Hey there boys and girls! For this review I’m gonna be using the 1-game format like I did last article and probably will continue to do so for all future reviews going forward. Hopefully this will cut down on the delay between articles. Besides, I think I yammer on enough about one game as-is to warrant each getting its own post!
So the topic for this review shall be Rewrite!
Rewrite is the latest Visual Novel by the oh-so-famous folks at Key and boy, just uttering that name creates all sorts of expectations doesn’t it? They’ve seemingly cranked out one memorable game after another and out of every Visual Novel maker I can think of, they’re probably the one most people who don’t even play such games would recognize. For myself though, I haven’t been as enthused about their games honestly. Starting with ONE (which I detested), I’ve thought of their games with the exception of Planetarian as merely average (Discounting all of the Little Buster games that I haven’t played as I’m waiting on the translation of Ecstasy and Kud Wafter).
That said, even with my opinion of Key games being what it is, you still feel more than a little excitement to see a new game from them, and so I headed into this with more than a few expectations. So how did it hold up to those expectations? Well, in some regards it fulfilled them and in others it fell woefully short.
Let’s start with presentation first before we get ahead of ourselves here though. As I said, this is a Key game and when it comes to its presentation it has all the strengths and weaknesses of a typical Key game, namely the music is wonderful and the art is fairly mediocre haha… First on the music side of things it doesn’t disappoint at all from the great opening to the ending songs it’s all an absolute joy to listen to. While the character themes aren’t quite as strong as they were in say, Little Busters, they’re certainly still a step above the rest of the competition. You’ll also notice that the game is in glorious 720p resolution — thank God! More and more games are adopting wide screen resolutions and I couldn’t be happier (Now all they need to do is get to 1080p!).
This bump up in resolution comes with a lovely UI being supported by Visual Art’s new Visual Novel engine. Features of it include a slick pop-up radial menu, a nifty little moving icon in the bottom left affected by story choices, and a huge suite of options in its menu. You’re given a large number of tools to manage your save games (Including an auto-save function, which is unheard of in the VN world!) and vast control over practically every aspect of the game you could want. This game probably has one of the best and most comprehensive engines I’ve seen to date and it was a joy to see it in action! Sadly all this loveliness isn’t always supported by Key’s art as always. While the art assets have improved considerably over previous games like Clannad, the designs and overall art still don’t match up to the otherwise high quality feeling of the game.
Probably the biggest offender is what’s missing…Namely character sprites. For some reason that I can only guess was a lack of time or manpower many MANY characters in the game simply lack character sprites. If this was simply “mob characters” or side ones that only appear briefly I could write it off, but they’ve neglected to give extremely important side characters with speaking roles and main antagonists sprites which leaves you staring at empty backgrounds for large tracts of time. Sadly, seeing as Key’s main artist is one of their founders I doubt this problem will go away anytime soon, and even though it bothered me at first, it quickly took a back seat to the story…Or rather the many issues I had with the story.
To start with the positive though the common route is GREAT! As fitting a Key title there is large amounts of fun to be had here, and while the humor can be a bit juvenile it almost always had me laughing out loud at it. No small part of that is due to the various girls in the game that each have very interesting personalities and leave a strong impression almost immediately Key has long been known for making more than a few characters that are…how to say…borderline mentally retarded. While this made them cute to some I can see how it can be extremely grating to others, but thankfully Key went a different direction this time and made each and everyone of the characters extremely intelligent and capable (Well ok Chihaya is a bit of an idiot but she’s far from incapable).
While the common route does a wonderful job of getting to know the girls and have a great time with them the individual girls routes is where things begin to go horribly wrong. Probably the biggest oddity is just how massively different each route is from one another where they literally shift into entirely different genre’s from one another. I’ll do a brief mini review and break down of each to help lend some understanding.
In play order:
- Lucia: Begins with creepy horror elements then jumps to romance then jumps to a political thriller. At least the route does have some romance but the genre shifts are handled extremely poorly.
- Kotori: Probably the best written and most “Key-like” route. Very internalized with lots of those classic “Sad Key Girl” moments. Very little romance but it at least has SOME sexual tension to it.
- Chihaya: The exact opposite of Kotori’s. A very straight-up almost Shonen like route with battles and lots of side characters. Probably the most enjoyable one for me, but it also has almost no romance in it.
