Nine months in the oven and she’s ready for another go!
Student Transfer Version 6.0 Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux, Android
Developer/Publisher: The Student Transfer Development Team
Student Transfer is a community developed freeware visual novel that centers around TSF/TG/gender bending, body swapping, mind control, transformation, possession, and more. The title began development back in 2015, where it was imagined as a sort of successor to Press-Switch, a visual novel that covers the same general subject matter. In the ensuing five and a half years, Student Transfer has grown and iterated upon itself dramatically, with the latest release of Version 6.0 featuring over 980,000 words of content.
The game follows John Davis, a fairly unremarkable high school student whose ordinary life becomes extraordinary one fateful night. When he either receives an incredibly powerful alien remote or comes into possession of an ancient spellbook written by his ancestors.
From this initial starting point, the game opens up into a sprawling web of routes and choices featuring an expansive cast of colorful characters with a structure more comparable to a choose-your-own-adventure interactive story than a traditional visual novel. This is probably best represented by how messy and confusing navigation in the game can be, to the point where I would actively encourage all players to use a flowchart to play the game. Either the official interactive flowchart provided by the dev team, or the condensed alien and magic flowcharts I created myself.
Because the game is so big and expansive, it is not feasible for me to talk about everything in a single review, but the core strengths of Student Transfer can be seen throughout pretty much every route. By being a collaborative title, Student Transfer invites writers to bring their own unique voices and spins on the world, characters, and subject matter of Student Transfer, giving the title more breadth, diversity, and content overall than it would have if there was only a single creative lead.
From jovial lighthearted romps to dismal situations where one’s life and identity shatter before their very eyes, the variety of the content allows the game to remain interesting even after so many iterations and expansions. And with plenty of unexplored avenues and underutilized characters, it doesn’t seem like that will change anytime soon.
By being a team, the developers are able to check over and edit each other’s work to keep the universe and game overall consistent, while sharing their skills and technical knowledge. This is especially impressive given how poorer managed collaborative writing-based efforts like this are typically a free-for-all of quality, and just how consistent the game is despite having so many writers. Admittedly, you can often spot a stylistic shift when a route brings in another writer, but the general quality of this game’s writing is high enough that this change is never jarring or detracting.
Furthermore, by being a title with such a focused target audience, a niche group of enthusiasts, Student Transfer has access to writers who truly understand how to use its assorted subject matter to tell a good story. This is something of a rarity, as most TSF writing is focused on providing erotic thrills when the subject matter has plenty of room and potential for greater narrative exploration. Which is precisely what the developers do here. Take the subject matter seriously and use it as a tool to craft quality character-driven narratives that only delve into the sexual end of things for the sake of adding to the story overall… for the most part.
However, Student Transfer is not just limited to what its dev team accomplished, as it doubles as both a robust visual novel and a platform for fan-created Scenarios. Stories disconnected from the base game that uses the same engine, assets, and often universe. I actually began reviewing these Scenarios back in 2019, and after going through over 50 of them, I can safely say that they run the gamut in regards to quality, but there are plenty of gems to be found in these fan-works. With some being on-par with the routes featured in the base game. They do a lot to extend the life of Student Transfer and keep the project relevant even during the long lulls between full version updates. You can find a comprehensive list of all Scenarios on the official Student Transfer website.
Now, I’ve praised the writing behind this project, but writing is merely one area where Student Transfer triumphs, as it is also one of the most impressive-looking visual novels I have ever played. The title is assembled using assets borrowed from other visual novels, primarily those from the developer Candysoft, and while this leads to some stylistic discrepancies, the dev team has really made these assets their own over the past few years. They introduced custom outfits, made CG edits, and are continuously dedicating themselves to making this game look better than most other visual novels on the market.
The way characters express themselves, how they move across the screen, how they comically tilt, tumble, and shake about when doing a dance, and the fact that the ‘camera’ can swoop in, out, and across from the background. It makes the presentations of most other visual novels seem needlessly stilted in comparison, and has led to some of the most impressive presentational feats I have seen in a visual novel outside of the Muv-Luv series.
Unfortunately, also like the Muv-Luv series, the game is somewhat held back by its 720p. A resolution that the game is more or less stuck with since that’s what the borrowed assets were made for, and it would be a massive pain to bump the game up to a higher resolution.
That covers my slightly updated thoughts on the game in general, but what makes each new release special is naturally the bevy of new routes and extensions introduced. For better or worse, this update is on the lighter side of things, introducing roughly 120,000 words of new stuff, polishing off two routes from Version 5, developing a stub from Version 2.0, and introducing two brand new routes. So let’s cut the boilerplate praise and get on with the new stuff!
