With visual novels, and especially school romcoms, it feels like we get the same game over and over. The same flat characters, the same generic plot setup, and maybe one or two twists thrown in there to set itself apart. Rarely though, do we get a visual novel that does this and knows what it is.
Refreshing common route. It only took maybe 30 minutes to see what IxSHE Tell was trying to do. It takes all that you know about the high school romcom genre, and basically turns it up to 11. This is best exemplified in the common route, which starts with all of the main heroines confessing to the protagonist and the rest of said route being a rapid-fire sequence of comedy scenes with these heroines vying for his attention. Of course, you’ll get all of your classic VN tropes along the way, including the unrealistic tripping onto another character, the bath scene, and even the alcoholic schoolteacher.
What makes it work though is that the game does not simply skirt around these tropes. Rather, it feels like they’re purposefully thrown in there to make the experience as chaotic as possible. I mean, some scenes barely last three or four minutes before moving onto the next. It’s quite literally scene after scene of school harem comedy and honestly, it’s kinda refreshing given what we usually get in the genre. The writers 100% knew what they were doing here and I applaud them for just getting right to it and skipping over all the boring parts.
Fun characters. But of course, a large reason why the common route works the way it does is due to the characters. Now, I won’t make the case that these characters are that well-developed (that’s hardly the point with this game), but I grew to appreciate just how fun they were. They all fit into their specific archetypes and, as with the common route, their personalities are exaggerated for comedic effect.
And it definitely works – there was not a single character I didn’t have a good laugh at while reading through the common route. Sure, they have some problems (which I’ll touch on shortly), but they perfectly fit the type of comedy that the game goes for and the common route wouldn’t be nearly as fun without them.
Nice high-res art. Not only is the original art here good, but NekoNyan has once again knocked it out of the park by providing us high-res versions of all of the game’s original art assets. They did it last year with Aokana and now again with IxSHE Tell, allowing me to read through the game in all of its 1440p glory, without any sort of upscaling necessary. What’s even more impressive is that the game does this while also constantly zooming in on assets super close without any sort of blurring visible.
Of course, this would be wasted if the original art wasn’t that good, but that is not the case here. The character designs are nice, the backgrounds are actually detailed, and there’s a good amount of expression through characters’ faces and various animations and such. It’s not Aokana-level, but it’s a solid effort and combined with the high-res assets, is a much better overall experience compared to the usual 720p release common to the medium.
Boring character routes. Now you may have noticed how I kept saying “during the common route” while I was praising the game, and there’s a very good reason for that. Put simply, that’s where the praise ends, as once you get to the character routes the quality drops off hard. The game loses all of the charm present in the common route and just degrades into your generic high school romcom with the usual drama and such. And it’s not like it’s a pacing issue either. Sure, the pacing drops a bit, but the fun character interactions, amplified tropes, and comedy scenes that made the common route work so well just aren’t present past that point.
In fact, the other heroines are hardly present in these routes once you’ve picked one, it’s like they’re completely forgotten. It simply becomes a straightforward romance story with a bit of padding separating the different H-scenes. In fact, those H-scenes account for nearly half of the CGs per character, so it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the character routes’ primary purpose is to serve up those very scenes with the bare minimum of story between them. I wouldn’t say that these routes are necessarily “bad”, but rather just painfully average, a massive letdown compared to the common route immediately preceding it.
Meaningless choices and wasted romance mechanic. This is yet another visual novel full of meaningless choices – those choices you make that have no actual impact on the story. However, in this game’s case, those choices come in the form of a “heart” mechanic. It basically plays like a point system in which you’re able to allocate 10 different “hearts” to the different heroines over the course of one in-game day. The game encourages you to give hearts to the heroines that have done something you like, but you can just easily assign all 10 of them at the beginning of the day if you want.
So you would think that these would eventually play a role in which route you end up on, but they’re really just a useless gimmick. The one choice you’re presented in the game comes at the end of the common route, in which the heroine you’ve given the most hearts to is listed first, but you can ignore that and just choose any you want, regardless of whether or not you’ve allocated said heroine any hearts. This effectively nullifies the entire mechanic, which was quite disappointing as there was some potential there.
Bland background music. Unfortunately, the audio side to the game could not match the quality of the visual side. While the voice acting is fine, the background music is pretty bad, even grating at times. It’s repetitive, lacks variety between the different tracks, and honestly feels like something just copy pasted from another VN. It’s the kind of music I would expect from a fan-made visual novel, not a full-fledged production from a reputable studio like this one.
IxSHE Tell is an interesting case. It’s a VN that gives the impression of just being another “high school romcom”, but has a surprisingly nice common route, only to then slowly loses itself in its not-so-nice character routes. It’s the type of VN where I wouldn’t really recommend it to a newcomer (as there are better options out there), but would recommend it to fans of the genre, particularly those that have already played a good amount of these high school romcoms. It’s a refreshing take on that genre and worth a look for such fans, but otherwise doesn’t really offer too much. Of course, there’s the good art and fun characters, but it really comes down to how familiar you are with the genre if you’re to get much enjoyment out of it.
You can buy IxSHE Tell 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.