Initially I had some reservations when Voltage announced that they’d be revamping their Voltage USA line of games as AmeMix. In the past I had found their other English games, lackluster at best and not much to my taste. So, when Astoria Fates Kiss (formerly Labyrinths of Astoria) was released I didn’t pay it much mind. But, after a while curiosity got the better of me, and I soon found myself binge playing the game in one sitting. At the time Hydra was the only appealing character available.
I was hesitant, so I only bought his Main Story 1, but before I knew it I had purchased the second and third Main Stories as well…I really enjoyed his route, it had action, drama, and romance. I laughed, I cried (well maybe not cried per se, but I did tear up a bit), I even wanted to punch Hydra a few times…He is such a stubborn butthead. If I had to sum him up in two words it’d be: lone wolf. Hydra is a man with very strong convictions and morals, which put him at odds with the MC and some of the other characters in his route. He can be pushy and singleminded at times, which makes him a bit unsympathetic when others don’t agree with him.
So this goes without saying: There will be SPOILERS (I will try to keep them to a minimum, but I make no promises)! If you want a spoiler free review of the game check HERE, where I give a general overview of the Labyrinths of Astoria or HERE where I give a preliminary assessment of Fates Kiss.
**Disclaimer: I DO NOT own any of the images used in this review, ALL images, screenshots, and characters belong to Voltage Inc. Please if you are interested in the game, download the game for free in the App Store or from Google Play and purchase the stories when they are available in your area.**
The Man Looks Good in Stripes
I picked Hydra because he’s a super cutie, dark haired hottie with bad boy looks and an attitude to match he was the ideal first pick (that and he was the first guy available). I thoroughly enjoyed Hydra’s route. He is the token Voltage “cool” character, but don’t hold that against him, there’s actually a lot more to him than that.
When we meet Hydra, he’s being escorted to a holding cell in the basement of H.E.R.A. HQ, after being accused of stealing the Crow Aura from Zeus favorite son Hercules. In the MC’s first big girl assignment, Cyprin sends her to question Hydra about the whereabouts of the stolen aura.
While questioning him, he reveals that he is being framed by none other than Hercules, himself, and that there are more sinister things going on within H.E.R.A. However before the MC can get more information out of him, Hydra distracts her just long enough to stage an escape attempt. In the heat of the moment she initiates a counterattack on Hydra, handcuffing herself to him in an effort to thwart his escape. This was probably my first Facepalm Moment of the game (there were several)…What the hell does handcuffing yourself to a known criminal with supernatural powers solve?!? Not a damn thing. Because this is a visual novel/romance sim, Hydra does not kill her immediately, no, he takes the MC along as a hostage in his poorly thought out escape plan. The two of them manage to escape H.E.R.A. and hail a cab without much trouble, that is until he leads them straight into a H.E.R.A. police blockade. Facepalm Moment 2. Hydra, finally admitting defeat, agrees to surrender peacefully. THE END!
Okay, he doesn’t surrender, instead he hurls a cab at the agents and slinks off with the MC to his office where he keeps all of his conspiracy theories about Olympus. From there, you decide to follow Hydra to his apartment and uncover whether there is any validity to his conspiracy claims and to advance your career.
So, I’ll be the first to admit it’s not the best first impression in the world, and Hydra’s cool attitude doesn’t help much either. There are some light moments between the two, but it takes awhile for Hydra to really open up to the MC, and for the MC to trust that Hydra isn’t the bad guy everyone thinks he is. Really deep down Hydra is a very caring and compassionate guy. He genuinely surprised me at times, like when he offers to give the MC his bed or when he pays for her breakfast. He even goes out of his way to buy groceries for the MC when she complains that all he has to eat in his apartment is ramen. Behind his harsh words and actions is a true gentleman, and in his own way he tries to be accommodating of the MC’s needs.
The walls he puts up against the MC and others are there to protect them, he knows that going against Hercules and Zeus is death sentence, so he keeps people at a distance. Even his apartment is devoid of all but the bare necessities and all he eats is cup ramen, which while delicious, is far from a balanced diet. You can really tell how alone he really is, and how that loneliness defines his actions and his decisions.
