AstralAir is not only this month’s most hyped Galge, but also one of the most wanted titles of 2014. FAVORITE is well known for creating decent titles, and this one is sure to please many fans with the elements that made their games famous, such as: Incest, magical lolis, chuunibyou fights and many other bizarre things that make reviewing this game all the more relevant…
Story & Characters
Haruna Riku lived in an orphanage in the city of Tsukigasaki, he was very lonely and longed for a family, until one fateful day when he met Yuuki, a strange girl of pale skin. Even though she was afraid of other people, she easily became friends with Riku and the two played together all the time.However, Riku developed a strange power known as Runes and was recruted by the Chronos syndicate as an Elfin, so he could put his new found abilities to good use. This meant he was forced to be separated from his only friend, but what Riku didn’t know was that he parted from someone else who was also very important for him…She was Hotaru Rinne, a girl who shared the same father with Riku. When her mother died, she left a letter revealing Rinne had an older brother who was abandoned. Rinne made into the same orphanage as Riku, but she didn’t had the courage to approach him. However, when Riku became an Elfin, she got desperate and, somehow, was able to acquired Rune powers as well. Thanks to this, she also was able to join Chronos, but Riku had nearly forgotten about her.Riku’s specialty was Hypnos, which uses hypnosis to seal a target’s Runes or to make someone’s Runes even stronger. However, the activation trigger was a kiss, and it would only work with those who wholly trusted him. Rinne was the only compatible and this made them become really close, eventually leading the siblings into becoming great partners. Still, Rinne could not bring herself to reveal their true connection because, at this point, she had fallen in love for Riku, thus she was too afraid this could destroy their current relationship.Years later, the two were sent back to Tsukigasaki as a team to investigate recent cases of berserk Elfins and the mysterious winter that has been lasting for over 2 years. Since their boss’s daughters lived there alone, they were to protect them as well. Riku transferred to the same high school as Tachibana Ochiba and was instructed to live with her under the same roof as well, but was instantly rejected by her, until he gained her trust by befriending her younger sister Hadzuki.He soon became friends with Yunagi Ichika, an earnest and energetic girl who was Ochiba’s best friend. Her older sister was the chief of the Valkyrie Laboratory (shortened as “Valken”), which Riku suspected to have some connection with the recent Elfin cases.Working as a spy for Valken is Mizunose Kotori, a bitter and traumatized girl who believes there’s no place for her in this planet. Ironically, this unstable lady is the 2nd most powerful Rune user in the world, thanks to her unique ability: “Apotsu” – that lets her cut pretty much anything, even things that are not “meant to be cut”. She is completely broken!Valken also has interests in robotics, as they enrolled an android in the same school as Riku: Korona. While most people avoided her peculiar company, Riku accepted her as a friend, which also gave him more opportunities to investigate Korona’s organization.Who Riku didn’t expect to find was an unchanged Yuuki next to their special place: The old clock tower. What is Yuuki’s true nature? Could she be linked with those mysterious events?
Routes & Themes
Something interesting about this title is it’s connection to a previous hit from FAVORITE: Hoshizora no Memoria. It’s not exactly a sequel, being more of a “spiritual successor”. Those who played this previous game will soon notice that Yuuki is the same type of existence as Mea, and the two even share many visual features. Additionally, Riku and Rinne’s eyes color are the same as Mea’s, suggesting some relation. A Miko from the Seitengu Shrine also makes an appearance here, and she even talks about the beings who materialize through the energy released from meteorites. I don’t think this would be enough to establish the FAVORITE-verse, since there isn’t a connection with their other games (at least, I didn’t notice), but this is interesting all the same.Riku is a surprisingly strong protagonist. He isn’t too talkative, but everything he says has a impact. It could get difficult to understand what’s going on during a scene if you miss just one of his dialogues, this shows he is not as predictable as most Galge protagonists. The last time I saw a protagonist like him was in Hello Lady and Your Diary.Romantic relationships are handled in a much more decent manner than most Galges, which is pretty refreshing! Instead of making all heroines immediately fall in love with the protagonist for next to no reason, AstralAir has a complex development for each heroine.Ochiba eventually falls in love with Riku because of how both wanted a stable family, and they finally found this by living together. But they need to face the fear of losing this connection by taking the next step in their relationship. They never get close to this stage outside of her route, though.In any other route, Kotori and Riku will not be more than acquaintances, but during her own route, Kotori starts to relate with him because of how both share the same feelings about their powers. She challenges Riku to many duels, but she never delivers the finishing blow and Riku refuses to accept defeat. The two keep this little game going on for a while just so they can have an excuse to be next to each other.Ichika becomes an Elfin during the normal route, and Riku saves her when she loses control. Later, he takes it upon himself to coach Ichika until she can control her powers properly, which leads to Riku filling the gap left by the absence of Ichika’s older sister, who is always busy with work. Those things culminate into Ichika developing feelings for the boy even before entering her route. If you choose any other heroine, Ichika always has to give an appropriate closure to her feelings at some point, instead of pretending her feelings never existed in the first place.Riku’s relationship with Rinne is more about self-discovery, as he