Written By: JP
Developer: White Cat Games
Platforms: PC, Mac and Linux
Genre: Otome, Adventure
Release Date: Aug. 17, 2013
I apologize right now for this bit of personal information but ambition is such a weird turn on for me. It just flips this switch in my brain and I turn into a drooling fanboy, BUT since I'm aware of it I know how to keep it from affecting things like this site...most of the time.
Blue Rose from White Cat Games is an ambitious title and I figured that out when I realized I was standing in a puddle after about five minutes of play. This commercial title is much closer to epic atmosphere of JRPGs like in the Tales Of series while weaving in traditional otome elements and characterizations. It is a bold vision, however after a few play throughs that switch I was telling you about shut down and it was impossible to ignore the flaws.
As I said in the opener, the set up for this game is very familiar to the Tales Of series with the backdrop of war and magic. And to the game's credit it spins the world into the cast's background without going into the well-worn, 'anti-war' territory while maintaining a darker edge. The scenarios it presents never feel like its trying to exploit your emotions, but rather that it's genuinely trying to explain the mindset of the people it affects. It is unapologetic about the violent reality that war creates and doesn't preach to the choir in the process. For some, that might be a negative. As I've already said, it's a plus for me.
This tone carries over to our leading lady, who may walk away from this game with the most physical scars of any otome heroine I've seen. Since the larger world is strictly background, the plot is driven by Lena and her choices: both good and bad. If the game didn't make her suffer for her mistakes it would be a big negative. But lucky the game's main villain becomes a legit threat and the fact that Lena is short-sighted, emotional and at times unsure of herself lets the story take a few fun twists that not only help her grow some by game's end, but also makes her climatic points stick with the reader.
However, it does feel like the writer played it safe here and chose to just have fun since we never do actually decide on Lena's fate directly. Whether she stays in the village or returns to her hometown are reliant on which boy she falls for. This was supposed to be the main dramatic pull of the game and it takes second fiddle to otome...and while I should've seen that one coming que sera.
Another big flaw is while the larger world helps with back story and motivations, often it doesn't equal an interesting cast. I know that sounds weird, but the fact that some characters that should be the most interesting cannot get out of their trope is a major punch to the stomach. The biggest offender of this is Tobias whose entire back story you can figured out in his first scene. I know he's supposed to be tsundere or whatever the proper Japanese trope name is, but his route was an agitating sit thanks solely to his predictable characterization.
The others fair much better and while some elements of their story lines were predictable, there were enough well-written moments to let you drop your guard. It was very much like Katawa Shoujo in that regard and a few of the paths took me right back to playing certain routes in KS. The only real difference is that the romance was a major factor in KS, while here it's the icing on the cake.
Adding to the story is a mechanic I admit I want to see more of in the future. Achieving both the Good and Bad Endings for any route will unlock a character's side story in the Extras menu. These side stories run roughly ten to fifteen minutes and strengthens the back stories of the cast. I enjoyed it and despite the familiarity of the cast, I enjoyed the story as well. Hopefully, in the future, the writer will be more open to a little risk-taking as she (or he) has the maturity to pull it off.
Wait Why Does Erin Give Lena So Much Atten-oooooh (I Get It)
Presentation & Gameplay
Because this visual novel relies heavily on both battle scenes AND romantic scenes to properly build key emotional moments, a large Event CG library was a given. And the are all very well done: again showing a great deal of potential for future works. Finally the soundtrack cements the JRPG feel of the entire game and was done by a Chris Hurn. All of the music fit the style of the game and made sure everything blended together well. So all in all it was very pretty to look and could be considered a blessing.
Now for the curse.
Gameplay is uneven. You really only have a handful of choices that all occur in the first and second act of the game, with a key choice being available at the very beginning. Your romantic routes are picked via who you spend the most time with and that is decided through an over-world map of the hidden village. A real opportunity was missed here since you only have a handful of choices of where to go per day and, again, it really only counts to which boy (or girl) you want to earn in the final act. It could have been used to expand on the world or back stories of the characters by allowing for the world to be open. It would've taken a bit more time, but it would've been much more rewarding at the end for the player. The remaining choices feel substantives with some characters and weak with others, but this can all be tied to opinion.
What's NOT my opinion is that the quality of the visual novel drops as you play. Once you get midway into the second act (the festival) and start into the third you begin to notice things that shouldn't be. Frequent typos and incorrect name placement, the scenery not fitting into the dialogue (the character saying its night when daylight is everywhere) and a few glitches with the Gallery that I believe have been fixed with a patch already marred the final moments.
While I am much more forgiving with free titles, there is a reason they are free. This is a commercial title and it has a pretty simple, straight-forward list of standards to reach on this site. These are not bugs with the software: it's all human error and it should have been addressed well before release day. It's too late to change this review, but for its own standards, I would urge the production team take another look at the game and correct the mistakes.
MY OVARIES ARE CHAINSAWS!
+ Good Story With Fun, But Familiar, Characters
+ Great Presentation And Soundtrack
- Game Quality Drops As You Play