Title: Last Escort: Club Katze
System: PSP*, Playstation 2
Release Date: February 18, 2010
Publisher (Developer): Mobile & Game Studio (D3 Publisher)
ESRB Rating: N/A, CERO D for Ages 17+
Pros: Slick and polished character designs, skippable dialogue and cutscenes, simple gameplay and fully voiced (aside from the main character’s dialogue).
Cons: Painfully linear, lack of character customizable options, intermediate Japanese skills recommended (but not required).
Overall Score: One Thumb Sideways, One Thumb Down; 67 out of 100; D+; *1/2 out of *****.
Host clubs are no secret in Japan. Interested parties will find the streets of Kabuki-cho in Shinjuku (Tokyo, Japan) swarming with sharply dressed young gentlemen bombarding women of all ages in hopes of luring them back to their love nest that is one of their host clubs.
Last Escort is a unique series, usually on the PS2, that has enjoyed success on the Japan thanks to many a fine lady interested in getting a glimpse of what the host club scene in Japan is like without committing oodles of real-world monetary funds.
A Girl and Her Host
The main goal of Club Katze, as with Last Escort titles, is to woo a host through conversation and gift giving, while also helping him to achieve the number one spot of the club by spending all your hard-earned cash on ridiculously overpriced bottles of liquor.
Players take control of a young woman starting out in her career. Oddly enough, she’s given the task to “spy” on a local host club called Club Katze but she finds her trips become increasingly personal and less about business.
The game progresses over the course of approximately one calendar year where, week by week, players have the ability to pick activities to increasing attributes and encourage a host to fall for you by appealing to his interests. For example, maxing out the sports stat will increase your chances of capturing the heart of a particular host whose hobby may be sports (go fig’). Also, leveling up also unlocks different homemade items that players can choose to create in order to give to hosts as gifts in hopes of raising their affection level.
There are six hosts (possibly more to unlock), each playing to the heartstrings of a different girl. Visiting Club Katze is the only controllable way to interact with a host, however there are still yet events that are triggered outside of the club environment. Players choose one of three actions per visit to interact with a host: Conversation (correct responses yield better results), order a drink (help the host become “Number One”) and give a gift (homemade is best). Of course, everything, including your siple visit, costs yen, so you have to watch your wallet.
This Eye Candy is a Little Sour
Club Katze takes a step back from what was enjoyable in Last Escort 2 (LE2). While Last Escort 2 was linear, Club Katze is painfully linear. The formula for success remains the same but the amount of customizability has been removed. In LE2, players could decorate their rooms which would, in turn, effect host visits. While this was a small aspect of the game play, it was surprisingly amusing.
The majority hosts at Club Katze are pretty yummy in appearance, whereas some look downright sleazy. In any case, their personalities pale in comparison to their LE2 predecessors who were a lively and often comical bunch. Instead of paying attention I instead skipped through a good majority of the dialogue. Even the action of visiting Club Katze becomes a mundane chore instead of a thrilling venture. It would have been nice if visiting the club triggered specialized mini-games opposed to overused one-liners and dull babble.
This love simulation is no more than a plain text adventure with absolutely any frills. There’s no challenge in the game play since players are easily able to save at any time which would prevent them from committing to any mistakes. The art of stat raising provides about half of the gameplay yet requires no compelling strategy whatsoever. The most difficult part of this action is simply discovering what the host’s hobby is and then maxing out that stat as soon as possible which, in turn, provides neither balance nor customization. Where the main challenge of this game should be triumphing many hurdles that usually stand in the way of love, the lack of money in the game is the only real menacing pothole screwing up the lovebus on its road to the stale infatuation that the boys of Club Katze have to offer.
It may be that Club Katze attempted to provide an extremely serious approach for this installment of which it succeeded regarding the character designs (see lack of huge glossy, sparkly eyes), but miserably failed in creating a game that’s actually fun to play.
To Date or Not To Date?
I would urge interested parties – even fans of otome dating-sim games – to wait to invest their money in Konami’s impending Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side (TMGS) 3rd Story due out later this year (2010). I dare say that TMGS may be the perfect dating simulation geared for the female market and, if you can’t wait for 3rd Story, buy the previous versions of TMGS for the Nintendo DS: 1st Love/Plus, 2nd Kiss. Not Club Katze.
I would only suggest picking up Club Katze for those who want to know what the bottom-of-the-dating-sims barrel feels like.
However, if you don’t mind being hand fed a story by slick and attractive boy toys, then you may enjoy Club Katze’s eye candy.