NAKABAAAAAAA!!! Not gonna lie, Nakaba was the main reason why I wanted this game. I’ve been dying to play a route for him ever since the PSP version (never understood why he didn’t have one to begin with). BUT that wasn’t the only new thing Ex Time offered! There were additional, marriage-themed after ends for all characters, new CGs, some supporting characters also finally got more spotlight and even their own sprites. The lesson quiz got revamped as well and they implemented a “skip scene” feature, which definitely made my life easier once I actually noticed its existence lol. All in all, there was enough new stuff to keep this experience ‘fresh’ and even though I originally planned to skip through everything I already know and quickly get to Nakaba’s route, I ended up playing diligently all the way through.
What’s been the most fun to me, personally, was comparing my old feelings about the game and its characters to my current ones. My preferences and impressions stayed quite the same for the most part, but there are some subtle changes as well…how and why did my opinion change like this? It’s amazing what a little time (and distance) can do….
Riichirou -> Toranosuke -> Shuuya -> Madoka -> Takato -> (Kaede ->) Nakaba (-> Rain)
♡ = favorite character
Still one of my favorite otome game heroines! I really like Nadeshiko because she feels relatively complex for a heroines of that genre. Of course she’s guilty of some generic tropes, like the “I’m too innocent to know about romance” one. But considering her actual age I’m kinda able to forgive her LOL. I do like that her naivety is balanced with a good level of calmness and maturity. It makes her look like an inexperienced child (which she technically is anyway) instead of a complete idiot, who can’t take care of herself. I also like that she isn’t too pure and good of a person, because that usually makes me cringe. She has faults and is willing to admit to them if necessary.
CV: Matsumoto Sachi
I was surprised to find more input! Glad he dropped the twin tails in the new content; he looks much better that way! I’m a little split on Rain though. On the one hand I do like his background story and I can sympathize with him. I’m glad there’s a branch for him! On the other hand, Takato’s route kinda is the one place I really can’t imagine any kind of pseudo-romantic Rain plot happening whatsoever XD. I mean…it’s technically Takato’s stay end, except Rain’s there too and for some reason Takato and Nadeshiko are willing to forgive him and stay friends with him, while Rain’s getting in the way of their love all the time. It just seems…extremely OOC any way I look at it. It’s not like I couldn’t see Rain liking Nadeshiko, just that I don’t think Takato’s route is the right place for that kinda development – at least not that late into it, lol. Then again, it IS very entertaining so I guess…I’ll just take it.
CV: Kouchi Shinsaku
THANK YOU EX TIME! Kaede end really came out of the blue for me, but I liked it so much that I wish it was a full route instead of an alternative ending to Nakaba’s route. Despite it branching off another route, I think it worked better than Rain’s end, because the split happens much, much earlier, before any kind of significant (romantic) development can happen between Nadeshiko and 2020 Nakaba. It never felt like Kaede “got in the way” or anything. Kaede is a really nice guy too and I was happy to see more of him, other than the usual “I’m a guard at the rebel HQ” kinda stuff. Also, his branch showed a little more of Tora’s siblings (who’re kinda horrible people in 2020, obviously….GDI Yoshimune and Shigure, how did you mess up all of your kids like that!?). Crossing my fingers for a Kaede route in the next port of this game HAHA….8D;;
(in play order)
Riichirou ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
CV: Maeno Tomoaki
OH RITTAN!!! Playing Ex Time reaffirmed my first impression: I love Rittan, but his future self’s route is suffering and I don’t necessarily mean this in a good way. Like, I still don’t get the logic behind his stay end? ╮( •ω•)╭ Also, reading through all after end stories a second time made my impression of stay end Rittan’s & Nadeshiko’s relationship even worse. They are SO DEPENDANT ON EACH OTHER it’s too much even for my osananajimi-loving ass. What I loved about the relationship development in Rittan’s route is that both of them suddenly felt like strangers even though they thought they knew most about each other. Overcoming this feeling is what made the drama interesting. But in the stay end they don’t simply overcome it, it seems to me as if they went to a new extreme. I know the talk about NEVER EVER CHANGING AND ALWAYS STAYING THE SAME NOW AND FOREVER is supposed to stress their strong feelings for each other, but doing so over and over again gave me the creeps, honestly! Return end relationship feels much more relaxed and balanced in comparison. They’re still “together forever” but without this annoying and overbearing 24/7 dependency. Sigh.
