I saw an ad for this in Newtype once. It was a big page about the new 'interactive anime DVDs' that are being sold, and Tea Society was the one that jumped out at me. The character designs are incredibly cute, the the idea of the story is very appealing to someone like me, as it has aspects of techno-magic, something I've always found interesting. And an interactive DVD? At a convention once I met the people who made Advanced Warriors, a DVD movie where the watcher picked what happend next, and watched it play out. It's something that I actually wanted to do when I was in an amateur film class (but the tutor said it was too hard). My birthday was coming up, so I decided to order this and check it out.
It turns out Tea Society of a Witch wasn't exactly what I was expecting. I thought it would be an anime where you chose what the characters do next, and just sit back and watch. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite that original and interesting. All it is really is a dating sim you play on your DVD player. Still, I don't regret getting it one bit, and here's why.
For a start, the animation is absolutely wonderful. Everything is drawn so cutely and with nice colors, especially the characters. The whole game is basically seen through the main characters eyes, and there are many different locations which have been well drawn, seeming sort of 3D. I'm pretty sure they're at least partially computer generated. Animated sprites of the characters are then put ontop of that, which don't really move much, but are still nice to look at. There are tons of very cute looking still images which pop up during the game, but there is also a very nice animated opening sequence when you first load the DVD. Ah, if the whole game was like that, this'd be a 10 out of 10 for sure. The only thing I didn't like is that all the girls seem to have strangely enlarged thighs while you talk to them. They look fine in all the still pictures and stuff, but when they're standing against a background, why are their thighs so big?? Their skirts are barely able to cover them! ...Ahem.
As with most things I bother to review, the characters in this are the top reason for me liking it. The main character is a guy named Rokusuke, who you play as. He's somewhat of an idiot, and says stupid things that you know will make the game twice as hard for you to get through, but there ya go. The 3 techno-witches, as I call them, are Nee, Drill and Ponica. Nee is a hopeless dropout klutz, Drill is a spoiled rich girl, and Ponica is a young, quiet, Rei-Ayanamiesque genius. On top of them, you also have Megumi, Rokusuke's childhood friend; a spoiled rich guy, who lets Drill stay with him and is often a thorn in your side; a shy human girl who has a crush on you; and finally the witches tutors from the Magical Realm, Akiwo the Xelloss wannabe, and the Chairperson, who looks like a floating cat with a witches hat. All of these characters together make it a very interesting world to play in.
The story is quite simple. Humans and witches once lived together, witches trying to help humans. Then the humans got scared of them and did witch-hunts and burnings. The witches dispaired, and God created a seperate world for them to live in. That was hundreds of years ago, and now the witches come back for special training on Earth, they call 'Tea Parties', where the students have to live with humans and perform certain tasks. Nee, Drill and Ponica are here for their Tea Party, and need places to stay. Drill stays with the spoiled rich guy, Ponica stays with Megumi, and you're left stuck with Nee.
Basically, at the start of each day, you pick which girl you want to talk to out of the 3 availible. Nee and Drill are the first two, but surprisingly, Ponica isn't the third (too young to be a love interest, I guess. Or too quiet). The third is Manamu, the human girl with a crush on you. The game gives you a certain amount of days to get on with. Really, it seems pointless that you get to pick which character you talk to on any particular day, since the stories don't seem to influence eachother too much, and if you try to do more than one character you'll probably run out of days before getting anywhere. I focused on one character each time, and played till I got their endings. I won't give away their story lines, except for the fact that Nee's is the longest. Oh, and all 3 stories have sickeningly soppy endings.
Occasionally, little map screens pop up, showing where all the characters are standing. This reminds me of a Gameboy looking game, like Megaman.exe or something. During the game, you get decisions which in theory influence what happens in the story. Unfortunately, these choices are few and far between, and as far as I can tell, don't lead to many differences in the plot. You either get the happy ending, or you get a bad ending. I can't find an inbetween! Having said that though, in the games opening, and art book, and on sites online, there are pictures of Ponica, seemingly in her own story line. If that's really in the game, I really can't figure out how you get to see it. I'd like to, though, as I think Ponica's probably the best character of all.
This game is availible subtitled only (thank God), so all the voices are in Japanese. Nee's is high-pitched, and she tends to make annoying noises like 'Uwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!' now and then, but at least the seiyuu puts a lot of emotion into it. Manamu's voice is very quiet, and she usually takes a long time to finish saying a sentance, but I guess that's just how her character is. Drill is probably the most normal of the 3 availible. Ponica's very quiet and to the point, so I like her. Megumi's noisey, but quite normal Japanese girl sounding. Akiwo and the Chairman's voices are pretty normal, too -- although I think the chairman's voice reminds me of Onsokumaru (from 2 x 2 = Shinobuden).
I like the music for this game. The opening theme during the animated intro is very cute and fast paced. Each character seems to have their own theme, and there are different pieces of background music for different situations. You can call them 'sad music' and 'happy music' and 'OMG music'. Each of the 3 characters with endings have their own ending theme, too, which plays during the credits, along with pictures of things that have happend in the game. If I still had Kazaa, I'd definitely look for some of these themes.
All in all, this is an enjoyable game -- although I hear that others made by the same company are more in depth. It does take a while to play all the way through with a character, up to 4 hours I'd say, or maybe longer. Because of this, there is a password save feature. If you like dating sims and cute anime girls (so if you're like Piro/Fred from Megatokyo), then you should check out this DVD. Not the best gameplay, but a nice story and lovable characters.
Drill: "Ponica! You're heartless!"
Ponica: "Oh...in that case...I'll go home then..."
Drill: "Waaah! No! Come back and help me!"
Review Score: 8.6 out of 10