Review #1 by Donny Chan
Disclaimer: This review presumes basic familiarity with ikusei/sodate games and terms. Though I'm a Sotsu series fan since Sotsu I, I'll not comment if Sotsu III is fun to play/replay until I've played it more.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT. Thanks to Nakano Yasuaki (for the kanji logo), Edward C. Miller, Doi Hitoshi, and Chris Lee.
VERSION. The PS and SS versions of Sotsu III came out within days of each other. I tried only the SS version of Sotsu III. According to other Netters' reviews, the two versions are essentially same. About the only difference between the two versions is the slower PS loading time of save games from the memory card.
It's the 10th anniversary of the Sotsu series because the game designers claimed the Sotsu I project began in '88, but Sotsu I came out in '92. IIRC, Princess Maker 1 came out before Sotsu I. (ISTR PM1 came out in '91?)
OP SONG. "Happy Bell ~ Shiawase no bell wo narase!" is a new song. Different from the Sotsu I and II OP song. The CV of the five Sotsu III students sing "Happy Bell". It's growing on me, but I don't feel enough impetus to hunt for its lyrics.
OP ANIMATION. It's not as colourful (more white space), flowery (-_-;), or talkative (no dialogue amongst the students) as the Sotsu II OP animation. The Sotsu III OP animation has normal-proportion characters panning across the screen, and SD characters moving across the screen.
MAIN MENU. Three options: new game, old game, or album (see below). The SS version has five save game slots. (I haven't checked how many units of memory each slot costs.)
NEW GAME. Cow Bell (aka Bell), a SD cow with orange hair, guides the player through the first steps. Later in the game, when Cow Bell's somewhere on-screen, the player can press Start to read the help pages for that and other screens. Cow Bell's lines are short. She doesn't read all the text in the help pages. Okamoto Asami, a Seika OG (Yukie in Sotsu V, Asuka in Senti), voices Cow Bell.
The teacher's (player chara) family and personal names are each up to three characters long. Each character can be hiragana, katakana, or kanji. IIRC, no alphanumerics, and no default name: the game doesn't accept blank names.
(Named my 1st Play teacher "Akagi Keijirou", after the Seika teacher in Sotsu Crossworld. (Neither Shinjou Hayato (the Sotsu Crossworld protagonist) or I liked Akagi, but he and Yokoyama Sadakane (Megumi's stern grandpa) were fun guys for the protagonist to talk with, IMO.) Thought about but aborted naming the teacher "Kasuga Kyousuke", because Furuya Tooru voiced the teacher in the Sotsu III radio dramas. BTW, used my real birthday. ^_^; Don't know what happens when the teacher and his wife have the same birthday?)
In the prologue, the teacher speaks with the principal, Unebi Shunpei (CV: Kishino Yukimasa), and defines one of the five students as the teacher's wife. The principal has some more screen time later in the game (see below). The teacher's lines aren't voiced.
(In '97, when I first read about Sotsu III, I disliked the idea that the teacher begins the game married with one of the students. Now, I accepted this idea, but still dislike two of the Sotsu III chara/costume designs (see below).)
CHARACTERS. The five Sotsu III students are: Ozaki Ryouko, Kikuchi Nozomi, Saitou Yukari, Matsuyama Misaki, and Watanabe Kazue (see below). (Don't worry. Took me two nights to recognise/remember who's who, though I've used the Sotsu III official screen-saver for weeks.) None is a Meganekko or has a regional accent (Brazil or Osaka). (But Kikuchi's "... de/tte gozaimasu" gets on my nerves.) All students begin with low parameters. In Sotsu I and II, Shizuka ("Death to Shizuka!") and Misako began with some high parameters.
(For 1st Play, I chose Matsuyama Misaki (long, wavy grey hair). Based on how they modified their uniforms, I first eliminated Ozaki (short brown hair) and Saitou (pink hair). (Took me years (real time) to like Cindy Sakurai of Sotsu II.) Other Netters already chose Kikuchi (long blue hair). Based on Matsuyama and Watanabe's profiles, I eliminated Watanabe (brown hair in a bun when at school) and chose Matsuyama. From Kimiko, Misako, and Reiko-sama of the previous games, I expected Matsuyama to have a lower-pitch voice. She doesn't. It's good to be surprised. IMO, Matsuyama's calling the teacher "Darling" beats her indignant "Ki--!" expression. (Yes, I'm a Lum-sama (Urusei) fan.) None of the four new Seika students in Senti and Sotsu V replaced my top four favourite Seika students, and I predict none of the Sotsu III students will. Again, my top four are: Kiyomi (Madoka Inochi!), Mika-chan (To Shimakata Junko-san, who hosted the Sotsu III radio show: Gomen nasai...), Megumi, and Maki. Actually, the "Madoka Inochi!" slogan applies only to the "Tsuru" Madoka-sama, not the "Sakurai" Madoka.)