I never thought about this when playing CZ on PSP, but adult Rittan’s haircut is actually horrible, lol. Like, it fits the broken world really well, but I wish 2010 Rittan’s grown-up version had gotten a somewhat different design with less emo hair because…there’s no reason for him to be emo. At least get a nice haircut for your wedding, man (ㅠ▽ㅠ)… One thing I really loved and enjoyed about Ex Time Rittan is the extended interactions with Nadeshiko-papa (no seriously, they are so OTP). I could watch them bicker all day about “Don’t call me father!” – “Uh, I didn’t…”
stay < return
Toranosuke ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
CV: Sugiyama Noriaki
I’m so so torn even after all this time!!! I love the relationship development in Tora’s route; it’s like Nadeshiko is taming a wild animal (a…tiger? Heh. HEH!). He and Nadeshiko have great chemistry and even though it’s a delinquent/ojousama type of relationship Nadeshiko isn’t your usual ojousama and she can handle Tora p. well. There’s so much to “love” even about the problematic stuff….and yet I can’t accept future Tora’s actions in the return end. They make sense considering his character, but still, I like Takato too much to be okay with it. Killing/erasing a main character in a good end just leaves a bitter aftertaste. (ＴεＴ；）
New after end made it even worse, because Nadeshiko and Tora were really, really cute together! The way he ‘proposed’ to her was very fitting and their wedding CG (though it wasn’t a real one) is one of my favorites. But I always end up remembering about Takato’s fate in that world and…ugh. It’s a vicious cycle. After my first playthrough I thought that I felt more for future Tora, because of his sad circumstances. And while that still holds true in a way (I do somewhat favor the stay end too, but only because the whole “erasing Takato” thing never happens xD), I gotta say that – relationship-wise – I think I’m leaning more towards 2010 Tora after all. Nadeshiko’s influence changed him into such a good person! I realized this in particular after reading the new after end and then future Tora’s after end. Not that future Tora didn’t change at all, but…y’know. Aw man, I really wish I could like Tora’s endings more…
stay >= return
Shuuya ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
CV: Ishida Akira
Playing Shuuya’s route really healed me after I suffered so much in Tora’s. Though no matter how amazing the route generally is, Shuuya’s ends still feel SO unbalanced! One is extremely happy, to the point I sometimes wish it was the canon end to CZ’s story. One is depressing beyond belief (it’s a bad end so I guess it’s ok). And one is so unnecessary I don’t even…¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I can’t believe they managed to make Shuuya’s ultra happy end even happier, but the after end addition really did it. It was a perfect ending to an already perfect ending. XD I wish Shuuya and his new little family all the happiness in the world! Too bad we didn’t get to see his and Nadeshiko’s baby. ( ; w ; )
What I love in particular about his return end is that the main group is still together, they’re still good friends (though Rittan acts exactly like overprotective Nadeshiko-papa would…oh, the irony! :3c). Ex Time even let Kaede join in as well…thank you!!! ❤ Hearing him bicker with Tora”-senpai” was all I ever wanted, even though I wasn’t aware of it before, lol.
stay <<< return
Madoka ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
CV: Toriumi Kousuke
I didn’t expect Madoka’s route to DESTROY me in my second playthrough, given that I already knew what was gonna happen….welp. I was wrong. I love Takato’s route to bits, but still gotta admit that Madoka’s route has the better romantic development (maybe even the best!?) in my eyes, hands down. Be it the ケンカップル aspect, both of their tsundere attitude, the somewhat forbidden nature of their relationship (King’s subordinate falling for the ‘Queen’), Madoka’s 舌ペロ (sorry, not sorry), his “I’m not a lolicon” attitude (except for when he is, heh :3c), etc…there’s a lot that panders to my tastes, so much that I NEVER WANNA LEAVE THE FUTURE even if it means abandoning everyone in the original world!
