Happy new year everyone!!!
Like last year, I'll be recapping and writing some mini reviews for the VNs, music, and games that I've played throughout the year. Despite all the things going around in the world and disappointments in my personal life, overall 2016 has been good to me.
Anyways, onto visual novels! Last year, I managed to finish 12 VNs and this year, I've finished a measly 7. I guess that's the price that I have to pay with a full time job now. With Root Letter and Sakura Christmas Party finished, I now have 48 VNs completed! Read on for my impressions of the 7 VNs from this year, in order of completion.
Euphoria - I think that screenshot pretty much sums up my impression of this VN. The story is actually much deeper and complex than what the screenshots and synopsis of the plot would lead you to believe. I had to write down questions and notes while reading through this to help myself understand the plot better, as each route and ending reveals new information. This isn't a VN that I would recommend most people read, as it can be very confusing and it is full of violent imagery, hardcore H, and extremely NSFW. If you can power through all of that, the ending will leave you speechless. 8.5/10 (for the story)
Lucid9 - There's a lot to like about Lucid9 despite it being an unfinished VN. I enjoyed the gameplay elements in which you actually have to solve riddles to advance the story. The story was well paced with great slice of life and comedy segments to ease the tenser parts of the story. The classmates were all lovable characters, enhanced by @dizzyworld2's sprites and CGs. Lastly, Lucid9 features excellent writing with great detail placed on foreshadowing and suspense.
It can only get better from here on with the full VN. English voice acting is in the works and from what I've heard, I think it will turn out pretty well. Dizzy's artwork gets better and better, so we can expect even better CGs with the full VN. I'm excited for the full story of Lucid9, as this release (while a story on its own), is only the beginning of the real mystery. 9/10 (with consideration that it's an unfinished VN)
Lucy - Geunyeoga Baladeon Geos - My first Korean VN turned out to be an enjoyable one. The music and sprites were nothing to be amazed at, but the CGs in Lucy were among the best that I've seen. The actual content of the CGs don't really go beyond Lucy and the protag in various places though. The story, while being fairly short, brings up some pretty good questions regarding robots, human souls, and emotions. It asks the reader: Are robots with advanced, believable AI a pandora's box that we should open? I'm not so sure myself. 8/10
Root Double -Before Crime * After Days- - Quite simply one of the best VNs that I've ever read. I kind of wish I had backed the kickstarter when it was available but alas... I was jobless during that time. Maybe I can find a physical copy for sale one day?
Root Double shares a lot of similarities with Ever17 but the execution and overall coherence of the story is on another level. While Ever17 can feel like its story drags on for a long time with its shared routes, every route in Root Double is different and significant. The story is extremely well paced and always kept me hooked.
The VN begins with the reader choosing to play as either Watase (Root A) or Natsuhiko (Root B). You go through the present events from either character's POV but in Natsuhiko's route, you get to see the backstory which explains the lead up to the events in the present. Finally in Root C, the true route, you get to experience the mindblowing story that is Root Double.
Each and every character in Root Double is well written with their own backstories and motivations. Throughout the story, we get to learn about each of them and their pasts. It's done in quite a unique way but I won't spoil that. The character development is also pretty amazing and it gets you to feel sympathetic for each character near the end despite their flaws.
Artwork and music are also pretty top tier as well. The interface was simple and easy to navigate. My only complaint is that the choices in the VN are done through the "Senses Sympathy System" in which you decide how much trust you place in a character in a certain situation. It can be tough deciding on your own, and hinders the speed of skipping through the lines in subsequent playthroughs.
Overall, this is a must read for fans of mystery, suspense, thrillers, and sci-fi. 9.5/10
Black Black -The Infection- - The Bible Black sequel has some great sexual innuendos, but that's about it. I only read this VN for the lulz and while it did give me some, it wasn't as entertaining as the original. Don't bother with this VN. 4/10
Root Letter - Ahh Root Letter... i wanted to like this VN so much, but it just fell apart after the first few chapters. I'm not even sure where to begin with my disappointment of it, but let's start with the story.
