By Diego Hernandez / April 13th, 2021
|Release Date||December 18th, 2020|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Romance, Sci-Fi, Slice-of-Life|
It’s finally time to discuss Riddle Joker. Chances are you’re incredibly familiar with Yuzusoft at this point. They specialize in these pretty long visual novels that feature an extensive amount of character development. In addition, they’re also characterized by an exquisite art style, profound storytelling, and so much more. They’re ultimately complete packages. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing every Yuzusoft release thanks to NekoNyan. A publisher who has, to this point, done an adamant job with translation and bringing the game over with a nice subset of quality-of-life features. The 10th Yuzusoft project is nothing to scoff at as it brings a healthy slice-of-life story with a touch of science-fiction. With a lot more world to flesh out than that of the previous release, more characters and especially a very high bar for story, one question remains. How does Riddle Joker hold up?
Let’s start by discussing the story. A standard affair of a high school student and his sister working for an undercover agency for greater good. Not just any greater good, it’s to keep society at peace with the powerful set of humans called Astrals. There’s a big investigation that’s currently ongoing and it sends our loyal hero, Satoru Arihara, and his sister, to a specialized academy for said Astrals. Blend in with the students and see what you can uncover. However, don’t forget to make friends and study. Father won’t be satisfied otherwise. The key takeaways here are the Astrals. You’re going to hear about them a ton during your read. They’re humans who have acquired a certain ability to manipulate either themselves or certain aspects of reality. Their roles in society play a big part in character development this time around and it’s worth keeping note of the information.
The story ends up being a back and forth between uncovering the mystery of a heinous group attacking the school’s research facilities and standard school life. It can be tricky to try and balance the two. Fortunately, you’ll be glad to know that the transition between both is quite smooth. At no time did I feel that the slice-of-life shenanigans were dragging the story down. Instead, I felt that it was a necessary component for the main character’s growth. There are many instances where visual novels present their characters as absolute chads with a dense mindset. Now while the latter sadly remains, Satoru does grow a conscience the more time he spends with the girls. Furthermore, the story as a whole seems to get even more interesting despite the deceivingly peaceful school life. All of this before touching on the unique stories hidden within each route.
Now, it’s obvious that the story has to be different for every romance option in the game, but to the degree in this title is a complete surprise. There are 4 main routes in this game. The student council president, Ayase, the dorm manager, Hazuki, the lab specialist, Mayu, and the sister, Nanani, are all fantastic girls. What’s even more fantastic about these girls is their stories. It’s not just a confession scene followed by three hours of kissing and sex, there’s things stressing these girls out. The more I read, the more fascinated I became with their characters. The game was already luring me in with their detailed explanation of the social dynamics between Astrals and normal citizens, but this takes the cake. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a game wow me like this one has.
The story really does a fine job in bringing out everyone’s morality and emotions. Characters that are textbook perfect to the public, the duly diligent, the most responsible, and the most savvy all have their own demons to deal with. This, on top of the existing drama that eventually connects them to the main character’s job, creates a wonderful sequence of events that, while predictable on the surface, is exceedingly unique for each girl. Allowing the route to build from within rather than immediately hooking the characters up is a very amazing writing choice that I want to see more of. I got to see sides of these characters that I never expected in all my time covering visual novels. It’s refreshing and I absolutely love every minute of it.
So, the girls are pretty and have their stories to make them exceedingly beautiful, can it get any better? The answer’s yes. Their voice actors are absolutely phenomenal. To reinforce my point, NekoNyan brought over a nice little feature that allows you to bookmark your favorite voice lines across the title. After finalizing my 100% playthrough, I’ve come to enjoy over 50 different voice lines from all the heroines. They show an amazing array of emotions. Anything from the slight teases to deep annoyance or sadness, the voice actors really supplement an amazing storyline. Furthermore, on the subject of audio, I can make a promise. The Riddle Joker soundtrack will not be leaving your head any time soon. It’s addicting to listen to and the opening’s as catchy as the rest of Yuzusoft’s releases. So that’s writing, voice acting, soundtrack, all covered to wonderful praise thus far, what’s next?
Well, the answer would be in the features and localization! NekoNyan has been working with Yuzusoft titles for a fair bit now as this is their third title out in Western markets. The way they adapt certain phrases to modern English is phenomenal and it doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard. You’re sure to find your casual references here and there, and honestly, I just had a phenomenal time reading. I have to give credit to them for handling all the information on the Astrals the way they did. I can’t even begin to imagine the struggle to interpret all the science behind their existence. Accompanied by the wonderful script are the easy to access flowchart, bookmark voice lines, and my personal favorite: the emergency button. A button which hides the very orgasmic scenery in the 18+ version of the game. Saved me a bunch of times.
But as close to perfection as this game is, it still presents some minor issues of note. In particular, the density of the main character’s brain even after all the development is exceedingly worrisome. I get that we aren’t the smartest when we’re in high school, but not being able to comprehend the smallest of hints from the girls is a bit infuriating. Especially when your main character is informed on human psyche for interrogation purposes. That, and portions of the game that rely solely on his success, are often based on the main character’s luck rather than his skill at times. People who have read Ayase’s route in particular will know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not enough to knock a point from the final score, because he does come around. However, it required a lot of heavy lifting.
This next point is to my lewd enthusiasts who might want in on that Yuzusoft erotic art, proceed with the upmost caution. In addition, be ready to press the skip button. This isn’t a knock on the writing for these scenes. On the contrary, the amount of detail that goes into these passionate moments is a delight. Those who long for such a feeling will be impressed with the effort that goes into this. Sadly, it’s too much detail that you should be worrying about. I normally click through these scenes as an average player would. If you’re one to leave it on auto, be warned that I timed these scenes with a stopwatch. The scenes last about 30 minutes and 37 seconds on average. Upon learning this, I want to send my fair respect once again to the Yuzusoft translators and editors for their efforts.
Riddle Joker is a masterpiece. NekoNyan continues to add to their outstanding localization catalog. Whether you’re looking at the visuals, the writing, the soundtrack, the erotica, or anything else, it’s a breathtaking visual novel. The most memorable part of this game will be the girls themselves, so please take your time enjoying all of their antics. Personally, I believe Ayase is best girl. I spent 37.7 hours on this game according to Steam and I really did love every minute of it. I wholeheartedly recommend this, as well as any entry of the localized Yuzusoft catalog, to any and all types of visual novel fans. You will not regret it. To clarify, you can purchase it today on Steam with NekoNyan’s free patch, and make sure to let them know that oprainfall sent you. Congratulations NekoNyan!
Game provided by publisher for review purposes.
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