Saenai Kanojo no Sodatekata (translated as “How to Train an Ordinary Girl to be a Heroine” or “How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend” as it’s officially known in the U.S.) is a relatively popular light novel that was adapted into a somewhat popular anime. Around the time the animation project was first announced, 5pb and Mages reached Guyzware to develop a Dating Sim as a tie-in for it to be released a while after the TV series ended. This was a smart move by them, since this developer is responsible for the absurdly popular Oreimo Visual Novels, so they know their stuff. But again, it’s not like their records are filled only with huge successes.
The Ultra-Otaku Aki Tomoya gets inspired to make his own Galge after a fateful meeting with a beautiful girl. He swallowed his pride to seek help from 3 talented girls he was once in good terms with, until certain circumstances have ruined their relationship. After many quarrels, Tomoya finally convince them to form the doujin circle “Blessing Software” with him. Things were going well, until Tomoya notices that his muse was his classmate for a long time, he just never took notice of her because she was just too boring. But, he could not give up, now! Tomoya would do whatever it takes to create the perfect heroine, even if he needs to teach his own model how to become one!
Ironically, Aki Tomoya is actually the most boring character in this story. He’s just an ordinary high-schooler with no special talents. Well, he made a very popular blog and all the titles that get positive reviews from him become immensely popular over the night. However, it’s not like there’s someone who acknowledges this to be noteworthy. In fact, everyone considers this hobby of his to be just a huge waste of time. Even his friends are constantly looking down on him. At the very least, he tries to act though, specially when it’s about animes, games and such. Sadly, he immediately loses all his composure at the first sign of someone giving him the cold shoulder. He was supposed to be the director of the game and president of the group, but he just doesn’t get any respect.Contrary to Tomoya’s belief, Katou Megumi has actually a very strong personality. She manages to creepy out anyone by putting on a smiling face while she verbally assaults people with her sharp tongue. She never hesitates to say the most cruel things for someone and just doesn’t care for the atmosphere or current the situation. She gets recruited by Tomoya to join their doujin circle as the model for the main heroine, but before long, she learned how to make simple games and became the official programmer of the group, becoming much more useful and respected than Tomoya in no time.Sawamura Spencer Eriri is Tomoya’s childhood friend. She was very gentle and opened about her otaku hobbies, but she got embarrassed during her time in primary school when her classmates started to make fun of her for being always together with Tomoya. Tomoya also got angry of the whole mockery, but he wasn’t expecting Eriri would ignore him from then on. This traumatized the boy and he became even more focused on the 2D world. Eriri just could not completely throw away her love for the otaku culture, and she became a prominent figure in the Otaku world as Kashiwagi Eri – one of the most popular ero-doujinshi artists. But she tries to keep her image as the beautiful, innocent and refined rich girl around other people and avoids even being seen next to Tomoya. When she gets the game-creation as an excuse to interact with him once again, she acts like a Tsundere towards him, specially because he also recruited Utaha, whom she is not fond of.Kasumigaoka Utaha was once just a mediocre writer, but she became acquaintances with Tomoya during an event and thanks to his suggestions for her story and to his blog reviews, her popularity suddenly skyrocketed and her light novel “Koisuru Metronome” became a best-seller. However, a certain episode involving her manuscripts made them get into a fight, which resulted in a big change in their relationship. Now she is usually just a senpai for Tomoya, although she sometimes teases him with both gestures and words, but never goes too far with it, like this is her way to punish him. She accepts to become the scenario-writer for Tomoya’s game and is always seeing arguing with Eriri.Hyoudou Michiru is Tomoya’s cousin. The typical all-might girl who is perfect at everything and gets easily bored for how everything seems easy for her. She is frequently bullying her cousin by using him to practice wrestling moves and he can’t do anything to resist, since she also has super strength. She recently took an interest in music by joining the band “Icy Tail” with her classmates. On the other hand, she has disdain for the otaku culture and usually mocks Tomoya and his group for wasting their time with “stupid stuff”. In a very selfish behavior, she will not forgive anyone who bad-mouths the music she loves. Until she finds out she was actually in a cover-band, singing anime songs all along with her band-mates, who are in fact all Otaku. Since the band forged her taste in music to be much of the same style used in anime songs, this means she became an Otaku before ever noticing it. After accepting this, she tries to show a bit more of respect to the Otaku world and reluctantly takes on the job of composer for Tomoya’s game.Izumi Hashima shares a very similar backstory with Eriri. She also met Tomoya during her childhood and it was him who introduced her to the Otaku world by recommending one of Eriri’s favorite games. Influenced by this, she also became a doujinshi artist . Although her works are not as erotic or popular as Eriri’s, she is actually more talented than her. In addition to this, she actually still respects Tomoya, being very kind and honest with him. Ah! She also has huge breasts!