If I had to give one management-related criticism to Student Transfer as a project, it would be that the dev team has not fully explored many of its characters. Since the project’s inception, numerous characters have been cast by the wayside while the dev team has been steadily introducing newer characters and giving them routes to call their own. I understand why this is happening, but I’ve wanted to see dedicated paths for Holly, Carrie, and Circe since November 2015. As such, I was a bit miffed when I started up the Charlotte Route.
As the name implies, the route orbits around Charlotte Foster, a San Fransokyo college student majoring in fashion who John absentmindedly bumps into on his way to school, accidentally pressing some buttons on the remote in the process. Then, when he tries to use the remote later in the day, he winds up initiating a swap between the two. However, due to the kilometers-long distance between them and unclear inputs, the body swap came with some mental changes. While John still remembers parts of his life and his identity as John, he picked up on many of Charlotte’s memories, mannerisms, and traits, with Charlotte being in the same boat.
It is an interesting premise that muddles the identities of its two main characters right out the gate, leaves them with no clear way to return things to normal, and gives them pretty much everything they need to assume each other’s life. The personality shifts are handled well, I like the change in setting up to college, and while Charlotte’s scatterbrain yet eager personality is still being unfurled, she does seem like a fun girl to center a story around.
Unfortunately, the route is only about 30 minutes long in its current form, making it hard for me to judge it as much more than a ‘strong start.’ Which is something I don’t particularly value all that much, given how many times I’ve been burned by underdeveloped beginnings, and how (based on experience) I consider a good beginning to be the easiest part of writing a story. The hard part is actually doing things with your premise and telling your story.
Leona Wish Route:
Built off of the Magic Mom route, where John reveals his spellbook to his mother mere hours after he receives it, the Leona Wish follows a branch where Sandra tries her hand at summoning a demon. After amassing a pile of potatoes and spices (ah, memories), she is greeted by the playful demon Circe. Circe offers Sandra a wish, she wishes for her friend Leona Winters to find a partner and, like any good wish granter, Circe interprets this wish broadly in order to make something a touch more interesting.
In short, this wish turns John into the platinum blonde female Tina Koya English teacher and Sandra’s friend, Jennifer D. Winters, and turns Leona into Sandra’s black-haired teenage son, Leon Davis. John and Sandra remember the way things used to be, reality as a whole was rewritten, and after establishing this, the route primarily focuses on John as he eases into his new life as a 28-year-old woman, recalling memories of Jen’s life as he does so. …Which is probably going to be the most interesting aspect of this route.
Memory morphing, mixing, and mingling is nothing out of the ordinary for Student Transfer (especially across V6 content), but Jen serves as a new character born from combining bits and pieces of two people’s lives. She is a new person, as is her counterpart Leon, and I’m rather interested in seeing how the lead writer, luckysquid, reconciles who retains what traits, and what else changed in this new reality. Given their track record with this sort of stuff (both in the base game and their own Scenarios), I’m sure it will shape up into something special. Special and messy.
Alas, after roughly half an hour of set-up, Leona Wish hits a cliffhanger that would not be out of place in a TV sitcom. In the game’s story files, there actually is an expansion to this conclusion, along with several other alternative Magic Mom routes, but they evidently did not meet the dev team’s standards before release. Which sucks, because there were Yuuna and Natsumi routes developed out to the second day, but I suppose we’ll just need to wait until V7 to see them. Or not. You could always crack open the game using unren and a rpyc decompiler, remove the placeholders, and enjoy a sloppy and wormy pre-release treat.
Popular Possession Route:
Expanded back in V5, the Popular Possession route follows John and Kiyoshi as they decide to possess the queen bee of Tina Koya, Sayaka Sato, and her personal aide, Cornelia Roberts. But what was meant to be a side excursion to test out John’s new magic powers quickly turns into a more prolonged engagement, as Kiyoshi insists on staying in Sayaka’s body— for obvious reasons. However, the longer Kiyoshi stays in Sayaka’s form, the more he peers into her memories, steadily losing more of himself with each dive.
Not wanting to lose his best friend, John begins possessing other people to monitor Kiyoshi. Yet as he does so, and tries to assume the role of others, he too peers into their memories and is subjected to the same adverse effects. Who John possesses and whose memories he delves into affects his personality, and with it, his relationship to ‘Sayaka.’