notices he spent most of his life seeking something he had all along, but it may be too late, as Rinne tries to give up on her feelings and move on.Korona has to face the very notion of what is to be human and the meaning of romantic feelings as she struggles to forget everything in order to complete her mission.Yuuki’s romantic relationship with Riku feels weak, since she is just a magical loli who follows Riku around, and since she is not human, it’s ok for Riku to have snoo-snoo with her, something that reminds me of another game I played recently…It’s only later that both have to face the danger of losing each other forever.The routes don’t follow a pattern, which is a big plus, since it’s easier to be surprised and harder to become bored with each story. For instance: Kotori’s route is the only one with a huge-ass epilogue; Yuuki’s route is, by far, the longest one and it even gets an exclusive 2nd opening sequence; And while most routes are full of “Chuunibyou” fights at the climax, the last half of Ochiba’s route is free from any of that, ending as a normal slice-of-life. Ichika, on the other hand, has no fighting scene at all.On the subject of battle scenes, they are quite long and most are not very interesting (after all, you will only be reading a description of what’s happening). But the biggest problem is that most of those scenes aren’t really necessary and even feel forced by the writer sometimes…However, those theme variations don’t always come as a good thing. For example, Korona is the only one to get huge story about astronauts, which has little to do with Elfins and Runes. This route can be really uninteresting, since the player will probably not be mentally prepared for this.Similarly, 90% of Yuuki’s route features a cute romantic story between a human and a “fairy”, but all of a sudden, it shifts to be all about the inevitable destruction of the planet and the fate of the human race…Unfortunately, there are some really annoying characters that do a lot of stupid and inappropriate jokes (usually trying to provoke Riku). This would not be a big problem, since most Galge players love those kind of characters, but the problem here ceases to be a matter of personal taste when those characters decide to be irritating during serious events. This is just bad writing, since this ruins the atmosphere.How am I suppose to take an event seriously when the character giving me the important exposition is doing lame and immature jokes followed by wacky sound effects? Even when those characters try to act more pleasant in future events, it’s already too late…
The art style by Shida Kazuhiro is pretty decent, he uses a moe style full of bright color, giant eyes and girls who never look older than 15 (even when they are supposed to be past their 30’s). Therefore, if this is not your thing, chances are you will not become emotionally invested by dramatic scenes featuring moe-blobs, which turns difficult to appreciate this game.
The art-quality is fairly high, but you can pretty much tell when it’s not the same artist. This is especially true for the backgrounds and sometimes the difference in styles are so uncanny that it can be distracting. The constrast can be so big that it seems like it’s just a wallpaper in background, other times they just bluntly use a photo that was likaly meant to be used only as reference.The poses are very expressive and not ridiculous as many other titles. There are many variations for facial expressions and clothes. The CGs are also plentiful, so you will not get tired from seeing the same graphics all the time.This game’s main motif is winter, so you will be seeing white everywhere and many events will have a snowing effect. This is quite a change from the usual “sakuras everywhere” theme for 99% of Japanese stuff.Those guys sure love some sakura petals, to the point where the first thing that appears when the winter finally ends are the damn Sakura petals!
The performances are above average, but since there are not many high level voice actors working here, there are some limitations. For example, when someone cries, you will usually just read a narration explaining that a character is crying. The voice-director probably knew they would not be able to do a convincing crying scene, so he just didn’t record them. This was for the best, but it’s not a very praiseworth thing for a professional game.There are many long explanations that are unvoiced, probably to save some money. This happens really often and it feels cheap and half-assed.Thumbs up for Midorikawa Hikaru – one of my favorite seiyuus – who plays two super-minor-roles, because his services were probably too pricy. Kadowaki Mai from Atelier Rorona fame also plays the annoying Miko, but she is not “capturable” because this would be more expensive.The worst possible performance you can listen here is from Ochiba’s father. He is awful when trying to do serious scenes. He tries to do this really husky voice during serious scenes. Perhaps he’s trying to imitate David Hayter, if so, he’s doing a really poor job!
Not half bad! The soundtracks include a good variety of intruments like piano and violin, but there are many digital sounds that are used well and fit with the scenario. The vocal songs are energetic and pleasant to the ears thanks to the skilled singers and good lyrics that doesn’t sound as stupid as most of Galge songs.
In the end. This was a good game, but not as good as previous FAVORITE titles. Maybe it’s because Yuuki is a not as charismatic as the main heroines from other FAVORITE games…Hey! Did you know this game had a special crossover campaign with characters from Clover Day’s? Those are a series of videos on Youtube featuring characters from both games visiting each other cities. Those can be really amusing for fans, so if you happens to be interested, take a look at the ones who were translated by Pideffu4! When you get there, tell him that I was the one who sent you! Now that I think about it, those games have a lot in common: Both were very hyped, had a long and promising trial, but in the end, were not able ascend to “Kamige” status thanks to some flaws. Nevertheless, those are still excellent games that I recommend. Well, that’s all for this review. I believe we can see someday again white eternity…