By William Haderlie / December 7th, 2016
|Release Date||November 15, 2016|
|Genre||Mystery Visual Novel|
|Age Rating||ESRB M for Mature|
I’ve already done an Impressions piece on this title recently, but now I’ve gone back to the official release in order to give it a full review. As I stated in my previous article, the game was looking good going in. This is a very new indie studio, Uzumeya, but they seem to have a lot of talent. And thanks to another indie VN I played earlier this year, Katawa Shoujo, I found myself much more open to the prospect of playing this game and and enjoying it. Much like indie movies are for many people, it really just takes one great one before you open your mind up to the idea of seeking out those small theaters that show art films. The major route that I played in my preview was quite good, but there were 19 more endings to go, so would this game hold up that quality for all the different options?
The protagonist of the game is named Chester and he is quite the mystery. About the only thing you know about him from the start is that he has an incurable disease which will kill him relatively soon, and that he washed up on the shore of this strange island by accident. Other than that, you will have to slowly learn about him through short commentaries on his past in conversation or with very brief and oblique flashbacks. One of the more interesting aspects of this title is that you will not really learn much about Chester until you play through almost the entirety of the various routes. You learn different information about him in each route, and there was no path where you really learned everything you want to know about him.
The other individual on the title screen is Envirio, and she’s not really human. You learn that very quickly, so that’s not much of a spoiler. What she actually is, though, takes a lot longer to discover. In fact, you may never realize much about her depending on the route you go. That’s not just bad endings where you make a “wrong” choice and don’t complete the game; you can go through a multiple hour route and have a decent ending without ever really talking to Envirio. She is a very complex character in that she is sometimes just a force of nature, often the villain, and then rarely she is a romantic interest. Probably more than any other character, she’ll change drastically depending on the route selections that you make.
The first face Chester sees after washing ashore is Colette, and that turns out for the best. She is an extremely kind girl who has her own issues but does not hesitate to put the needs of others before her own. This can drive her brother Lauro up the wall in his attempts to look after her, though. They have a fairly fun and interesting relationship (other than one horrible story route), and one of the major route choices (the easiest to get into) ends with you either being best friends with Lauro or in a relationship with Colette. There are 20 endings, but there are really about 3 or 4 major routes that you can split them into groups with; these two represent one of those major story groupings. Colette was initially my waifu of choice in this game, but that slowly began to change the more routes I experienced. I still ended up really liking her though.
Ignis is another character that can either be a great friend or an enemy to Chester. In general his motivations and behavior are pretty consistent, it’s just the lens that you see his actions through. The villagers tend to avoid him like he is diseased, and generally he avoids people as well. But if you can get him to talk, he ends up being a very interesting character. He barely exhibits any emotion, even when you do get him talking, but he seems to have a very complex relationship with Greta. He calls her his master, but there are only a few routes where you learn anything about their past or current relationship.
I did say that my official waifu for this game changed over time, and it changed not to Envirio but to Greta. Greta is an interesting character who is basically the island’s resident “witch”. She has a lot of influence over the locals and they take all their issues (particularly medical) to her for assistance. Much like many anime girls from the past, she may look like a loli, but she is the oldest person on the island. That’s not a huge spoiler; you will begin to expect that pretty early off. Who she actually is and why she looks so young takes far more effort to discover. Even though she is a bit of a mystery and you don’t interact much with her in many routes, within her own routes she starts to open up and I became really fond of her.
There are several other ancillary characters that will show up (or not) in different degrees depending on your story choices. In general they are all pretty well written, and there were even some that I wished had their own storyline. But in general this story ends up feeling like a meta-mystery the longer you play it. What I mean that (instead of just ‘mystery’) is that each individual route does not always feel like a mystery. But the overall gameplay experience going through every route in order to see all the different permutations and all the different stories, feels like a mystery to discover what all is really going on. Each route only gives you small clues in the overall story.
One of my few real complaints about this game is that the various routes could be quite difficult to obtain. I can see the benefit of not making the choices obvious and making it seem more like a spreadsheet than a story. But when you want to specifically accomplish something, like getting Greta to love you, it can end up being frustrating. One nice thing they added is that after you beat the game a couple times, you will receive the menu choice you see above on the bottom. That guide gives you a couple hints as to what to do in order to see the route you are missing. Some of the bad endings can be pretty horrific though, so plan on getting some unintended consequences for deciding whether or not to take a nap.
As I said in my Impressions piece, the music in this game is better than I expected for an indie release. And the art work is obviously quite good, almost as good as a traditional Japanese studio release and far better than Western Visual Novels. The lack of any voice acting is a little disappointing but that is typical for an indie release so I really don’t mind it as much. Each route takes between 2-5 hours to play so you can expect about 20-30 hours to get all 20 endings, depending on how much you skip old text. As such, this is quite a good value at $14.99 MSRP, with nice production values and that many hours of content. Did it end up as good as Katawa Shoujo? Not quite in my opinion, but in general I will always prefer adult visual novels over general audience ones. That does not mean this title is less of a passion project that is worth the time invested, though. It’s a really good story that is worth experiencing and also shows how talented this new developer is. I look forward to either a sequel to this game or seeing what other stories they have to tell in the future.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
EnigmaFruitbat FactoryIndiePCSteamUzumeyavisual novel