During my early years, I used to marvel at the idea of being a scientist. However, my imagination got the best of me, and I’ve been playing visual novels ever since. Still, I can’t help but find interest in the visual novels that highlight scientific themes. With this as motivation, I find myself reviewing the indie western visual novel Chemically Bonded. While it has the themes that hold my attention, its execution falls a little short.
Chemically Bonded is a romance visual novel developed by UK creator ds-sans, who has previously worked on other titles that I should get off my ass and play, Sounds of Her Love and Lost Impressions. However, Chemically Bonded was successfully funded via Kickstarter and stars, you, the unnamed transfer student at an unnamed school who hasn’t taken to anyone yet.
One afternoon after school, you take it upon yourself to clean up the classroom because it’s irritating you. You see, whoever was on cleaning duty has been slacking on the job. In your hunts for supplies, you stumble across a girl using the lab equipment. That’s our star, Kiyoko Ishikawa, and she’s desperate for new members to join the science club, which currently is comprised of well, just her. So you join her. The other heroine of this story is Naomi Sato, a former friend of Kiyoko’s, who doesn’t like you being close to her.
The themes of broken bonds and missed opportunities raign true in these moments of character development, which did catch my attention. Still, the cast ends up being somewhat limited, featuring two leads and a handful of minor characters who don’t stick out. That said, this is a lot more than other visual novels of this type present, which is commendable. And when I say, “This type,” I mean a short, sweet romance story with a faceless protagonist and plenty of soft and fluffy story scenes.
The leads of the story are incessantly cute and wholly relatable, whether it be to the one who shuts themselves away from other people or one who overthinks simple communication-based tasks and never asks for help. The central conflict here is a communication break down and your goal is to fix that, with a little romance on the side.
I was initially hesitant on how this would be executed, considering most cases of this I’ve seen in fiction turn out to be a little soapy. However, I was pleasantly surprised by just how down to earth the game was. The romances might move a bit fast if you’re counting days, but they’re a lot less ridiculous than tropes that I’m used to seeing. Hell, the craziest thing in this game is the masterpiece that is resident “Joke” character Ken and his refusal to wear shirts. He has no plot relevance at all; he’s just great.
Players do end up having an impact on the plot; after all, it is a romance. This leads to a few choices to discern, which leads you to want to pursue. These choices are cleanly spread out, and the effects of the choices aren’t entirely in your face, which I enjoyed. After all, the premise of the game is to fix someone else’s relationship, not pursue one yourself. You’re not talking to Naomi so that you can end up with her; you’re talking to her to find out more about what happened between her and Kiyoko. It feels quite natural, with dialogue being shuffled around, so the plot always progresses at a steady rate no matter your choice.
Unfortunately, the game is a little bit short, and the only real way the game has of extending its length is to throw a strange bad ending your way. I found it a bit bizarre that if you didn’t interact with Kiyoko enough, on what is essentially her path, you wouldn’t be able to get her Good ending. It’s a weird design choice because the justification is the protagonist not being able to understand his feelings.
Still, he’s a faceless protagonist with next to no character outside of some wholesome quips, so it took me out of the experience. I thought the voice acting would help with the immersion, but Kiyoko was a bit high pitched at the beginning of the story, and the teacher sounded lackluster. However, I later felt that the actors were enjoying their roles and ya-know what they say, “fun is contagious.” Well, at least it is for me.
The art in this game is exceptionally soft, and I love it. The backgrounds are fabulous, with each character showing a variety of poses in different outfits to keep things fresh. Surprisingly, the character CGs are charming without having to resort to lots of pinks or more stylized proportions. Seriously, my only complaint with them is that there aren’t enough of them.
Chemically Bonded is an adorable game, but comes off as a little stilted. The great leads, art, and some very fun piano pieces make for some good energy that ends up going a bit unused as the story unfolds. Although, the game’s runtime leaves little room for these characters to grow their relationship. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these characters while it lasted.
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