Okay so I just finished this game and I have to admit, I am very confused. Not as to what happened in the game – that part I got down – but rather, what exactly this game was setting out to do.
So Yurukill is basically a hybrid of two genres: visual novel and shoot ‘em up. You’re probably thinking “wow, what a cool combination, how does it work?” and the answer is simply “it doesn’t”. Or rather, the genre combination itself is fine, it’s just that it is entirely unnecessary. I went through the entire game thinking that these shoot ‘em up segments would have some sort of deeper meaning or bigger story payoff rather than being a shoot ‘em up minigame tacked on to a visual novel, but nope, it is literally just that.
It’s like someone on the dev team was like “yeah, I really do not want to do a visual novel, could I make my own shoot ‘em up game and then have you guys throw it in there somehow” and they were all like “yeah, for sure”. It is perhaps the most shoehorned gameplay element I have ever seen in a visual novel and I am still struggling to find out what the goal was here other than to pass off the game as a “visual novel with actual gameplay”.
Not to say that that shoot ‘em up stuff was entirely bad though. I mean, it also wasn’t good, but it at least wasn’t terrible. The movement is fine, the models are… okay I guess, and the bullet patterns are at least challenging at times. Granted, I played on normal and still found it to be a bit too easy, so I would probably just recommend going in on the hardest difficulty. You get a handful of different ships and a bunch of different bosses to take down, so content-wise the variety isn’t that bad either given the game’s length (more on that later).
Each chapter of the game has one of these shoot ‘em up sequences at the end and they all follow the same pattern: shoot down a bunch of enemies, take down a boss, answer a question regarding the case at hand, take down boss again, repeat until the end where you have to answer questions about that story chapter in a Danganronpa-style minigame. The answers are almost always obvious and oftentimes feel like an insult to my intelligence though, which, when combined with other aspects of the game, give me the impression that this was a game designed for a much younger audience – younger so than the Danganronpa series that it blatantly tries to emulate.
This is perhaps best exemplified by those very question segments thrown into the shoot ‘em up sequences. They take the worst part of Danganronpa – the minigames of questionable quality – and make it a much longer and less exciting thing here. You’ll get hit with something like “how did the victim die?” followed up with something equally obvious like “what was the murder weapon?”. These scenes drag on for too long and are simply unnecessary given how simple the story is.
Because unfortunately, yes, the story is also not the greatest. Just like the shoot ‘em up gameplay, it’s not terrible, but it’s even further from good than that gameplay is. It started out fine: you’re thrown into this death game scenario where each character has some sort of crime they were falsely accused of and winning the game allows them the opportunity to clear their name. Each story chapter follows one of these individual mysteries, giving you time to process each as they come before becoming this larger thing towards the end of the game.
It’s methodical, but not in a good way. The game’s pacing during each of these is a bit too quick to really give the characters the development they need and I often found myself disappointed at how simple the mysteries turned out to be. Oftentimes, I would go into a case with a vague guess of what happened and the result wouldn’t even be that far off – it isn’t like Ace Attorney or Danganronpa where there’s so much more to it and you’re constantly left guessing right up to the end.
There just isn’t a lot of depth here and this is best exemplified with the ending – one of the most disappointing endings I have ever seen in a mystery visual novel. Yeah, I mean it does wrap things up, but it just goes straight to the point and there’s nothing really special about it to set itself apart from the rest of the genre. Maybe I was setting myself up for disappointment here by hoping that the ending would pull some massive twist or development to really elevate the whole experience beyond the mediocrity that was the rest of the story, but nope, it does not stray from the formula at all.
What started off as a somewhat interesting mystery with a cool setting quickly devolved into your typical anime mystery story with just a bit of edge to it, one that runs down the checklist of tropes for that genre including the dreaded “power of friendship” and all of the shallow character archetypes you would expect from your run of the mill mystery anime or VN.
And to top it off, the choices that you do run into don’t seem to matter at all. There is no branching plot here and usually if you pick the “wrong” choice, you get a line of dialogue saying “no, that can’t be right” before the game throws you back to the decision screen to pick the correct one. Illusion of choice is a common problem with visual novels, so this is expected to a degree, but when it is literally every decision you can make, it does become a bit annoying.
I did mention earlier I would also discuss length. Put simply, the game took me around 14-ish hours to clear. Not long by VN standards for sure, but at least not insultingly short. Granted, the game could have definitely used maybe double that length to flesh out the characters a bit more and make the mysteries more than these surface level things. Kind hard to do so when you have this tacked on shoot ‘em up gameplay competing for the already limited hours.
When you’re not doing that story OR the shoot ‘em up stuff, there is some additional gameplay through point-and-click-style puzzles, like what you would expect from an escape room. Whether that be some sort of riddle, cypher, sliding puzzle, or matching puzzle – the game covers a lot of ground there and these do help in making the experience a bit more immersive in a way.
Granted, at the same time, I can’t say that any of these puzzles are particularly difficult and I only ever needed to use the hint feature for two of them across the entire experience – so again, this leads me back to my belief that this game is aimed at a much younger audience. Still, they’re not terrible, so I wouldn’t say they’re a bad inclusion, but could definitely be improved.
The options menu could also use some improvement – desperately so I would say. This is a visual novel that completely lacks any sort of skip button, a text speed option, and an auto mode speed option. It is extremely light on the settings and missing some key options I would consider essential in any visual novel.
Performance-wise, the game also has some issues – at least on my PS5 version. I ran into numerous scenarios where the game would just hang for a bit, notably when trying to open the dialogue history at any point. That and I had this odd audio clipping issue early on during the first chapter where the audio would dip randomly. No idea if that’s just me, but it felt it was worth mentioning even if it kinda fixed itself past that point.
And I almost got all the way through this review without mentioning the art and music – two areas that the game does a decent job at, the art specifically. I liked the character models and the unique art style that the game goes for outside of that anime norm – which is especially noticeable in the eyes. The music, while not quite as good, at least is not bad and escapes that VN pitfall of being overly repetitive and obnoxious.
Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is both not a good visual novel and not a good shoot ‘em up game. The combination of these two feels forced and leaves me wondering what the game was trying to be. While the art may be good and the point-and-click stuff is fine, the entirety of the story just falls flat and feels like a watered down version of Danganronpa and the like. The genre has far better options than this, so I cannot in good faith recommend it and only hope that the studio can deliver us something even cooler in the future – they clearly have a unique style, they just need to match that with a good story.
Quote: Yurukill: The Calumniation Games is both not a good visual novel and not a good shoot ‘em up game. The combination of these two feels forced and leaves me wondering what the game was trying to be.
Yurukill: The Calumniation Games retails for $40 USD on the PlayStation Store. It is also available on Steam and Switch.
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.