By Benny Carrillo / March 12th, 2016
Authors Note: The following game contains softcore sexual scenes between women which is discussed in the review below. Reader discretion is advised.
|Title||Kindred Spirits on the Roof|
|Release Date||February 12th, 2016|
|Genre||Yuri, Visual Novel, Eroge, Romance, School|
Kindred Spirits on the Roof (Okujou no Yurirei-san in Japanese) is a game that I have been eagerly anticipating since I learned of it last year. While the Yuri genre has made great strides here in the west, it’s still greatly underrepresented. Sure, we can see elements and hints of Yuri pairings in many Moe games and anime, but at the end of the day, it really boils down to teasing and speculation. Series and games that actually focus on developing relationships and the trials and tribulations that come with them are few and far between. So when I learned that Kindred Spirits on the Roof ‘s premise was not only about helping various girls pair up but eventually to lead them to their first time in an effort to create a “Yuritopia,” this quickly went to making my Top 5 Aniticipated Games of 2016. Let me explain why by delving into the game’s background.
Kindred Spirits on the Roof was released in Japan on March 30th, 2012. Developed by Lair-soft, the game was popular enough in Japan to have a two-volume manga adaptation done as well as a four-part Drama CD. The game was announced for English localization by MangaGamer during Otakon last year. What makes this rather interesting is that while previously All-Ages versions of several Visual Novels had been offered via Steam (Princess Evangile, The Fruit of Grisaia, Highschool Possession), this would be the first time that an Eroge with onscreen sexual acts occurring would be made available through the distribution platform. So why is this game special enough to push the boundaries of what’s acceptable on Steam? Does it live up to those expectations and bring something fresh to the table? Or is this “Yuritopia” just an attempt to appeal to us with cute girls? Let’s peer into the world of Kindred Spirits on the Roof and find out.
As I mentioned, the premise of Kindred Spirits on the Roof revolves around creating a Yuritopia. Toomi Yuna is a second year high-school student at Kokonotsuboshi Girls’ Academy of Commerce, which is referred to as “Shirojo” due to being built on the site of an old castle. Yuna’s not a bad student nor shy, she just prefers to keep to herself. Her small circle of friends consists of gamer and Yuri-fangirl, Ano Fuji, and her next door childhood friend, Komano Hina. Yuna, however, spends her lunches on the roof of the school eating alone. It’s during one such lunch period that she suddenly can hear and see two ghosts. These are Enoki Sachi and Nagatani Megumi, who have been dead and haunting the school for the eighty and thirty years respectively. These two, however, don’t wish to cause any harm. Sachi and Megumi actually fell in love with each other as ghosts and have watched over the school for years merely wishing to help other girls with similar feelings. They recruit a reluctant Yuna to assist them in giving a gentle push to several girls on campus. There is an ulterior motive at work, though. Sachi and Megumi also want to have their first time together, believing that if they do they can move on. So they plan to learn from the various couples once they get to that stage. If this sounds a bit like every Eroge ever, then you’d be right. That said, don’t write the game off yet. I’ll uncover all the sexy romantic details later, but first let me set the mood by delving into the graphics.
Kindred Spirits on the Roof takes a rather minimalistic approach when it comes to its graphics. This can be a big risk if it’s not done right, but the approach works as everything is really polished. The backgrounds are intricate, and you can notice all the little details that are present. This extends to the character art itself as well. While no one really seems extravagant or pops like most Visual Novels, yet everyone is still expressive and look interesting. It’s blended together in a very subtle way that’s pleasing to the eye. While the graphics aren’t in HD nor do they look as impressive as Norn 9: Var Commons, they still feel perfectly fine. Even playing this on my laptop at 800 x 600 didn’t bother me as there’s something very unique about it that kind of just endears you to the visual style. If Kindred Spirits on the Roof has a weakness, it’s in this department. Thankfully the sound brings just as much, if not more style, to the game.
Kindred Spirits on the Roof’s music is awesome. The incidental music is some of the catchiest I’ve heard in quite awhile and I found myself quite often either tapping a foot or moving to the beat in some way. While many of the songs are more energetic, the music knows how to become serious or tone itself down. All of it, including the three vocal tracks, can be listened to from the Planner. Before we move on let’s spend a moment talking about the sound design itself.
Very few games actually make you stop and pay attention to little things like sound effects. Kindred Spirits on the Roof falls into a rather unique case where the sound team actually took time to make the sound effects matter. Case in point, there’s a scene during August where Hina and Yuna are outside peeling potatoes. You actually can hear them peeling the things. While this sounds like an odd thing to praise, they actually went through the trouble to time it so it’s not just a repeating sound. It actually feels quite natural and when layered over the voiced dialogue and helps to bring the scene to life. Speaking of the dialogue I will note that while it is good, I wish there was more. What’s there is very good and shows a wide range of emotions, so I’m happy with what choices were made. With that said let’s tackle the game’s rather interesting design choices.
Most Visual Novels follow the same formula when it comes to design. You play through the game, proceeding through the common route, and then diverge into various character endings. Important scenes (usually the Eroge ones) can be replayed from a menu. Though, if there’s something you wanted to revisit, you’d have to make a save prior to that spot or skip through the text to that point. Kindred Spirits on the Roof breaks away from this convention by implementing a Planner as your way of accessing scenes.
The Planner is divided up into eight months, April through November. These are accessed using the tabs along the top of the screen. On the page for each month you’ll find a calendar and it’s here where you’ll select your scenes. Bear stickers indicate scenes that take place as part of the main plot, which is told from Yuna’s perspective. Once you finish all these events for the month, cherry stickers will appear which denote events relating to the various couples. Once you complete all of these you’ll be able to move onto the next month and begin the process again. There’s one more sticker type which are the apple stickers. These are the extra scene’s and are unlocked once you complete the main story in its entirety and are required for 100% completion. As you complete scenes, you’ll also unlock CG’s and portions of the soundtrack which can be accessed from here as well. Every time you return to the planner from a scene the game will automatically save. So unless you need to stop playing in the middle of a scene there’s little need for the classic save/load commands. There’s one more thing this style of interface really helps with as well and that’s increasing the interaction from the player.
You always feel like you’re doing something in Kindred Spirits on the Roof, which is interesting as this game is very linear. While there are a few choices, they actually tie into unlocking the extra scenes more than affecting the story. In fact, there’s only one ending and you won’t be choosing who gets paired with who. Instead a lot of your “choices” come from what order you want to tackle things in. While the main plot is shown in a linear fashion, once the couples events for the month are unlocked you can choose how to tackle them. This also applies to the extra scenes once you’ve unlocked them. To really see the effect of this however let’s delve into the narrative as a whole.
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