On the surface, Sankaku Renai appears to be just another high school romantic comedy visual novel. Technically, that description isn’t wrong, but it also isn’t entirely right. That is because it is more than just your everyday high school romcom, it’s a parody of your everyday high school romcom.
Ridiculous, yet great comedic writing. Never before have I played a visual novel in which a heroine has given me the correct choices to her route while in-game. This is exactly the kind of self-aware comedy you can expect from Sankaku Renai and it makes the whole experience much more interesting as a result. There’s constant fourth wall breaking, jokes about the visual novel medium, and comedy bits that make heavy use of Internet culture. For example, you’ll see the word “normie” thrown around a lot and you even get rickrolled at one point.
Of course, some may be put off by this kind of humor, but the game does a masterful job weaving it into the high school romcom formula, giving us something that’s familiar, yet different. In fact, I’m usually someone that avoids games that go for this type of humor, but it was so well done here in Sankaku Renai that it honestly didn’t bother me. It definitely made the common route a lot more interesting if anything.
Actually decent story progression. Given that Sankaku Renai is more of a parody, it’s actually kinda sad that its story progression is better than most other romcom VNs. Although the bulk of the game is its outrageous comedy, there’s actually a nicely written romance side to it that gets steadily built up over the common route. This then gets carried over into the character routes, which somehow don’t even feel that rushed, a common problem with similar VNs. The romance doesn’t feel forced, nor does it feel like it was taking a backseat to the game’s comedic stuff.
A lot of this is simply due to the fact that the writing doesn’t feel fluffed up at all. By that, I mean that scenes never really drag and the game’s pacing stays relatively steady throughout, even into the character routes. A lot of other visual novels have unnecessarily long common routes, leading to these issues, but Sankaku Renai manages to avoid these entirely and give us a pretty balanced romcom at the same time. Again, given that it’s basically a parody, it’s actually quite amazing.
Plenty of configuration options. Sankaku Renai brings a lot to the table when it comes to its settings, providing plenty of options not often seen in other visual novels. For example, one such option is the ability to change animation speeds. I find most visual novel animations to be painfully slow and given how often facial expressions can change, having the ability to speed up that fade in and out can really save you quite a bit of time in the long run.
And speaking of time, the game also provides an option to toggle auto-mode waiting for voiced lines to finish. As much as I may enjoy voice acting in visual novels, I oftentimes cut off such lines early, so having the auto-mode match that behavior is really helpful for when I want to use it.
On top of that, there’s also an option that, when enabled, makes the game instantly boot to the last screen displayed before it was last closed. With this feature enabled, I didn’t have to waste any time looking at splash screens, loading up the main menu, and selecting my save. Instead, I’m dropped right back into it. These are just a few examples that I personally found use for, the game provides a lot more than just that (including font choice, colored character names, and automatic skipping of read text). It’s a very customizable visual novel and I hope that other localization companies take note.
Overreliance on juvenile humor. I may have praised the game’s comedy as a whole, but it definitely isn’t perfect. There are still several scenes that rely far too much on juvenile humor, the type of humor you’d expect from a middle school. Given that the game takes place in high school, it is understandable to an extent, but some jokes are reused so often that it just becomes tiring. I don’t have a problem with this type of humor on its own, but there’s a limit to how many genital jokes one can take before it just becomes repetitive nonsense.
Unnecessary drama. The story also wasn’t perfect, there are bits of unnecessary drama in each character route. Some are worse than others, but all of them just felt like drama for the sake of drama. Without going into specifics, there is one route where a character becomes really jealous of another for getting closer to the main guy, going so far as to limit all interaction with him. Not only was this sudden character shift jarring, but it was resolved just as quickly, making it feel like it was there solely to give the game a sense of drama when it really wasn’t necessary. That is just one example though, the game has other similar bits of drama that it could easily do without. Given the heavy comedic focus, the drama just doesn’t feel like it fits.
Useless late-game scenes. The general story and romance progression are good, but there are a few late-game scenes that really don’t add anything to the story. And if you haven’t guessed it already, these scenes were H-scenes. Once you get past the first H-scene for a given character, the following ones just feel like they were written into the story simply to sell the game rather than to add anything meaningful to it. In fact, it felt like the devs were given a checklist to go through to make sure that they hit all the tags. School H-scene? Check. Beach? Check. Bathroom? Check. Feet? Also check. It becomes obvious that these scenes were written to serve the H-material, rather than the other way around like it should be. It’s only a few scenes per character route, but still a disappointment regardless.
Sankaku Renai is a nice change of pace compared to what we usually get in the genre. It takes the whole high school romcom setting and pretty much just plays around with it, providing some really good comedic writing, but also managing to have some actually decent story progression. Of course, it doesn’t come without some problems, mostly in the form of its unnecessary drama and useless late-game scenes. Regardless, it is a solid visual novel experience and definitely one I would recommend for someone that’s tired of the mediocrity plaguing the genre.
You can buy Sankaku Renai: Love Triangle Trouble on Steam here.
I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.