Seriously though, usually I’m all “return end is the true happy end!” but not this time. Madoka is the only route in which I wish to stay by his side forever. And it’s not that I dislike little Madoka or anything, not at all! It’s just…I don’t know. He’s adorable, I love how he’s slowly warming up to Nadeshiko and he clearly cares for her a lot (most likely in the middle of developing a crush), but that’s about how far their relationship goes for me. They still end up being a cute and tsundere couple, of course. The added after story was very heartwarming as well (gotta love how Madoka completely ignores Nadeshiko-papa’s objections XD). And yet my preference is very clear this time: no matter how cute this Madoka is, the one I fell in love with is broken world Madoka. To me, these two just feel way to different to see them as “the same person” (of course there are similarities, but ugh….). When broken world Madoka loses all his self-restraint in the stay branch and declares to never let Nadeshiko go I just _(:3_ Sigh, Madokaaaa!! Yes, I want
Nadeshiko to stay with you (and Nakaba :’D) forever….!
stay >>> return
Takato(♡) ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
CV: Namikawa Daisuke
Takato still gives me many, many feels no matter which part of his route I play. I’m such a sucker for characters who’re ready to sacrifice everything for their love, yet are extremely selfish at the same time. In Takato’s case he’s also like a little kid: very innocent, so much that everyone’s using him (and making fun of him XD) as they like. It’s sad and adorable at the same time. ; w ;
While I enjoy both his endings, the return end clearly is the “true happy end” in my eyes, even though it’s sad that Nadeshiko and King have to separate right after she learns to love him. But since 2020 Nadeshiko is shown to wake up there’s hope that King’s sacrifice actually was rewarded with a miracle, so…yay! Both Takatos finding happiness is all I want (too bad not everyone gets that privilege lol). I love King, even though he’s a problematic idiot. Thinking of how he stays lost and lonely and bitter in every other route, kinda makes me sad. Luckily there wasn’t much time to think about it since the new after end was very cute and happy and romantic, so I got distracted. Takato managing to cook something eadible for Nadeshiko was a huge surprise (s this Nakaba’s miraculous power…? LOL)! I also laughed at the fact Nadeshiko-papa is okay(ish) with Takato marrying his daughter, but not okay with Takato’s dad becoming part of the family. That rivalry…! XD What’s even better: Takato’s heart-to-heart conversation with Rittan (I still kind of ship those two) as well as the fact that the whole group comes together for the wedding again. It really was a heartwarming happy end. Takato is cute. The cuteness in his own route makes up for his creepiness in most other routes!
stay < return
Nakaba(♡) ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
CV: Sudou Shou
OKAY THIS IS GONNA BE A VERY LONG WALL OF TEXT BUT PLEASE HEAR ME OUT! I LOVE NAKABA SO MUCH!!! I saved him for last and wondered if maybe I made a mistake by doing so. My expectations for this route grew insanely high over time and when I finally got to him I was afraid of starting; afraid that I might end up being disappointed. While the route was by no means perfect, it definitely didn’t disappoint me, so that’s good! That being said, I sure as hell wish the route had been perfect because Nakaba fucking deserves it!
