I really want to one day create a visual novel of my own, and am fully aware that it is not that hard to do. However, I am currently trying to do some regular novels before I aim to do something wherein I will need to find an artist to provide assets for me. Plus, I need to build up the writing talent I feel is necessary in order to create something worthy of being placed on sale at a digital marketplace, such as Steam… Kinda like Sword of Asumi, a
$16 $12 visual novel I bought at a discount to help fund convince the creator to Kickstart a sequel, only to then see it as part of a $2 IndieGala bundle.Sword of Asumi Review
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Developer/Publisher: Dharker Studios
The title, unsurprisingly, puts you in the role of Asumi, a young assassin for hire who was given a mission to infiltrate a college in order to find a terrorist leader by the name of Raven. So it’s a story about a fish out of water using their abilities to solve a mystery? Well, not really. Asumi blends in with the crowd very well and needs to confess her love to another student before the end of the two or so hour story, and… how to put this without spoilers. The requirements for any one of the good endings are based on Asumi mistaking the identity of Raven.
Even then, Raven’s real identity is more or less trope driven, and is far from a surprise, which certainly does result in the main story coming across as very flaccid, and the few events Asumi underwent in order to find hints about who Raven was all the more pointless. That is not to say that I disliked the story in Sword of Asumi, just the pain storyline, as the characters you meet and form relationships with were actually pretty endearing.
However, in order to get the most out of them, you do need to plan your playthrough around seeing them at every opportunity, which does mean that multiple playthroughs will be necessary if you want the full experience. Although, in a move that surprised me, the game’s ‘canon’ ending involves all of the relationships Asumi could form being discarded for her to continue her life as a loveless killing machine, which is a lot like bringing a cake to a party and then tell everybody that you peed in the batter.
As for the actual writing of this visual novel, which is very, very important, I was very underwhelmed and a bit surprised the game somehow reached its 2.00 version without somebody going through the script and fixing “your welcome” or simply correcting basic punctuation and capitalization errors. Heck, I would shake my head if I saw a highschooler make such a silly mistake on a paper, let alone a title of this price and length. On a lesser, but still troubling note, the writer apparently did not read through every possible outcome of choices, as I found quite a few inconsistencies with Asumi’s relationships and implications that I chose event A instead of event B, when I ultimately did choose event B.
There is also a plot point introduced near the later half of the story that involves a series of assassinations happening throughout the school, which would ideally be something of a twist that would lead to several new clues and red herrings about Raven. Instead, the plot point is more or less pointless, as nobody Asumi met ends up dying, and the presentation fails to portray the sense of shock that a series of student murders would ideally hold. I only cared for a second because of a prompt that implied that a series of students could have died, and you would be able to only save one, but said prompt was ultimately pointless.
I could say the same thing about the decision to either kill or disable targets, as the repercussions in most cases are very limited. The ending does take your bloodlust into consideration, but in regards to what happens in the scene itself, the results are more or less the same. True, the actual endings do change, but I would hardly praise the endings, as they are, in most cases, a CG presented with two or three lines of text before the game promptly ends. On that note, I was actually a bit iffy about the CGs in general.
They are unsurprisingly limited and quantity, but they seem to have something of a gap in quality, partially due to how they were done by different artist, I’m sure, and have a very bad tendency to simply change aspects of the same image, which I understand if the art was commissioned, but it still comes across as a bit cheap. Character sprite are better off, but a lot of the time I questioned the writer/programmer’s decision to use certain sprites as characters are described as portraying emotions that are nothing like the ones they are showing.
There’s also a question I could not help but have about the way Asumi is drawn, often wearing skin tight clothing, and frequently being shown in a variety of very… adult lingerie for a person who I doubt is older than 23. This pertains to the way just about every female character is drawn, and is not something I am particularly upset about, but I cannot help but question this choice in art direction, especially when the downloadable graphic novel for the title doesn’t seem to have this problem based on what snippets I’ve seen from over the premium wall. There’s so little sexualized about the writing in general that I cannot help but feel as if something is a bit off when these two aspects are placed side by side.
The entire plot is too bare bones to ever sink your teeth into, and the overall execution is pretty underwhelming. It is ultimately done within five hours if you truly wish to see everything, and sadly I don’t feel as if the writing is quite… edited enough to justify even that. There are specific scenes that I truly did enjoy in the game, but not quite enough for me to wholeheartedly recommend the title, as it is just another in the slew of “okay” titles that have been pushed onto Steam, and can easily be looked over without much of a second thought. Part of me feels that is a very cruel and reductive statement that harms those who truly are trying to make something special, but the other just shrugs and says that it’s the truth. But then I realized just how much money was dumped into what is actually a fictional universe, and then muddles around for an hour, incredibly confused.