“With infinite possibilities, you choose to only explore two?”
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.
Sorry about the three month hiatus between reviews. Tax season and other TSF-related projects kept me busy.
COWA falls neatly into the genre of Scenarios that give the protagonist access to a doohickey of immense power. With the doohickey being an enigmatic app known as COWA, and the power being the ability to change the fabric of reality by replacing a word in an objective sentence. A simple yet grand concept that could host a litany of different story concepts as norms are remixed, adverse consequences crop up, and this divine tool is misused or abused by its user(s).
Despite this opportunity to be a creative sandbox, however, the actual execution of COWA is a bit… fragmented. Let’s start with the introduction. The main path takes a while before it introduces the starter protagonist, John, to the concept of COWA, with the opening feeling like it was lifted from a far more… somber Scenario. John wakes up with missing memories and intense aches, neither of which are ever really explained. There is a trio of vaguely defined deific entities with sinister intentions. And the entire thing gives the impression it is going to be a more focused character story, before ditching that concept within the first few minutes.
After the introduction has run its course, the Scenario opens up and provides the player with a wide spectrum of branching choices. Unfortunately, most are barely expanded past a few minutes of content, or are locked off as concepts that the writer may or may not explore at a later date. There are only two significant exceptions to this rule, with every other branch capping off somewhere before or around the 15 minute mark.
The first is the route where Sayaka gains access to COWA, which she uses to slut-ify her former friends in order to become the unrivaled social queen of Tina Koya. After her initial meddling though, the perspective switches to follow Kyoko, who, thanks to Sayaka’s meddling, is bereft of her friend group and has been subjected to more severe bullying. This made her more invested in her own scientific passions and, during one night of research, she discovers a peculiar device. A device that displays a number conveying the divergence of the current reality from an unaltered reality, and contains audio recordings of herself and her friends from the original
While this is a pretty shameless pull from Steins;Gate, it is an intriguing sci-fi concept well worth exploring beyond the original text, and I have to give props to MayxMarzo in how she used this concept. Here, it is not being used by a known time traveler with access to tools that manipulate reality, but rather someone who needs to work backwards to uncover the time manipulation mystery. Kyoko, at least partially, knows what changed, has a clear reason to oppose these changes, and after a fortunate interaction, she pursues a risky ploy to undo these changes. Unfortunately, this route does not reach its true end, and instead is only concluded via a few abrupt bad ends and a… let’s just call it bittersweet ending.
Honestly, the Sayaka/Kyoko route is so strong, both conceptually and in execution, that I think it should have been the central focus of this Scenario. Forgoing all the tertiary tendrils in favor of something more focused. However, Scenario writers have a penchant for forging platforms and grander multi-facet narratives, even if they are wildly detached from the initial beginnings, such as the Riley route. The Riley route is less of an alternate route and more of a ‘second attempt’ at the same concept. And an attempt that begins far stronger than its predecessor.
Things begin with Riley spotting a strange app installed on his phone, sees him cautiously investigate it, and use COWA to improve his life on a macro-scale. It is nothing too remarkable, but it is a functional start to a story about a young man playing with great powers and dealing with the ramifications of said power. …Then the story robs Riley of his newfound agency.
Thanks to sheer happenstance, COWA glitches out and transforms every woman in a local park into either a naked sex doll (they’re called statues, but they’re probably sex dolls) or onaholes. It is a move that has… nothing to do with the preceding storyline. It is just needlessly horny and nonsensica…l for the sake of being horny and nonsensical. This would be fine if this Scenario was trying something similar to, say, Truth or Syn, where the sexual absuridty is the point. But here… I don’t know what the point is.
Then there’s the actual writing which is… not good. A generous interpretation would be to say that it reads like a rough draft that the writer did not sufficiently proofread. While a less generous interpretation would assume that the writer is ESL and simply lacks the skills to spot her errors and properly articulate her desires into words. Based on some searching through the ST Discord, English is MayxMarzo’s first language, and she is openly aware of how… lacking her English skills are. While the script is still legible, I would say that at least 10% of all lines have some sort of grammatical or typographical error.
That might be a deal breaker for some, but I can forgive a story for having lackluster English so long as the story has ambition, drive, and clear artistic goals. It is why I gave such glowing reviews to certain Scenarios from writers with loose grasps of the English language, such as the Scenarios created by C.R.E.A.M. Here, I can see some ambition, creative ideas, and an intention to do something a touch grander than the ‘average’ Student Transfer Scenario (whatever that means). However, there just is not enough substance for me to ever feel invested in the story MayxMarzo wishes to tell. She has a lot of ideas and implied intentions on creating something massive in scale, but I do not see much value in the mere presentation of ideas, or the beginnings of a story.
Aside from the Sayaka/Kyoko route, I did not find much to like about COWA. Its structure is needlessly sprawling considering the slim amount of content currently available. Its introduction and scale are too grand for its own good, if not beyond the scope of its writer. And while it has some moderately compelling ideas, they are just that. Ideas. However, there is just enough good here that I earnestly believe that MayxMarzo has the potential to create a complete and quality story. She just needs to narrow her focus, identify her passions, and invest continued time and energy into her craft, completing more things, and learning from the act of completing a work.
…Though, in all fairness, I tend to say the same thing about most writers who are (presumably) younger than me, and (presumably) haven’t gone through the myriad failures I have.
In addition to reviewing this Scenario, I also prepared a flowchart. Please let me know if there are any errors.