"Key visual for Tengoku Struggle - Strayside showcasing a montage of its characters in a stylized, vibrant composition. The artwork features a central figure with a sly expression, wearing a dark fedora and a detective's coat, surrounded by an ensemble of other characters in action-packed poses. Each character exhibits unique traits, from a woman wielding fiery energy to individuals with mysterious, supernatural gadgets and symbols. A myriad of elements like playing cards, dice, and stylized flora adds to the chaotic energy of the scene. The game's title, 'TENGOKU STRUGGLE' in bold, pixelated font along with the subtitle 'Strayside' is presented in the upper right corner on a mustard yellow background." Published on: LadiesGamers

Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- Review

Game: Tengoku Struggle -Strayside-
Genre: Adventure, Visual Novel
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer|Publisher: Idea Factory | Aksys Games
Age Rating: EU 16+ | US Teen
Price: US $49.99 | UK £44.99 | EU €49,99
Release Date: April 4th, 2024

A review code was provided, with many thanks to Reef Entertainment.

Hell Meets Modern World

Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- occurs in a world where the living and people from hell live side by side. In this world, almost everyone has committed some kind of sin and is sent to hell to live out their sentence by being tortured all day. 

We meet our protagonist Rin Enma, who is the adoptive daughter of the king of hell, King Enma. She has just graduated as Valedictorian of the Hell Guardian School and is on her way to becoming a hell guardian of one of the Eight Burning Hells. Since she grew up in hell, she has met all kinds of awful people who have committed all kinds of crimes. This made her hate all men and not show any interest in the human realm. 

That is until Rin is tasked to track down a group of escaped prisoners in the human realm and bring them back to King Enma. She will be accompanied by a carefully selected group of prisoners who have each committed heinous crimes. But living in the human world will maybe change how Rin thinks about the world…

Tama in his bathing outfit on the Home Screen.

The Hellraisers

We have five routes in Tengoku Struggle -Strayside-. Two of these routes are locked at the beginning, so you have to save those for last. The remaining three routes don’t have a particular order to them, so you can play them however you would like. The order I followed is Kikunosuke -> Yona -> Sharaku -> JacK -> Goemon. 

Kikunosuke Uga

Kikunosuke is the youngest of our group, which kind of makes this route an older sister-younger brother type romance. He also loves video games and eating, which is something a lot of young teens love to do. 

Kikunosuke was assigned to the Black Rope hell. Which means he committed a lot of theft in his human life. Early on it is also revealed that Kikunosuke can transform into a wolf. Being a wolf gives Kikunosuke impeccable hearing, and he can pick up scents from miles away. The downside to this is that he is sensitive to most smells and wears his headphones a lot to cancel out loud noises. 

In Tengoku Struggle -Strayside-, we also meet Kikunosuke’s sister, who is revealed to be a part of the escapees. They both can transform into wolves, but they each have different abilities. The goal for his route is to bring his sister Azami back to hell. But this will not be easy, and Kikunosuke will have to be confronted with his past.

Promotional image for Tengoku Struggle showcasing Kikunosuke Uga, depicted with a burst of arcade-inspired neon lights and vibrant effects surrounding him. He is in a dramatic pose, poised as if about to dash off, conveying a sense of urgency and excitement. Uga's outfit combines traditional elements with modern, technological accents, adding to the dynamic feel of the scene. The juxtaposition of a serene Japanese interior in the background against the lively arcade ambiance is highlighted by bright overlays and a sleeping fox spirit labeled "PRISONER." Text bubbles express Uga's readiness to play games at the arcade. Published on: LadiesGamers.
Kikunosuke of the Black Rope hell.

Yona Murakami

Yona is the grumpy of the group. He is the personality type that won’t admit to liking something and is extra shy around women. He can also be pretty short-tempered. But I guess that suits his fiery red hair. This is the character that is very rude at the start of a game but softens up after some traumatic event. And I am always here for this sort of character. 

Yona is a prisoner in the Revival hell, which means they murdered someone in their past. In his human life, Yona was a member of a feared pirate group. He spent a lot of his days on a ship, and even today, you can see he has a lot of nautical-themed bits and bobs as accessories or in his room. Because of his pirate life, he can read the stars, prepare a fish and is just knowledgeable about sailing in general. Yona’s main objective is to fight the escapees to show everyone his strength. But he will quickly find out that brute strength is not everything.

Artwork from Tengoku Struggle featuring Yona Murakami confidently wielding a telescopic spyglass with ornate, mechanical details. Murakami is captured mid-action against a cityscape background with modern buildings and a clear sky with fluffy clouds. He wears a headset around his neck and an expressive, vibrant jacket with various patches and a badge marked "PRISONER". Text on the image reads, "You're a million years too young to be ordering us around with your dinky provisional license," conveying a rebellious attitude. The title "The Tyrannical Old Navy" appears in a stylized font, surrounded by sea-themed graphics. Published on: LadiesGamers
Yona of the Revival hell.

