If you were to ask me which is the prettiest yuri visual novel I know, I'd definitely reply with the Flowers series. Aesthetically speaking, it's really hard to top this. The game knows this and it starts with the sentence “Please forget your troubles and enjoy this beautiful yuri world.”
Flowers is a four-part series exploring the lives of some students at a Christian all-girls boarding school (your usual clichéd setting in many yuri stories).
Up so far, only the first two titles have been localized into English, and the third one has a tentative release plan set by the end of the year.
The protagonist of the first title is Suoh Shirahane, a timid girl who suffers from social anxiety. She has been homeschooled up until now and because of this she never had a proper friend. Suoh is an extremely shy protagonist, lover of books and movies, and tries to do her best to make everyone happy. She decided to join Saint Angraecum Academy because she hopes to fulfill her most important wish, that is to have friends. As a matter of fact, this particular school is known for its Amitié program in which the students are paired up and are expected to live together and help one another throughout the school years.
It all heavily reminds me of Maria-sama ga Miteru.
It's thanks to the Amitié system that she has the opportunity to become friends with her roommates: Mayuri Kohsaka, a social but hard-working girl that Suoh admires since their first meeting, and Rikka Hanabishi, the serious and responsible girl who becomes class president.
Obviously, this being a yuri title, Suoh may end up in a relationship with either of the two. The game features an indicator (thanks to the use of different colours and a budding lily) that shows whether the choice you picked may be helpful in advancing towards your preferred route.
Unfortunately, only one of the two routes is canon and is considered to be the true end. It's from this (I daresay also, open) ending that the story continues in the following games. The other girl's route is an additional alternative non-canon ending, and it's only unlocked after completing the true end.
Despite being able to relate to Suoh's social struggles, I can say that personally I didn't care much for her in the end as I should have with her being the main character and that is a pity. In this regard, I ended up liking much more the protagonist of Été—the following title.
Though, I did end up liking a lot this coming-of-age story and its approach to sexuality. The game is all ages and does not objectify women, unlike other stuff in this genre. The fan service is kept to such a minimum it does not even seem to exist.
The story manages to tastefully deal with romance between women and the struggles they could have but only up to a certain point. I'm under the impression that the latter titles may be less lighthearted on this topic.
The visual novel consists of a slice-of-life story with episodic chapters. Some of them have mysteries that the protagonist will have to solve to be able to advance further in the story. It may be impossible to deduct the solution for many of them as a Western reader, may it be because of the reader's lack of knowledge of the translation of certain book titles into Japanese, or because of inconsistencies between the solution and what has been said earlier in the plot: this time probably due to the writer's lack of knowledge of foreign cultures. Just make sure to save at every ‘investigation segment’ so that you won't get a game over because of these silly issues.
The art by Sugina Miki is beautiful, the colours used are so soft, there are tons of CGs where great attention was put into details. I feel sad having to choose which screenshots to share in this review!! However, I don't know why but I was less of a fan of the text box. The Steam version may also have trouble installing the proper font for English language, so make sure you actually got it before starting the game!
The soundtrack mostly consists of piano and violin classical music. The opening video is so pretty I feel blessed to live in such a time; I shared it in the screenshots tab. The songs are very calming and I liked them, but I read that many got annoyed by their repetitiveness.
The volume of the Japanese voice acting is a little inconsistent between the characters, especially with Suoh's quiet voice being drowned out by the music. Thankfully, their volume can be individually adjusted in the settings.
Now, the only thing left to talk about is the translation... the weak point of this localization. Dammit JAST USA, you had ONE job. People were expecting MangaGamer to get this series since they published the developer's (Innocent Grey) other titles, so when it turned out that it was JAST USA that licensed this it was pretty surprising.
Unfortunately at first, they didn't pay justice to this title at all. The first demo they prepared was such a trainwreck full of mistranslations, mistakes and typos; it caused such a ruckus! And thankfully that it did, because in the end Meru (the translator) ended up working on fixing this. She couldn't do a new translation from scratch but only fixing what they already got, so the translation is still not perfect but passing. There is still a fair amount of typos in the text, especially in the last part. It's like an editor didn't even check this. During this reread I found the very same typos I noticed three years ago that I had pointed out to the publisher, but it looks like nobody from JAST could even spare the time to release a patch to fix them. It's a little disheartening, this title does not deserve this.
Even sadder than that, this localized version does not even come with the original Japanese text for those who know it, so you have to make do with this English translation.
I'm hoping that when all four games will be translated, they will be able to properly fix the text once and for all.
I'm two years late to the party but at least I finally got here. Everyone and their mother know by now of the existence of this dad dating simulator game which became a hit since the day of its release.
Dream Daddy is a visual novel where you play as the main character, a single and widower dad who just moved into a cul-de-sac in Maple Bay with her daughter Amanda.
Conveniently and strangely enough, there are lots of single and romanceable dads that live in your very same cul-de-sac.
If I have to read the word cul-de-sac again, please drown me into mineral oil instead.
Beware! It starts with a character creator, so I obviously had to spend a whole half an hour on it before the story even started. I couldn't even decide on a name so I ended up being Dad McDad.
