TW: All of them. All of the triggers. Specifically, rape, torture, death, emotional abuse, kidnapping, blackmail, and gaslighting; but really it’s more of an “all of them” kind of deal.
I’m sure most of you can tell that these words are not from Euphoria, but I really do not think any quote sums up my first impressions of this game quite as effectively. The battle against Giygas in Earthbound is commonly seen as one of the most emotionally draining and frightening sequences in gaming, but compared to what I saw in the first hour and a half of Euphoria, well… it looks like the battle against Giygas from Earthbound, which is a lot less terrifying than Euphoria.
Additionally, my first true experience with a horror game was with Corpse Party, a game with an entire atmosphere drenched despair and dread, and it is still among the scariest games I have ever played… but it’s still nothing when put next to Euphoria. And to make things clear, yes, Euphoria IS more disturbing than Starless: Nymphomaniac’s Paradise… and it’s also an infinitely better game. Starless made me feel disgusting, unpleasant, and ashamed of myself for having played it; none of which was intentional. My discomfort with Starless was because it was a badly written and structured game.
Euphoria, on the other hand, got to me because it is a good game, and one that is impeccably well written and presented. Just within the short time I have played it, this game has evoked so many feeling and fears of mine at once to create a horror experience unlike what I have ever seen, or probably ever will see again for that matter. I am seriously impressed with Euphoria, and even though I got the game for review purposes and will be writing a full review when I complete it, I feel I should create this piece simply so I can go into detail on every minute detail of the opening, because no one factor is what contributed to this. Any aspiring horror writers; this game is a must play/read if you want to see how to truly scare someone, and I plan to demonstrate how this is done so.
Euphoria opens up with our protagonist Takato Keisuki waking up in a blank white room with no recollection of how he got there. He soon finds that five students and one of his teachers have been kidnapped as well, making him the only boy present. Of the students present, we have Hokari Kanae, Keisuki’s designated childhood friend who looks up to him in the highest regard, Makabe Rika, the childlike and pure student that is the most vulnerable to the incoming horrors, Andou Miyako, a class representative and excelling student who can be slightly naggy but is never considered too annoying by the other students, Byakuya Rinne, the emotionless and uncaring head of the disciplinary committee, and Manaka Nemu, our game’s designated sadistic cunt who can basically be described as /b/ in the form of an anime girl. There’s also the English teacher Aoi Natsuki who is selfless and prioritizes the student’s safety, but also is overly laid back.
What is noteworthy is just how beautiful every character is drawn and has their own unique appearance. Even Keisuke has a cool design despite not looking entirely original, which is uncommon because eroge artists tend to only know how to draw pretty girls and not pretty boys. This almost always tends to make every harem/dating sim/eroge protagonist seem interchangeable, which in turn removes a lot of immersion from the experience.
Anyway, after Keisuke is given a choice to go through a door or to stand in one spot when given only a few seconds to go through, he goes through it if the player picks that option and if you don’t I’m assuming it’s one of those early “Darwin award”bad endings that you get if you decide to be a dumbass (don’t tell me if it’s not). You then get one of those emotionless and robotic sounding announcers speaking over an intercom telling you that you need to play a game if you want to leave; Saw style. The rules of this game are that anyone with XY chromosomes are assigned the roles of “key” while those with XX chromosomes are assigned as “keyholes.” In order to leave the room, the keys will need to insert a selected object into the keyholes in a plot mandated way (I will be honest, i don’t remember the exact wording and my heart can’t take reading through this scene again, even if there are likely more terrifying scenes to come, so I could be wrong on the specifics).
A nice detail they added was the fact that they specifically referred to characters by chromosomes instead of just saying by gender. Being trans, and thus having XY chromosomes (I assume, i never actually “checked” them since most people don’t) there is a decent bit of fridge horror involved that makes me think of if a trans girl was forced into this game. Imagine if the girl was stealth and had to out herself in a situation that is already going to breed distrust and anguish amongst each other. Imagine how potential anti trans prejudice would play into it. Or even worse, if one already went through gender reassignment surgery and one of the conditions involved using her genitals, they’d be screwed.