Sharaku Toushuusai

Sharaku is assigned to the Crushing hell, which means someone has committed murder and perverse acts. Like Yona, Sharaku can be quite rude at times. However, whereas Yona got shy about certain things, Sharaku definitely did not. Like Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- describes, he has a pretty bad mouth, and you immediately understand he isn’t that new to the “adult” world if you catch my drift. But surprisingly, even though some of the things he says a little to warrant PG, he is the mother hen of the house. He is an absolute clean freak and wants everything to be perfectly clean. If not, he will boss everyone around to make it squeaky clean. And not just cleaning, he is good at cooking as well. I think he would be the perfect stay-at-home husband.

In his human life, Sharaku was an Ukiyo-e artist. Ukiyo-e means Japanese art that depicts subjects from everyday life. In his time, he made a lot of art, even a portrait of Goemon. 

In this Tengoku Struggle visual, Sharaku Toushuusai stands casually against a bamboo fence, biting into a chocolate bar. He sports a cap and headphones with a camouflage pattern, a red jacket with glowing outlines, and an insouciant expression. Neon green die and lightning effects accentuate the graphic design. A speech bubble reads, "I refuse to get on a boat made of mud that's just gonna sink in a day or two," reflecting his defiant attitude. The background shows an orderly garden suggesting a peaceful setting juxtaposed with the word "PRISONER" in a stamp-like red outline. Published on: LadiesGamers.
Sharaku of the Crushing hell.


I would say JacK was mysterious in the beginning of Tengoku Struggle -Strayside-. The reason was that he was on the bad side of course. But I quickly got the idea that his real personality could be very different from the one that he displayed. Like he had some sort of mask on, well he did literally, but I am also speaking figuratively. He is in cahoots with the escapees and helps them promote their app for getting into heaven. He has his own TV show and often makes appearances with Kikunosuke’s sister because they have the same management. My impression of him was that he looked like he starred in an emo boyband. He is supposed to be this jack of all trades (see what I did there) because he is a singer/songwriter and a TV personality, and he is working on a novel. But we only see him on these streams, promoting an app. 

In this striking image from Tengoku Struggle, the character JACK exudes charm with a playful wink and a tip of his fedora. Dressed in a smart, dark overcoat accented with a purple tie and a rose in the lapel, he stands against a retro, sepia-toned office backdrop with a film projector in the corner. Vivid purple electric sparks and a jagged tear effect add a surreal touch to the artwork. The text captures a dramatic tone with phrases like "No one can escape from there..." and "A macabre dance of eternal fire and blood," hinting at the game's dark and mysterious themes. Published on: LadiesGamers.
JacK the mysterious human TV personality.

Goemon Ishikawa

Ah yes, my favourite from the beginning of Tengoku Struggle -Strayside-. Immediately upon the introduction of Goemon, they let us know that he was the most famous thief of them all. The king of the thieves if you will. In his time, he made a name for himself, and even every prisoner knows of him. But meeting him, he does not seem like a villain at all. He is chivalrous and is the only one who wants to lend a hand to the heroine. Goemon does appear to have a soft side, especially when we see him interacting with the housemates. Even in the mornings, he wakes everyone up with a good cup of coffee. 

Goemon has committed almost every crime under the sun and has, therefore, been assigned to the lowest ring of hell. The Enteral Hell. I believe he has been dead the longest and thus also appears to be the voice of reason when trying to capture the escapees. His biggest strength lies in getting people together and organised. 

Promotional image from Tengoku Struggle featuring Goemon Ishikawa in mid-leap, with a dynamic energy crackling around him. His attire is a fusion of traditional Japanese clothing and modern design, rich in patterns and texture, capturing the essence of his character. The setting is contemporary, with a hint of traditional Japanese decor in the background. Accompanying text bubbles encourage unity with the phrases, "Let's forget about our grudges and work together. We're all stuck in the same boat." The title "The Heinous Anti Heroes" floats in the air with playful, crime-inspired graphics. A "PRISONER" stamp overlaps the image, adding to the narrative's intrigue. Published on: LadiesGamers.
The king of thieves Goemon, of the Eternal hell.

Visuals and Sound

Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- is from the same team that made Olympia Soirée a few years back. Initially, looking at the visual style of the game, I noticed that the similarities were the first thing that popped into my head. In that sense, they did a good job showing the players their personal art style while still maintaining a unique style for this game. The visuals in the game kind of remind me of a comic book style, with all the bright colours, black outlines and the reaction illustrations from the characters.  