Seeing as Nakaba represents a neutral party, his route had to somehow connect the two fighting sides while also delivering a unique experience. I think Nakaba trying to understand both, government and rebels, is a good basis for him because it’s just a very Nakaba thing to do. On the other hand it also meant that a lot of stuff had to fit into that route, so unfortunately lovey-dovey moments were a little on the short side. It’s good they decided to expand the Shigure plot, because it was kinda missing substance in the PSP version (also, Shigure ended up being a kinda cool woman…it’s a shame she’s such a horrible mother or I might’ve liked her a lot). I’m also happy about some Takato/Madoka input on the other side, because this relationship didn’t get that much attention either. I’m not really angry about Nakaba being a “too nice for his own good” type of guy, because
that’s what I expected anyway that’s just very…Nakaba (I feel like I’m saying this a lot LOL). I think he really saw Nadeshiko as a lost child in the beginning and developed a romantic interest in her only later on. Being the wonderful person that he is, of course he wouldn’t hit on such a girl, even if he realized the change in his heart. He’s not Madoka after all. XD To be fair though, it was apparent that he had trouble holding back the more the story progressed, and there wasn’t that much room to be cute and cuddly anyway, not without it feeling out-of-place (like the trip to Takato’s flower field did for example…I mean, why would they willingly go there after barely making it out of the HQ?? Talk about low profile…). I can’t say that I wasn’t frustrated about the constant “holding back for the other’s sake”, but at the same time it was also something I really liked. Their relationship development was great in general. It felt so…normal, relatable, positive, HEALTHY!!! And that’s not only for the after ends (which were positive and good for all characters, at least the ones taking place after the return end), but the whole route! In fact, Nakaba was such a perfect and good boyfriend that not even Nadeshiko-papa felt the need to give his obligatory “are you really ready to marry my adorable daughter” speech, that took place in the other guys’ after ends LOL. :’D
In a way, Nakaba is similar to Takato. He puts Nadeshiko, her safety and her happiness first, and is ready to sacrifice a lot for her sake. They’re also both kind of lonely, albeit for different reasons. Takato is lonely because he’s a deviant; he can’t understand others (this kid is too smart for his own good). Nakaba is lonely because he understands and sympathizes too…much? Lol. He wants to be a hero and help everybody, but when it comes to himself he isn’t honest about what he really wants to do (ironically it’s exactly what he criticizes Madoka for…these two brothers, Is2g). At the same time, Nakaba also is fundamentally different from Takato, because he lacks Takato’s selfishness. Takato is willing to do A LOT for Nadeshiko’s sake (a little too much even XD), but always on the condition that she stays with him
forever and ever. Nakaba is ready to let her go, as long as she can be happy (in fact he lets her go even in the stay end, which is like, god tier level of selflessness lmao). Not only did I find this contrast extremely interesting (how come two opposites ended up being my ultimate favorites??), but it also made me…dislike Takato for the first (and only!) time in the entire game. King was creepy in other routes too, but I’d always end up sympathizing with him and defending his actions. That wasn’t the case in Nakaba’s route. Instead, I got very annoyed and angry, even a little disgusted(!?).
Nakaba probably is the only character whom I don’t think of as any different in the broken world. Nakaba is always Nakaba. For me that meant that no matter what Nadeshiko chose to do (stay or return) I would be happy, because in my eyes she’d always end up with the same Nakaba. Unfortunately it also meant that I didn’t understand why she would have a preference at all. The stay end even felt a little unfair to shota Nakaba, because Nadeshiko chooses his other self right in front of him (Nakaba doesn’t know wtf is going on of course, but to me as a player it felt kinda….meh). I didn’t really like the whole “going back only to go back again” thing anyway, especially since the route made sure to put a lot of emphasis on her NOT BEING ABLE TO RETURN TO THE BROKEN FUTURE EVER AGAIN. In the end, shota Takato magically managed to figure out how to do things in the span of a month (didn’t it take King YEARS to make it happen!?), while Nadeshiko kept ignoring everybody until leaving them behind for good. She left on such bad terms too, it’s like her “precious friends”, as she usually calls them, didn’t matter at all. Of course I was happy for 2020 Nakaba regardless of that (HE DESERVES IT!!!) but I still wish they had chosen a different path for the stay happy end.
One last thing I really have to mention no matter what is Nakaba’s seiyuu. I’ve never really heard of him before (apparently he voiced some random characters in Daiya?) but his performance as Nakaba for both, shota and grown-up version, definitely made me a fan! He did such a great job with Nakaba’s easygoing and very casual nature and delivered some amazing stuttering and awkwardness when he had to….I love his voice and will definitely check out more of his roles if I get the chance!
stay = return