By Joseph Puntschart / November 9th, 2016
|Title||Dead End Junction|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Doujin|
|Platform||PC (via Steam & MangaGamer)|
One thing that writers look to for inspiration for their products, are real world historical events or places. In gaming, the Assassin’s Creed series is a well-known example of this, with several of the games in that series taking place in different historical eras. To give one example of relevance to visual novels, Code:Realize: Guardian of Rebirth takes place in a fictional 19th Century England where the Industrial Revolution leads to a steampunk London. In Dead End Junction, a Japanese doujin writer pens a fictional tale based on real conflicts and legends in the American Wild West.
The comparisons in here are subtle but effective. The game is set 20 years after a conflict between the humans and Fuuro, with the Fuuro looked down on and stigmatised, like the Native Americans. In this game, the main character is Josette, a cowgirl who wants some Wild Western adventure in her life that she read about in her novels. She is sent to go meet the President after a letter is sent to her (missing) father in her quiet hometown of Cow Stone Bell. Along the way, she meets a Fuuro, Inaho, who will act as a guide. Other characters including Tracy and Bizket will join you on your adventure. Along the way, you will meet enemies like Beth, a former war veteran out for blood, and a mysterious figure in a black coat that hounds Josette and co. on their adventures.
The story is told rather well, in an unconventional visual novel/comic book hybrid style. It is unique and helps it to stand out from other VNs which tend to have the text in the same position throughout the story. I would argue it could help with accessibility for those whom may take a dislike to the visual novel style. The art is really well drawn, which each character having a distinctive look and personality in their portraits. For example, Jobs is portrayed as a lazy, laid back person in the dialogue and his character portrait also reflects that. Culture-Select also deserve credit for their maiden localisation project. The dialogue flows well and is fun to read. There were no noticeable grammar or spelling errors, so hopefully this amount of quality control will be present in their future projects.
Originally released as four separate releases in Japan, the Western release of Dead End Junction is a complete package, as it means English-speaking audiences can breeze through the story in a short time. For me, it took me 8 hours to clear all four chapters in a handful of play sessions. Each chapter estimates at around 1-2 hours of playtime, with the ability to save at any time. This adventure is more than just simply meeting the President and this is one of the things I like about the title, giving the game a sense of unpredictability. There are some twists and turns in the story that give a sense of tension like there was in the era that this game was inspired by.
This game does have some pitfalls though. One example is that the music tends to get repetitive as the same songs tend to be used frequently throughout. The absence of voice acting is a little disappointing, but it is to be expected of the price tag. You could argue that Harmonia, another visual novel with a similar price tag, had voice acting for a similar price. However, that game had partial voices and a lot of narration, whereas with this game it is all speech, so it would have required full voicing to be effective. I’m also not a fan of the font choice for the dialogue at all. Comic Sans MS is generally considered a font used for more casual documents and children’s stuff, so it felt out of place for this setting and for much of the serious dialogue as well.
Most crucially, the ending of the game seems to hint at a sequel which would be okay, however, this sequel has never materialised. To put things in perspective, the chapters of Dead End Junction were completed in 2009, meaning that the creators have had several years to make a sequel, but they have not. This could mean players may find the ending to be bittersweet, knowing they may never know what happens next. If the game omitted the very last scene in the game, the ending would have been much better and more satisfactory.
Overall, Dead End Junction is an interesting, well-written story that has been successfully told. For £5.99 it is worth the price tag, and is worth a read for fans of visual novels. As the maiden localisation project for the publisher, it is a resounding success and Culture Select deserve praise for producing a good quality product, despite some rough edges.
Review copy supplied by publisher
culture-selectdead end junctiondoujinPCSteamvisual novel