|White Dew Games
|January 29th, 2021
|Yuri, Romance, Visual Novel
As we pass the halfway point of a great year for visual novels, let’s discuss Melancholy Love. Chinese visual novels aren’t exactly new. However, this is a first for me as I’ve never gotten my hands on one. Furthermore, when Kikai Digital hands me a press kit that details a story with similar energy to that of the masterpiece Flowers, how exactly could I refuse? So here I am writing about a girls’ love game with a ton of promise. So many questions on my mind regarding the game. The characters, the theatrics, and mainly would it live up to the expectations that I came to learn about. Would this story of love in familiar territory be another personal favorite, or something forgettable? More importantly, and to get us started, the main question should be: How does it hold up?
Melancholy Love doesn’t waste any time throwing you into the action. They introduce to you four cast members, remember them well. You’ll meet Zihua, the headmaster of the school of which our story takes place. Alongside her, you’ll meet Qingwei, an old friend of Zihua and now a teacher at the same school. Is it a coincidence? I think not. After those two, you’ll meet the main girls for this story: Mianxue and Qianxun. Two students with very different peripherals. One is a “delinquent,” the other’s a little miss perfect. Avid girls’ love readers will be quick to notice the trope and get a sense of where this whole thing goes. Here’s the thing, you think you do, but you don’t. Pay attention and you’ll notice that the bits and pieces you have to work with from early on in the story, are going to form a completely different picture.
Mianxue and Qianxun are the stars of this story, but in particular it’s their flaws that take the stage. To clarify, it’s those very flaws that create a growing connection between two vastly different personalities. This is what Melancholy Love does exceedingly well. Opposites will in fact attract, and this is a trope we see all the time. It’s how they attract that really brings out the potential of the story. Rather than being on an emotional rollercoaster, this one makes me feel like I’m traveling on a exceedingly bumpy road to paradise. Mianxue and Qianxun are constantly fighting, not just each other, but themselves. Furthermore, the fact that we are able to see both perspectives of this feud is exceedingly wonderful. The pieces slowly start falling into place and you just start rooting for the resolution.
The road trip to the end of this story goes smoothly from this point forward, until the figurative car breaks down and makes you wait. The tension gets so intense between our main heroines that it honestly made me nervous while reading. But that’s where well-written support characters, like a Zihua and like a Qingwei, really make their impact. This also includes the student characters as well. Melancholy Love isn’t a long game, everything happens fast. That’s why I admire how the supporting cast can slow things down, ease tensions and get the story back on track. You don’t just slowly fall in love with Mianxue and Qianxun, you really come to appreciate everyone involved in the process. The characters truly were the highlight of this story regardless of what happened in any of the title’s three endings.
If the story’s getting me going, and the characters are phenomenal, what of everything else? Well you’ll be glad to hear that art isn’t an issue at all. As I cover this review with pieces of the CG and wonderful dialogue, I fell quite in love with the sprites and the backgrounds. Obviously, the other standout part of this game lies within the audio. I’ve never played a game with Chinese voice acting, so it’s a pleasant surprise to hear this one. Even if it’s uncharted territory, I hear the sadness, joy, anger and so much more. The voice actors did a phenomenal job and I want other readers to recognize that too. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, I’m afraid.
While the voice acting may be phenomenal, their soundtrack does feel lackluster. I can’t say I remember any one track from the whole thing, which is sad considering the array of moments to witness. In addition, and on a technical note, the game’s settings are abysmal. Hopefully this is just me, but I received a few errors merely adjusting volume levels for character voices that caused me to restart from another save point. The rest of the interface is basic and only conveying the mere minimal in options. However, it didn’t ruin a wonderfully translated script by the localization staff. Crosschecking casually with my native Chinese speaking friend, I learned a lot about the language and culture while playing. It’s truly exceptional stuff. It may seem like I’m done, but there’s a problem I do wish to discuss.
I’m going to point this out so if you like what you’re reading, you get a proper understanding and don’t end up like me. While Melancholy Love is a phenomenal read in and of itself, it’s my duty to convey that this is the second game in the series. For whatever reason, Kikai Digital decided to release the second chapter of the series before the first. A quick look at VNDB reveals as such. Normally, this kind of thing is fine if the stories are standalone, but they’re not. Zihua is the main heroine of Symbiotic Love. Symbiotic Love’s localization came out last month, a half-year after the second game’s release. Melancholy Love’s prologue and endings give crucial details of the first game in the series. Don’t end up like me with the first game now ruined, read Symbiotic Love first.
My grievances with the release order aside, Melancholy Love is breathtaking. The characters, not just Mianxue and Qianxun, helped create the most dramatic girls’ love story I’ve read in a while. The Chinese voice acting is superb, and the art is just as wonderful. The technical side might be a bit weak, but don’t let it discourage you. This entire series looks ever-so promising, and you should definitely check it out. Preferably in the correct order. I spent around 15 hours going over the game’s three endings, which is nice for a game that costs $8.99. Pick it up and experience a memorable journey. Furthermore, congratulations to both White Dew Games and Kikai Digital.
Game provided by publisher for review purposes.