One note I want to touch upon is the CG’s (Computer Graphics). They were good-looking in their own right, but in comparison to other games, they’re slightly lacking. At first, I didn’t even realise that I was looking at a CG. It missed a bit of magic that a lot of other games have when it comes to CGs. 

A comic book-like visual style. Two parties are having a fighting match.

I feel the same about the BGM (background music) in Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- as I do with all the other otome games that take place in modern-day or a world that looks a lot like the world we live in. The BGM is fine, it’s not unique or based on historical influences, so it doesn’t have that something extra. But this is not to say that the BGM wasn’t enjoyable. The OP (opening music) and EDs (Ending music) were really fun. The OP reminded me of the opening theme from Cupid Parasite. And EDs are the kind of music I thrive on most of the time. 

Side Characters

For this review, I wanted to touch on a couple of side characters because Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- had a few interesting ones. 


Oh… let’s talk about the only cat in history that stole my heart. Of course, I am talking about Tamao, known as Tama for short. He is Rin’s sidekick and a hell cat. When Tama first came to hell, Rin saved him from a precarious predicament, and since then, they have been inseparable. Tama is just stinking adorable and he would do anything to make Rin happy. Every time he was in a scene, he made me feel happy.

Vibrant character art from Tengoku Struggle featuring the guardian cat, Tamao. Tamao stands assertively with a piercing gaze, ready to defend as stated by the accompanying text, "With me around, she'll be alright! I will protect Chie!" The scene is set against a traditional Japanese landscape with a serene body of water and a wooden bridge, beneath a sky colored by the reddish hue of dusk against the mountains. The playful title "Brethren Kitty" is adorned with whimsical musical notes and paw prints. Tamao's title of "HELL GUARDIAN" is boldly declared in a red, stamp-like design. Published on: LadiesGamers.
Loyal Hell cat Tamao.

King Enma

Boy, where to begin. From the moment this character is introduced, I think we can all agree that he is very strange. He is Rin’s adoptive father, but he wishes his relationship with her to be very affectionate. Like he has seen a bad American movie and wishes to reenact that. Even forcing Rin to call him daddy. From the beginning, it was clear to me that something was up with him, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Something else he does is give people weird pet names. This shows his love for animals, together with the fact that he adopts a lot of pets. His current obsession is his white cat, Carmen.

Charismatic promotional art for Tengoku Struggle features KING ENMA, exuding a confident and commanding presence. He wears a wide-brimmed hat adorned with a fiery feather and skull, and holds a red oni mask in one hand. ENMA's muscular build is partially visible beneath a white t-shirt that playfully reads "I ♥ Hell," suggesting a devil-may-care attitude. A clever cat with an expression of defiance sits in the foreground, wearing a small bow and a mischievous grin. The background of the traditional Japanese room with sliding doors adds a sense of authenticity to the setting. Text asserts ENMA's dominance with "Enma Palace is Daddy's home. My rules prevail within these walls. Leave if you won't obey me!" Published on: LadiesGamers.
The strange King of Hell, Enma.

Overall Thoughts

As I said in the visuals section, Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- was created by the same team as the otome Olympia Soirée. Though we haven’t reviewed Olympia Soirée because of the age rating, I did play it a while back and absolutely loved it. Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- has a lot of visual and game similarities and that was a treat in itself. Even the characters were somewhat similar to the characters in Olympia Soiree, but I am not complaining.

The prisoner team in formation.

Lesson from Tama

They have also done a great job with the world-building. Even though this world is a sort of fantasy world, it feels more like an alternate reality where you have the modern world mixed with ideas of hell and heaven. It was just interesting to see how all of these different elements could blend. Having dead criminals walking around and people knowing they were probably going to suffer in hell. It was definitely thought-provoking. Matching that, almost every character was great in the game. I really got excited to play every character and couldn’t wait to find out how it ended. 

At the beginning of Tengoku Struggle -Strayside-, I had a hard time keeping up with all the terminology and world information that we got. Thankfully we had a lesson from Tama to teach us about the circules of hell and what they each meant. I loved the idea of having a sort of intermezzo every once in a while, to fully understand the game. But these “teaching” moments only happened twice. I am confused as to why they would set up this whole teaching moment and then use it only twice. 

A sensei Tamao Lecture.

Another note I have is the writing. Sometimes, they would use strange words to explain something; maybe it is old terminology, but I found it confusing. What I also saw was that they often referred to a girl as Lord. Maybe I am missing something? Anyway, that was a little strange.

Conclusion for Tengoku Struggle -Strayside-

Tengoku Struggle -Strayside- has all the elements that I love in an Otome game. An interesting world, good LI’s (Love interests) with some spicy scenes and a good story. I would recommend picking this up and just enjoying the journey. 

Final verdict: I like it a lot.
I like it a lot

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *