a pretty game menu screen and a simple menu bar that's easy to use and understand even if you can't read the Japanese menu options. Because it's such a light-weight game, I just fire it up whenever I need a quick dose of smutty humour.

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