- Shizuru: Again a thriller like Lucia’s, but with more of a personal level focus instead of a more global one like Lucia’s. Barely any romance to speak of and probably one of the worst epilogues ever.
- Akane: A goddamn mess. A sad precursor for how utterly terrible the “True” routes will be. Again no romance because its too concerned with boring you about the inner workings of a literally faceless organization and scandals.
As you can probably see, the unifying thing here is the utter lack of romance in this game. Yes it is an all-ages game, but just because you remove the sex doesn’t mean you cut out romance as well! Just to tell you there’s ONE real kiss scene in the entire damn game (unless you want to count secret girl which carries with it as much romantic feeling as kissing a rock…) and you’re lucky if you even get to hug the girl in your route. In every last one of these routes save for Lucia you just keep the girl at arms reach never really expressing any sort of genuine affection for the girls whatsoever. The game is so busy trying to tell these large in scope stories it just completely discards any notion of romancing these girls altogether.
This fact is made all the more frustrating by the AMAZING voice acting of the girls. They really do an absolute stellar job across the board with the lines they are given and really make you care about the girls. But sadly the story never gives them a chance to make you feel the common routes sparks ignite into some passion between your character and them instead just keeping you at a distance constantly…it’s all just so disappointing. There is a secret 6th girl who is the focus of the last two “True” routes, but unfortunately she’s as boring as boring can possibly get. An unemotional lump that the game tries to convince you the main character fell in love with despite the fact that you have absolutely no chemistry with her and are provided with not one scene that makes you feel like theirs any real emotion behind his confession other then “the writers say so”. This problem sadly crops up in the other girls routes as well, probably worst of all in Chihaya’s.
The lack of romance could somewhat be excused if the game could at least nail its other aspects, but it can’t even do that. All of the fight scenes except for maybe Lucia’s end one are extremely dull and un-engaging. They rely far too much on pretty pre-rendered effects and the same reused CGs over and over. Some don’t even bother with a CG and only ONCE is ANYTHING bloody shown despite the graphic descriptions…The best you can hope for is a flash of red light on the screen and that’s it. You don’t see so much as a scratch on any of the characters or anything violent in the least beyond one lousy CG. Meanwhile the overall story told across the entire game while being suitably high stakes never delivers much tension or interesting drama at any point…It all just comes off feeling very immature and PG-ish at best.
It really boils down to the problem that the individual routes in general don’t build upon the great things that the common route setup…Instead they quite literally discard most of it and rush headlong into telling these “bigger” stories while leaving silly notions like nuanced emotions and deeper personal connections with characters by the wayside. I sadly can’t really expand on these criticisms without massively spoiling the game but all I can tell you is by the time I finished the game all I felt was disappointment at what they had done with such wonderful characters. From looking at the Fan Disc Key later released it seems to address this problem nicely, but for the game at hand this is not a “Romance” game in the least. It starts as an enjoyable game in general but ends as a disappointing bloated self-important piece of junk with no heart and a terribly silly ending.
Play it for the common route and maybe Chihaya’s and Kotori’s routes. Otherwise don’t go near it with a ten foot pole ESPECIALLY if you’re someone like me who enjoys the romance aspect of Visual Novels most.
And now for a quick summary of all the other various games I’ve played lately!
Otoboku: An older very standard-ish Harem eroge, but it has some solid characters and a surprisingly enjoyable story. I’d honestly say give it a shot as the selection of girls covers pretty much all of the bases and it’s almost Yuri vibes make for a pretty fun game all things considered.
Moero Downhill Night Blaze: Its another Moero game just like the ones that came before it…Well except they stuck in some driving game bits with PS1 graphics and car handling that makes you feel like you’re driving a really crappy go-kart. Wouldn’t bother with it personally.
Sono Hanabira 6/8: Again these are additions to long running series where nothing much has changed…High sexual content of the Yuri variety while light on story mainly focused on a pair of girls. That said 8 in particular has probably my favorite couple thus far from the series and is worth taking a look at if you never played a game in the series before.
Rance III: If you want a nostalgia trip you could do far worse then this classic. Obviously not nearly as refined as more modern games its still a great trip to the past of eroge history.
Slave Witch April: Bland fap game not really worth your time…Like most fap games its short on choices and story. Art is merely ok sadly.
And that’s that! I’m planning on writing another general Visual Novel list in the very near future and maybe ACTUALLY do a figure review! Amazing I know…
Until then folks take care of yourselves!