AAAH! This was sooo cool! I'm so glad we finally have the (full) demo! I wanted to wait for this one before playing, so yeah.
Well, before diving into my feedback, I wanted to remind once more that since this isn't mandatory, I didn't play the solo and the girls' routes, as that's really not my thing. But I'll do my best to properly review the rest!
First of all, the backgrounds are really pretty. They seem improved from the first game, if I'm not mistaken? Anyway, I like those and I like the new clothes - very elegant, and all of the little changes alude nicely to a change of times and a tense period. You can really sense from many little thing the country will be at war soon. Now the only thing missing is a proper soundtrack, and the atmosphere will be amazing!
There are some typos and stuff here and there, but nothing that won't be changed with later proofreading, I'm sure.
I'm slighly confused about the choices at the beginning that serve to determine the way you played Iolanthe in the first game. I believe I choose well since she doesn't seem out of character compared to how I left her, but well, hard to tell for sure since the demo was quite short. But I'm not saying it was too short either. I wouldn't mind a longer one, sure, but it was enough to see what's happening, some of the situation the country is in, get a nice glimpse of how is Iolanthe's couple life, and be hyped for what's coming next - so no complaints here!
Now, the characters and routes. Well, funny thing is, my route ranking is the same in this demo as it was in The Rose of Segunda, with my favorite being Frederique, then Leo, followed by Bastien and finally the prince. The girls were last back then, but as I told before, I didn't try their routes here. Interestingly, despite what you said about his route in the latest update post, Bastien's route wasn't really unexpected to me. I have more or less predicted they WOULD be back somehow to the Parisi, and some form of deep emotional troubles - both things would be necessary for one part to make the route possible and for other part to make for some interesting tension and stuff.
As for my detailed thoughts about the routes so far, well, I'll go from my least favorite to my favorite.
- Guillaume: well, him being my least favorite doesn't mean I don't love him - that ranking is only comparative, with the other characters I like more. Now, his route was actually the most surprising one to me, to be fair. I didn't think he'd support his father so much and that he'd be so much in denial of his bad ways. It makes for interesting tension, and I'm wondering how the situation will end in this route. Strangely enough, it's the one that felt the less romantic to me too, it was too tense, maybe partly because it felt too tense since I simply couldn't agree with him on some of the things he was talking about. That's basically all I can say for now about him, I think.
- Bastien: I've already shared some of my thoughts about him before, but that was basically about the fact I wasn't really surprised by his route here. So, onto the route itself! It was a VERY interesting one. Honestly, it would be higher in the list if Leo and Frederique weren't SO DAMN AWESOME. Ahem, sorry! It was really heartbreaking, to begin with. It always made me so sad to see Bastien suffer because of what may have been happening in the first game, and with all the awful stuff that happened between the two games, ugh! I feel really bad for him because of his father rejection, the bad reception of the marriage and all the different issues he and Iolanthe have to face against. But it's even more painful to see how he reacts to that. And what makes it worse is that his reactions are totally understandable, especially considering he's quite introverted. It also saddens me to see the always so strong Iolanthe struggling with keeping her head up and not feeling too tired by all of this. All in all, I expect greatness from this route when it'll be fully released.
- Leopold: well, I love the guy as always! And I like the fact that you can be on the "bad" side if you're doing this route (if we consider Guillaume's is the "good" one). Leo is and always was my kind of character - one who's disgraced and kind of an underdog if we talk about good suitors, but who has great ambitions too, and who'll be truly gratefull and sweet with the main character if hey choose him and truly love him. And well, I gotta love the intrigue in this route. Seeing how Iolanthe and Leo are in perfect synch and harmony with each other, and how they can create such elaborate plans on the long term all to get what they want is really cool. I also like the fact you can choose if Iolanthe is helping Leo out of love, or if she really shares his dreams and ambitions. While both choices obviously promise support, the undertones are really quite important. I don't think their harmony and, for the matter, their marriage will truly last if they're not on the same page. And if they're not, they'll have to seriously talk about this. But well, personally, I really like to show full support there, as opposite to Guillaume's route where I can't always agree. And besides, I believe it's truly important to Leo to know he has Iolanthe's full support. When he actually talked about that... well, it was truly touching to me.
- Frederique: ah, the best for last! Well, what can I say... I had a litt-HUGE soft spot for him since the very beginning, in the first game. I just can help it, he automatically puts a grin on my face and makes me feel happy. He's such a lovely character, and his relationship with Iolanthe is so sweet and daring and strong at the same time. I have a trully hard time making a review here - I love him too much to think straight. Well, all in all it's nice to see they had a happy life, at least up until now, and if you fully develop the whole spying scenario you put in place for this route, it may be the most interesting one, even if we're not talking about the romance itself. But I'm REALLY wary of Iolanthe's and Frederique's mother in this route. I hope she won't pull anything crazy and awful on them. So yeah, it makes me tense too haha - so much emotions in this one. Oh and also, it was so nice to finally see them share a kiss, albeit a brief one. Man I really hope for a kissing CG in this route, aah! I'm rarely really hung up on that, but in this specific case I missed it so much in the first game. Well, no point in me rambling on and on about this one, you get the gist of it, and at this point I'll be only repeating myself and squealing on every little detail.
And finally, some questions.
I've seen lots of choices that seem to basically determine how Iolanthe feels about this or that (for example the ones in Leo's and Guillaumes routes about having children), but don't seem to be relevant to how the route will progress. Are they really only there for fluff, or do all the choices have some kind of deeper purpose?
Also, does each route have more than one ending?
And last - you talk about a secret romance? I guess you must play on the solo route to get it, am I right? And are they a man or a woman? If you can tell without spoiling too much, of course!