Graduation 95: Retro PC Game Review | JRPG | Anime | School Simulator
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Title: Graduation 95
Publisher: Mixx Entertainment
Genre: Simulation – Life Sim, School Sim, Dating Sim, Raising Sim, Stat Raising Sim
Where to Buy: Damned if I know. I spent a half hour just now trying to google it and came up empty. Maybe ebay? Although I just searched there and the only thing coming up is the Japanese import version. Glad I still have my English copy by Mixx Entertainment.
Overall: 69 / 90 77% C+ “Good Game for Girls”
Concept: 10/10 You play as a teacher to a class full of lovely young ladies who need your help and guidance in order to graduate. The gameplay is quite similar to Princess Maker in a way, but with all the things teachers do, such as making up lesson plans, assigning homework, detention duties, seating arrangements, tutoring, visiting the students’ homes, or chaperoning trips and vacations, and since it’s a Japanese game, it has the iconic anime themes we know and love such as sports festivals, school festivals in which you choose what your class will do such as host a coffee shop, haunted house, or school play, etc. I love this game; but sadly, it was a commercial failure which almost bankrupt Mixx (now known as Tokyopop). Mixx Games, one and only game, was a critical failure, but still one of my favorite PC games of all time. I last played it about a year ago and would be playing it right now, but misplaced my CD (though I seen it recently, so I will soon play again).
Gameplay: 9/10 I explained a lot of this above; but basically you choose different subjects to teach each week. How successful your students are depends on their strengths and weaknesses (some are better at English, while others are better at math for example). If you focus too strongly on one subject, the students who dislike or struggle in those subjects will begin to complain and criticize your teaching ability. So you need to come up with a well balanced lesson plan. You can also help your students improve by selecting their weekend activities for them (It’s been awhile, I think you can only select weekend courses for one student per week). You then decide where you will be that weekend as well. If you encounter the girls on the weekend, you can chat with them which can have both positive and negative effects on your relationship with the girls as well as with their studies.
Also as to be expected, girls will be catty with one another. If the girls are not getting along and causing drama, their studies will suffer. You have to step in as the adult and encourage the girls to make up. If they are being too stubborn you can change their seating; however, some students perform better in the back or front row depending on their learning style; and just like a real school, if friends are sitting too close they will goof off and not study as hard as they should.
There are many different ailments which can effect the students too; they can become sick, runaway from home, take part time jobs, move in with boyfriends, or become stuck up, all of which effect their studies and attitudes towards you and the other girls.
If you catch your students behaving improperly you can try to convince them to change their ways; but almost no matter what you do, the students will be angry and also their GPA will drop.
The students must obey rules and also keep their GPA high enough to graduate by the end of the game; and this is no easy task at all!!!! Upon Graduation, they can become many different things, including your bride, similar once again to the myriad of endings in Princess Maker games.
This game is good (or excellent even) in small doses; and I am super addicted to it; I keep playing it over the years; for 20 years now I’ve been playing this game and it’s still just as fun as ever!! That alone speaks volumes for the gameplay. HOWEVER, the one caveat and the one point I deducted is because, like most simulation games, the gameplay is very repetitive. To make matters worse, Graduation is a LONNNNNNG game. I dunno how long; but it feels really long and slow; much slower than other similar games. Although, to once again give credit where credit’s due; I can’t think of a single other game (at least not one available in English) that is this much of a “teaching simulator” One where you perform such roles as a teacher, the seating arrangement, the lesson plan, lecturing and providing advice and guidance to your students, supervising trips and club activities, seeing the students evolve from one semester to the next, etc. It’s a very original and unique gaming experience and that alone makes it incredibly fun. But yes, the game does suffer from repetitive and sometimes uninteresting gameplay. But it’s the type of game, that is best enjoyed one or two days a week, and give yourself a break from it for awhile and return to find it fresh and exciting again.
Story: 3/10 – There’s really not much of a story. You’re a new teacher in a new school. You teach and advise your students. You can play as a playboy pervert, a strict professor, or want the students to like you and be buddy buddy. But ultimately, the main character is left very blank and not very visible in the game. As a result, the only story is really just a high overview of explaining the role you play, and the rest is left strung together by random encounters, events, and multiple endings.
