Most gaming sites and content creators tend to overlook visual novels despite their growing popularity these past several years. I’m personally a huge fan of them and receive a ton of them for review, far more than I can cover for this channel. So, just as I did a little over a month ago with my “5 QUICK Steam Reviews” video, I thought I’d throw together a quick list of some cool visual novels I’ve played over the past year or so, but have yet to talk about on the channel. Thanks to the publishers who sent these games to me in order to make this list possible and let’s go ahead and get started.
The Princess, the Stray Cat, and Matters of the Heart
Starting off strong with The Princess, the Stray Cat, and Matters of the Heart, a comedy VN that made its debut on Steam almost two years ago. You take up the role of Nora, who lives alone with his adopted sister after their mother passed away. One day, he stumbles upon Patricia, who just so happens to be a Princess of the Underworld on a mission to visit the world of the living and annihilate it. So yeah, it kinda starts off strong just like that.
What follows is quite the chaotic story, but I mean that in the best way possible. It’s a VN where the story is constantly jumping around, moving between different scenes, and never really taking itself too seriously. The comedy is the focus here, and that is something the story does really well with its solid pacing and excellent character writing. If you’ve ever played Fureraba or Sankaku Renai, it’s kinda like a mashup of the two.
However, it isn’t without its serious moments. There is a romance side to the game that is also done quite well, balancing itself with the comedic aspects while still being able to deliver the occasional emotional scene or two. And this is all done with one of the better translations I’ve seen from the medium. I noticed absolutely zero grammar issues and the jokes actually felt natural in English, so props to the translators for that. I quite liked the art too, which has nice character designs that look great even blown up to 1440p.
Really, it’s just a solid comedy VN all around and it is quite lengthy too, around 30-50 hours depending on your reading speed. And that’s before you consider the fact that there is a sequel with similar length also available on Steam, a sequel I will definitely be moving on to once I finish up the rest of the character routes.
Steam page. The 18+ version of The Princess, the Stray Cat, and Matters of the Heart is not translated, only the all-ages version is available. A free demo is available on Steam.
And now for something on the completely opposite end of the spectrum. Synergia is an English-developed visual novel, and it’s quite the unique one at that. Put simply, it’s kinda like a blend of Blade Runner, Detroit: Become Human, and Ghost in the Shell. In fact, it even directly quotes that last one. If that combo didn’t already make it apparent, yes, this is a pretty heavy cyberpunk story.
The protagonist is a disgruntled cop dealing with her own issues on top of having to investigate android-related crimes. You’re kinda just thrown into her life right at the start, but the story is big on worldbuilding and it’s not long before you’re caught up with what’s going on and get an idea of where the story is headed. And it’s definitely going somewhere, something the game makes very apparent with a countdown that ticks down every time you start a new day. This gives the story a sense of urgency, despite how laidback some of the earlier scenes may be.
This storytelling approach, along with the setting, made for a very cool overall VN experience, one furthered by the art. I can see some being put off by it, but I quite liked how “raw” the art looked. The lines are rough, the colors are mostly muted with a neon touch on top of them, and it’s a nice match to the bleak setting. The soundtrack matches this to an extent, with a bunch of synth-heavy tracks reminiscent of Blade Runner.
And did I mention there’s yuri? And not just tacked-on yrui, but yuri cleverly woven into this dark cyberpunk story? Yeah, Synergia is definitely one of the more unique VNs I’ve played. It’s not too long at around 5-10 hours or so, but it’s worth a look if you’re tired of the same old setup used by most other VNs.
Steam page. Synergia may not be all-ages, but it does not have 18+ content.
So, what would happen if you took the plot of The Ring and wanted to make a romance story out of it? Well, that may sound crazy, but that is exactly what Seven Days does. You play as this dude that just happens to watch a cursed Blu-ray and some anime girl pops out of it. But it’s not just one girl, it’s seven entire characters in one body. The catch is that the spirits can only remain in the world for 49 days, so they decide to split it seven ways, hence the title of the game: Seven Days.
This gives the story a very interesting structure compared to most other VNs. Instead of your traditional branching route system, it’s more of a sequence of routes in a row. This results in some waveform-like pacing, which can be a bit hit-or-miss given the route, but it was at least refreshing given what is usually offered in the medium. The fact that the game has a solid grasp on how to balance comedy and drama definitely makes it a bit better and I would be lying if I said that the feels didn’t hit me at least once while I was playing.
The characters themselves only work to add to this, offering a nice range of personalities and being interesting in their own ways. This is furthered by the fact that each has some sort of problem (including psychological ones) and the story actually has a mystery side to it in that you have to uncover these problems and help the spirits leave the world with no regrets, a tall task for just seven days.
I will admit that the art isn’t too spectacular outside of the character designs, but it’s not bad either, same with the music. Seven Days is a medium-length visual novel at around 10-30 hours depending on your reading speed and it’s worth a look if you’re a fan of more serious (and somewhat dark) romance visual novels.
Steam page. Seven Days is an all-ages visual novel.
The Fairy’s Song
So now for a change of pace. The Fairy’s Song is a visual novel that is English developed, just like Synergia. However, it isn’t just the language, the game itself is actually set in the English countryside, a very rare setting for the medium. It does this well though, telling a lighthearted story full of fantasy elements, fun slice of life moments, lots of English humor, and of course, a yuri romance story to tie it all together.
The story takes place through the eyes of Marnie, a young goth girl stuck with her grandma for a week in a small English village while her parents are away on vacation. The village has a population of less than 500 and is situated next to a large forest that Marnie’s grandmother warns is full of “strange creatures and magic”. Of course, what better way to be a rebellious teen than to ignore that warning and venture into it, only to discover a young female knight and become involved with the forest’s curse.
It’s a simple setup for sure, but one the game executes well. The start is a bit slow, but steadily ramps up to a decent, steady pace by the first hour, at which point the game interweaves minor story developments with slice of life scenes to further the romance between the two characters. The HD art to go along with it is good as well, even if said art is limited in comparison to the length of each scene.
It’s not too long an experience at just 5 or so hours (and it is a kinetic VN), but it manages to tell a short and sweet story in that time without overstaying its welcome, a nice change of pace compared to the long and dragged out stories we usually get from the medium.
Steam page. The Fairy’s Song is an all-ages visual novel.
And that’s all for this list. Only four this time, but four that have been sitting on my backlog for quite some time, so I’m glad to finally share them here. My personal favorite of the bunch was actually The Princess, the Stray Cat, and Matters of the Heart, but I won’t deny that the rest were great too. Anyways, thanks for reading. I have another VN review in the works that hopefully will be out by the end of the month, but we’ll have to wait and see.