Given the year it’s been, I’m very glad to get to the end of it. However, I’ve needed my dose of escapism even more than usual which may explain the fact that I’ve played 33 games this year – my best total yet! Therefore, I’ve decided to create a little “game awards” celebrating the highs and lows of the visual novels that I’ve had a chance to play this year, with some additional reflection added at the end in a look towards next year. Hope you enjoy!
2nd Place: Yuukyuu no Tierblade -Fragments of Memory-
The original Tierblade was a title that I enjoyed but felt fell short when it came to the repetitive nature of the fight scenes. However, with an interesting setting and great characters, the series most certainly had promise. The fandisc more than delivers in this regard, bringing us more depth and world-building as well as bemusing scenes with our beloved boys. Row’s afterstory in particular was *chef’s kiss* perfect. Would definitely recommend to those who played the original game.
1st Place: Starry Sky~After Summer~
I almost feel like a cheat for putting this here since I’ve held this fandisc in high regard since I originally played it back in 2011. However, after replaying the games this year, I truly do realise that this was a well-written game with such cute afterstories and is probably my favourite Starry Sky game out of them all. It’s just such a good mix of fluffy and dramatic, with a good amount of time passage. If I were to recommend one season from the series then it would be Summer for sure.
Favourite Opening Song
3rd Place: Nursery Rhyme (True My Heart – Saori Sakura)
If you’ve read my About Me page then you know that this song is what dragged me into the visual novel world. It’s such a catchy and cute song that I just can’t help but love it – a classic!
2nd Place: Yunohana SpRING! (Ready Go – KENN)
KENN’s vocals are too good for us. That is all.
1st Place: AstralAir no Shiroki Towa (White Eternity -Nitta Emi)
There’s few songs that can whisk you away like this one, which just immdiately tansports me to the frozen town whre the game takes place. It’s a beautiful song that suits both the game it represents and the season of winter in general.
Favourite Ending Song
3rd Place: Sekai to Sekai no Mannaka de (Recollections – Kicco)
Kicco always does a beautiful job on vocals but this song was honestly the best thing about this game.
2nd Place: 9 -Nine- Kokonotsu Kokonoka Kokonoiro (Futari – Chihiro Yonekura)
I feel like this being my favourite ending song in the 9-nine- series is a bit of an unpopular opinion but I just really like that this song is more up-tempo than the others? All of the songs in this series are top-tier though.
1st Place: Moshikami (Kanousei no Memoria – Lasah)
I can’t even remember how many times I listened to this song after finishing the game (was very glad that I bought the soundtrack!). Lasah’s vocals are gorgeous as always and, while all of the ending songs in this game are amazing, I just love how like relaxing this song is to listen to? Honesly, the music was the one thing they did right with this game.
Favourite Ensemble Stars Song
(it wouldn’t be my blog without just a sprinkle of enstars okay, let me have my moment)
4th Place: Love it Love it – Ra*bits
Ra*bits songs are always sugary sweet, with this being absolutely no exception. It’s one of my favourite songs from them and never fails to make me smile. Nothing will ever top Milky Starry Charm though (especially when performed in the Tanabata outfits!!!!!!).
3rd Place: Honeycomb Summer – Crazy:B
Character-wise Crazy:B are my lesser favourite of the two new groups (having Rinne insult our favourites in the story probably wasn’t the best way to endear him to the players…). Putting that aside, this song is super catchy & I think the fact that all their songs have some relation to bees is hilarious. 10/10.
2nd Place: Living on the Edge – Alkaloid
As much as I like Kiss of Life, these softer songs from Alkaloid are absolutely beautiful (thank u Leo?). They’re just good boys and this song is so mellow that I could listen to it all day. Wonderful.
1st Place: Date Plan A to Z – √AtoZ
Two words: Sakasaki Natsume. Just kidding, his presence did originally intrigue me to this shuffle unit and remains the only shuffle event that I bothered to get the 5* card in Music for. I’ve played this song a disgusting amount of times in the game because it’s just so catchy and cute. I’m sad that the “full” version isn’t much longer but if I play it on loop then it almost seems like it is…
(I should note here that I’m very sad we haven’t had either a Knights or Switch unit event – justice for New Dimension!). Okay, back to visual novels now~
Before writing this I didn’t think that I really had a “type” but these 3 characters have a lot of similarities so maybe I just like lonely characters that are pitiful and make me want to give them a hug? Who knew that was even a specific thing?!
