A while back, we talked about Foster’s nukige Paradise Heights, which was one of the first erotic Japanese games I ever played. It wasn’t until relatively recently that I learned there were actually two sequels — one of which was localised by Otaku Publishing, the same British group who had brought the first game west.
I was intrigued as to how a sequel to a game like Paradise Heights might unfold, and I had a bit of time to spare this afternoon, so I whipped off my trousers and decided to put the game through its paces, courtesy of its web-based incarnation on the ever-reliable Asenheim Project website.
Hmm, what? It was hot. I don’t like having hot legs, so I took my trousers off. What did you think I meant?
Paradise Heights 2 follows on some months after the conclusion of the previous game. Protagonist Keigo is still in the leading role and living in room 101 of the titular apartment block, but he is no longer acting as its caretaker. His uncle, who previously owned the block and was effectively using it as his own personal harem, ran into some financial difficulties, and as such he ended up selling it off. Thus, as Paradise Heights 2 begins, Paradise Heights is now a relatively “normal” apartment block — albeit one that is still primarily inhabited by attractive women.
Since the change in management meant that Keigo was no longer required to work as a caretaker, our hero took a job at a toy company — and it turns out he had quite a talent for designing new toys. As the story begins, his company is ramping up for the Christmas rush and he has some great new designs on the go — but rumours abound that a rival company is using underhanded means to sabotage Keigo’s place of work and steal his designs.
This is actually a really interesting setup for the new game, as it allows for a fun blend of old and new. The fact that Paradise Heights is still the place Keigo lives, but no longer the exclusive focal point for the story means that there’s a nice feeling of consistency — but the expanded scope of the narrative (both in terms of the geographical area it covers and its sense of ambition) makes Paradise Heights 2 a sequel that feels very much like it has evolved and grown beyond its predecessor.
After all, given the basic concept of the original Paradise Heights — apartment block is full of sexy ladies, protagonist systematically bangs them all in sequence before realising one of them is his one true love — it would have been simple enough to just do that over with a new cast of ladies. And in some respects, Paradise Heights 2 can be looked upon as doing just that — but at the same time, it’s clear that some genuine care and attention has been put into the narrative to make it worthwhile engaging with as more than just pornography.
The main way in which Paradise Heights 2 achieves a greater feeling of coherence is the fact that most of the main heroines no longer effectively act as their own discrete “episodes” that mostly stand separately from one another. Instead, several of them are introduced as knowing one another from before the story starts; another has information on the unfolding plot as a result of her own work; another still is something of an “independent observer” on the whole situation, and a means for Keigo to get the opinion of an outsider.
There are a couple of characters who could be argued to exist mostly outside of the main narrative — the most notable being the sexually insatiable college girl Ayako, who returns from the first game — but even then, they’re incorporated into the story to some degree. Even if it’s just through their extracurricular activities making noises that freak out one of the main heroines to a certain degree.
Like its predecessor, the sex scenes in Paradise Heights 2 come relatively thick and fast (if you’ll pardon the expression), with every single one of the game’s heroines eager to jump Keigo’s bones at pretty much every opportunity, but there’s a definite sense that Keigo himself has matured considerably since the first game. It’s obvious that he thinks of the women around of him less as sexual objects — and indeed on the vast majority of occasions throughout the story that things do turn sexual, it’s the heroine who initiates things.
This makes sense, since the conclusion of the first game is that Keigo’s philandering is what led him to understand that he really did have one true love, and it would be a bit strange for him to suddenly go back on that lesson — even if said “one true love” ended up leaving to go and study abroad prior to the sequel getting underway.
But it’s one of the best ways that Paradise Heights 2 feels like a genuine progression from the first game; Keigo has learned a bunch of lessons, and while he still has a very difficult saying “no” when anything concerning positive interactions with his penis is concerned, he is a much less selfish individual than he was portrayed as in the first game.
The main narrative in Paradise Heights 2 actually has some interesting twists and turns along the way, too. While the overall stakes are relatively low in the grand scheme of things, they feel important to Keigo and the people around him, and the various characters with whom he interacts on a daily basis provide a variety of perspectives on what’s going on. The game does a pretty good job of casting suspicions on several of the main characters before the big reveals in the grand finale — and, to be honest, that’s what kept me playing even more than the sex scenes this time around.
Presentation-wise, Paradise Heights 2 is a noticeable improvement over its predecessor. It’s still got that distinct ’90s eroge look about it, but the backgrounds in particular are much more vibrant and colourful, and the whole thing is very pleasing to look at. There are a lot of event scenes over the course of the game, too — not just for the sex scenes, either — and the whole thing is voiced with some pretty well-performed Japanese voice acting, though the sound quality leaves a little to be desired.
The quality of the localisation will be familiar to anyone who has encountered Otaku Publishing’s previous work before. In other words, it’s serviceable for the most part, but a little too full of the twee end of British English slang in places; references to Keigo’s “willie” and an unfortunate heroine’s “wee-wee” feel a tad out of place when they crop up in the heat of the moment, but if nothing else, they raise a smile.
A slightly more serious issue is that there are some lines in Paradise Heights 2’s localisation that simply don’t appear to have a translation at all — or perhaps just an error in the script. There are several conversations where you’ll hear Japanese voices but see no text, so you’ll often have to infer what was just said from the replies to the various statements if you can’t understand spoken Japanese.
It’s not enough to make the story incoherent, but it does happen frequently enough to be noticeable and a little frustrating. If nothing else, it’s a good way of appreciating the generally solid job that specialist localisation companies tend to do these days — even with more niche-interest titles like eroge!
On the whole, Paradise Heights 2 actually ended up being a whole lot better than I expected it to be. The first game was by no means a narrative masterpiece, but it was enjoyable enough in a throwaway sort of way. The sequel, however, is something that I found genuinely compelling and interesting as well as sexy, and the context of the original game does actually help to set things up quite nicely for this one, making for a pleasingly warm and friendly sense of coherence to the whole thing. It’s just an eminently likeable sort of game, and it’s always a pleasure to have an experience like that.
Regrettably, the third game in the series doesn’t seem to have been localised, so it looks like this is probably the end of my time at Paradise Heights for now. I’ve certainly enjoyed my stay, though — both from a nostalgic perspective, and in terms of the more recent new discoveries it had to offer for me!
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