Furthermore, contrary to what right wing ideologues and “gender critical” feminists say, trans women are very self conscious and are afraid to use their genitals even consensually. Chances are, if you think trans women are violent and aggressive rapists, your only exposure to trans women is likely from porn, porn made by and for straight men at that. Yes, this is such a minor thing, but little things like this add up, and the whole point of this piece is to point them out. The more that something gets the player/reader to think, the more effective it is assuming that it is actually a well written work.
For obvious reasons, Miyako gets pissed off at the assertion that she needs to participate in this game, and very firmly refuses to participate; and to quote Buzzfeed, you won’t believe what happens next! The phrase “show don’t tell” is often cited by hack critics to have everything of importance happen on screen because “they want to see it first hand” despite the fact that sometimes, not showing what happen is far more effective than doing so. “Show don’t tell” is meant to refer to how to get the viewer to connect emotionally, not to refer to things the player needs to know to understand what’s going on. The following scene is one of the biggest examples.
Normally, what happens when someone says they won’t cooperate in these games is that the villain tells them that if they don’t, something bad will happen. Usually in these types of works, they either say what happens in an ominous tone of voice, or they start to do that thing which intimidates the protagonist into cooperating. Euphoria, on the other hand, does not fuck around. Instead, the lights immediately go out and you get a brief preview of the song that will play in all of your nightmares for the rest of eternity.
The music in Euphoria is mostly slower paced creepy atmospheric tracks, an example being “Fuon,”a very suspenseful track with a beat that is quiet but noticeable enough to induce anxiety and build up serious paranoia. It tells you that something horrible is about to occur, and that while you are safe currently, you won’t be for long. This means that even during the moments where you don’t have any intense horror sequences, you are still having tension built up, and you are never given a break; very similarly to what the Keisuke and the group are going through. Of course, after the lights go out, you hear this nightmarish tune.
This song screams that something fucked up is going on. That off key opening beat plays out throughout the entire track, you have screeching and piercing synth noises and guitars, and those ominous chimes and bells. I had heard this song prior to playing the game and I already considered it an amazingly disturbing track, but when used in game, I now tense up the moment I hear those first few notes and get legitimately scared of clicking the play button. In fact, just as I wrote this, I reloaded the page and clicked pause to make sure it didn’t play preemptively, but it still did and my heart almost skipped a beat. Strangely enough though, the track is oddly catchy, which is a bit of fridge brilliance when we get a later revelation about Keisuke. I can only imagine the way I first heard this song in game were similar to what anyone who saw Psycho’s infamous shower scene back when it first came out in theaters… you know, before every other horror movie ripped it off and it became a cliche.
You briefly hear this song playing in the dark as everyone panics, creating serious anxiety and letting you know you are at the mercy of whoever put this game together. After the lights come back on, the music stops, but you find Miyako strapped to an electric chair with her mouth gagged shut. You can see the sheer look of terror in her eyes as the announcer speaks, saying that anyone who quits the game will die. You can see that she regrets her decision and that in comparison, letting Keisuke take her up the ass doesn’t sound too bad; but it’s too late now. Her mouth is gagged so she can’t speak up and say she’ll participate, and this is the game letting you know that it’s holding NOTHING back. Instead of merely telling you what happens, you see for yourself. That horrifying music starts back up and Miyako starts getting shocked.
On one hand, you have likely seen more violent ways of characters getting killed in far less horrific games, but it isn’t about what; it’s about how. Any game can kill off a main character in a violent or gory fashion, but to make the player feel like they are actually watching a real person being electrocuted right before their eyes; that takes serious talent. I already talked about the music, but everything in this scene comes together in a way that you cannot take your eyes off of. The way she looks strapped into the chair is a look of horror, and when she starts getting shocked. You will see her eyes bulging, her face bleeding, and you see her in so much intense pain that she voids her bowels and bladder (although you won’t need to see the former if you turn on the scat filter that thankfully exists). It catches every grotesque and unpleasant detail about what happens in this type of scenario that it feels real. On top of that, the description hangs on to almost every detail very attentively, described in a very poetic manner that again, will make sense in a little bit. And then there’s Miyako’s screams. Azuma Karin’s screams of pain sounded so real that, again, I felt I was watching a real life murder, and the only way that I could tell it wasn’t real was because it is looped.
