By Diego Hernandez / November 12th, 2020
|Release Date||October 30th, 2020|
|Genre||Romance, Visual Novel|
It’s an overwhelming feeling when you find something as precious as Starlight Shores. Let me take you back to the start of the year, before the pandemic, there’s a sense of optimism in the air. A lot of developers and publishers are getting fantastic stories out there at rapid pace. I, personally, just got done revisiting the titles from a year prior and saw tremendous effort within the English visual novel scene. In the piece, I detail how I believe we will continue to see an increase in quality story telling as more people get motivation to create. However, just then, the pandemic hits and nobody knows what’s going to happen. Several projects move back and leave many with a hole to fill in time and heart. This is how I stumble onto Delphinium Interactive and Starlight Shores. A small developer just trying their best to get by.
It always starts with something small that catches your eye. When you look at new visual novels on the market, what always seems to grab people’s attention is the art. In this case, it’s exactly what happens to me. In a dry slate of releases, I find myself on Twitter and seeing many developers trying their best to sustain after the pandemic hits them hard. The circle of developers will never cease to amaze me as they continue to support each other. Furthermore, it’s through that hard working connection that I stumble onto this project. I see a colorful cast of characters including very beautiful main heroines and you have me in the palm of your hand. You hit start and the rest is history. I fall in love with the premise, get to know the developer, and humbly look forward to the release day.
While my interview with the head of Delphinium Interactive yields interesting information regarding the scale of the project, it’s a completely different scene altogether once you hit start on the main menu. The story of a man who’s going to reconnect with a childhood friend who’s been gone for far too long. To be honest, when I learned that this story would run its course over a single night, I had an exuberant amount of doubt with regards to the story’s pace and whether or not it would allow for clear presentation of all the core factors to a great story. However, the key to all of this is time. The time between the demo and the release, and the time within the word count to present your case. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Starlight Shores. How will it hold up?
The first half of the game plays nearly identical to the demo release. However, if you didn’t play the demo, allow me to give you the main points. Life seems to be at a standstill. You go about your daily life until one day, the best friend you haven’t seen in a couple years rings you up. She wastes no time with an ice breaker as she has won a weekend getaway and wants you to come. The beauty in this instance happens to be that it’s right on your birthday. As sad as it sounds, you don’t really have plans to celebrate prior to this, so you take up the offer. What ensues is an introduction to the entirety of the cast as you get ready for a night full of enlightening stories. Needless to say, it’s a short game but it packs a punch.
Before we go any further with my analysis of the story, we have to understand who our characters are. Let’s start with Theo. Theo is the charismatic childhood friend who brings everyone down for the magical night. You haven’t seen her in a year, but a lot of questions are put in your head as to what has changed. You didn’t exactly have the clearest of partings, so you wonder where her motivation behind the festivities truly lies. Why this type of meetup? What exactly does she have up her sleeve? With Theo’s intent in question, the game has already started making you think of the logistics behind the events. She not only serves as a cute little marshmallow, but something much deeper than that. As the popular saying goes, looks can be deceiving.
Theo is a rather interesting character over the course of the read. She can be as soft as the marshmallows she craves, but at the same time strong when she needs to be. While you do have to make the correct choices to get the full picture of her side of the story, nevertheless there’s way more than meets the eye. Theo, by herself, keeps the reader on the edge of their seat because she sits right at the middle of all the questions as to why this story even unfolds the way it does. Suddenly, the game taking course over a single night is very interesting as you have no idea how the cards will line up. However, Theo isn’t exactly alone in this emotionally driven tale. There is but another with mystically blue hair, so let’s meet her.
Lena, perhaps the most mysterious of the bunch, is Theo’s best friend. While you and Theo distanced yourselves over the course of the past couple years, Lena’s been getting closer. The two are literally inseparable now. In addition, much like Theo, there are a lot of questions to ask with regards to her. What exactly is her role in the festivities? Furthermore, how did they get even closer over the past year? There’s a trend here, and it involves a lot of questions that need answering. For now, let’s enjoy her for her brilliant fashion sense and friendly attitude as we get ready to enjoy a lengthy meteor shower. For the meteors won’t be the only thing falling tonight. More on that in just a bit.
Lena actually turned out to be my favorite character out of the bunch. While Theo has a lot of questions that ultimately make the story much more interesting, bringing in Lena as an external factor really gets the noggin jogging. The first few minutes of the game has Theo literally playing matchmaker with the two of you. If this were just any other game, you’d take it at face value and move on. That’s what I ended up doing at first, but you’ll come to realize that this isn’t the best idea. Starlight Shores is a much more methodical game than it tends to lead on. Small hints in the dialogue and the choices you make reflect heavily on the information you get.
There are two other individuals attending the festivities and I’ll make a brief mention of them. Alec and Erika are the spontaneous couple that make an appearance here under far from normal circumstances. Alec is initially presented as this individual who’s so easygoing that it hurts to watch. However, Erika balances things out quite nicely. The two have been a couple for about a few weeks. So there’s territory to explore with regards to their limits and personalities. So while they may seem like a huge cockblock initially, there’s, once again, more than meets the eye. However, unlike Theo and Lena, you don’t have too many ulterior motives to worry about. Their drama is specifically tailor made for them, and it becomes quite interesting to unravel.
My thoughts on these two are going to be what everyone who has played is echoing. Initially, the two look like dumb and dumber with their antics somewhat killing moods as we slowly move through the night. However, it’s somewhere in the middle where something just clicks. You don’t know where, you can’t pinpoint it, but these characters become real and it happens quite fast. Furthermore, you end up feeling rather passionate about them which speaks volumes considering I was willing to trash them upon meeting. Your choices play a part in more than just Theo and Lena’s lives. You’re actually taking these two into account too, and that’s where the canvas starts to gain color.
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