Prior to playing Negligee, the only other Dharker Studio (Aka AJTilley.com) titles I have played were Highschool Romance and Echo Tokyo: An Intro. Neither of them was bad per se but they did not exactly stick with me either. Highschool Romance was interesting but underdeveloped, while Echo Tokyo: An Intro felt more like it was meant to be tacked on to a larger story instead of feeling like its own thing. As such, I went into Negligee expecting another middle of the road visual novel, but still played it anyway because it seemed to be getting more positive reviews. So were my expectations about Negligee correct? The only way to find it is to read on.
Negligee is a yuri visual novel where you take the role of Hannah, an employee at the titular Negligee, a store that sells lingerie. The game opens when Hannah gets a call from the store’s owner Emily, who tells her that her boss Karen has left the store. As a result, Hannah is now promoted to manager of the store and needs to find some new employees. Emily informs her that her niece Sophie is going to be applying for a job which should solve her problem.
Unfortunately, things become more complicated when the store has two other applicants that show up that same day, Jasmin and Charlotte, and she can only afford to hire one of them full-time. Hannah’s solution, after initially interviewing them, is to give all three a trial period of two weeks and choose which one to hire afterwards. The rest of the game takes place over the course of those two weeks.
Due to the nature of this plot, there is not really any driving conflict that the crew needs to overcome during these two weeks, but the characters and dialogue between them more than makes up for it. Every character in this game has a distinct personality and felt fully fleshed out to me. Hannah felt like an actual person with her own individual strengths and weaknesses, which is a breath of fresh air from countless other dating sims where the main character is made flat and boring in an attempt to be more immersive.
Sophie was my favorite of the cast with her humorous and playful party girl attitude, and she really brought about some of the funnier moments of the game. Jasmin manages to play the role of straight woman to Sophie (which is the only time that the word “straight” will ever describe anything about this game) but still manages to be a fun character in her own right. What I have to give this game real props for though, is how they wrote Charlotte. Charlotte is the obligatory “she and nervous” girl that these games always tend to have. Unlike most games, however, this isn’t her one trait, and she opens up when one would naturally feel more comfortable doing so. In fact, I was practically looking in a mirror whenever I read whatever Charlotte said, and that is a pretty big sign that your characters are well-developed.
I find it very impressive just how attached I got to the characters in this game, and how much they felt like real people. It is because of this that the game’s bad endings hit me a lot harder than games usually do. I am trying to avoid any spoilers to the game, so to keep it as vague as possible, I will just say that each of your potential employees has a good and a bad ending, the bad one occurring if you choose them at the end of the game but picked a lot of the wrong answers for earlier choices. Each ending will have a different set of circumstances that will result in the chosen girl leaving the shop and Hannah, and each time, it felt almost real.
These endings hit me so hard that I was very tempted to just pass up Charlotte’s bad ending and forget about maxing out achievements, and I almost did. I cannot stress just how rare this is in games for me, and I legitimately did not expect it in a game like this. Unfortunately, this just makes it more jarring when you figure out how forced and nonsensical the “you’re fired” ending is.
This ending is only achieved if you follow just the right path required to get the game’s harem ending, but screw up on one of the last few choices.
The problem is that the “last few choices” in the game pertain to asking the employees to bring you a certain type of outfit and the choices are about what outfits you want them to bring. None of the outfits have any plot relevance, but picking the wrong order could still mean the difference between Hannah and all three employees getting fired and Negligee closing down, or Emily deciding that it is okay to hire all three of them because of how successful the store has been due to them.
As a result, Hannah getting fired and the shop being closed down make zero sense from a story standpoint. This makes even less considering that Emily is the one that calls Hannah of her own volition to tell Hannah to keep all three in the best ending while she does not call you in the worst ending, despite the fact that the circumstances are exactly the same to her in both routes, and even if the final choice was something that could affect her choice, she is NOT around to see it happen in the first place. All of this results in a major plot hole that makes this the worst ending for all the wrong reasons and diminishes any emotional impact it could have on the player.
On the subject of the game’s production values, the art style is very nicely drawn, the backgrounds are all effective, and all of the girls are very attractive, which is always a plus in an eroge. The music was pretty good even though the title theme is the only one I can actually remember. Negligee also retains the standard visual novel necessities like being able to save anywhere on multiple slots, and to automatically skip over text you have already read. Unfortunately, the latter is not quite as effective considering that some routes still use a lot of repeated text that the game will not count as previously read, meaning that you will have to read through some scenes multiple times.
If you are playing the uncensored version of the game, there are four sex scenes and a large amount of nudity as well, all of it female of course. The sex scenes consist of one scene near the start of the game, and one at the end of each of the three main routes. There is no sex scene for the harem ending, which is unfortunate considering how hard it is to figure out how to get that ending without a guide in addition to how great a four-way between these four girls would be. There is at least a topless scene at the end if it’s any consolation.
It should be noted that the Steam version of this game is the “all ages” version that removes all of the sex scenes and nudity. Fortunately, there is a patch to restore the adult content to the steam version on the developer’s website, and even better is that the patch is free. As such, you still have the option for the all ages available if you are just interested in the main story, which is something could be a real possibility with this game.
Negligee was a serious step up from what I have experienced of Dharker Studio’s previous games. I found its characters to be very engaging and well-developed, and it makes for a very enjoyable romance story even without the sex scenes. However, I should note that the sex scenes are also a plus due to how well drawn and animated they are. Considering that the only negatives I could come up with was one specific ending, the lack of a harem sex scene, and having to reread some lines, I think it is safe to say that this is a very well made visual novel. The only real knocks I can put against it are that it is kind of on the short side (about six to eight hours to get every ending, which comes up short in the “$1.00 per hour test) and that this may not appeal to someone if they don’t like romance and eroge. Otherwise, this one comes pretty highly recommended.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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