By Joseph Puntschart / May 10th, 2018
|Title||Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time|
|Age Rating||All ages|
More and more Japanese doujin VNs are getting localized into English nowadays, with Fruitbat Factory being among the publishers focusing on these smaller titles. Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time is the latest title they have localized for PC following other titles like SeaBed and Minature Garden. Developed by Studio Beast, Chuusotsu focuses on three young women as they aim to answer a philosophical question – what makes a wonderful life?
To add some background info – the world of Chuusotsu is a dystopian future where everyone in life is given a “Seal” as dictated by the P3 Law of the Global People’s Federation. This dictates their future career, their physical attributes, intelligence and more. The main cast, including the protagonist Arue, are Chuusotsu. A Chuusotsu is somebody that is considered a failure by society because they have no education beyond middle school. Furthermore, as this is a group who failed the mandatory placement test during middle school, they have no seals. However, there is an opportunity for certain Chuusotsu to gain a seal and be able to rise through the ranks in society. This essentially sets up the basis for their group task within which the heroines work together to solve the philosophical question. Arue and her fellow Chuusotsu, Koiro and Arara have a week to solve the question otherwise they will be forced to leave and return to their old lives. Thus the adventure is set up for the rest of this intriguing game.
Visually, the game’s presentation was very good. The colourful artstyle helped set the overall tone for the story. The character portraits are well drawn which greatly added to this. The backgrounds were well drawn with each one capturing the environment well. For example, the backgrounds set in the city centre show a lot of detail such as the drawing of an inner city street with various signs with Japanese characters. It’s clear that a good deal of time went into these backgrounds. However, many of them were reused even if the location within the story was different. Some more variety would have been good. However, the lack of variety doesn’t apply to the CGs. Four new CGs have been added into the localized version of Chuusotsu thanks to some of the stretch goals on the Kickstarter campaign being met. The CGs help emphasize the vibrant colourful aesthetic within the world of Chuusotsu and greatly aid the immersion. Had the game not gone to Kickstarter it is likely that it would have suffered due to the omission of these four CGs. The music is also of good quality. There is nothing particularly memorable for the most part, however all 13 tracks fit the world and help set the scenes they appear in. All the main heroines are fully voiced as well as all of the side characters that have portraits.
The story was well told, with the structure flowing coherently. The game’s story focuses around themes of loneliness, social mobility and finding a purpose in life. There are times when the story gets quite dark which juxtaposes the light-hearted aesthetic and tone. Without spoiling the story, the direction it took was very interesting and it’s not something you can predict until it happens. This greatly added to my enjoyment and helped keep me engaged till it ended, and the ending was satisfying. Character development was well fleshed out, with Arue’s arc being the most satisfying. However, I was hoping that the game would be more direct with its discussion about philosophy, especially with how this was a key part of the game’s setup. Discussion of the philosophical aspect is fairly infrequent compared to the slice-of-life segments until the last chapter. Chuusotsu is fairly open-ended about how it discusses philosophy, meaning there’s a broader scope for interpreting the game’s messages. Personally, I would have preferred a more direct approach, but I do appreciate what the writers were intending. In that respect, Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation is by and large a success with regards to its storytelling.
Localisation wise, the script was enjoyable to read. I can’t comment about how faithful the translation is to the Japanese original, but there were literally no typos or awkward phrasing that I noticed. When many other VNs that released in the last year have had QA issues of varying degrees, (such as Collar x Malice and Chaos;Child) it’s refreshing to read through a VN that has had a lot of effort put into its QA. Granted, the length of the game is likely a factor when compared to these longer VNs that had these issues. Moreover, if you are able to read VNs in Japanese then you are in luck as Japanese text is included in this release. By extension, the user interface was well put together for the most part. There is touchscreen support, allowing tablet users to enjoy the VN as if it was released on a handheld games console, and also the option to turn up, down or mute each individual option. Furthermore, there is a Tips function that can be accessed at any time detailing the game’s world. However the font is far too small to read properly within these tip boxes, not to mention all the explanation appears as one massive chunk of text. Ideally, the font should be made bigger and the pop-up tip box be converted into a scrolling text box. Hopefully this is tweaked in a future patch.
Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation won’t take too long to clear. It took me about 11 hours to beat the game. There is only one ending as this is a kinetic novel. There are also Steam Achievements, Steam Trading Cards as well as Steam Cloud support for those that are interested. I enjoyed my time with Chuusotsu and found it to be a well-crafted experience. If you are a fan of slice-of-life or kinetic VNs I recommend picking this title up especially at the asking price of $19.99 for the digital version as well as $9.99 for the soundtrack. I’d be interested in more from this world and developer and high quality games like Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation which greatly help set the scene for more high-quality doujin VNs in the future.
Review Copy supplied by the publisher
All AgesChuusotsuChuusotsu - 1st Graduation: Time After TimeFruitbat FactoryKinetic NovelStudio Beastvisual novel