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Graduation
Reviewer: Guy Wheatley 11/26/2001

Synopsis:
You are the latest addition to the teaching faculty at the Seika Preparatory Academy for girls. You are given a homeroom class of five different students for instruction: Misa, Rica, Sari, Cyndi, and Myna. Each girl possesses a unique temperament and set of talents -- Misa is the over-achieving, brilliant student-body type; Myna is a sensitive, artistic girl with high grades and polite decorum but whom suffers from anemia; Cyndi is fun-loving, spirited, stamina-charged, albeit ditzy; Sari is the sardonic tomboy who'd rather be doing anything else but studying; and Rica is the epitome of "cute". How hard you press these girls with the school curriculum and the teaching style you employ determines if they graduate and how they lead their lives -- whether it includes college, athletics, arts, or the grind of the working world. Can you, as their teacher, give them the guidance and perseverance they'll need to succeed, or will they be destined to fail and resent you for it?

Review:
Graduation II lets you play the role of a teacher given responsibility over five girls who progress by gaining and losing points on various statistics: Stamina, Strength, Friendliness, Respect, Elegance, Charm, and Studiousness. They have ranging competency in English, History, and Math -- the homeroom subjects you teach. The beginning of each school week starts with you deciding on the tone and pace of your pupils' studies -- whether it is lenient, strict, or a free study period. You also choose the study subject, whom in the class you will focus on with their studies, and the seating arrangement. During the weekend you can choose one student whose schedule you can alter to your wishes, and then hang around the classroom or your office offering advice and guidance to your pupils, or head to the suburbs and engage in off-campus searches or invite one of your students to dinner. Then the next week of class begins, and the cycle repeats.

Sound simple? The game play is, but the mechanics behind your actions and their statistical repercussions on your students aren't. There are many subtleties at play depending on your teaching approach and how you interfere with your students' lives. During the school week, a strict regimen tends to reap more results with grades and subject improvement, but at the cost of your students' "friendliness" and "charm" attributes. A lenient approach doesn't give quite as many study points and docks your students' "respect" of you but it also raises their "friendliness". Free study is great for students with a high quotient of "studiousness," however those who don't tend to ditch school in favor of learning on their own. Additionally, whom you dote on during the week tends to get the most out of the curriculum, but depending on who it is adversely affects the other students -- depending on their relationship with the girl and what her "charm" rating is. For example, Rica and Sari tend not to mind you focusing on Cyndi and manage to get a fair amount of learning done, but don't approve as much as focusing on Misa, who tends to be something of a snob.

Seating arrangement is important too, as students in the back of the class never get as much benefit as students in the front. Popular students like Cyndi or Rica tend to distract other students more in central locations. On weekends, you have fewer choices, but what you decide can be vital here as well. You can alter only one student's weekend routine and input substitute activities for her, and the rest will do their own thing. The trick is choosing students whom would get the most out of intervention, particularly if they've chosen frivolous activities for their spare time (a particular problem with Cyndi and Sari). Activities that have only detrimental effects on stats are Movies, Karokee, Disco, Partying, Cruising, and (somewhat) Cooking; you'll want to deter your students from these as much as possible. On the other hand, the A.V. Lab, Computer Lab, and Library all help their English, Math, and History ratings, respectively, as well as their overall studiousness. Among other activities are Church, which raises Elegance and Respect, Piano Lessons, which raise Elegance and Charm, Gym, which raises Strength and Respect, and Aerobics, which raise Friendliness and Charm. Certain students will be drawn to certain activities more than others. What they choose is also influenced by their stats, particularly their studiousness. If you've been pretty laid-back in your teaching efforts expect them to goof around on the weekend a lot.