Depending on the player’s choices throughout the route, he can develop feelings for the glorious self-styled diehard bitch, or he can remain steadfast against this identity death happening before his eyes, even if it comes at the cost of a relationship. Oh, and as an added bonus, as John possesses other people, the player gains access to unique possession scenes that offer a closer look at the extended cast of Student Transfer characters. Which is something I always like to see in the base game.
This new update caps off the story starting at the fateful party where John meets up with a fully Sayaka’d Kiyoshi. Where the player’s Sayaka Points are tallied and they are funneled into either a destructive relationship or a defiant quest to rescue Kiyoshi from the abyssal depths of another’s mind. I won’t go into too much detail about these conclusions. But I will say that the lead writer, Narg, brought the bacon and the havarti, because this route is absolutely bonkers in the best possible way!
It bands the main crew together to take down a major threat. It features a tour de force across the secondary cast of Tina Koya as a spectral beatdown plays out. It not only remembers that Maurice Honda is an actual character, but it gives him a pivotal role in one ending. It takes a main character’s identity, their sense of self, and completely breaks it, churns it into dust, and throws it into the dirt as they are birthed into the style of slave that money can’t buy! AND it even puts the other kind of TG in this TG visual novel!
As a whole, I consider the Popular Possession route to be a splendid example of why I love Student Transfer. This route tells a detailed character-driven story, makes use of the branching choices and interactivity of a visual novel in an unobtrusive and clear way, and it treats its subject matter with both familiarity and respect, using possession and mind alteration to tell a good story first and foremost. …But it is also fully and completely comfortable being what it is and will indulge in its more perverted trappings when it’s narratively justified. It’s confident, competent, crazy, and I love it!
Mem Swap Route:
The Mem Swap route follows John after he introduces his mother, Sandra, to the alien remote and offers her a break from the stress and mundanity of her life and enjoy the carefree life of a teenage boy. While both John and Sandra could just fumble their way through such a life swap, they decide that it would be best if they switch their memories around so they can better impersonate one another. While they could technically do this with a simple copy of all relevant memories, Sandra decides that it would be more fun if the two indulged in full-on memory transfers and only transferred memories as needed.
This leads to a days-long series of events where the two lead each other’s life, swap about memories, and gradually become more comfortable in their new lives, almost distressingly so. Her’s becomes mine, mine becomes his, and almost every facet that used to define John as John is steadily replaced, with bits and fragments becoming so scattered that it becomes difficult to quantify who is more John and who is more Sandra.
All of this sounds like it would be the basis for a story about a greater identity crisis, but that’s not the case here. John and Sandra both remain consensual about these changes and both revel in their new lives, their new perspectives, and the new roles they play. So instead of being about any major conflict, the story is more focused on the minutiae of daily life that John, and to a lesser extent Sandra, go through as they steadily but surely immerse themselves into each other’s personalities and routines. It is a deep dive on a hyper-specific concept that is fleshed out to its full potential and peppered with amusing anecdotes and awkward interactions aplenty.
The core of this route was developed in the release of Version 5, while Version 6 brings this route to its close, following John and Sandra as the weekend comes to an end and the story starts prompting the player down one of four distinct endings that all wrap up the story in a considerably different way. From putting this past week behind them to getting too obsessed with living each other’s lives that this vacation never ends, along with other more gooey alternatives that pretty much deliver on what I personally wanted from this route. Seeing the characters develop or grow based on their traded memories and a multi-body deluge of experiences.
There is definitely a lot to like about this route, though I think its biggest strength is actually its biggest weakness. The lead writer of MemSwap, luckysquid, went incredibly in-depth with their portrayal of Sandra’s weekly routine, forging something with so many fine details that it genuinely feels like a facsimile of another person’s life.
All of which is told from the perspective of John who, like most teenage boys, is only vaguely aware of what his mother does on a daily basis, and not of the specifics. I personally love this sort of stuff, as it emphasizes just how different the lives of other people, even people within the same home, truly are. While also indirectly sending the message that teenagers should probably be more receptive to learning these sorts of basic life skills.
However, some might also find this story to be a slow burn with long days of little conflict beyond awkward squabbles and only a drip-feed of character progression. Stuff happens. The script regularly peppers in little side plots, asides, and comedic interstitials to keep things interesting. But I could also see somebody growing disinterested in this route due to its pacing. Hell, I found myself skipping through a few scenes when replaying the earlier bits, as I just wanted to get on with the story.
