Here I am, back on the campus of Iris Acade… Oh. No. Wait. This is Iris School of Wizardry. It just happens to be a school that teaches magic, but it’s entirely different from the Iris Academy in Magical Diary. Ho ho! What a mix up.
So, yeah. This was on sale, and I was intrigued by the coincidence. Magical Diary predates Iris School of Wizardry by about three years, but while Magical Diary is actually a North American visual novel, Iris School of Wizardry is Japanese as hell, right down to the spotty translation.
If you’re new to the series, you’re about to witness me blindly dive into a dating sim to dredge up some romance. I play through the game exactly once and give a running narrative of my experience. With that said, I spoil the hell out of at least one romantic subplot, which may wind up spoiling the whole game. If you’re interested after the first header, maybe try playing along. Also, if you’ve got any suggestions for games I should cover, leave me a comment or drop me a line and let me know why I should be giving it my attention.
BACK TO MAGIC SCHOOL
Iris School of Wizardry follows a narrative that is suspiciously like Magical Diary, but before we circle back to whether or not it’s a rip-off, we should note that Magical Diary is a lot like Harry Potter. So, it looks less like one copied the other and more like they were both cheating off the same notebook.
You play as a girl born from a wizard father and a mundane human mother. They’re both dead, though. You’re following your dream of becoming a great witch and have enrolled in the prestigious Iris School of Wizardry. To your surprise, even though you’re a commoner, you get in.
While you’re initially ostracized for being poor, you manage to intrigue the members of “The Society,” who invite you into their prestigious group. This group consists of the main cast: there’s Clyde King, class president and suave rich boy; Matias Archibold, who like cats but is otherwise kind of a snob; A-Jay Blackford, decent guy who reaches out early; and Cyril Grundy, who is rather androgynous and also kind of an insecure dick. Also available for romance is Keith Knight, a professor if you’re into older men. Left out is your roommate, Ashley, who is a girl often mistaken for a boy. Really, I’d probably have picked her because she’s the most forward and sexually available, but no, I guess it’s not to be.
How do I know? This is one of those dating sims that you pick who you’re going to try and woo and then follow through their story. Not my favourite type, especially since, at this time, I don’t know any of these people well enough to make a decision. I ended up going with A-Jay because he seems kindest and I like his red hair.
DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE
Things start off plainly enough. A-Jay and I partner up to tackle a midterm together, then spend a couple days at his summer home. Even though his parents leave us alone for a day, nothing happens. The only hint that there are sparks are when he warns that if I continue to tease him, he can’t be held responsible for his actions, giving my avatar the opportunity to reject him.
We eventually get back to school when suddenly I find a magical door on the wall. Curious, I go through it, and that’s when things get six sides of screwed up.
DON’T SAY I DIDN’T WARN YOU
Where do I even begin? I find myself in some sort of weird cave with a guy called Leonore. He’s obviously peddling without a bicycle and presents himself as some sort of detached child. He wears a disheveled school uniform and is obsessed with the colour red, as well as his stuffed rabbit. I’m given the tour of the cave’s two rooms, a bedroom and a dining room, and I quickly find that the food immediately makes me lose consciousness.
Oh, yeah. Also, if I attempt or voice hope for escape, he goes psycho and tries to kill me.
So, I’m trapped in this weird place with this weird person and there’s no immediate chance of getting away. What just happened? I was attending school normally, then suddenly I’m in the clutches of a juvenile sociopath. Why is it that every time I attend magic school, someone tries to kill me?
Just to add to the horror of the situation, when I then saved the game, it notified me that I was no longer on A-Jay’s story thread, but rather Leonore’s. So romance is in the air, and he demonstrates this by handcuffing me, then cutting my neck and licking the blood from the wound. Okay, so maybe he is my type.
JUST MY TYPE
Things go on like this for a while, with me trying not to upset him and drive him into a blood frenzy. My avatar, not content with being fed off of and drugged constantly, tries to get to know Leonore better and discovers that he is wearing a necklace that fits with hers. It’s like a couple’s necklace and is integral to their relationship, but it is never explained why they both have one.
Eventually I cross a line when I explore the cave alone and Leonore comes at me with a kitchen knife. My avatar, not ready to make that sort of commitment, talks him out of killing her and casts a spell that takes her into his heart. There, she discovers that Leonore isn’t Leonore at all. He was just a student at Iris until he ran afoul of a bully and wound up in a magical duel where he cast a dark magic spell and lost his sanity. Unable to repair the boy’s sanity, the headmaster banished him beneath the school.
Back in the real world, Leonore’s real personality is revealed and he says his name is actually Iris. He then asks me to kill him, which I’m really not into, but he presents a convincing argument by once again lunging with the kitchen knife. However, stabbing him through the heart with a magical rapier isn’t as fatal as it sounds, and he awakens good as new.
Like, even his clothes and everything. It’s like he just had a cold shower.
Iris and I then return to the school and he reunites with the headmaster, who turns out to be his father. I’m just left very, very bewildered about what happened.
Some time passes, and Iris and I discuss what’s going on between us, because obviously he’s a completely different person now. Or not. He admits that while he was as crazy as a loon, maybe some of the things he did in the cave were still appealing to him. Maybe, he suggests, that while Leonore’s obsession with red is behind his lust for blood, Iris was possibly into that as well. Don’t tease a girl.
I’m not sure what to feel right now. It’s a mix of disappointment and, uh, disappointment. Is this what a drunken one-night stand feels like? You don’t really recall what happened, you don’t remember the person lying next to you, and you just kind of feel confused. It’s a new experience for me.
So, yeah. My time at magic school took a sudden turn down Horrorshow Boulevard and then took a shortcut down a dark alley. Which seems to be what goes on every time I enroll in a school to enrich my magical powers. I should maybe learn to just stay away, but I’m curious to push the limits. Of course, curiosity killed the cat, which, at this rate, may be the final result.
This article is based on a digital copy of the game for the Switch platform. It was paid for by the author.