Title: Black Hair Girl is Best Girl
Developer: Never Knows Best
Release Date: July 7, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Kikai Digital
Genre: Visual Novel
Love stories can be beautiful as a writer can take many approaches to craft the relationships and settings in which romance can blossom. Black Hair Girl is Best Girl (great title) had two opportunities to portray a captivating romance with a fascinating world as the backdrop. Unfortunately, both stories fell extremely flat.
Developed by Never Knows Best, Black Hair Girl is Best Girl is a 2-in-1 visual novel combo featuring, you guessed it, two black-haired girls as the heroines of the stories.
You have the choice of which girl’s story you’d like to see first, with only their appearance being the criteria for consideration. I’ll start by discussing the first story I went with, known as Brave New World i.
To put it simply, this is a story that tries to explore the philosophy behind existentialism, reality, and free will. You play as Moon, a university student studying computer science in the hopes of becoming a game developer. He meets a girl named Xi, and their relationship takes off from there. Throw in the sci-fi concept of a time loop, and you have what looks to be a potentially compelling narrative formula. However, there is a lot wrong with this execution.
The first and probably most pressing issue is the pacing. There are a plethora of moments and plot points that have a major and jarring shift in tone. You can go from talking about deep existentialism to boners in an instant. What makes this so upsetting is how random and unwarranted these shifts are, as they completely diminish the experience.
The dialogue and writing of the story are both unnatural and nonsensical. For dialogue, the protagonist and characters have an overabundance of references to other media, such as games, anime, movies, and manga. These aren’t a bad thing by any means, but the writers weave them in so poorly and often that it sounds clumsy and awkward. You also encounter illogical scenarios from out of the blue, and it becomes distracting. As a result, any sort of immersion the story tries to provide with its profound themes gets completely shattered.
The game also falls into using a significant amount of cliched ideas, particularly with its characterization. You get presented with typical tropes, such as the chubby nerd friend who must be the whiny otaku or the heroine, Xi, being a helpless and clueless damsel in distress. There are many moments where you question why the writer felt the need to make her so dense other than to conveniently bring up another illogical plot point. In general, I would describe the writing as very reckless and sophomoric.
For a title that attempts to be thought-provoking, it’s in-your-face and lacks any subtlety, almost treating the reader like a simpleton. The extensive repetition dries out any substance the plot has to offer. The main trope for Xi is that she’s a caged bird trying to be free. The amount of times the birdcage metaphor is brought up is so staggering that I became quite annoyed.
I wondered if I was taking this narrative too seriously. So I tried analyzing the story from the standpoint of satire. I’ll give credit to the writer; for one thing, they did attempt to make the plot meta, addressing the reader and the situation they are in. But the meta-commentary doesn’t catch your attention for long, and it loses steam quickly. Any humor incorporated doesn’t hit. If I ever laughed, it was purely due to the sheer absurdity of the story.
I was hoping the second story, Reverse Memories would be a contrast to the first. And for a while, it was. Reverse Memories tells the story of YuSheng, a young boy who spent most of his childhood moving around to different areas due to family obligations. In one of those towns, he met a girl named Yi Yao who supported him as a childhood friend and big sister-like figure. Now in high school, he decides to move back, but his memory is finicky, and he works to uncover the truth of what was once lost.
The first couple of chapters presented an intriguing plot, unraveling a mystery as you meet the characters. I was curious about what events unfolded between the characters throughout their childhood and why they’re acting the way they are now. To top it off, the story has decent dialogue and writing, which gave me hope.
However, that didn’t last long. As you unearth the history behind YuSheng and Yi Yao, you start to realize the development isn’t enthralling whatsoever. The characters’ actions are exaggerated and baseless, as if the writer is trying to create a drama out of nothing. It’s a shame since the premise had potential, only to turn out to be disappointing.
Regarding the art style for both narratives, they’re not bad. Some characters and scenes are pretty, but it’s nothing spectacular. I have one complaint with the stills shown in Brave New World i, as they presented a poorly drawn scene with thick and messy lines, lack of detail, and a skewed perspective. It seemed like they forgot to add a visual for those scenes, so they had someone come up with something in a 10-minute span. Also, if they attempted to be cute, it failed as it looked more off-putting than anything.
The music comes off as generic. You’ll just want to lower the volume of the background music at some point, as it gets extremely repetitive. They didn’t even bother to put the music on a loop, so you’ll hear the abrupt cuts of the track, a few seconds of silence, and then the beginning of the track. The dialogue of the characters, outside of the protagonist, is voice acted. Some are done poorly, while some are alright. Still, any performance from the voice acting doesn’t improve the sensory experience whatsoever.
A big issue when it comes to many visual novels is how well it gets translated into English. Unfortunately, these indie visual novels did not receive a great translation job, as there were plenty of typos, sentence errors, and grammatical mistakes. That being said, it wasn’t hard to follow, and the poor translation efforts may have added to the unnaturalness of the dialogue. Nevertheless, the general plot is still stale.
Black Hair Girl is Best Girl is a title that is not worth your time, even if the title fits your preference. If you want to enjoy a love story, there are plenty of other options out there in the visual novel space. The plot points are generic, and the pacing is all over the place. Further, the dialogue is bizarre and confusing. Despite having two opportunities to present a compelling story, this combination proved to be incompetent.
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