3rd Place: Kashimori Mitsuki (Majestic Majolical)
Mitsuki falls under the rich guy type but is neither arrogant or popular. In fact, he thinks that the people idolising him are actually afraid/dislike him and avoids spending time with others to avoid troubling them (there’s a plot reason for this). He’s 100% an absolute sweetheart with a heart of gold and I just want to give him a hug. Best boy from this game absolutely no questions asked.
2nd Place: Himuka (Olympia Soiree)
Himuka is unique from this list in that he actually comes from a plot-heavy game (lol). His job is essentially to pay finals respects to the dead by either turning them into crystals using his powers or disposing of their bodies. As such, people don’t tend to like him and he’s spent much of his life alone. He’s a good boy who’s too hard on himself with a great route to match. He just deserves happiness!
1st Place: Rollan Crydele (Jakou no Lyla)
Rollan is a client of the heroine who initially wants to find out where his lost sister is after his country was taken over and the rest of his siblings murdered. However, he spared being slaughtered because he spent his entire life locked up in a secret room in the castle, where servants were killed for even being kind to him. As such, Rollan is slightly messed up to begin with. However, he really only wants friendship and love. Once shown, he’s the sweetest and most loyal partner you can find. 10/10 want to give him a hug and pat his head. He’s hilarious as well because his knowledge of the outside world is horrendous and he’s clumsy as hell. A. Good. Boy.
3rd Place: Minase Sakurako (Flyable Heart)
Sakurako is such a kind and sweet girl who is always willing to help out her friends. She’s considered one of the school’s idols which actually makes people intimidated by her (which upsets Sakurako greatly). I adore how she really brightened up every scene she was in and her route was really well-done, which endeared her to me even more. So cute!
2nd Place: Kumigami Hiyo (Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo Yori Mo)
Hiyo comes from a family of doctors, hence her slightly unusual gothic nurse-esque outfit. She’s a cheerful girl who puts her everything into helping her beloved “danna-sama” get used to his new surroundings. She’s literally the most adorable girl. 12/10 moe factor.
1st Place: Niimi Sora (9-nine- Series)
Sora falls into the category of younger sister who enjoys teasing her big brother (but, of course, loves him really!). She provides much of the humour to the 9-nine- series as a whole but is even more cute when you get eventually get to the fluffy scenes of her route. Sora’s mix of hilarity and utter adorable-ness makes her an absolute winner in my book.
1st Place: Asuka Minato (Otome*Domain)
There could be simply no other winner here. The whole “concept” (and main joke) of Otome Domain is that Minato is perfect at everything, even being a girl. Much to his annoyance, he ends up being almost a caretaker for these 3 useless ojou-samas and is absolutely hilarious throughout the entire thing. He ended up being my favourite character from the game and I really wish there was a fandisc so I could see more of his antics. He’s also voiced so that adds even more personality – Minato is not just a great protagonist but a respectable character in his own right!
Most Disappointing Game
1st Place: Shoujo Shin’iki ∽ Shoujo Tengoku -The Garden of Fifth Zoa-
This game initially had a lot going for it – a decent developer, good artwork, interesting set-up. However, the writing is really bad and huge portions of the routes are copy-pasted so it is incredibly hard to enjoy this game in even the slightest, especially after you’re first playthrough. There were a couple of glimpses of what the game could’ve been but these were so small and far apart that the mediocrity of everything else really soured my opinion of this. Avoid at all costs – even if you see it in the 500yen sale!
Best Game I Played This Year
5th Place: Dance with Devils
Given that I abandoned playing this game halfway through around 4 years ago, I figured that it must’ve been pretty bad (all I could remember was Urie being annoying). After going back to it this year and replaying the entrie thing, I must say that it’s actually a pretty decent game – a good mix of action and romance with the Human and Devil routes offering some ~fun~ differences. The characters as a whole are actually quite likable (yes, even Urie) and this game is surprisingly tame for a rejet title with one of their infamous onii-chans.