There are seven (!!) romanceable dads and all come with their own (sort of) story arc. The relationships are sweet and fluffy. The dads are not perfect and can have their flaws (I mean, Robert likes pineapple on pizza, so don't talk to me ever again, Robert).
All dads being gay (or bi, I guess) in game is not a source of drama, in fact I don't think that being gay is even really mentioned, it is just wholly accepted. It reminds me a lot of the Yuri on Ice anime universe and there's no bigotry based on sexual orientation or gender identity or races. For once, you don't have to worry at all about other people's reactions during your dates and this makes for a great escapist game.
The art style is really colorful and pretty with a top-notch character design (unfortunately, your protagonist made with the character creator is more stylized), the backgrounds look good too.
It is partially voiced and by that I mean there are some voice clips like gasps, laughs or small sentences used to provide audible feedback during conversations and they're used so often I felt like I was in Japan and after twenty minutes of it I wanted to give up on my earphones.
The engine used is Unity which is not bad since there are many minigames. Some are better than others but we could have done without them. There's not a skip read function, so you gotta fast-forward text on your own hoping not to miss new sentences.
And here comes the juicy part: no, there is no 18+ content, I didn't mean that!
When this game was released, people found out inside the game files traces of a mysterious secret
It is very short but it is my favourite part of the game. It ties together some details you learn during Joseph and Robert's routes. The developers said that this story is not-canon, but I find the game's whole plot to be 100% more interesting by thinking of it as canon. I mean, there is a reason why almost all their spouses are dead and it is not a coincidence??? Sign me up on this. Joseph suddenly becomes the most interesting character. I'd pay for any official sequel or prequel to this cult ending.
Overall, the quality of this title is too good for the price I paid when this ended up in a bundle!
One year later from its release, here I am playing Lake of Voices, a free visual novel by GB Patch Games.
The premise of this story is simple: a group of people find themselves on the banks of a lake they need to cross in order to quickly reach a village on the other side. But the lake is cursed and is home to monsters that like to drown the humans attempting to pass the maze of bridges. A nameless guide is the only person able to help them through this journey, and he makes it clear from the very beginning that anyone can be saved but not everyone will be.
The quality of this visual novel is too good to be free, so I am happy of having taken the time to play this at last.
The story has a high level of replayability and by that I mean that you have to play multiple times in order to discover all secrets hidden in the plot. There are many timed choices that play up the tension of these life-or-death decisions, along with non-timed ones that determine any eventual romantic interest or route choice.
Art style is good with a fog-like text box, appropriate to the atmosphere.
In addition, this vn is fully voice-acted in English and in my opinion with pretty good actors by standards.
I don't have any particular criticism against this title apart from the fact that I noticed that part of the music (or all?) was reused from the devs' previous title A Foretold Affair since I was able to recognize at least one track. On the other hand, I played that game over a year ago, so I am really surprised that I was somehow able to remember its music.
The other day I played Paths Taken, a visual novel in which the protagonist is a young noble and the childhood friend of the kingdom's prince. One day you find out that the prince has been engaged off to a princess of another country, and yadda yadda yadda.
This is your average plot in which you can romance royal or servants characters, either male or female.
You can pick the protagonist's gender at the start of the game, but this choice is of no importance and doesn't end up changing anything storywise.
The most annoying thing happens when more than two or three characters need to appear on screen. They make their appearance on screen through a quick transition from the right, replacing the previous sprite that was there. There's no fade-in or immediate replacement. During conversations, the characters get replaced with this quick transition at any line they have. This makes a good recipe for a headache since it happens multiple times throughout the game.
There's also only one CG.
Overall, the plot and romances were too short for me to care for them. I'd suggest playing Hanako's The Confines of the Crown instead, which has a more interesting story and is better done.
It's been sooo long since I last played a yaoi game, I never thought I'd say this. I feel as if I had been neglecting my origin story! Yaoi has made me and yaoi will unmake me.
This time we have another vn from Spain. Opposed to last time's Spanish One Thousand Lies, A Hand in the Darkness chooses to take a classical approach to the medium instead of trying to subvert it, and it just works.
I'm gonna scream if anyone sends me a 'It just works' rtx meme.
Despite being a clichéd story trope (same-sex boarding schools make a perfect recipe for gay stories: you are gay, ALL your roommates are gay and romanceable... that's quite convenient), the story didn't manage to bore me. And maybe it's because it's too short to do so or maybe it's because the romanceable guys are not perfect. Honestly, I have no idea which guy I disliked more. I lied, I know which one I hated more: it's Monty, the redhead.
The current 1280x720 resolution of the Steam release has been upscaled from the 800x600 original one, and unfortunately it shows in some places. The art quality is uneven: some CGs are pretty good while others look bad. There's one CG in which the protagonist looks like a whole different person compared to the rest of the game!
Blue has challenged me to play it this month and, OH GOD after finishing this I wish I had never added it to my account ;D
This is a (Spanish!!) kinetic novel and it actually turns out this is the first vn I own from Spain.
