MADRE DE DIOS! Hiqo-soft newest title is here already? Then, I suppose the team from their previous projects was at fault for all those delays. Anyway! This game is all about youth and nostalgia, which is nothing new of a theme for Galges, but there are reasons to believe these guys can pull it off better than their competitors. For instance, they don’t have magical oppais everywhere!
Masaru returns to his hometown after a long absence hoping to rejoin with his childhood friends, but ends up involving himself on the preparations for the athletic festival. Seeing how Masaru was working hard, his friends could not let him be and everyone joined to help him. However, at the time, little they knew about the conspiracy against them going on behind the scene.
Sudo Masaru is an interesting protagonist in the way he is no different from most main characters you see on Eroges. What happens here is a deconstruction, Masaru is very kind and is willing to help anyone at any cost. This would usually lead only to good things, but not in this case. Just like would happen in real life, Masaru is used as a convenient tool by everyone, even his own friends! It’s when you notice that, for once, there is a male character who is loved by animals, since the kittens he was made to look after are always protecting Masaru from anyone who tries to harm him. Masaru is also a talented sprinter and would have easily got a scholarship on his old school, unfortunately, Kamakura Gakuen has no such program, which left him to face his lack of studies and terrible grades. Aoshima Hiro is the oldest of his childhood friends and his idol; he is organizing the festival in hopes to meet with him once again during it.
Momotani Chiharu is the little sister of Masaru’s best friend, and he treats her like his own sister. She grew up to become very beautiful, but she is still very immature and insecure, which is why she still has no courage to give the next step in her piano studies. She was extremely happy to be rejoined with Masaru, but she was unable to be too close to him, because of her strong allergy to cats.
Arisugawa Eri is the tsundere of the group. She was always in love with Masaru and fought against Hiro over his attention. She is really good at tennis, but the truth is that she started doing it just to be transferred to Masaru’s school on the big city. When Masaru comes back, she tries to act cold with him at first, but she just can’t resist for too long and rapidly becomes one of the most dere-dere characters on the story. On a different note: She loves cats, but it seems it is not mutual…
Onodera Miyuki is a sweet and lovely girl who lived next to Masaru during his childhood. Now she became a sexy and reliable teacher who is willing to give her all to help her students to grow into good adults. Sadly, she is treated like a fool by the other teachers, who think her methods are too naïve. Miyuki never had interest for Masaru as a man, but seeing him working his ass-off for the festival made her respect him as an adult.
For last but not l…Well, whatever! Here it is Shimizu Ako, the only heroine unrelated to the protagonist and his group of friends. She gave herself the nickname of “Smile Akko” (with an unnecessary extra “K”) and poses as a school innocent and caring celebrity. She takes pride on the “celeb” image she built for herself, and that’s why she hates the guts of Masaru just because he found out they live in the same old and cheap apartment, even though he never tried to blackmail her or anything. It is revealed that she treats Eri equally bad because she also found where she lives…What to say…She has very simple life values…
The game takes place during the year 1996, which gives a very unique feel for the game, as there will be no one using Smart-phones or watching Blu-rays. I love this idea, since I hate how everything is so easy and convenient nowadays…man! I really am old! Even the phone has that old Rotary dial!…Ok, I think this is just because Masaru is god-damn-poor!The game has an “adult feel” to it, and this has nothing to do with H-scenes! It’s about how characters interact with each other and how things work in their world. Which means the setting is not filled with exaggerations and plot conveniences.There are no wacky events or weird rules for anything nor weird looking characters. They are also able to avoid most of Galge clichés, so don’t expect things like heroines waking up the protagonist by doing stupid/Ero stuff or violent girls who punch the guys for no good reason…I should write a list with those stupid tropes any of these days…Just like their previous title Sakura Sakura (and the Blazblue prequel XBlaze), there’s no narration, and I LOVE IT! It makes the game feel so different from the rest, and it makes the reading much more dynamic and enjoyable, since you don’t need to waste your time reading the protagonist meticulously explaining the complex experience of eating rice. One could think this limits the game’s narrative, but there’s no problem regarding this, as the game makes use of many visual and sound effects to cover it.Actually, the lack of narration means there are no specific perspective in the story, with means they can change viewpoints freely from a scene to another without needing to announce it, and the same scene can have multiple characters showing their thoughts without it looking weird, since none of them is narrating.
Keeping with the story’s atmosphere, the drawing also feels more mature, thanks to the art made by Kimidzuka Aoi, Hasumi Eran and Hanashiro Joana. While I personally don’t like their style full of super skinny girls with big pointy chins, I still appreciate how those three have “their feet on the ground” if compared with most nowadays Eroge artists. This is because the characters in this game have more realistic measures. Of course, there are still girls with big breasts and their waist are still so thin that feel like it could break in half with just a little push, but at least 90% of the females don’t have boobs so gigantic that seems like they could burst-out of the clothes at any moment…It could happen! D-frag proved it!There is something else that bothers me, and that is the eyes of the protagonist! I mean: Is it REALLY necessary to make them like this? It is ridiculous! Different from most cases, it’s not the hair that is hiding the eyes, it’s just that they don’t exist at all! Look, you can even see his eyebrows!The CGs are very atmospheric and detailed with animations for mouths and eyes, just like Sakura Sakura or Monobeno. Since the game has no narration, there are many different CGs to depict many events. For this reason, there are a lot of CGs that are used only once and very briefly.
The voice acting is great! No, really great! It goes a step further than most Galges out there! The main villain, for example, sounds like an unforgivable asshole but, thankfully, doesn’t act like a “cartoon-baddy”. Kaibara Elena only plays minor characters like classmates and teacher but, damn! She can really sound like a bitch when she wants! Even Ako stand-out with her annoying voice, which sounds like she is trying really hard to be as cute as possible. This may sound very unnatural, but it actually makes sense with her setting.The BGMs are also good. Many relaxing tracks using violin, guitar and piano, which doesn’t sound too artificial. Hey! Maybe it isn’t!
This title was certainly not as good as Sakura Sakura for me (I really love that game), but it’s still a good game and a nice vacation from those terrible Galges I’ve been playing recently. It is exactly what it strived to be: A very nostalgic and relaxing experience full of youth spirit!