Time Stripper Mako-chan (also known simply as Timestripper) is an early localised eroge with a few elements that will be familiar to regular readers of this column. Firstly, it’s the work of Foster, whose work we have previously seen in the form of Paradise Heights and its sequel; and secondly, it was brought west by Otaku Publishing in 1997, who brought us Ring-Out!! earlier that year, and both Paradise Heights games in 1998.
It was released in the west as Volume 4 of Otaku Publishing’s “Bishoujo Manga CD-ROM” series, which began as simple collections of saucy artwork but subsequently went on to include localised games — Ring-Out!! was Volume 3, for example. However, due to the widespread piracy of these CDs, Otaku Publishing eventually pulled out of localising and publishing software altogether, and simply acted as a distributor before eventually folding at some point in the new millennium.
Time Stripper Mako-chan is a somewhat different game from Foster’s other work in that it’s much closer to what we now know as a conventional visual novel. The adventure game-style elements of Paradise Heights — which originally released in Japan a couple of years earlier despite being localised later — are nowhere to be seen, and the game features a series of binary choices that lead to one of six different endings. It still has that distinctive PC-98-style presentation, though — largely due to it originating on PC-98 before later being ported to FM Towns and Windows PC — and feels distinctly ’90s in tone and execution.
In Time Stripper Mako-chan, we follow the adventures of a young man named Shinji. Shinji has just split up with his girlfriend Michiyo because he can’t stop fooling around with other girls, and Michiyo caught him coming out of a hotel with one of them. Unfortunately, it seems that this is not what is “supposed” to happen, so Shinji is rather surprised and perturbed when a naked time-traveller named Mako appears in his room that evening and explains that he has to marry Michiyo in order for her boyfriend Naoto to be born — because Shinji is actually his ancestor.
Not only that, but Mako is constantly having to fend off the machinations of her love rival Nonn, who wants Naoto for herself. And thus Mako has come to the past not only to make sure that Shinji’s love life unfolds in the way it’s supposed to, but also to prevent Nonn from making a right hash of things.
It’s pure ’90s “alien girl comes to the human world” anime in many ways, only with rather more in the way of gratuitous sex scenes. Shinji has a “friends with benefits” relationship with a girl named Kyoko he works with at a local bar and Nonn, it seems, is certainly not above using her rather fluid sexuality to get what she wants in various ways; depending on the choices you make in the story, you’ll likely witness her “corrupting” Michiyo into becoming a depraved sex monster as well as raping Mako with the gigantic penis she sprouts after Mako inadvertently injects her with the wrong drug. Ah, the ’90s.
If this all sounds thoroughly politically incorrect, you’d be absolutely right; Time Stripper Mako-chan is a game that features more than a few moments that might produce a wince or two if you think about them too much — along with a rather unnecessary brief moment of homophobia directed towards a character who really doesn’t deserve to be referred to as a “faggot” after the contributions he has made to Shinji’s life up until this point.
As always with situations like this, there’s an argument to be made that depiction is not endorsement, and that we’re simply seeing the way Shinji looks at things; in this instance, though, it feels very much that the language used in this sequence is more a product of the localisation than the original script.
If you’ve not come across an Otaku Publishing jam before, their localisations tend to be relatively loose, to say the least; True Love’s localisation was allegedly handled by a Japanese girl the company happened to know and then cleaned up a bit (and I mean a bit) — though supposedly Time Stripper Mako-chan was professionally translated. And to be fair, the actual technical aspects of the translation are fine — the game has a lot less in the way of spelling and grammatical errors than True Love in particular, though the most readily available version of the game today has a number of completely missing lines, much like Paradise Heights 2 does.
No, the issue is, at times, with the overall tone of the thing. Having a man called “Shinji” pondering about how much he’d like to “have a go on that arse” and expressing concern that his boss might “fancy” him feels oddly incongruous compared to modern localisations, though it’s not exactly a dealbreaker — particularly given that the overall vibe of Time Stripper Mako-chan is deliberately rather chaotic and silly.
The actual story is rather entertaining, if a little rushed — you can blast through the whole thing in just under a couple of hours — and feels more like an eroge than a nukige; while some of the sex scenes are, as previously noted, a little gratuitous-feeling, the game as a whole doesn’t really feel like an excuse to get from one lewd scene to another like, say, Paradise Heights does.
The brisk pace at which everything moves does mean that characterisation is a little lacking at times. We learn that Shinji has a bit of an attitude problem towards a girl named Emi, but that all turns out to be a bit of a misunderstanding (and, of course, she’s been harbouring some… interesting feelings) — a fun diversion, but it all feels like it comes a bit out of nowhere.
Likewise, both the Mako and Michiyo endings feature seemingly complete reversals in the way that characters feel that don’t make a ton of sense; with a bit of build-up prior to that point they could have been quite effective, but as it stands it just feels a bit like the writers wanted to wrap things up and go home.
There’s a lot to criticise about Time Stripper Mako-chan, but on the whole it’s a very likeable short visual novel. So long as you can deal with the distinctly ’90s tone, the brisk pacing and the fairly shallow characterisation, there’s an enjoyable time to be had here. The characters are likeable — even Shinji, who is initially set up to appear like a bit of a shit, but undergoes something of a redemption arc over the course of the story as a whole — and there’s a sense of actual narrative progression to the whole thing rather than just sex, sex, sex.
Like many other visual novels from the era — Three Sisters’ Story excepted, because that game is still great — Time Stripper Mako-chan acts as a rather quaint reminder of how far the visual novel medium has come over the course of the last 25 years or so. The medium’s storytelling has become considerably more advanced and willing to embrace its own distinctive, unique characteristics, western localisations have become a lot more nuanced and respectful of the distinctly “Japanese” nature of many of these stories — and eroge are much better at integrating their sexual scenes into the flow of the narrative rather than just plopping them in for the sake of things.
But sometimes you just want a bit of a “quickie”, and that’s exactly what Time Stripper Mako-chan provides, without shame. So if you’re at a loose end one evening, why not give it a shot?
Like most ’90s visual novels, Time Stripper Mako-chan is no longer commercially available, and unlikely to run on modern machines anyway. Thankfully, the fine folks at the Asenheim Project have produced a Web-based version of the game — click here to try it for yourself.
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