It’s a Lunar New Year’s special with Russian Kitsunes!
The following is a review of a fan-made Scenario for the visual novel Student Transfer. For more information about Student Transfer, please consult my dedicated Student Transfer page or the official Student Transfer website.
Year of the Fox kicks off with John and his K-buds at a lunar new year festival, where Kiyoshi, vintage anime pervert he is, winds up hitting on a female booth attendant. While this normally would result in him getting promptly rejected, she finds his attempts at flirting to be endearing, and gives him a letter. A letter that, predictably, magically transforms Kiyoshi into a girl. After Kiyoshi proves his identity to John by… being Kiyoshi, the two set off to find this enigmatic woman, a Russian kitsune by the name of Daria Clavishnikova. She explains that Kiyoshi is stuck in this form until the week-long holiday is over and gives him a crystal to hide his transformation to others.
What follows is a Scenario that juggles a few things. One is a character exploration of Kiyoshi, seeing what he would do if given a female body and the opportunity to get insight into the ‘fairer sex’ via physical explorations and social relationships now available to him. Another is John wrangling his impulsive friend and stopping him from getting into trouble and/or making an ass out of himself. And the third is exploring how the relationship dynamics between the two leads change, as John starts seeing Kiyoshi in a different light. Due not only to his different body, but also Kiyoshi’s inability to manage his own life when things are thrown into disarray.
I would say that the crux of this Scenario is the relationship dynamics between these two, and this is something I think GarySavage does a good job with. Though, I found John to be a bit too ‘fiery’ considering his more relaxed persona in the base game, how this situation does not affect him directly, and how this conflict will just go away in a week. However, this builds a greater level of contrast between the protagonists, does not prevent John from being a kind or caring person when the time calls for it, and could serve as foreshadowing depending on how the story plays out.
As for the writing itself, GarySavage is part of the ESL half of the Student Transfer community (I’m calling it a half, because it’s not that much of an exaggeration), and I found about two dozen errors in my casual playthrough. However, most of these are not ‘ESL errors’ as much as they are ‘rough draft errors.’ Things that the writer (probably) knows are wrong or should be rewritten, but they either glazed over them in the editing process or didn’t reread their edits. Also known as the types of errors I personally make all the damn time.
Errors aside, Year of the Fox has a pretty solid script. Character banter is entertaining, the cast is all on-brand, the story overall moves at a good pace, and Daria’s playful nature makes her an absolute treat whenever she’s on screen. It has a nice blend of humor and more subdued moments thrown in, manages to make what should be a basic premise into something more compelling, and despite only being 25% to 33% done by my estimation, is a Scenario I found to be enjoyable from start to finish. I hope that GarySavage is part of the minority who actually finish their Scenarios, but even if this is abandoned after launch, it’s still some good stuff.
Well, it’s good on the writing front, but it’s great regarding its presentation. I am routinely amazed by the amount of effort that Scenario devs put into these things, and Year of the Fox comes swinging right out of the gate. Character zoom-ins, animated fireworks, camera panning, and a deluge of other flourishes that goes beyond what even fully priced retail visual novels aspire for. That’s not even getting into the custom art assets, the inclusion of emotion symbols, adding shadow effects to character sprites so they look more natural in the 3D space, or the seconds-long completely unnecessary horror scene with its own assets. There’s even a scattering of custom tracks that gel in well with the existing score but introduce a new flavor and flourish to this Scenario, in addition to new sound effects.
After playing Student Transfer for hundreds of hours over the years, I have learned to appreciate and admire the work that goes into the presentation of these Scenarios. While I haven’t (and probably never will) make a Scenario myself, I have an inkling as to the volume of labor that goes into these things and I know that these Scenarios are labors of pure love.
Unfortunately, there are a scattering of visual bugs I ran into. Accidental levitation during minute 1, the missing “imagine kiyo doing kiyo stuff i dunno” CG, and the “dark room” background is not the right resolution. It is also odd that only Kiyoshi (male) and Daria have upscaled high-res sprites. They look wonderful, but they make the other sprites look worse by comparison when the camera zooms in. Also, despite putting in the effort to edit some chibi CGs, GarySavage did not recolor the sheets to better match John’s room, despite that being the easiest thing to edit. Hell, I took a crack at it and went from this to this in 20 minutes, and I suck at these things.
Beyond its assorted rough-draft-isms, Year of the Fox was a fun time. Conceptually, it does not do a lot I haven’t seen before with its moderately basic premise. However, it delivers with its character writing, relationship dynamics, and generally jovial tone. All of which is tied together with a top-notch presentation that reminds me of just what you can do with an engine like Ren’py, a bit of programming know-how, some image editing skills… and access to professional art assets. So… yeah. It gets a full recommendation, no ifs, ands, or buts.