Anyway, this is a 7-hour long kinetic novel about the lives of a group of high school friends and their shenanigans. As the title suggests (not really a spoiler) from early on you're supposed to take with a pinch of salt what is actually happening.
This kn bored me—and it didn't bore me because they were seven hours without choices, that doesn't matter to me—it bored me because I didn't care about the characters and their everyday lives, what pranks or challenges they were having.
I kept thinking 'soon there's gonna be this big reveal that will change my opinion of this game and I will understand why it has so many positive ratings!'; that didn't happen to me.
Yes, during the ending things do catch up to you so that at least most things are clarified. The author explains the story, but I still felt like the plot amounted almost to a big nothing. It's been two days since I finished it and I'm already forgetting the original and positive traits that characterised the epilogue.
Moreover, there was this weird behaviour that I noticed was happening with the utilized text font, some words or part of words seemed to be randomly more bolded. I'm still not sure if this ACTUALLY happened because it's not clear in the screenshots I took. Maybe I was imagining it.
Or maybe it was real and it was intended, or it accidentally happened because of the text box transparency, or the font was fucked up because of the original Spanish characters; but most probably it was a graphical bug on my computer end.
Another technical aspect that annoyed me was the lack of an instant text speed option.
To summarise, this is a no from me.
あああああああああああ！ This is the prequel of a vn that is still in the works and I'm so glad I tried this now instead of succumbing to my usual habit of waiting. It consists of four very short stories which are hella cute and yuri. It's made by the people behind Heart of the Woods and the writer for Highway Blossoms. Despite the cuteness overload, the story still manages to get dark.
The art style is mostly colorful and bright and you can choose whether to have standard ADV text or floating textboxes, which I have a fondness for. It reminds me a lot of Littlewitch's games style which I'll always love.
The only flaws I found were a couple of textboxes going too fast, forgetting to stay put in place for me to read—I'm hoping the next game won't have such a bug; and if I'm not wrong, a character's name never happens to be used during conversations in the whole game, so the only way to know it is by enabling ADV mode. Anyway, to avoid future confusion, the star is called Apple, you're welcome.
Played this at the start of the year. Made by the same people behind Sound of Drop - fall into poison -, this is yet another visual novel with a life-or-death situation. Despite the similar themes, I still had the impression this was an improvement from their previous title.
While Sound of Drop suffered for a good part of the game of two-choice selections where one of those always led to death—and therefore causing a shit-ton of unnecessary instant bad endings—there's none of these shenanigans in this game.
The story is sorta separated into episodic story arcs, which you may or may not find annoying. This was ideal to me since back then I was attempting to slowly get back into vns after an almost one-year pause. If I were to marathon this game now in a couple of days, I would probably get tired of this pacing.
When this vn first came out, I had made the decision to steer away from it! I was very much afraid of queerbaiting and Dead Lesbian Syndrome (=we must all die in fiction), two bad things that still affect us nowadays. A friend decided to act as the test subject and gave me the all-clear.
Please be advised that the protagonist does suffer from Stupid Protagonist Syndrome and her general obliviousness is frustrating to the reader and a let-down to the story for me. Why must this still happen in 2018? We'll never know.
We're lucky to live in a world where Hatoful Boyfriend exists, but if that doesn't satisfy your daily dose of birds visual novels, then Aviary Attorney comes to your rescue.
This is the game whose developers have been lost in the woods and never to be heard of again. Such a shame! When it was released, this vn was incomplete and missing one of its three endings and what's worse, the game wasn't tagged as early-access—causing customers to be rightfully upset. That's actually the reason I didn't buy it at launch. That ending was luckily added later, but developers had also promised a bonus episode to their Kickstarter backers which never came. I have been unable to contact these people anywhere in the past years, they don't even seem to reply to press requests! Goodbye Sketchy Logic devs, your career was very short-lived but promising.
The art for this game is actually by 19th century French caricaturist J.J. Grandville and music is by composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Reusing this stuff worked better than I thought and I did enjoy playing this, although not being able to have normal save slots was upsetting to me. Also, despite liking the art a lot, I had major issues with it while playing because there was too much whitish (yellow for me—I use color-temperature adjustment software) which I find too blinding to have to look on a monitor for long period of times. I think that maybe a reddish hue would have helped more, but I have no idea and don't want to try this, because guess what? It's not my job to come out with ideas to fix this.
Seduce me is a visual novel that's 'advertised' as an otome. To tell the truth it does not only have male romantic interests, but also female ones, which I personally think were better dealt with in the story.
The plot is pretty simple and it's easy to get into it. Unfortunately, I felt that the overall route length was too short to start caring more about the characters and their stories.
Moreover, the single routes were lacking in variety and by that I mean that many of them had the same copy-pasted dialogues over and over again, with just the names changed.
The art style is nice enough but my problem lies within the textbox: sentences are up to two lines long so the whole majority of the textbox is always empty. The font used looks weird to me with odd spaces between letters, but maybe this is an issue I'm having with my computer and it may look better elsewhere.
For who's interested there are at least 10 (ten!!) free short spin-offs on the author's itch.io page, and a commercial sequel that is already out. While I am a little interested in the sequel's story, I don't think I'm willing to pay full price for it.