Characters 8/10: While the player’s character is left blank, the other students are well fleshed out; and although they can be stereotypical at times; they still endear themselves to you and make you worry about them and make you want to help them graduate. There’s Mina, the sick and shy student who doesn’t have a lot of friends because she’s missed so much school; there’s Cindy, an airhead “valley girl” who’s popular, pretty, but not very “bright”; there’s a Tsundere with glasses who the other girls dislike because of her “teacher pet” personality; a lolita girl who acts very childish but is also very cute and innocent, and a very rough tomboy girl who loves drinking, eating, gambling, and fighting. I found it a bit hard to like the characters ultimately due to the horrible voice acting in this game. But I’m only deducting 2 points for that, since I’m going to score voice acting separately down below; but it was bad enough that it really did effect my attachment to the characters.
Voice Acting: 3/10 As mentioned above; the voice acting is so over dramatic, and so cliche that it makes me sick. They used a typical valley girl accent for the blonde girl; and the lolita girl is NOT CUTE SOUNDING AT ALL. She’s probably the worst, sounds like a mouth full of mush or someone with a permanent sinus infection, and her voice is too deep / too old sounding to be cute. The loli girl would have been my favorite but I found her incredibly hard to tolerate because of the voice acting. The tomboy girl has a very thick new york or new jersey accent; and the tsundere and sick girl both have mediocre at best, to sometimes overdramatic deliverance of their lines as well. There’s not one single voice actress in this game that I would consider “good” – So why did I give it 3 out of 10 stars? Because, one, it is fully voiced. two, this is the 90s typical shit dub quality stuff here not making an excuse for it to be shitty; just when I compare it objectively to stuff in the same time frame, yeah its about equally as bad, and lastly, and largely, because the vocal opening song by the original Japanese cast was left in tact, and it is catchy as hell. Which brings us to the music…
Music: 8/10 The music in the game is all very peppy and fun and light hearted. The music also changes each semester which is a nice touch. I’d also say the music is fairly memorable, especially the opening theme which I can still hear in my head today.
Graphics 10/10 : Graphically, the game is dated and older of course; however, it was one of the first anime games to come to PC (in the USA) as opposed to console. And the character designs are cute and attractive for the most part (once again keep in mind, this was the style back then in the 90s for anime). There are numerous changes that the girls undergo which are visible with different sprites being used in the game, the chibi sprites are adorable and pretty highly detailed. The anime “standees” or “profile pictures” of the girls when interacting with them are also quite good; and once again reflect the girl’s moods. Hint, when she likes you, she looks much more sexy. There are also scenes such as at the beach, shrine, or other areas where you see the girls in different outfits, hairstyles, or cute poses. There’s also the option to view all of the art on the disc to see any sprites you may have missed. I loved the new years ones the best. All and all; the art is bright, vibrant, and varried enough to keep your interest; like any good game in the visual novel / sim genre; it is full of special cg and event scenes which reward you with new artwork as well.
Replay Value: 10/10 This game is hard as balls, chances are you will be playing multiple times. I recommend save often, in multiple different save files. Even if you do beat the game with “good” endings the first time; you might want to replay it because there are different career paths and endings for each girl (and you get to see all of the girls’ endings each play through which is unique to this game too; where as most visual novels focus on unlocking one girl’s route/ending at a time; this game puts you in control of a classroom and lets you see how things turn out for each of your students.) In addition, there are some choices you will make which close off other scenes from you; such as if you choose to put on a school play you’ll miss the coffee house or haunted house festival scenes. These scenes also change based on who you assign to each role and the girl’s relationships with eachother and their stats. Also because this game is so unusual and so unique; if you’re like me, you won’t be able to resist replaying it at least every few years. It’s just a novel and fun concept that has not made it’s way back overseas since this game’s release. Nothing like it before, or since, in 20 years time. I hope someday to see other similar games. In fact, I found a kickstarter for a similar game here that you should check out.
Note: There’s an Otome version of this game called Graduation M where you raise male students and play as a female teacher; but as of this writing, it has never been translated; neither officially nor fan translated so it is unplayable unless you know how to speak and read Japanese.
Overall: 69 / 90 77% C+ “Good Game for Girls”