Despite this potential pacing issue, I still really loved the MemSwap route. It’s decadently detailed, makes excellent use of its subject matter, somehow manages to tell a sweet story about a boy and his mom through all the layers of weirdness, and it caps things off with wonderfully prolonged epilogue-like conclusions. For all these reasons and more, I consider the MemSwap route to be yet another shining example of how versatile Student Transfer is when it comes to using its subject matter to tell a good story, with no major compromises.
Leona Swap Route:
Now, this is something I never expected to see again. The Leona Swap route was one of the innumerous stubs introduced in Version 2.0 of Student Transfer, but after 4.5 years of being left by the wayside, it received a massive expansion, building out the route to near completion and… it’s one of those stories where I’m struggling to grasp what exactly the creative team is trying to do.
The Leona Swap route follows John after he hands over the alien remote to Sandra, who tests it by switching the bodies of her son and her lifelong friend, neighbor, and co-worker, Leona Winters. After leaving the two to awkwardly shuffle about for a time, John and Leona both conspire to mess with Sandra by pretending like they enjoy this swap. While this might have worked on someone else, Sandra is the archduchess of teasing, so she instead only prolongs the swap over the span of several days. Gradually copying memories so John and Leona can live each other’s lives, and issuing them mental commands to help them better fit their roles.
This concept could be spun into myriad directions and tones, but instead of something more extreme, the lead writer of this extension, luckysquid (yes, they did over half of the lead writing here), takes things in a considerably more mellow and low key direction.
Identities remain secure, there is little sense of dread or discomfort felt by either party as they assume each other’s role, and even though the remote is in the clutches of the chaotically aligned Sandra, she’s not malicious enough to hurt anyone with her commands. It is a story where the only thing preventing the characters from swapping back is… their sense of pride, I guess, and neither party seems to be overwhelmingly enjoying the experience either.
This lack of narrative tension does not make the route bad or boring by any stretch of the imagination, in fact, I think it does a lot right. I like how the route paints a crisp picture of Leona’s pleasantly humdrum life. I appreciated how the dynamics and relationships between the two swappees shift as the changes compound. I enjoyed the use of Leona Points and Leona Horny Points that allow the player to roleplay John as a good ladylike boy, a dirty pervy boy, a ladylike pervy boy, or a lackluster potato boy. And I found the low-stakes nature of the story to be somewhat relaxing, which is appropriate considering the co-protagonist.
However, mulling things over, it feels like this route is missing a little extra oomph to make it stand out from the pack, though the reason I think that might be because I cannot help but look at this route and think of what it could have been. As I see it, the Leona Swap route follows the least interesting of two stories. Leona is a character with two main wants. She feels she missed out in her youth by being a boring and rule-abiding teenager and wishes she had a wild phase in her life. And she wants to find a romantic partner to live the rest of her life with.
Part of the crux of this route is to give Leona the opportunity to pursue the first of her two desires, and by being in the body of her friend’s son, she does not truly need to face the consequences of her actions. This is the perfect opportunity for her to discover and indulge in her wild side, and she is further pushed into this direction thanks to the mental commands Sandra issues to her.
Partway through the route, Leona is given John’s sexual desires and is left drowning in teenage boy hormones. This is a great justification for her to develop a sense of danger lust (and regular lust) and that’s what happens, as Leona does something delightfully risky and adorably stupid before the end of the V6 extension. However, we only see her actions from John’s perspective while he leads a comparatively mundane life, living as a sexy 40-something-year-old woman with stereotypical old lady hobbies, not pursuing any of his personal goals.
What’s here does work, and it works well, but… It made me wish I was reading the opposite side of this same story, as I would have loved a scene where Leona describes the shame and thrill of masturbating to photos of her own body. What can I say? I’m fond of stories where middle-aged women become infatuated with their newfound male body parts and youthful virility.
Following its humble beginnings, Student Transfer has continued to impress me more and more with each passing release. What started as an ambitious yet clunky project has grown and developed into a genuine dream game for me, and the fact that it has persisted for so long and brought with it so many quality stories, both in and out of the base game, is nothing short of amazing. Student Transfer is the gift that keeps on giving, I am continuously grateful to the dev team for supporting this title, and I hope that this project continues for years to come.
As is customary, I have also prepared flowcharts for Version 6.0 and subsequent Version 6.X releases. Please notify me if you find any mistakes or errors. Because I am apparently incredibly prone to making mistakes!
Student Transfer is available to download via the official Student Transfer website.
For more information about the title, please check my dedicated Student Transfer page.