Title: Starry☆Sky ~Winter Stories~
Release Date: 30th November 2017
Age Rating: 15+
Length: ~20 Hours
Links: Official Website, VNDB
It may have taken me an entire year to get through these 4 games (which is kind of poetic in a way) but I’ve finally managed to complete my playthrough of the Starry Sky vita ports, which has been a nostalgic journey. The winter game generally follows the trend of making the latter games darker and more angsty than the first two but was it still a decent read?
Essentially this is a tale of two halves for me: the original ~in winter~ is actually pretty enjoyable with a good mix of drama and comedy. It was probably my favourite of the original games. However, the fandisc ~after winter~ is an absolute mess. Each route generally starts off fine and the first conflict is resolved (I have complaints about Tsubasa’s route but the other’s are okay), however, the game then feels the need to add a really unecessary secondary conflict. This just makes what should be fluffy and cute afterstories feel like unending over-dramatic trash. Just not what I was looking for or expecting at all, and is even more frustrating when I know they can make cute and lighthearted fandiscs (such as After Summer).
First up is the student council president and “dad” of the group, Kazuki. I must admit that I overlooked him when I originally played this game – teenage me simply didn’t understand how deliciously dramatic his route was in the first game. He truly feels like one of the “correct” routes in the series, which is weird when there’s no true routes, etc.
His afterstory also started off really well and I loved the part spent with his family – those scenes were super cute! However, After Winter was one of the Starry Sky fandiscs that decided to be overly dramatic and the second “conflict” in his route was so absolutely ridiculous I was genuinely cringing at the screen. I understand that it was probably meant to be a parallel to his original route, but it was so stupid that it felt like it was straight out of one of those trashy TV romance movies.
Hayato is the serious member of the student council, who maintains order using his trusty mini-chalkboard. He’s actually pretty funny during the common route but he’s just not my type unfortunately. His actual character route is super angsty and focuses on his family, who are actual trash but overall it was decent enough.
Hayato’s story in the fandisc actually was probably the best out of the 3 main characters, although that wasn’t exactly a high standard to reach.
The next character is Tsubasa, the cute but eccentric kouhai. Tsubasa is representative of my star sign (Aquarius) so I kind of have a soft spot for him anyways. I enjoyed the focus on family in his route and it was honestly kinda heartbreaking seeing the flashback scene with his grandfather. Seeing Tsubasa grow throughout his route and learn to trust others was handled very well.
And then the game goes and ruins all this development by having the worst, most pointless love triangle nonsense at the start of his after story. It was just such a stupid plotline that was caused by various misunderstandings but ended up causing a lot of hurt to the characters involved for literally no reason. I figured that his after story would be more similar to Azusa’s, I mean I guess it is at the end but it truly feels that this route is mainly drama. So annoying. The scenes in his after stroy featuring his grandma are literally the only saving grace of this.
Oushiro and his additional route in the original game is pretty much what spurred me to play these ports in the first place. I remember playing through ~after winter~ originally and not having a clue what was going on in his after story because of the lack of a route for him in the PC version of the first game.
Eh, I’m pretty much in two minds about his route in the original – it’s clearly much shorter than the others but the drama in it was pretty decent. I just wish the conclusion of the route had a CG, not having one made it less impactful unfortunately. The same pretty much goes for his afterstory – it was a little on the short side.
Finally, we have Shiki, whom was a mysterious character representing the “13th zodiac constellation” of Ophiuchus. His route is just so awkward because they try to insert him into the story as a friend of everyone but because he wasn’t in any of the other games it just feels weird. I did think it was clever that his route encompassed an entire year/ all 4 seasons but this made the pacing a bit weird. Overall, I wouldn’t have minded if they didn’t bother adding him but that may just be me.
~in winter~ : 8/10
~after winter~ : 5/10
Overall, I’m glad that I took the time to replay one of the first Otome Game series that I played. I think maybe nostalgia had something to do with my scoring so I don’t know if I’d recommend these games to new players, unless you really want something with very easy Japanese.
I think my favourite season overall was probably Summer, as it easily had the best fandisc. The rest of them are all pretty close in quality, with perhaps Spring being the most consistently decent.
Would I replay some of my other early visual novels? Yeah probably, if they got ported to a system I was able to play them on. It was fun going back and seeing just how much my Japanese has improved at least!