This is the story of the end of the world and the woman who saved humanity.

One day, humanity learned the Earth was doomed—that an interplanetary object would collide with our planet, destroying its capability to support life. Humanity would have only 100 years to escape the planet and venture out into the stars.

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To accomplish this monumental task, one scientist genetically engineered genius children. Among these was Sion, the genius among geniuses who would go on to design the ships and engines to make interstellar travel into a reality. And now, as Earth enters its last days and mankind has begun its migration to the heavens, she has but one wish: freedom.

Enter Ryo, the point-of-view character. Ryo is a veteran Special Forces operative. With Earth’s last war finally over, his new job is simple: Ensure Sion lives to make it into space—no matter who needs to die for this to be so.

Much of the pleasure found in eden* comes from learning about how humanity reacted to the impending end of the world. By the time the visual novel begins, most of humanity has already left Earth, with complete evacuation planned for within the year. Those left are largely military personnel or the civilian scientists troubleshooting the problems the various colony ships have already encountered. The world is almost empty and entirely at peace save for a few individuals.

It is through the various characters’ backstories that we learn piecemeal about the planet's final century. Ryo and fellow bodyguard Lavinia flesh out for us the world’s more recent history—that of a humanity split into two factions: one believing humanity’s fate was to perish along with the Earth and the other determined to get every last person off the planet to better ensure survival among the stars. Through reporter Maya, we later learn about the civilian side of the story as well.

From Sion and her “maid” Elica, we get a much broader look at history. Being around 100 years old, both were there at the beginning when much of the world refused to believe that the end was coming. Sion especially has always been on the forefront of saving humanity, nearly micromanaging the evacuation of the planet for most of her life.

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However, while the world of eden* is well thought-out, it is also far from being “hard” sci-fi—i.e., most scientific concepts are divulged as vague abstractions. For example, we are told she designed the engines that saved humanity but never how they work, just that they do. In fact, the logistics of interstellar travel are largely ignored—only popping up when relevant to other aspects of the story.

While eden* is the story of the end of the world, it is also the personal story of Sion and Ryo.

Sion becomes a nearly mythical figure long before the events of the game. Normal people view her with an almost religious fervor—she is a living goddess who has saved all of mankind through her knowledge alone. To others, though, she is more like the devil, diverting humanity from God’s plan in the days before Armageddon. The government and military use her as a symbol and a pawn in politics even as they fear her popularity with the masses.

But to Sion, none of this matters. From the moment of her birth she has been a prisoner—trapped at an island research facility for her century of life. Despite this, she has done what she was created to do and has saved mankind. As the end of her life nears, the idea of spending what’s left of it in another confined space is too much. She wants to die free.

Ryo, on the other hand, is a man who gave up his freedom willingly—one who will now do anything without hesitation if ordered by a superior. Yet, through Sion, he is able to find a cause of his own worth following—giving the world’s greatest hero her one wish.

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Much of the visual novel takes place with the pair in hiding—with both slowly but surely learning what it means to live free. This also sets the stage for a tragic romance.

As the two become closer, an obvious, yet nearly impossible-to-resolve conflict looms. Sion is going to die—and soon. There is nothing that can stop it from happening. If there is someone to care for her, she will likely live weeks or months longer, but that is it. At the same time, the world is coming to an end. If Ryo does not make it onto the final ship off the planet, he is just as dead as Sion, ultimately.

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Thus many dramatic questions are raised. Will she send him away? Will he abandon her to save his own life? Will she give up her freedom to get him on the final ship and save him? No matter what the choice, however, no happy ending seems possible.

At this point in the review, you may have noticed that while I have gone into great detail about the themes and dramatic conflicts of the visual novel, I have not talked about the gameplay. That is because there is none. While most visual novels feature at least a few choices at key moments, eden* has no interactivity. It is simply a voice-acted novel with accompanying animations—that’s not to say it’s a bad looking one, though.

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Rather, eden* is above average for visual novels in the looks department. Instead of simply using the same torso-up sprites again and again by simply placing them against various backgrounds (like many visual novels), the sprites in eden* are far more varied in their presentation. Some are close-ups while others are full-body. Some even show the back of the characters' heads. This allows more dynamic camera angles, often using ones you'd commonly see in film.

There are currently two versions of the visual novel available for purchase: the standard all-ages version (which can be found on Steam) and the PLUS+MOSAIC version of the game (available on the MangaGamer official website). The big change is that PLUS+MOSAIC has a series of adult-oriented “what if” scenes that unlock after the completion of the main story. These extra stories each clock in at about 15 minutes long and are focused on two things: light-hearted comedy and sex scenes.

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The comedy scenes are downright enjoyable—some of which would have improved the main game's story if added in. The sex scenes, on the other hand, are nothing but pure titillation—and somewhat poor titillation as the genital areas of the characters remain censored as in the Japanese release.

eden* is an excellent way to spend eight hours. As a sci-fi thought experiment, it builds an intriguing world and history and then fills it with characters you come to care about on a personal level. Likewise, the tragic romance of Ryo and Sion is one filled with believable drama and real dilemmas that have no easy solution. So while the end of the world is nothing new in science fiction, never before has it been quite so romantic.

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To contact the author of this post, write to BiggestinJapan@gmail.com or find him on Twitter @BiggestinJapan.