Evenicle 2 is the latest to fall beneath Steam’s inconsistent ban hammer

In what is becoming a disappointingly frequent occurrence, Alicesoft has announced that its upcoming title Evenicle 2 is no longer coming to Steam. This is despite it having had a demo available on the platform since last August — and despite its predecessor having made a surprise uncut release on the platform around the time Valve started allowing adult content in 2018.

Evenicle 2 is the second in a series of games released by Alicesoft that features a combination of RPG-style gameplay, visual novel-style storytelling and beautiful art by Senran Kagura character designer Nan Yaegashi. Both games are known for their solid mechanics and their exquisitely crafted worlds; while they are not directly related to the developer’s popular Rance series, they have a lot in common in terms of the deep lore on which the narrative is based — and the blend of humour with fantasy.

Evenicle 2

Alicesoft didn’t provide details of exactly why the full game had been rejected on Steam, noting simply that Vale had done so “as [they] believe it is their right to do so, based on some of its adult content”. They also said that they are “still committed to continue [their] work on the English version of Evenicle 2 and deliver it to you through different storefronts”.

The different storefronts have not yet been announced, but Alicesoft noted that they will be taking a break from posting new content on Twitter until they are “ready to announce the storefronts distributing Evenicle 2”. This may well mean they have some negotiating to do; the first Evenicle was released in the west via MangaGamer, but Evenicle 2 was to be the first title self-published by Alicesoft in the west.

Evenicle 2

Evenicle 2’s adult content includes scenes of sexual violence, but these are less frequent than the scenes of consensual sex between the protagonist and the heroines — and much less frequent than in the Rance series, which is not on Steam. The first Evenicle also featured strong scenes of sexual violence, but managed to get released uncut on the platform; it remains available to this day.

Some have conjectured that Evenicle 2’s rejection from Steam stems from a number of scenes featuring young-looking “loli” characters, along with deliberate edits made to the “Clinical Trial” demo edition providing misleading expectations for how explicit the final game actually is. Whether or not this is the case isn’t clear right now, but it sort of doesn’t matter; this is not the first time Steam has blocked a game from release, seemingly without warning, and as a result of what appears to be inconsistently applied rules.

The Key to Home

It doesn’t even have to be games that feature adult content that suffer this treatment. One of the first high-profile cases where this happened was the removal of a visual novel called “The Key To Home” (also known as “Ie no Kagi”), which was banned from the platform on the grounds that it contained child pornography. It contained nothing of the sort, since it was not an adult visual novel; the most it contained was some elementary school-age characters in some suggestive situations that probably weren’t appropriate for their age — but that was also what the narrative was actually about.

A more peculiar case was the educational visual novel The Expression: Amrilato, developed by SukeraSparo and published by MangaGamer. In this story, high schooler Rin finds herself pulled into another world where everyone speaks a variation on Esperanto; much of the game involves Rin learning to communicate in another language, and the player is able to learn this language alongside her in optional educational sequences.

The Expression: Amrilato’s removal from the Steam store was completely inexplicable, since it contains no explicit sexual scenes, with the main narrative content besides the language learning being the development of a wholesome same-sex relationship between the two main heroines. None of the content was intended to be provocative and offensive and the raunchiest it got was the two girls embracing and sharing a kiss.

Most recently, MangaGamer once again fell foul of Steam’s seemingly amorphous content policies with its visual novel Bokuten: Why I Became an Angel. In this instance, the game had been edited specifically for Steam to create an all-ages version, but an adult CG had accidentally been left in the game’s files that were distributed via the platform. The artwork was not accessible anywhere in the game, but it was enough to flag the game for removal from the platform.

The Expression Amrilato

Both The Expression: Amrilato and Bokuten subsequently returned to Steam after some lengthy discussions between MangaGamer and Valve, but The Key to Home was never seen again. And it’s likely not the only game that has encountered this problem.

The issue here is not just with the fact that games are being removed without warning (or, sometimes, explanation) by Valve, but also that the company’s own standards are being implied inconsistently. There is, as has been frequently pointed out, a huge double standard between “photorealistic” western games featuring explicit sexual content and anime-style Asian or Asian-inspired titles; games such as CD Projekt Red’s recent Cyberpunk 2077 are able to get away with explicit sexual scenes and exposed genitalia without issue, while in extreme cases completely innocent titles such as The Expression: Amrilato suffer.

And this isn’t even getting into the myriad low-effort achievement and trading card-bait “Hentai Puzzler” games, many of which feature artwork obtained via questionable means.

Evenicle 2

Of course, no-one is going to argue that Evenicle 2 is “innocent” here, since Alicesoft’s games are notoriously brutal when it comes to sexual violence. But the problem with this case specifically is the inconsistency. If the first Evenicle is fine on the platform, then why not the sequel?

Answers don’t seem to be forthcoming from Valve, either to consumers or even to developers and publishers. To many smaller companies attempting to get visual novels and anime-style games on the platform, it appears to be a case of “the luck of the draw” when you send your game for approval as to whether or not it will fall foul of these problems. And this is an issue; while Steam may not be the first place people think to go to look for adult content in particular, many smaller developers, localisers and publishers have found it to be absolutely essential for discoverability.

Evenicle 2

Even if someone ultimately decides to purchase a title elsewhere — perhaps to get an uncut version, or to support the companies involved more directly — the importance of potential customers having even seen that game on Steam in the first place can’t be understated for a lot of game companies. And thus when issues like these arise, it can seriously impact sales — and potentially the future of whole series.

While this is still an issue, your best bet if you’re after titles like Evenicle 2 is to keep a close eye on the developers, localisers and publishers on social media, then support them on platforms that benefit them more directly. And don’t forget that even if you prefer to organise your digital library through Steam, you can easily add non-Steam games to the interface and enjoy a lot of Steam’s useful features (such as screenshots and chat) — even in games that don’t officially support the platform.

As for Evenicle 2, keep an eye on Alicesoft’s Twitter for the latest announcements. Given how well-regarded the first game was, I think we can expect platforms like JAST USA, MangaGamer, Fakku and their ilk to be queueing up to distribute this one!

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Pete Davison
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