After it is over, you can tell that Miyako is barely alive, but won’t be for much longer. Keisuke makes note of how this electric chair may have been made to bypass major organs so that Miyako’s death is long and drawn out or to simply serve as a demonstration with the stray sparks, and also describes the jarring contrast between how Miyako looked when they were in class, and how she looks now. How just the other days everything was normal when he saw her in class, but she has instead been reduced to a complete mess, as well as painting a picture of the ugly scene by drawing note to the horrible smell of burnt flesh and feces. A quick tip for writers; a great way to get under someone’s skin is to describe how horrible something smells; it’s often neglected and mentioning something like that is bound to make anyone imagine how discomforting something is. Of course, if overdone or used inappropriately, it will just come across as awkward, but I don’t find that to be the case here.
Another nice touch is how they never actually said that Miyako was dead, but it is strongly implied since no one can survive that. Of course, I have no idea what will happen as I just started the game. There could be a twist that reveals that she survived later on and either she escapes with everyone else, or she ends up being brainwashed by the bad guys Darth Vadar style. They could even do something absurd like say Miyako was behind everything and just faked her death so she wouldn’t be suspected, or maybe it’s all a red herring and she actually is dead. If I were writing something like this, I would play on typical expectations and just have her die off screen, but I have no ideas what the writers of Euphoria did (and once again, if it was anything I mentioned, DON’T TELL ME). The fact that it knows how to leave the reader wondering like this just further adds to the questions that are building up.
After everyone is noticeably traumatized and horrified, they realize what they have to go through, and they begin to leave, except for Keisuke, who is noticeably fixated on what remains of Miyako. In an internal monologue, Keisuke reveals that he has a fetish for hurting people, and that seeing what happened to Miyako didn’t just horrify him, but it also aroused the fuck out of him. This makes Keisuke very similar to Corpse Party’s Morishige, only instead of just being a necrophile; Keisuke is a sadist, and a fairly realistic example of one. He may have some fucked up fetishes, but he still feels empathy for others and, get this, has a personality other than being a complete piece of shit. Realistically, most examples of sadists portrayed in fiction are sociopathic sadists, which throws sociopathy into the mix, meaning that you have a disorder that prevents you from feeling empathy or caring about others, and hurting people makes you feel good.
This instead describes Nemu, who discovers Keisuke’s secret by feeling his crotch and noticing he’s aroused.What follows is a scene where Nemu tells Keisuke she will keep his secret only if he obeys 3 orders, otherwise everyone will know. They seal it with a kiss, which is meant to show how fucked up Nemu is, in that she wants to make out with Keisuke in front of a charred corpse, and if Miyako is still alive, she’s seeing it happen. Of course, it doesn’t help that Nemu is kinda hot and Keisuke always thought she was and thus can’t resist her sexual advances. To top things off, Kanae sees it happening, which she says nothing about, but Keisuke can tell she is upset. All of this is playing with the second most unnerving song in the game, so far at least.
This track just makes it sound like something is creepy going on, and that something isn’t right, those heartbeats and xylophones are made to sound intentionally jarring in order to evoke this sense. It really goes to show you how brilliantly arranged the music is. Additionally, the scene exists simply to further build up discomfort and anxiety, while most games would have thought it was enough to electrocute a girl until she literally shits herself, they also put you into a very uncomfortable role. Most people are not going to be able to relate to Keisuke having a murder and torture fetish, and that is used to this game’s advantage. It’s suddenly a lot easier to sympathize with someone like Keisuke when you are put into his shoes, and need to make his choices. Oh… there are also choices.
After Kanae leaves, Nemu gets the sick idea to order Keisuke to choose her as the first keyhole. Keep in mind that Keisuke cares for Kanae more than anyone or anything else, and does not want to hurt her; and the feelings are obviously mutual. Nemu, of course, tries to gaslight Keisuke into thinking it is okay by saying that A: Kanae will probably like it, and B: he’s not going to be any better if he decides to “save her by raping someone else.” I can tell you from first hand experience that, if put under enough stress, you can get someone to believe almost anything. The reason for this is because it is a lot harder to have a nuanced and proper view of a situation when you are under mental duress and having trouble even processing what’s going on. Domestic abusers do this kind of shit all the time in order to convince the abused that they are completely out of touch; they prey on any insecurity that may be present, and it is such a disgusting behavior that I actually thought “maybe I should pick Nemu first?”
