Language: Audio: Japanese, Subs: English, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese
Type: Visual Novel
Demo Box: PC
Synopsis: BishÅjo Visual Novel advised by Japanese charismatic editor of young-adult fiction, Kazuma Miki. Welcome to Mikage Academy, they accept only students with Talents â€“ special powers that border on magic, granted by the divine, said to only occur in one in every ten thousand people by the time they
Over the last year or so Steam has been flooded with cheap visual novels, most of them basically soft porn, and almost all of them bad. The good ones, are usually VNâ€™s that were available elsewhere first and are stripped of adult content before being placed on steam.
I love my Visual Novels, Iâ€™m a huge fan of the genre and part of me was happy to see more and more games being released on Steam. However the good ones seem to get crushed under the deluge of cheap crap.
When I received an email asking me to check out this new one from MyDearest, learning it was only a few quid (Â£5.99) and this was their first game, part of my soul died. However itâ€™s a VN, and I canâ€™t resist the urge even if I know itâ€™s gonna rip a bit of my heart out.
So colour me surprised when I found this one was actually a really solid VN, with only a bit of fanservice, mostly enjoyable characters, and a decent (if cliched) story.
If you want my TL:DR recommendation, if youâ€™re into VNâ€™s give this one a whirl!
Iâ€™ve decided to split this review into two sections so I can address certain things. This first part will cover the game and MyDearest. Where as the second will cover Lapin Inc who did the localisation. But for now lets get started on the game.
Visual Novels live or die on two things, music and visuals. Given the games are generally static the music has to be top notch, in synch with the story, and not overpowering. Graphically the game has to look amazing. Everything from character art to back drops has to be perfect. If these arenâ€™t right it can kill the game, as people wont read a VN that looks ugly, or has annoying music.
Thankfully, School of Talent succeeds on this front, to a degree. The music for this game is gawd damn awesome, and if they donâ€™t release the music as a DLC OST Iâ€™ll be greatly disappointed. Not to mention wondering if theyâ€™re not interested in extra money!
Admittedly thereâ€™s not a lot of songs in this game, but everytime one came up I would stop and just listen. They were so good they actually made me interested in listening to the whole thing, something I usually donâ€™t bother with.
The sound effects ranged from being great to meh, with most of them being in the good to great range, though there were a few that left me wondering why they choose such an odd sound, especially since it didnâ€™t fit in with setting and what the sound was supposed to sound like.
However on the whole this was a good mix and helped to drive the story along well.
Visually, the game looks awesome, canâ€™t and wont deny that. The characters are well drawn, looked amazing, and fit well with the personalities of the characters, bar one (who Iâ€™ll talk about later on). Even the settings and back drops were pretty decent, and in truth the only complaint I had was lack of variety. As the game progressed youâ€™d be seeing more and more of the same backdrops, as well as even the same character art
I could forgive the back drops repeating, but for me the repeated character art was a big minus. Especially true since sometimes the character panel used didnâ€™t really fit with what was being said, it was a bit immersion breaking. That said though, itâ€™s hard to criticise it to much given the cost of the game. Character art isnâ€™t cheap to have done, and adding more variety there might have bumped the price to high.
The big question though is: How is the story?
Good question, and the answer (for me) is, itâ€™s an average story. Itâ€™s not great, but itâ€™s not as bad as a lot of the cheap VN’s on steam these days. Sure itâ€™s cliched, but itâ€™s a VN, so you go in expecting cliches to be thick and heavy.
Sadly though, my complaint with the story is that itâ€™s to fast in the wrong places, and then tediously slow in the other wrong places. Lets take the start of the game for example, it starts off with a bit of nice pacing, setting the stage and introducing the theme of the story very well. It does such a good job of setting the stage and then it screeches to a jarring halt and jumps 1.5 years. This was a huge immersion breaker for me. Time jumps arenâ€™t an issue, and are a frequently used tool, but its how the jump is handled thats key. In this case the jump is done very badly.
Whats more the game established from the outset a big key point about the main character, which you expect to have something important in the story. But itâ€™s only ever used as a bat to condem the character. In fact there was no reason for the characters history, and even at the end of the game I was left wondering why it was made such a big thing over (so damn hard to write this without spoilers lol!!)
The story itself is decent enough, and was enjoyable to read through, no denying that! However, I found I really didnâ€™t like Suzu, I found her totally one dimensional for most of the story. While itâ€™s certainly true sheâ€™s meant to have a bit of a personality issue, due to her childhood, I just felt what we were getting was flat and dull. By the time sheâ€™d actually started to change and become interesting the story was over half way done, and she couldnâ€™t recover (in my mind). While she ends up with a good character personality, and actually did make me feel sympathy for her, she doesnâ€™t come close to other characters.
For me the best character in the game was Mayu, with her stalker/masochist personality and the way she goes after the protagonist. I found her to be funny, and enjoyable, though her character art didnâ€™t really fit. Towards the end of the game its commented on how sheâ€™s got big boobs, but throughout the game sheâ€™s always portrayed as having, what Iâ€™d call normal sized boobs for her size. Itâ€™s a bit disjointed, and thinking back on some of the comments in the story it would have made sense for to have bigger boobs. That said, sheâ€™s still by far the best character in the game!
Overall, I feel the story is decent, and enjoyable to read through. Especially with the supporting characters adding a lot of flavour to Suzuâ€™s initial bland start.
However, it is worth noting (if this is important to you) that the game has no story choices. In fact the single choice you get is a dream where you get to see nothing, and it has no effect on the story. Frankly it would have been better without it, but I understand the reason for it, but I personally wouldnâ€™t have it there. So yeah, this is essentially a pure novel, and while the game is called â€˜Suzu Routeâ€™, thereâ€™s no decisions to be made.
Iâ€™m guessing they couldn’t afford to do a full game where you got to decide which girl you wanted to go after, so have split it up into chapters with each girl getting their own short game. Hopefully when itâ€™s all done they can then merge them into a single big game where choices occur and matter.
Finally, lets talk game length, itâ€™s not long. For me I played through in around 80minutes. Iâ€™ve seen some play throughs though as low as 50minutes.
Now, onto Lapin Inc. Lapin did the english localisation (and maybe the others?), and frankly these guys should be ashamed of themselves. According to the blurb for their company:
Located in Tokyo, Lapin has been around for over 25 years, and until recently had focused on localization of English-language novels into Japanese. Now, we have begun applying our localization expertise to the video game industry, starting with love simulation games for iOS and Android.
So youâ€™d expect a company with 25 years experience to be pretty good at their job wouldnâ€™t you. Frankly theyâ€™re garbage, when I was playing through initially I was wondering if MyDearest had done it themselves, which would account for some of the mistakes being made.
Learning it was done by an outside company I have to ask what the hell were these guys doing? The game is littered with untranslated sections, the odd word and lot more names. Then thereâ€™s the puntuation and spelling mistakes that were so bad even I noticed them. For a company with supposedly 25 years in the industry this is abysmal. They need to work on a patch to fix these issues, and rather quickly as well.
All of that aside though, what are my final thoughts on the game? It was a fun, short little game that had a couple of characters I liked. Iâ€™m looking forward to seeing Maya getting her own game, and some of the others as well.
I look forward to seeing how MyDearest do in the future! Theyâ€™re off to a decent start with this game. And if they donâ€™t release the music as a paid DLC for say Â£2-3 Iâ€™ll be greatly disappointed. Overall this is a game well worth picking up if youâ€™re into Visual Novels.