Routes & Themes
For once, this is one Visual Novel adapted from a light novel that I think it works even if you don’t know much about the original source. The main plot is pretty simple and most of the characters’ backstory and traits are exposed in the game as well. The story in this game is a direct sequel to the 1st season of the anime, which ends after the group only finished working on one route of their game – Cherry Blessing, which means no much happened in the anime. With much left to do until the game gets completed and with a big event coming soon, they don’t have much time left.Most Visual Novels based on light novels or animes take the plot in a complete new direction by featuring a big event or doing a huge change to some characters, or just adding original characters exclusive to the game. For example, Toradora has its protagonist suffering from amnesia, much like Kirino in the Oreimo Visual Novel, this when they don’t turn all the girls into Pop-idols; HenNeko has the protagonist becoming the president of the school festival committee; Haganai’s group gets trapped in a vacation house with just a few resources. And so on!Instead of following these examples: “Saekano” Visual Novel just follows the same premise, themes and flows from the light novel. The characters are still focusing on creating their game, and to this end, they have meetings at school and at Tomoya’s room. It even works as an alternative sequel to the anime. There’s nothing too extraordinary about the plot, which is why those new to the series can easily understand what’s going on. On the other hand, it’s also what makes the story in this game so weak!For starters, there’s no significant character development. Instead, they raise all the characters’ traits to the maximum, just so that any small change in their behavior can seem relevant. Just like what Guyzware did before for their Oreimo game for PS3, and much like that game, this results in the heroines turning into annoying bitches while the protagonist becomes a pathetic loser.Also, This is probably Guyzware’s most “tamed” game I’ve ever played. While their past games had no shame to get some hugs, kisses, marriages and even pregnancies, Blessing Flowers has nothing like this! The characters in this game can only dream about those things. Most routes finish right when the characters first acknowledge their feelings for each other. A certain “Good Ending” closes with the heroine still being only a friend, and she finishes with the phrase: “I’m sure that someday I will…”. It’s like Guyzware is certain that the game will get a sequel like Oreimo did, so they made all the routes finishing with that “To be Continued” feel, like it was a huge cliffhanger. For me, this was more of a huge boner-killer.
Famitsu made a review prior to this game release, where they shared their thoughts on the peculiar “Otaku Mode” system: “Separated from the choices that affect the heroines affection, you can use this system at certain points of your playthrough to lend light novels, games or anime DVDs for a heroine. Depending on your choice, her personality changes, also affecting her lines during events. Furthermore, the level of Otaku knowledge (displayed on the bottom left of the screen) will affect your game at the end”WOWZERS! That’s is certainly super awesome! And it even makes sense! The way how, not only their behavior, but even their doujin game changes by the end. That’s something else! I wish this article was telling the truth!Here’s what really happens: Those attributes at the bottom left are not something you should try to balance, as they don’t affect the final game to the slightest. This is merely a clue to what media each heroine likes better. For instance: If her Game attribute is high, she is more likely to enjoy games. You would naturally imagine that it’s important to balance those values, but no! It’s a waste of time! Just ignore those others and focus only on the highest one.Your choices during this segment DO affect the route and even the heroine affection, since they trigger an event where the heroine says her impressions about what you lend to her. If you made a good choice, she will invite you to a date.There’s also a Tsukkomi Battle system, which is very similar to the “interrogation system” from the HenNeko VN, but this time, you’re a third person involved in a discussion and your role is to either side with one of them or just stay neutral.There’s also the “Doki Doki Talk” system, where you have some private time with one of the heroines to have an exciting conversation with her without anyone to get in the way. You need to choose the right topic to raise the “heart gauge”, which is also an important key to get affection point and trigger new events.Since everything is so systematic, it seems to be really easy to go through a route, right? No!, not really! It seems Guyzware was trying to troll the players when they created most of these routes. Like in Utaha’s route, it doesn’t matter how nice you try to be with her, it will always result in a bad ending (The bug ending). To unlock the rest of her route, all you need to do is to always go against her during Tsukkomi Battles. OBVIOUSLY! You’re trying to please her, after all…Wait! What?You will also get a bad ending after a certain point in Eriri’s route. The obvious solution is to raise your affection with Katou, because she will be of great help during conquest of this tsundere. Why? Didn’t you know that? Just by counting the examples in this review, we got 3 moments where you need to go against your own intuition and 2 events that give you no hint, meaning you are supposed to look into the future in order to figure out what to do. Really funny, right? Huehuehuehue!
The visuals are made after the style used in the anime version, which I find to be a simple but beautiful style. Like the usual for Guyzware titles, there are mouth animations during conversations and plenty of poses and facial expressions that looks natural. The clothes used in this game look like something the heroines would use and It’s nothing too “fabulous” for them. There is a good amount of CGs, too. Each have a fair amount of details and have no obvious proportion errors.Flash Animations (which they call “Live 2D” here) is another trade-mark in Guyzware games that is also back in this title. During “Doki Doki Talk” and “Tsukkomi Battle” events, the eyes, mouth and limbs of the heroines will have such stiff animations, that it makes the character look like a paper-doll. I really hate those animations.
You get the very same voice cast from the anime, which means there’s only top-class seiyuus working in this game! Yasuno Kiyono (Katou), Oonishi Saori (Eriri), Kayano Ai (Utaha) and naturally: Matsuoka Yoshitsugu reprising his role as Tomoya…sometimes! The thing is: The game is not fully voiced. Ironically enough, the narrations (which usually goes unvoiced in any VN) are voiced by Matsuoka. Aside from this, Tomoya also gets some voices during Doki Doki Talks and Tsukkomi Battles, but that’s it. I get it! They wanted to make this game look even more like the a regular Galge for PC, which is what Tomoya is trying to create. Even so, This was a mistake, since this boring Otaku was in a desperate need of personality, which his voices would provide.
The opening and ending themes are the same from the TV series, the opening sequence uses the same animation made by the A1 Studio, while the ending is just a slide show featuring graphics from the game. The in-game music sounds generic and boring. Yes, just like most Eroges, but this time, I don’t think it was on purpose. The tracks use purely synthetic sounds, so it sounds uninspiring and cheap.
“Lackluster” is the best word to describe this game. It’s true that I am not the biggest fan of this series, but it has nothing to do with my disapproval of this game. Actually, I believe most fans will be disappointed with it, since it doesn’t get anywhere interesting. I love what Guyzware has been doing for light novels and animes. Their games are usually really good, some even better than the original source, but this has to be the worst game I’ve played by them. I was expecting that this title would make me appreciate this series more, but it had the opposite effect! I want to see more adaptations by Guyzware, but not like this. NOT LIKE THIS!