By Diego Hernandez / March 19th, 2021
|Release Date||August 28th 2020|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Romance, Slice-of-Life|
It’s time we finally review IxSHE Tell. HookSoft’s 17th (!) project, an award-winner, is at long last available on Western markets. A story that prides itself on deep character development. A story that wastes no time on its theatrics and drops you right into the romancing. However, despite the accolades, it often goes under a lot of people’s radars, myself included. That’s what happens when you release alongside stories like Summer Pockets. When NekoNyan provided me with the opportunity to read this, I truly had no idea what to expect. I could read the summary and character bios but had my doubts over the execution. Today, I have my answers, and I look forward to sharing that with all of you in complete detail. Will the focus on character narrative carry the way to a masterful rating, or will it fall flat on its face? How will it hold up?
The base for our story is simple and straight to the point. You are Hajime Ninomiya, the student council president of Kenseikan Academy. You are also a hero, and you don’t wear a fancy cape or have superhuman strength. However, you are revered as such. You may wonder why, and it’s because you worked your butt off to lift the ban on romance. To clarify, Kenseikan is a rather prestigious school. In fact, it’s one of those academies that have stood the test of time. With so much tradition dating back to the days of old, it’s time for a youthful revolution. You garnered all the support of the student body, defeating puritans and setting the campus free to bask in the wonders of love. So yes, you are a modern day hero. Sadly, every hero goes through difficult trials. Lifting the ban isn’t the hard part.
Because of this historic movement, your popularity has definitely improved. It means that it will improve your chances in definitely getting a girlfriend. Sadly, life has other plans. It starts with one confession, then two, three, four, all the way to a majestic five. Five of the most symbolic girls within the academy all confess to you suddenly, and now you must go through the difficult task of choosing your sweetheart. You have a fair set of options. You could go with your childhood friend or the extravagant transfer student. Perhaps the school’s idol is more to your liking? How about the mature student council president of the sister school? How about you take it to the next level and date your campaign rival? The confusion you possibly feel right now is what our hero feels. The answer will come to you naturally with enough time.
IxSHE Tell prides itself on not just telling the story of a revolution, but rather its aftermath. A humble hero who now faces a difficult decision with five heroines to choose from. What follows is a series of events that allow you, the reader, an easier time to gauge your interest in every girl. However, rather than following the standard formula utilizing cryptic choices, it’s time for a fresh take. Three interesting mechanics will guide you by the hand and make decision making a not-so-stressful endeavor. They go by the names of Partner Selection, Cross-Viewing and Secondary Events. Partner Selection is the main one and easy to detail, it’s a points-based system. You get 10 points to allocate between the five girls at any time during a chapter. Whoever gets the most by the end is your chosen route! The other two serve as an aid.
In the event that the reader can’t reach a decision, or prefers to see more of the girls, cross-views can help. They provide a brief look at the girl of choice in their time alone, what they could be scheming or thinking as they move forward with a hero in distress. Should you need more help, secondary events are here to assist. Nothing says more about a specific girl than a one-on-one session. With enough alone time, you can see for yourself who would fit your bill. With all of these mechanics ready to assist at any time, it’s just a matter of sitting back and relax as a slice-of-life story unfolds and you witness the cuter side of these very popular damsels. I certainly can’t ask for any more than that. Whether it’s Shiori, Kasumi, Ayaka, Yui or Yoshino coming out on top, I know it’ll be fair.
Usually, I go into a deep dive with each girl’s intricacies for the sake of the review. As I wrap up my last route for the story, I come to realize that I’m not able to fully sell these girls without spoilers. They all have their quirks as well as emotional hurdles to get through, should you choose to download this game and hit start, you’ll see them all unfold beautifully. With IxSHE Tell’s writing and wonderful translation by NekoNyan, you’ll witness a character grow into something truly tremendous. Way more than any website writer could describe regardless of word count. In particular, I found Shiori’s devotion and Ayaka’s far-fetched ideas of romance to be exceedingly special and deem them my best girls. In addition, if I had to give one warning sign, do not sleep on Kasumi’s story. You will cry.
So the routes are all well and good, but surely this isn’t a perfect game, right? Well, it’s close. The character development surely lives up to the pedigree of an award-winner. The narrative, namely the common route, could use some work. Because while the girls are exceptionally cute in personality and looks, the main character is lacking. In my opinion, I think the story would have benefited immensely from telling the tale as the revolution happened for the un-ban to take effect. We could have seen more of the human side of our hero. Alas, he just seems like a blank canvas in a sea of color. The color that he gets depends solely on the girl he ends up with. He’s a smart man, but he isn’t unique. Perhaps this makes it easier to immerse yourself, but I digress.
So the main character could use some work, but the girls are tremendous. Let’s talk about what goes on behind this. HookSoft’s art team really took it upon themselves to create a visual spectacle. The level of detail in every background art and character sprite, is something to behold. Never too colorful, just the right amount to keep my eyes glued to the action. Though, if you plan to play the adult version of the game, you might notice something’s off with the nipples. You don’t notice it straight it away, but when you do it can be a bit bothersome. I hope it doesn’t break your immersion. Besides this, there’s very wonderful voice acting to soothe your ears as well as catchy soundtracks that won’t leave your head for months. It’s really a grand package that I can see everyone enjoying to their hearts’ content.
I do have one final complaint and it will sound petty but has to be addressed. It’s directed at the publisher, unless directed by developer to do so. If you play the Steam version, you’ll notice there are achievements for getting each girl’s route and their ending. That’s all wonderful, it can help you track how long it took you to beat the game. Sadly, those aren’t the only achievements. You get achievements for intentionally rejecting every girl. Now I’m not a psychologist by any means, but what sense of accomplishment does a person feel after taking time to answer each girl’s confession only to reject them for a bad end. Rewarding the player for intentionally messing up in a pure love story is incredibly stupid and I’ve never been a fan. This probably won’t be the last time we see this, but I want to express my concern.
All in all, IxSHE Tell is a wonderful romantic package that delivers on breathtaking character development. Gorgeous art and a catchy soundtrack back up a wonderful story of a modern day hero’s troublesome dilemma. I spent 29 hours on the game, and I can wholeheartedly say that I enjoyed every minute. I absolutely recommend it for anyone who’s in the mood for a fresh take on high school romance. You can pick up the game today on Steam and NekoNyan’s website especially for $25.49. The adult patch for the Steam version is free. NekoNyan is quickly becoming my favorite visual novel publisher and for a lot of people as well, go check out their ongoing Kickstarter campaign for their next title and tell them we sent you. See you next time for the Riddle Joker review!
Game provided by publisher for review purposes.
HooksoftIxShe TellJapanese Visual NovelJVNlocalizationNekoNyanReviewsvisual novelVN