UsoNatsu ~The Summer Romance Bloomed From A Lie~ is a serious story not just about a growing relationship between two girls, but the nature of love, family issues, and self-discovery. With a well-paced and thoughtful story, great character dynamics, and high production values, it’s certainly worth reading.
Destiny Star Girlfriend is a very focused experience and, while short, this works to its benefit. It delivers a sweet romance, occasional moments of surprising depth, and plenty of comedy, supported by some great visuals. Perhaps it could have given us a chance to get to know the other characters a little more, but that's what the sequels are for.
If you want to see a busty ninja or two humiliated and violated by all manner of creatures, Taimanin Asagi has its issues, but is something you might appreciate. It has its charms, especially when it comes to the artwork. Just don't go into it expecting much in the way of story or the same standards as modern visual novels.
Tokyo Chronos is a particularly unique experience, not just as a rare VR visual novel, but due to its story, which is best experienced with few details beforehand. The replay mechanism works particularly well, without being tedious, which is a failing of some games with loop mechanics.
Secret Agent is worth reading, but certainly isn’t going in my top recommendations. It’s a pity as I was quite excited to read ensemble’s first localized work and the concept is an interesting one. Unfortunately, some routes are notably better than others and the romance with the heroines while certainly good at points, wasn’t amazing either.
Fate/Samurai Remnant combines the masterful storytelling of the Fate universe with Koei Tecmo's expertise in creating excellent hack-and-slash games. It's certainly worth picking up, as long as you're up for the rather challenging action RPG gameplay.
Clover Day’s Plus has plenty of comedy, and most routes pull off an interesting plot and serious moments along with it. While some routes are stronger than others, with Anzu’s being the standout, each heroine has their charm points. The E-mote system helps to showcase these too. The technical issues and weaker routes are a pity, and I would’ve scored it higher if the former didn’t keep taking me out of it, but I still certainly enjoyed my time with Clover Day’s Plus.
While I do feel that some routes were certainly weaker than others and it often missed out on important elements for a guilty romance story, I still enjoyed White Album: Memories Like Falling Snow. Its highs are high and its lows are low. I’d be more hesitant at a higher price, but it’s quite reasonable. As such, it squeaks through with a recommendation based on the better parts. While localization of White Album 2 hasn’t been announced, between what I’ve heard of what it takes from the original White Album and its quality, having played this just makes me more excited about the chance that it may come next.
While I enjoyed My Klutzy Cupid for the characters and do recommend reading it, it certainly has its weaknesses around the story, its length, and feeling rushed at times. I’ve mentioned the slightly older Kamiyaba from the same developer a couple of times during this review, and in some ways, it feels like a budget version of that, despite Kamiyaba being slightly cheaper. It’s worth picking up and reading. I think most will enjoy it, but I don’t think it’ll blow anyone away unless they particularly like one of the heroines.
Final Fantasy XVI crafts a deep world with plenty to explore, builds a multi-faceted story with characters that kept me playing for hours on end, and blew me away with awe at the visuals at times. Adding a genuinely fun customizable combat system kept the fun going the entire time too. And if you’ve not had enough at the end of the journey, it even adds in a few extras for New Game+. While I do have a lot of nostalgia for the older Final Fantasy titles, I feel this is the best one in the series yet.
Atelier Marie Remake: The Alchemist of Salburg is a fun if simple title. Despite major differences, I can see how it led to titles such as Atelier Ryza, Ayesha, or Sophie. The remake has done a great job of bringing it to modern audiences, but it still shows its age. Taking it for what it is though, a look back at the origins and initially a PlayStation 1 title, there's still a lot of enjoyment to be had. Just don't expect an epic JRPG tale where you save the world here. You are but a simple alchemist, helping her friends and the townspeople.
Queen Of The Otaku: There Can Only Be One puts forward an interesting idea, takes it to a dark place, and caters well to certain fetishes. It’s a rather limited title, but it does quite a lot for a fairly low price. If you enjoy the themes here and aren’t looking for much of a story, it’s not top-tier, but certainly not a bad title to pick up.
Nukitashi could easily be dismissed as an overly-sexual visual novel meant to be played one-handed. Those playing it will instead discover plenty of adult scenes, but a surprising depth of story behind it. I expect that Nukitashi will be well-regarded by most, but between the humor and writing, it may not be a hit with everyone. Still, I certainly feel it’s very worth playing—as long as you play the 18+ version.
Loop8: Summer of Gods has an interesting concept and some great characters that give a good reason to play it. My first impressions were actually quite positive and if my review was based on the first ten hours, it would probably be a 7/10 due to the great character moments and idea of growing stronger through loops. Unfortunately, the issues with gameplay and systems that came to light over the full forty-five hours it took to complete, and the method of storytelling make it difficult to outright recommend.
Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly is well-written, thoughtful and explores serious topics through a fantasy lens. It's worth checking out. If you enjoyed the first, this is essentially more of the same, but with new characters and stories. This is exactly what I wanted from it.
While the tone is mostly light and there are plenty of jokes, Sabbat of the Witch uses touching moments and serious issues to develop characters and build an interesting plot. Not all routes are equal, and I’d not use words like ‘masterpiece’ that I’ve seen thrown around, but this is certainly one of Yuzusoft‘s stronger titles.
Kunado Chronicles is certainly worth buying if you enjoy more of a focus on story and setting over romance. It takes an interesting world and builds it up well. Using this to then weave a plot with excitement and intrigue, the story dragged me in.