By Benny Carrillo / December 16th, 2016
|Title||A Kiss For The Petals: The New Generation!|
|Release Date||November 25, 2016|
|Genre||Visual Novel, Yuri, Eroge|
|Platform||PC, Linux, OS X|
Continuity lockout is a very difficult problem to handle, and one that the developers of A Kiss For The Petals: The New Generation! had to solve. On one hand having a rich, well-developed world is a writer’s dream. Being able to show that actions have consequences and the results of those consequences, be they negative or positive, is one of the things that keeps me reading visual novels. I want to see not just what the results of the character’s actions are, but how they deal with them. However, when you have more than 15 games worth of repercussions and characterization that were never released in the West, you have a problem, especially if you’re trying to establish that series in a new market. However, there are a couple of ways to solve this.
The first would be to go back and localize the previous games in the franchise. The problem with this approach is that it can be expensive to do so, especially when fan translations exist for those games. The second way would be to continue the plot and just localize the new games, assuming the fans of the franchise would find the information from previous games on their own. The problem with that approach is not everyone will be willing to do that research. Thus you can end up in a situation like last year’s release of Remembering How We Met, where you feel like you’re missing part of the backstory, plot, and characterization. Then there’s the option that St. Michaels decided to go with; start a new story in the same continuity. The idea, in theory, isn’t a bad one, but it all comes down to the execution of course. So, is The New Generation! a new beginning for old and new fans, or is it a bittersweet reminder of life on the main campus? Let’s take a look.
As I mentioned, the main selling point of The New Generation! (besides yuri. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about that.) is that this game attempts to make a clean break in continuity. The idea is that while the events of the previous games did occur, this game doesn’t need to reference them for you to understand the story. It’s a set of new characters, in a new location, while still containing all the elements that made the previous A Kiss For The Petals games enjoyable. It’s a good idea in theory, but as always, it comes down to the execution. While I can’t speak from the perspective of an old fan due to only knowing some basics about the franchise and playing Remembering How We Met, I think that mission was accomplished. I never felt left out of the loop or wondering if I was missing part of the story. Everything felt properly fleshed out… save for one thing, but we’ll get to that. Let’s look at the premise first and get to know our prospective couples.
The New Generation! stars a group of six girls who are attending the annex campus of St. Michaels Girls’ School. This is one of the main reasons this idea works. Their school is still a part of the shared universe of A Kiss For The Petals but it’s just far enough away to be its own story. The six girls in question are all in the same class and broken into three couples. The six can also be sub-divided into two social classes: the privileged and those with lower class upbringings. One thing you’ll notice while playing this is that there are a lot of repeating themes throughout all three stories. It makes for a cohesive narrative, but you run the risk of having one route do something much better than the other ones. Speaking of routes, our couples are the sisters, Aya and Ai, the childhood friends, Nagisa and Rina, and the “main couple” of Hazuki and Manami, with Hazuki being the overall “main character”. Normally I’d delve into the graphics and sound here, but we’ll skip that for now, because we need to have a little talk about narrative design.
The New Generation! has a unique problem when it comes to romance visual novels. Normally your main character would be pursing one of several romantic interests. However, this game has canonical couples and there is no diverting from that. As such, to give us a main character, we play most of the game from Hazuki’s perspective. In fact, Aya and Nagisa’s respective routes are locked until you complete Hazuki’s. Thankfully the developers had the foresight to allow you to select what couple’s route to play when starting a new game after clearing Hazuki’s route. It’s good planning on their part and shows they were thinking about the player. The problem comes from the choice of protagonist. You notice how I put both “main couple” and “main character” in quotes above? That’s because I have some problems with Hazuki. Namely, compared to Aya and Nagisa, she comes off as bland.
My biggest criticism of The New Generation! is that I am absolutely baffled by the decision to not only make Hazuki and Manami the main couple, but to also make Hazuki the main character of the game. The problem comes not from their route being bad, but compared to the other two it’s very basic and by the numbers. Hazuki is a transfer student into St. Michael’s who admires the perfectly refined Onee-sama, Manami. Hazuki herself comes from a middle class family while, of course, most the girls at the academy are all rich upper class socialites. While this plays into Hazuki and Manami’s arc, if I were to attribute a theme to their route it would be “Masks and Manipulation”, which is a very interesting theme.
Hazuki, though, is not a very interesting protagonist at first. She does grow into her own, but my first impressions of her were not that good. She tends to spend the opening of the game in her delusions, but what’s frustrating is that these delusions never amount to anything. They hint at her being masochistic possibly, but nothing comes of it. They do highlight her self-doubt, but with how much they’re played up you’d think there’d be more to it. Honestly, Manami would have made for a better protagonist as she’s far more interesting and the internal struggle she has would make for good drama. Our next couple, though, has a fair bit of drama and it’s played really well; Aya and Ai.
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