DRAMAtical Murder Preview – Cyberpunk Bois

The cyberpunk boys’ love visual novel DRAMAtical Murder already had a western following before JAST BLUE’s official release was announced thanks to a fan translation and anime adaptation. There’s currently a Steam demo, which includes the entire common route with the updated English translation. This is an exciting introduction to the story and characters for newcomers and a new way to experience the game for old fans like myself.

The electronic soundtrack and street fight gangs are reminiscent of developer Nitro+CHiRAL’s first visual novel, Togainu no Chi (released in English by JAST BLUE last year). However, while that futuristic setting was dark and grimy, DRAMAtical Murder features a bright neon cyberpunk world where the problems lie beneath the surface.

The story follows Aoba Seragaki, a young man who lives with his grandmother and robot dog on the Japanese island of Midorijima. The island is controlled by a corrupt megacorporation that prevents citizens from traveling freely, and the wealthy area of the city, Platinum Jail, is walled off from the poorer residents. Many young adults join street gangs or fight in Rhyme, a virtual reality game. Aoba’s life seems normal and peaceful, aside from his chronic headaches, until he’s dragged into a Rhyme fight and starts meeting strange new people.

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We’re introduced to a memorable supporting cast, the star of which is Aoba’s grandmother Tae, as well as the four main love interests: Koujaku, Aoba’s childhood friend, a gang leader, hairdresser, and ladies’ man; Clear, a strangely polite man who wears a gas mask and follows Aoba like a lost puppy; Noiz, a rude, heavily pierced computer hacker and Rhyme player; and Mink, the mysterious, stoic leader of a gang of ex-convicts. The English translation really captures each of the characters’ voices and is delightful to read.

Although it was originally released nearly a decade ago, DRAMAtical Murder is still a topical story about technology and identity, as well as one of the most gorgeous visual novels I’ve played. The art style is beautiful, with striking character and set designs, and the dynamic art direction in scenes like the first Rhyme battle is even better than I remembered. The soundtrack sets the mood well and is incredibly catchy. It’s the kind of VN I’d recommend checking out just for the aesthetics, even if the characters weren’t as memorable and engaging as I found them.

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The DRAMAtical Murder demo is several hours long but linear, with choices that only change a few lines of text and stops just before the routes would branch in the full game. Obviously, I’m excited about it, and I hope the demo’s extensive introduction to the story and characters will whet new readers’ appetites for the full release.

DRAMAtical Murder will launch on Steam and JAST USA later this month.

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Amy Scholl

Fan of unusual visual novels.