It starts off as a mystery with the protagonist mysteriously receiving a letter from his penpal, Fumino Aya. He has not been in contact with her for the past 15 years. In the letter, she reveals that she has killed someone and this somhow sparks the protag to go to Shimane to search for her. As ridiculous as that sounds, let's go with it for now.
In every chapter, the protag reads one of his letters from Aya in which she talks about one of her 7 classmates from high school. Then in each chapter, the protag gathers information and items related to the classmate and interrogates them at the end. Repeat that 7 times. You mainly learn about the character in their respective chapters and only a tiny little bit of information about Aya. It makes it extremely hard to like any of the 7 classmates because they are all against what you are doing, and they all talk very similarly. The side characters are nothing worth noting either.
Moving on from the repetition of each chapter, there are 5 endings in total. 3 are total BS supernatural endings that are very cheap. The premise of the VN is supposed to be a realistic mystery and those 3 endings break that premise. The other two endings are very similar to each other, as the "true" ending is just a happier version of the "normal" ending. Neither endings are impactful or fulfilling either.
Aside from the plot and the story, there were a few positives to note at least. The artwork, especially the backgrounds, were very well drawn and detailed. The various places that you visit in Shimane are actually based on real locations. If the RL version looks as good as how Root Letter depicts them to be, then I would love to visit Shimane one day. Too bad there's no CG gallery. I seriously went "WTF" when I unlocked the "galleries" in the main menu only to find that none of them had to do with the art.
The main theme that plays in the menu and while roaming around Shimane was very good and fits the mood of the VN. Unfortunately that's where it ends. The rest of the music in the VN was very bland and repetitive.
Overall it took me around 12-14 hours to finish the VN routes and gallery unlocks. I wouldn't recommend this VN unless you have the free time to read it during your commute like how I did. 6/10
Sakura Christmas Party - A friend of mine found out that a couple of the Sakura VNs were free during the week leading up to Christmas and decided to download them. He came over for Christmas Eve and well... we decided to find out what it was like to read a Sakura VN.
As you may have already guessed, this VN was absolutely terrible. But what did you really expect? These Sakura VNs are being pumped out multiple times a year. There wasn't really much to the story at all and the ending was disappointing. We never get to find out what gifts the protag gets for the three girls after all the hype during the VN around it. I could honestly only remember there being 3 or 4 music tracks and I don't remember what any of them sounded like. As for the art, there were a few CGs here and there but some scenes could have really used a CG (like when they were talking about Choko's magnificent Gingerbread house).
It was only an hour long and it was mildly entertaining to read it alongside my friend, so I'll give it a 2/10.
I'm so glad that I write my notes and thoughts down as I'm reading these VNs, otherwise i wouldn't know what to write during these posts. I really should be making a seperate post for each VN after I finish them instead of waiting til the end of the year. Maybe I'll actually get more readers that way? xD.
Anyways, Root Double was easily my favorite VN of the year, followed by Lucid9. I just started Steins;Gate 0 today, so that didn't get to make it onto this post. As for next year, I still have a bunch of VNs in my wishlist that I need to get through next year. I'm not sure which ones I will prioritize though (ignore the high/med/low on VNDB). If Fault, Silence the Pedant or a update for Lucid9 comes out though, then I will read those for sure. I also look forward to the new release of Muv Luv Alternative and Sharin no Kuni, along with their respective kickstarter benefits.
If any of you guys have any VN recommendations or have read any of the above VNs, please comment below! I hope you guys enjoy your New Years weekend.
Next up:  A Year in Review - Part 2 (Music)
It'll probably take some time for me to write since it's much more extensive than my VN thoughts.
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Visual Novel: Steins;Gate 0
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is a full time otaku & audiophile who enjoys listening to Touhou music, playing doujin games, and reading visual novels. For more information, visit the About page.