Title: Doki Doki Literature Club Plus!
Developer: Team Salvato
Release Date: June 30, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Serenity Forge
Genre: Visual Novel
Doki Doki Literature Club is an iconic western visual novel. This free title on Steam was released four years ago and quickly became something of a cult hit. I enjoyed it when I first played it, and it was a lot of people’s first visual novel due to its somewhat memetic spread around groups of people who didn’t play these kinds of games. This brings us to Doki Doki Literature Club Plus, a paid updated rerelease of the original game that puts it on consoles but is also available on PC. Will this version find its way into your heart?
The name Doki Doki Literature Club comes from the Japanese onomatopoeia for a heartbeat, Doki Doki (どきどき). It is a fun fact, remarkably similar to the actual Japanese word for ‘heartbeat’ or ‘heartthrob,’ ‘Tokimeki (ときめき). Both of which are used to refer to romantic excitement. So Doki Doki Literature Club, a romance game about a literature club, is pretty on the nose. However, not everything is as it seems as, spoilers, it’s a subversive horror title.
Or is it?
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus is a kinetic visual novel that stars [Insert name here], a generic faceless protagonist pulled into his high school’s literature club by his childhood friend Sayori. He meets three other girls who make up the rest of the members; Monika, the club president, Yuri, the loner, and Natsuki, your obligatory tsundere. The club has a routine of writing individual pieces of poetry overnight to share, which your character is also invited to participate in.
Your poetry, selecting 20 keywords out of random sets, will act as choices that will lead you to spend time with one of the club members afterward.
Instead of going any further with the story synopsis, I’m going to point out that it is entirely identical to the original title’s story. Every cool and fun scene that you remember is going to be 1:1. Every well-written poem is just as well written. The game takes place on a virtual machine with its own neat-looking UI to preserve a particular twist.
Remember to poke around; you can adjust the options from here, too, and use a music player and view various CGs you’ve unlocked within the base game and extras like concept art and other pieces. Notably, the options menu contains a ‘display trigger warnings’ function for the main story, which may be helpful for some players.
What you’ll be here for is the extra content, not just Monika. Aside from the new UI, the meat of the new content takes the form of unlockable side stories that explore the backstory and formation of the literature club. They’re all pretty short, and you’ll be able to clear them all in roughly a couple of hours. They contain new CG visuals and music, which look nice and add to the appeal, but I didn’t find them that enjoyable to read at all.
They’re also completely segmented from the main story, as well as each other. The short stories are loosely connected chronological bubbles without the generic insert-name-here protagonist and an overall protagonist. This could be fine on its own, but they just feel directionless. The narration style is devoid of interesting prose, and it really doesn’t feel like it explores the characters as much as it throws pity parties for them. When you progress by clearing the main game and unlocking, then reading the first three side stories, you obtain an email from some sort of staff member for a virtual machine project. At this point, I thought they would expand upon the overall backstory of the story and then…. They didn’t. So what was the point even?
Even with the new virtual machine framing device, the game fails to expand upon the original story, its sheer presence instead highlighting just how empty the game is. The side stories directly clash with the tones and premise of the story, making Doki Doki Literature Club+ feel like a hodgepodge of things connected to the titular literature club.
By the time I’d finished, I was left with essentially two different stories. Is the main game Doki Doki Literature Club, or is it the side stories? The two exist outside of each other, and neither of them makes the experience of the other any better or fleshed out.
Doki Doki Literature Club Plus offers a few new scenarios with these characters to warrant the price tag for fans wanting to spend more time with these characters. However, it was much easier to overlook the flaws in the writing and short runtime when the game was free. Although the twists and relationships are notable, I couldn’t help notice by the lack of direction of this updated content that added little to the experience.
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