Baldr Sky Review – A Very Gray Christmas

    Title: Baldry Sky
    Developer: GIGA
    Release Date: December 20, 2019
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Sekai Project
    Genre: Action/Visual Novel

With how popular visual novels seem to be in the west this generation, I find it exciting when publishers publish games that might have been overlooked when the genre wasn’t so popular in English speaking territories. That was my general reaction when I heard that GIGA’s Baldr Sky will be releasing in the west. While western players won’t receive an official release of the adult content found within the game (there’s fan patch available), Sekai Project has seemingly published what I believe to be a standout visual novel experience that fans of action games and visual novels should experience.

https://youtu.be/7rufXbEzmJs

Baldr Sky introduces the main protagonist Kou Kadokura. Before the opening of the story, Kou had suffered an impact that left him in an amnesiac state. The only person around him to shed light on the situation was a woman named Rain, who informed him that he was currently fighting and needed to focus. When Kou takes a moment to assist the situation he discovers that he is in a mech surrounded by enemies. Through a stroke of luck, the two soldiers escape.

The world of Baldr Sky takes some time to truly understand. The citizens of the world are divided into a few different types of humans who are able to access reality as well as a virtual AI world. Some humans spend days in the VR world or simply use an implanted computer chip to look up information and chat with others. This also introduces issues of discrimination in this world, which is something that the group of protagonists faces a lot throughout this adventure. These themes aren’t shoehorned in either as Baldr Sky takes its time to explore them both politically and socially. It all ends up flowing well within the narrative.

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The story then follows Kou as he connects to his past and attempts to find his memories. This is delivered as the story jumps from present to past seamlessly as he figures out more about what happened to this world and why he is even fighting. The bigger focus of the story is uncovering the truth about an event known as Gray Christmas, which left thousands of citizens dead and a city it rubble.

Let me be clear, Baldr Sky is a long visual novel, as it includes both Baldr Sky Dive1 “Lost Memory” and Baldr Sky Dive2 “Recordare.” Thankfully, the two stories flow naturally with each other and they work well as one cohesive story. Although the road to the conclusion is a long one, the events that happen along the way are as gripping as they are exciting. Every moment of this story is like a little puzzle piece and the further you go down the rabbit hole, the more that is discovered.

There are multiple routes to take through this story and players will naturally have to go through each of them to get the big picture. However, the conclusion is well worth it as the story sets up one of the most satysfying endings of a visual novel that I have played to date. While some routes can feel a little weak, the strength that the other provides makes up for it in so many ways. What makes this collection so great is just how Baldr Sky Dive2 completely wraps up every plot point and leaves nothing on the table, which I greatly appreciated.

Baldr Sky 1

Gameplay in Baldr Sky doesn’t end at the story though. During gameplay, players get to control a mech through plenty of battles. The mech can be customized using various chips and upgrade points. In battles, players earn points based on their combos. Furthermore, the attacks that they use to gain experience and then can be leveled up following the event. New attacks can be purchased using points and there’s even an in-depth feature to allow players to completely fine-tune the HUD.

The actual gameplay here does take a little bit of practice as chaining together combos and figuring out how to get the most of the systems comes with time. There’s a tutorial, but it’s mostly just text box explanations of features with tiny text that isn’t the most entertaining to read. However, over time, things begin to make sense. I found using a gamepad to be the best way to play the mech portions. Over the course of the game, your mech becomes incredibly powerful and each encounter offers more ways to unlock new abilities.

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Within the first fifteen minutes of gameplay, you can easily see the high budget of quality in this visual novel. Character illustrations are gorgeous and show characters in various outfits and positions. Every emotion is expressed during a conversation and with such an emotional game in general, I appreciated the detail that the developer went through to show this in the characters. Kou is voiced in this visual novel, which works out well for the quality and helped out with immersion.

One of the stand-out features of Baldr Sky is the background illustrations. There are just so many and they are each well detailed and make the world feel huge. Given that the characters jump from reality to a virtual setting so quickly in this game, it was important to nail this aspect as it kept things less confusing. Also, let me just add that the soundtrack is brilliant.

Aside from the mech customization options, the game features many other options to fine-tune the visual novel experience. These menus are pretty overwhelming at first, but they’re there when you need them. Due to the length of the game, I’d like to say that the localization here is amazing. With some pretty heavy plot points relying on conveying the message in the best way possible, the localization team did an awesome job with this title.

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Baldr Sky is a game that all fans of visual novels and mech fans need to play. Its one of those edge of your seat stories fueled by a demand to know that truth and it’s so satisfying with everything unravels. Every relationship in this game is important to the plot of the story and I truly felt like this was one of the best localizations that I’ve ever read. I’m glad to have been able to experience this story as if it hadn’t released in the west, I probably would have never been able to.

There’s a nice balance of gameplay and visual novel storytelling in Baldr Sky and each work hand in hand to the game’s plot. Each character plays a roll in this story and each holds a clue to the truth. Be warned, that after beginning this visual novel, it’s almost impossible to put down. This is a game that could easily take over 100 hours to get through, but trust me when I say that it’s well worth it. And if you’re wondering, Chinatsu is best girl.

Score:
9.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.