[PC] Shuffle Essence+ Review

Title: Shuffle Essence+
Developer: Navel
Release Date: 30th October 2009
Age Rating: 18+
Length: ~25 Hours
Links: Official Website, VNDB

One of my goals when getting back into playing PC galge was to visit some of the more iconic series in the genre, hence why I’ve tried out the Canvas and Da Capo series. Shuffle in particular is one of those series that was very popular and well-known back when I was first getting into visual novels, due to the anime and also it being one of the early games to receive an official English release. I played the English version of Shuffle sometime back in 2010 and have fond memories of it so I figured that with the series more recently being continued by Navel I’d play the complete Essence+ edition that contains a myriad of new routes before I move onto the newer games in the series.

First of all, the set-up of Shuffle is actually relatively straight-forward but also interesting enough to keep the reader’s attention. The fact that Rin apparently captured the hearts of two Princesses in his childhood and they come to (hopefully) become his bride sounds generic (to the point of being laughable) but the additional intrigue between the Demon and God worlds adds another layer to the story. There was a lack of worldbuilding regarding the set-up but given that this is a game clearly more focused on the romantic comedy aspect then I guess its slightly more forgivable?

The common route plays out pretty much as you’d expect of a charage from this “era” – lots of humour and “lucky sukebe” happening scenes. Not that this is a bad thing but it does get a little stale after a while.

As for the five original heroines, they’re all likable in their own ways – with enough of a twist to make them unique amongst their peers. I thought that all of their routes were generally pretty decent and, at the very least, memorable.

However, the problems for this game pretty much start when you get to the newer routes. Simply put, they’re generally not even at the same level of quality as those of the original heroines. One thing that I always noted about the original Shuffle was the imagery of the arrows (representing the different choices/routes) and the whole premise based around “your” (the player’s) choice. The way this translated into the heroine routes was that Rin’s choice in girl was pretty much respected. However, in the newer routes, they range from hinting to blatantly showing that the canon endings would be harem routes involving many of the original heroines.

Now, I have nothing against harem routes or polyamorous relationships but it was just so weird that only the additional heroines had routes like this. Almost as though the developers knew that having Rin end up with multiple heroines would offer them the most leeway to make a sequel…

Okay, okay it’s not all doom and gloom – there were some parts of the game that I enjoyed. Kareha was a character that I adored in the original and was heartbroken to learn that she was only a side character so I am thankful this game added in a much needed route for her, even if it writing-wise wasn’t great. She’s just such a cute heroine!

Another surprise was Sakura, Rin’s other childhood friend. She was originally a heroine in the Really Really sequel but also had a route added to this game. I actually really liked her route and as a heroine she’s super cute!

On the other hand, the worst route in the game was probably Daisy’s – it was one of the the main appeals of the Essence+ edition and she’s a completely new character to the series. However, her route is super long and boring compared to everyone else’s. I was also disappointed that the game introduces us to another new character, Ruri, whom is easily the most engaging character in the route and then doesn’t give her an ending. (But of course they add a route for her in a later fandisc).

Ruri was the more interesting character and yet had no route :c

One thing I will praise the game for is the vocal songs, I enjoy both Yuria and Hashimoto Miyuki’s vocals normally and the songs in this game were no exception. The ending song (Summer Again) was probably the best part of Daisy’s route.

As you can probably tell, there were two artists that worked on this game – Nishimata Aoi & Suzuhira Hiro. I think the latter’s artwork was the more consistent and has aged better. The game is clearly a product of its time though. Each heroine did have a decent amount of CGs though.

Final Thoughts

My Score: 4/10

I should probably stipulate here that my “scoring” is based off of wether or not I view this particular version of the game as being worth playing or not and, to put it simply, it isn’t (looking at the original version of Shuffle on its own I would give it like a 6/10). There were some passable routes in there but the 5 original heroines had better routes in my opinion, making this version only really worth it if you’re interested in a particular heroine and are aware of the shortcomings.

Overall though, I am glad that I had the opportunity to revisit Shuffle – the heroines and stories were nostalgic and I’m looking forward to seeing how the newer games have (hopefully) developed some world-building.

Thanks for reading!


About Zettai Renai

Hello! ヾ(^-^)ノ Sometimes I write about Visual Novels. I particularly like cutesy/fluffy stories~ I also am eternally suffering in Enstars hell(˶′◡‵˶)
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