4th Place: Flyable Heart
This game looks so cute and sparkly that I couldn’t resist playing it! It starts off with a strong common route with funny character interactions within the school setting. The routes themselves take a more serious turn and you start to realise that things may not be quite as simple as they appear. The true ending of this game made me cry (as did some of the other routes!) and I felt the story was handled fairly well throughout. The fairytale references were just the cherry on top!
3rd Place: Moshimo Ashita ga Hare Naraba
With a set-up like “your girlfriend/adopted older sister dies and comes back as a ghost” you know this is going to be a naki-ge and it definitely delivers in that regard. The first four chapters of the common route are absolute perfection, with the character routes generally being pretty good as well. Aside from the story, the character interactions are fun, with the game also being surprisingly humerous at points. This game is the oldest on this list (released in 2006) but is definitely still worth a play if you have the time!
2nd Place: Olympia Soiree
Ironically, Olympia Soiree is pretty much the only game to appear on this post that was actually realeased in 2020. Anyways, if you’re familiar with this team’s work, they last released Nil Admirari no Tenbin – a decent game that completely forgot about its interesting setting. Olympia Soiree improves on pretty much all aspects of the previous work to produce a very well-rounded experience in an extremely detailed and developed fictional world, which was a joy to read. All of the routes were pretty good and, despite a large cast, the characters were distinctive and memorable. A very memorable work & I look forward to what this team produce next time!
1st Place: Kitto, Sumiwataru Asairo Yori mo,
There’s very few games that have gone beyond being a “good story” and have actually touched me in the way that Asairo has. It essentially tells a tale about friendship and the bonds between us all but does it in a really beautiful way. This game will have you going through a real roller-coaster of emotions but, when finished, you’ll feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I don’t normally consider actual writing style but the way this game is written is incredibly skillful in its use of the Japanese language itself, meaning that you need a very good grip of it to get the most out of this game. If you enjoy playing Japanese visual novels of any genre then this should absolutely be on your to-play list.
Looking Towards 2021
Firstly, I really do need to start posting more. I currently have 10 reviews still to post, which is a completely ridiculous number. My only real excuse is that I despise the new-ish WordPress “Block Editor” which I personally find really unintuitive and that offers me no real new features for how awkward it is to use. I’m hoping that I’ll get used to it more over the next year which will enable me to write more!
I’m also trying to get myself out of the habit of posting on Fridays. I genuinely can’t even remember why I still do this because I work then so it actually makes no sense, haha. I will have to see how I get on for the rest of the year but that’s going to be my New Year’s Resolution 😛
I was looking at last year’s post and I actually managed to get through around half of the games that I wanted to play, which isn’t bad considering the fact that I’ve been playing a lot of PC games too. The games still to play, with 2 additions from last year’s post, are:
- Friend to Lover ~Fureraba~
- Taisho x Alice Heads&Tails
- Kenka Bancho Otome
- Amnesia Later x Crowd V Edition
- Nil Admirari no Tenbin Kuroyuri En’youtan
- Yunohana*Spring Cherishing Time
- Dance with Devils My Carol
- Ken ga Kimi Momoyo Tsuzuri
- Starry Sky~Winter Stories~
- Flyable Candy Heart
This list isn’t too long so I hope to get through 90% of these games in 2021.
As for upcoming games, there are a couple of intriguing looking titles. However, I have not been pre-ordering anything since April 2020 due to the current global situation and not wanting to put more pressure on the postal service. I’ve been moving towards digital games and keep spending my money on sales (lol) so that’s mainly galge. My backlog is also ridiculously long so I can’t really justify spending 10k yen on a single new game when I have 200+ titles sitting there to be played. Buying like 10 games at 500yen a pop is totally excuable though…
I hope you’ve all had a lovely and peaceful festive period~
Here’s to a happy & healthy 2021 with lots of time to spend playing games!