After the weekend, you have some other options. In the office or the classroom you can counsel away your students' problems -- whether it's moodiness, stress, fighting with peers, or even a broken heart. One thing you can't talk away is exhaustion, which you have to rejuvenate by scheduling your students "rest" during the weekend or inviting them to dinner. You can also give gifts -- dictionaries to help with their study, flowers to help with their charm (and charming them), and music boxes to help with elegance -- all of which increase friendliness to boot. Money trickles in at a gradual pace (what do you expect? you're a teacher!), and has no real purpose besides fawning materially over your students. And if you absolutely have nothing better to do over the weekend, you can do an off-campus search to see if your students are up to campus violations or other mischief, and confront them about it. During the review of each school week or weekend encounter with your pupils you're presented with a statistic sheet of their progress and how your responses affect them. There are comments of how they perceive you as well.

Stats that reach certain terminal lows or magnanimous highs have adverse effects on your students. For example, if their Elegance is too high, they become stuck-up and start to consider class beneath them, and their stats and respect suffer for it. If it's too low, they become disruptive in class and tend to get in fights. Runaways have to be located on the weekends via a "Runaway Search" in either the housing district, suburbs, or night-life districts. The two stats you'll probably find yourself battling over to keep high the most are a student's Studiousness and Stamina, since these two tend to be almost universally drained and require constant attention. One extra-curricular activity on the weekend, "Park," is particularly good for rejuvenating Stamina, and if you see a student schedule it, be thankful. A number of different events also come around during the school year. Sporting events, cultural festival, school play, vacations, and of course, exams. How you handle your students' participation in these events affect their personal "Valuation" score, which is the one stat that can't be raised by your hand.

My experience with Graduation has been a smashing success. I became engrossed in the game, and it definitely has a "one more turn" (or should I say "week") pull to it. The little twists and new surprises that crop up each game keep you coming back for more. There are a few quibbles to note, though. When discovering "improper activities," as it is bound to happen, differing degrees of severity would have been nice to reflect how detrimental they are to the student's stats; discovering Myna working in a flower shop and Sari working as a race track bookie are equally bad, which seems a little skewed. Overall, I don't think it has quite the same long-term versatility of Princess Maker. For one thing, since your students start out with the same grades at the beginning of the year each game, you tend to be inclined to do use the same teaching strategies. Additionally, there aren't as many endings as there are for Princess Maker and you may find yourself triggering many redundant ones. Still, as with most simulation games, the journey is the reward and the game is greatly balanced to challenge how well you can juggle the needs of these five girls.

If there's a major drawback to Graduation II, it's the English dubbing. You don't have to be a subtitle snob to be appalled by how atrocious it is either. Cyndi is a "Valley Girl" cliché from the 80s, Sari is a tough cookie from Brooklyn with a hammy accent to match, and Rica, who is supposed to be the quintessential, adorably innocent and pure bishoujo gal, sounds like the niece of Elmer Fudd. Misa and Myna aren't too bad, because they sound halfway normal. I suppose it's a necessary evil with a domestic license, but the contrived way many of the girls' personalities are "Americanized" is disingenuous, considering the obvious Japanese schooling environment, and more than a little insulting for the bishoujo fan who takes pride in that fact. After a while the voices become easier to stomach, though you'll still find yourself right-clicking a lot to bypass their grating voices. It's a pity, because the opening and closing movies on the CD are in the original, unaltered Japanese, and you can listen to how they could (should) have sounded in-game if it had used subtitles. The opening Graduation theme music is particularly uplifting and cheery, and the closing theme is a wistfully hopeful ballad.

On the whole Graduation II is a fantastic and addicting Guardian Sim, guaranteed to take up many of your hours in honor of "scholarly" pursuits. Recommended for fans of Princess Maker, other life sims, or gamers in need of a refreshing change of pace.

Miscellanies:
There is a music gallery for the midi of the game, as well as a "Karokee" gallery, where you can relive classic moments when you heard your pupils belting out tunes on stage. In your head anyway, you don't actually hear them sing, just look at a pic. There's also a bonus add-on that must be unlocked in-game. It's a secret, and it all adds to the game's replayability.

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Graduation
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Review Title:
Graduation
Released:
1999
Approximate Length:
2-10 Hours
Suitable For:
Young Adults
General Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Hentai Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars
Genres:
School
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