As his route progresses, you learn that Hydra was indeed framed by Hercules, who is stealing the Auras of other Godly Monsters as a part of his ‘God Trials’. Which were just trumped up by his father Zeus, to cover up Hercules stealing his Ex-Wife Megara’s Aura. Hercules holds special contempt for Hydra who, is to date the only person to successfully defend his Aura. To make matters worse, during the attack, Hydra was mortally wounded and Hercules was poisoned by Hydra’s Aura. The MC and Hydra set out to expose Hercules’s wrong-doing by getting his other victims to come forward, but this proves to be difficult, as none of them are willing to risk their lives for the cause. This is a really big blow to Hydra, who is just starting to open up and trust others. Unable to deal with the rejection he starts pushing everyone away, that includes the MC. Facepalm 3. It’s like every Voltage story has a scene where the love interest dumps the MC for some reason or another, and I for one don’t appreciate them. I understand why he did it, really I do, but the whole laying down in the street in the pouring rain business was laying it on a bit thick. Besides, it’s not like we don’t know that they’re gonna get back together in the end…But, hindsight is 20/20, since I was tearing up along with the MC when it happened. So it’s up to the MC to rally the troops and stop Hydra from taking on Hercules alone.
She’s Quite the Career Woman
I love the MC in this game! She may have her flaws, but she is a huge improvement on the types of MCs we’ve seen in the past. Despite a few, Facepalm Moments, the MC is a very smart and witty character. She is a driven young woman, with a great career and a supportive family and friend. She has a strong sense of justice, which is one of the driving forces behind her staying with Hydra after he frees her. She senses that there is more to the story than she knows, and she is eager to know more about Hydra and H.E.R.A. before drawing any conclusions.
The dynamic between Hydra and the MC is interesting, it vacillates between mild annoyance and belligerent sexual tension. They are both very stubborn individuals with strong moral compasses, so they tend to clash from time to time. Hydra is suave and cool and even the MC admits that Hydra is very handsome.
From time to time she gets flustered whenever he gets too close, but she does her best not to cross her self imposed professional line. It isn’t until halfway through the story that she even admits that she is falling in love with Hydra. The realization of her feelings causes a bit of an internal conflict between the MC’s role as a H.E.R.A. employee and as a woman and the duty to her heart. She is also aware that Hydra is on a dangerous path and that her feelings will only get in the way of his ultimate goal. I love how Voltage shows that the MC falls in love with Hydra’s ideals before she falls for the man himself, so it feels more genuine when she does start to acknowledge her feelings.
Despite her stressful job, the MC manages to have a strong and supportive network of friends and family that she can rely on when things with her job and Hydra get to be too much. While we don’t get much insight about her parents, we do know that her mother was a H.E.R.A. agent, and the driving force behind her career choice. The only family member to make an appearance during the story is her brother, Josh. He is a cutie pie chef and though his role in season one is almost nonexistent, he still manages offer his sister some helpful advice and a place to crash during the darker parts of the story. I will admit that I found myself secretly hoping that he would turn out to be a selectable character (I know he won’t, but a girl can dream, right?). On the friend side of things the MC has her coworker May and her boss at H.E.R.A. Cyprin, both care deeply for the MC and offer her support when she decides to back Hydra’s claims against H.E.R.A. The inclusion of the MC’s family and friends in the overarching plot makes the MC seem more like a three dimensional character, and less of a proxy for the player.
In typical Voltage fashion, the MC is a foodie, so much so that she stress bakes. Yes, you read that right, she stress bakes, and based on the reactions of the characters in the game she’s pretty good at it. She does tend to over bake, so her friend May is more than happy to take some of the extras off her hand. I wouldn’t mention it, but her baking actually plays a role in the plot, so here it is in this review. So on another note there was one aspect of the MC that I was really excited about; Voltage actually gave the MC a power! Albeit, it’s a weak power on par with Bella Swan’s shield powers in Twilight, but hey, it’s something. Baby steps Voltage, baby steps.
Do I Recommend Hydra’s Route?
There are several reasons to like this route, Voltage does a great job of adapting elements of myth with the traditional otoge premise. It actually blends well with the visual novel style of the game and I appreciate the subtle details in the individual characters that reflect back to the myth while still maintaining a modern feel. If you are familiar with the myth a lot of the character motivations make sense. Hercules’s God Trials, his “beef” with Hydra, even the whole Zeus cover up, it all has its roots within myth. While it’s not perfect, you can tell that Voltage really did their homework when making it. The characters, though typical Voltage stock, manage to be realistic and fresh, which is a welcome change. The backgrounds and CGs are detailed and nicely rendered, I particularly liked the addition of graffiti in some of the subway scenes. I highly recommend this route and this game!
Feel free to comment, I love discussions and I’m open to other people’s opinions! But most importantly, Happy Playing!