GAME MECHANICS. The game designers simplified the game mechanics to accelerate the game pace. Eg, the teacher has no parameters, except the Matrix (see below), and he can arrange the students' timetables with more flexibility. OTOH, the Sotsu III students don't become delinquent, proud, tired, &c. The game designers removed these conditions! >8(
(The PlayStation Weekly, Vol.69 (1997.08.08), had an interview article with Kubota Masayoshi (aka Mutsuki Juuzou) of Marcus and Shirai Tamotsu of Shogakukan. (I unintentionally bought this issue because its cover says it has hints/strategies for Koukaku Kidoutai -Ghost in the Shell-, but except a two-page advertisement, it has nothing about GITS.) Kubota commented all the Sotsu III development staff are men, and all came from boys schools, so a real girls school is an "unknown world" to them. But the Sotsu III chara design, Kikuchi Youko, is a woman.)
The teacher assigns one subject to each student, then must assign one student as Special. Each student takes different number of days to complete her assignment. At the end of a normal assignment, the student's parameters change. At the end of a Special assignment, the student's parameters change, her Trust for the teacher increases, and she announces where she'll go on the next holiday (see below). Thus, the assignments can begin and end on different weekdays. In Sotsu I, the teacher could assign only one student's subjects each turn.
Also, the Sotsu III students don't disappear for days. When a parameter-dependent event happens (eg, when a student becomes a kogal, or is ill (Health near 0)), the teacher automatically finds that student. As before, in the event, the player chooses one of three answers, which changes that student's Trust for the teacher, and she returns to school on the next day. In Sotsu I and II, a student could disappear for days, and the teacher didn't always locate her.
Saturday is a school day. (This s_cks.) On Sunday and holidays, the teacher and his wife must visit one of six spots in Yokohama (Kanagawa, Japan): Yokohama Terminal (Yokohama Station area), Sakuragichou (includes Minato Mirai 21 or "MM21"), Bayside (Yamashita Park and Honmoku Pier), Kannai (Yokohama Stadium (home of the Yokohama Baystars pro-baseball team of the Central League) area), Chuukagai (Chinatown), and Isezakichou ("Zaki"). (Sotsu III uses real place names. The previous Sotsu games used some fictional names. Eg, the Ishikawachou Station near Seika was renamed Honmotomachi Station. (Given the density of girls school in Yamate, some seifuku Otaku claim Ishikawachou Station on a school day morning is a majestic sight. ^_^; BTW, the fami-res Anna Miller's apparently has a new rival called Bronze Parrot.))
Two students probably end their special assignments per week, and on Saturday night, the wife announces where one more student will visit on Sunday, so the player probably knows three danger spots. With four students and six spots, this improves the chance to NOT meet the other students from 2:6 to 2:3.
At each spot, the background photo looks like it was scratched by sandpaper. (I sometimes use Picture Publisher, but I forgot what this effect is called.) BTW, each student seems to have at least four changes of clothes: home, school uniform, summer, and winter.
At each spot, the wife always leaves the teacher alone briefly for one reason or another. (The reason/scenario is repeatable.) If he doesn't meet a student, he and his wife has an one-illust, voiced event, which greatly improves her Trust. The event illusts are stored in the wife's Photo Album, which the player can view in the main menu.
If he meets a student, he aborts the date with his wife and unlocks no event illust. (I don't know if the spots the other students visit are random or not. Or if the spots are fixed, but the other students who visit them are random.)
(Being spotted during a date... This situation reminds me of the Girls Be (Hou-chan and Machirin) song "MUKAtsuku!".)
After he meets a student, a marker appears in the Matrix screen, a table with four students as column headers and six spots as row headers. Untreated markers increase the Crisis Level, which begins at 0. Eg, when the Crisis Level increases from 0 to 1, the principal makes a speech (voiced) to (clumsily) deny there's a secret marriage at Seika. The player can save game only on Sunday nights...
In a school week, the teacher can assign the student he met as Special and shut up (but not remove) her marker in the Matrix. (I don't completely understand the operation of the Matrix yet.)
Events on national holidays (GW (Golden Week), Christmas, New Year, &c) also unlock event illusts. Each Photo Album has 66 illusts. In a Photo Album, the player can press B and choose the month the player wants to see. (The numbers are months, not page numbers.)
BTW, in a conversation, L+R may hide the message window. (Note this is the SS version.)