By Chris Melchin / December 12th, 2018
|Release Date||August 23rd, 2018|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Romance, Comedy|
|Age Rating||N/A (All-ages)|
I have at best a passing familiarity with Frontwing’s visual novels. It mostly comes from the Grisaia series (The Fruit of Grisaia is one of the only perfect scores I’ve given), but with the recent release of ISLAND I decided to take the plunge, hoping it would be close to the same level of quality. Similar to The Fruit of Grisaia, I wasn’t really sure what was waiting for me within ISLAND, so I was definitely curious to see where it would take me. I should also mention that ISLAND is also linked in some way to Frontwing and writer G.O.’s previous work Himawari -The Sunflower-, which I haven’t played myself, so there may be some story elements that I didn’t pick up on because of that. I also haven’t seen the anime adaptation, but from what I’ve heard it’s much more heavy on the ecchi than the game is.
ISLAND follows an amnesiac protagonist, given the name Setsuna Sanzenkai, who washes up on the shores of an isolated island called Urashima, knowing nothing but that he has some kind of mission to fulfill. He meets and is taken in by the reclusive Rinne Ohara, the daughter of one of the island’s formerly influential Three Families. He meets the daughters of the other families: the rebellious Karen Kurutsu, who wants to escape from the island to the mainland; and Sara Garando, the young shrine maiden who believes it’s her destiny to save the island. Convinced he traveled to the year 1999 (in which the game is set), Setsuna sets off to remember his mission, and to find an identity for himself there on that secluded island.
ISLAND is a romance visual novel, with Karen, Sara, and Rinne as its romanceable main characters. Karen and Sara’s routes must be completed first to unlock Rinne’s, which in turn leads into the game’s two final routes and its true ending. There’s a myriad of bad endings to avoid along the way, and especially the main route is something of a minefield of bad endings. Fortunately, the game has an integrated flowchart to help the reader see everything, allowing the player to easily jump between scenes, see which choices matter, and ultimately make sure they see everything ISLAND has to offer.
Amnesia is a very commonly-used trope, somewhat considered a cliché, but ISLAND uses it well. Much of the story revolves around Setsuna’s search for an identity, be it by recovering his lost memories or by forging a new life for himself there on Urashima. Which he does ultimately depends on which route you choose; Karen’s route has him choosing to reject his supposed mission altogether and find a place for himself with Karen, and while in Sara’s route he clings to the belief that he’s from the future, yet he still finds himself a place on the island. Rinne’s route is the main one that has him actually seeking out his lost memories and mission, as well as starting to lift the veil on the various mysteries of Urashima itself and its legends. Even if he could’ve been just another amnesiac protagonist, Setsuna still feels like an interesting and unique character, even if he can be somewhat obnoxious at times.
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