Written By: JP
Developers: Winged Cloud
Platforms: PC, Mac and Linux
Release Date: December 23, 2013
You'd think I would've found a more elegant way to go about this by now.
I've tried writing this intro three times now and I have yet to properly get across what I want to say. I don't consider completely inept but this game just confounds me. I may not be, and may never be, a die-hard anime or manga fan and I am certainly not the target audience for 70% of visual novels, but in the same vein I like to think that we can all agree on some basics that have become the foundation of this very website. That foundation is what separates all fiction across all genres between good and bad; regardless of personal preferences.
Which brings me to Pyrite Heart.
Released within spitting distance of the celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Pyrite Heart is a title that is slowly infecting the larger EVN community. I've personally been flooded not only with requests to play the game, but also nominations for it in the 2013 Best Ofs with only a few days of exposure to its name. But popular response doesn't answer the question that is the keystone of this site, 'Is it good?'
Strap on a helmet amigos, because we're not all making it back from this one
And thus we have our plot! ......Where am I even going to start?
While I know by now that you cannot tie any real standard to these kinds of stories, I'm going to try anyway because clearly I'm a glutton for punishment. Let's start off with the crux of the entire story: Princess Ahri's ego. She challenges anyone in front of her in a mad attempt to be the best at absolutely everything she puts her hand to. In fact the story begins in medias res with her accepting the challenge that leads her to becoming a typical high school student.
It's a simple enough question that is never answered throughout the game and because of that the game never let's us connect with the character which is, believe it or not, a shame. I actually enjoyed aspects of Ahri's character and I found her relentless drive charming. With proper care, it would've been great to watch her get fleshed out to explain not only how she got to this point, but why it is so important for her to keep challenging everyone around her. It wouldn't have made her a deep character by any means, but it would've gave the story a sense of balance that is desperately needed.
The fact that I'm saying it means that it doesn't happen. Instead we are stuck between Ahri's random and unexplained aggression versus Ahri's abject stupidity. And I say 'abject stupidity' only because she's never been in a kitchen in her life. That's right folks: Ahri challenges a random bishonen to a contest she has no chance of winning. What do you THINK is going to be the result?
Not that the rest of the plot helps. There is no clear sense of story here as Pyrite Heart is content to check off every box on the Romantic Anime Cliche check list and move on to yet another attempt to induce fangirl squealing. From Kenta playing basketball in a jersey and short shorts to Ryuu (and even Ahri) in butler/maid cosplay, they know what their target audience likes and shamelessly delivers it with a saccharine smile on its face. I hate to be so blunt on it, but at the same time these scenes of visual fanservice are just lead-ins to emotional fanservice. It doesn't give us any more than necessary and, because of that, it doesn't connect anything in the story with the audience other than, 'Hey isn't this cute~?'
Finally we have the two male leads of which paths the story branches into: Ryuu and Kenta. Both have elements I like; mainly when they both embrace the ridiculous premise of the entire game and just go with it. I may not have found it particularly entertaining, but it could be a distraction more than anything else. And, to be fair, the romantic scenes involving one of the boys teaching Ahri the basics of cooking does have some romantic spark to them. However, both also have these moments that delve into melodrama to try and give the story depth and it accidentally shows just how shallow of an experience Pyrite Heart really is.
The biggest offender of this is Kenta: whose path isn't just predictable, it's hilarious as it tries to reach for your heartstrings with Hallmark Channel-worthy dialogue. There just isn't a groan loud enough to cover the relationship that springs out of this path. Ryuu's is also pretty bad, but of the two it spends as much time away from melodramatics as possible. But honestly neither justifies a relationship between either of the two and Ahri, which means their stories end the way they end because that what the writers wanted; not because of a natural character arc.
But does any of that make it a bad story? No, it makes it a stock standard one. For all of the hype around the game, it interests me that no one is talking about the story in a serious way. And I think that's because, at the end of the day, fans of Pyrite Heart can recognize what's in front of them. That isn't to say the narrative is wholly unlikable, but it is more concerned with being fun than delivering an understandable narrative. The result is a pretty bland and, at times, headdesk-worthy story that you have seen done at least a million times before.
Presentation & Gameplay
However, the soundtrack is God-awful. It often out of place and so upbeat and bubblegum pop-esque, I ended up turning it off. There are plans to add voices in the future so, if necessary, I will play it again to give a review on their acting. But all signs say that won't be until we're deep into 2014.
The gameplay showed a few issues just with grammar and setting, but at the same time I didn't run into any bugs and it was relatively easy to navigate. The choices, however, were insanely easy save for one question during a 'History Bowl' that required knowledge of World War II and came right the Hell out of nowhere. I appreciate the attempt to ensure player involvement, but those who aren't history buffs may feel it is out of place in this title. The lack of an Extras menu isn't a strike against it, but it is noticeable with the amount of CGs they dedicated to the project.
But at the same time I have to judge the final product as a complete work and not just as a collection of the moments I liked. And, with that in mind, Pyrite Heart is a fun, but typical, otome story. Try as they might to jerk your tear ducts around in the second act, there is just not enough depth to the characters to make it feel like anything more than an exercise in Basic Romance 101. At the same time the larger plot is all over the place with no regard to connecting itself. It is the purest form of fangirl bait I think I've reviewed on this site: happily content with spoon-feeding its audience everything it likes and ignoring those pesky things like good characterizations, themes and development.
But since it and its audience are happy with it as is, I say let the hordes have their candy. The rest of us will gladly wait for something more than average.
- Predictable and Cliche Characters
+ Solid Presentation
- Terrible Soundtrack