But it wasn’t until thinking about it later that I realized I was basically justifying rape. Rape is used as a weapon to silence and intimidate a victim more often than for sexual pleasure. In actuality, if Keisuke… no, if I MYSELF were to choose Nemu, then that would be the only “rape” in a traditional sense since Keisuke does not want to do so with anyone else. Yes, Keisuke may get some arousal from them, but that holds as much weight as “she was wet so she must have been enjoying it.” If one were to choose Nemu though, then it would likely be with malicious intent, which would make things even worse because she technically didn’t force anything on you at this time, but you would be raping her in earnest… there’s a combination of words I never expected to put together. This makes one think of so many possibilities with what may happen, but you don’t know until they do.
At this point, I feel it is worth mentioning that the opening anime intro movie does not even play until after Miyako was electrocuted, as if to say that the game has only just begun. But there was one less conversation that happened before I decided to quit my first play session. Rika is unable to conceal her fear or maintain composure, which leads to the bitch duo of Nemu and Rinne chastising Rika and claiming she is “selfish” for expressing fear when everyone else is trying to control themselves, and Natsuki is too focused on maintaining order than telling off Nemu and Rinne, so one can already see that the group is starting to destabilize. But then again, maybe it isn’t a good idea to tell those two cunts to fuck off when everyone needs all the help they can get. Of course, even though Nemu and Rinne were acting horribly, one can at least see their reasoning as realistic, but they just tend to avoid acknowledging that Rika is a little girl when these two are older.
What tops this all off though, is that Rika says to Keisuke a variation of “you’re not going to do anything nasty to me right?” It sounds reasonable at first, but when you realize that she’s basically saying “please rape someone else” then it is hard to deny that maybe Rika IS selfish, but can you really blame her for it? She is undoubtedly supposed to come across as the weakest link, but it is meant to make the player flip flop between thinking she needs to be protected most of all, or that she is a liability and thus deserves it; and the conclusion will differ depending on the player.
Afterwards, the time to choose finally arrives. If Keisuke backs out, everyone dies because he’s the only “key” and if a girl refuses after Keisuke picks her, she dies. Worst of all is that you have to pick the “keyhole BEFORE you know what you will have to do to them, so you don’t know if it will be something disgusting or traumatic, or if it will be something easy. I will say that I personally do not know if it is possible to pick the same keyhole five times but I’m going to guess that it’s unlikely, so there is a concern of if you pick someone like kanae or Rika on something really nasty, or vice versa where you waste your pick on a more stable member on something easy.
Even more so, there is the idea of whether or not to listen to Nemu’s order. You wonder whether or not what she said could be interpreted as a hint or even as if the developers/writers are saying it’s what you should do. It makes me think that it may be a Stanley Parable thing where the choice tells someone about themselves. IE, should someone go with what the game tells them, or go based on their own instincts. In a way, something like this is only effective when I don’t know the outcome, and it makes you think about this stuff A LOT! If you do what Nemu says, do you get punished for blindly obeying and for harming others just to keep your secret safe, or is it what the game WANTs you to do? Maybe it’s both, and it will lead to the worst ending; you have no clue what they are going to do.
So the moment finally arrives where the player chooses one of the five girls… and that’s where I stopped. Yeah yeah, dickish cliffhanger I know but my heart could not take anymore at this time. My heart was literally beating so fast that I felt like I just got off a roller coaster, and my arms and legs felt heavy. I found myself thinking… welp, I’m impressed. I focused on how impressive it must be to invoke these types of emotions, because if I treated it like it was real, I may have ended up being traumatized. I say this specifically because it seriously felt like it was real, and I needed to detach myself from the experience for the sake of my sanity, which I did by instinct. Yet it did not stop me from being rewarded the more I thought about it, and I did want to see what happens next.
Anyway, I have kept myself from playing further on so I can write this piece with that perspective in mind. Hopefully the rest of the game continues to be this intense, and if not, you will hear about it in the review. Now that I finished this piece, it means I can finally get back to the game.
If you are interested in playing this game for yourself, the trial version can be downloaded here, and the full version can be purchased here (download), here (physical) and here (physical with a wallScroll).
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