Title: Guilty Parade
Developer: Nozori Games
Release Date: January 6, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Nozori Games
Genre: Visual Novel
Guilty Parade is a stylish episodic visual novel by Nozori Games, a two-person Russian team. This happens to be just the beginning of a larger story but still manages to build a foundation with excellent art direction, ensembled cast, and well-paced mystery.
Guilty Parade follows an amnesiac protagonist, Nemo, who finds himself captured by soldiers in the middle of a war he can’t remember. Despite his suspicious circumstances, he’s recruited by the commander of a ragtag group to secretly investigate a murder and hopefully learn something about himself in the process.
The quirky ensemble cast is introduced through a short series of fetch quests, which also serves as a tutorial for the game’s point-and-click adventure portion. It’s a nice way to add more interactivity to a visual novel, as well as optional scenes and Easter eggs. (For example, there are scenes towards the end of episode two that help develop your friendship with certain characters but are easy to miss if you’re just focused on the objective at hand.) Still, there’s a lot of wandering back-and-forth without too much puzzle-solving, which might disappoint players who expected a heavier balance towards gameplay.
Interspersed with Nemo’s story is a point of view from another protagonist, Lien, showing the experiences of a group of children on the other side of the conflict. This parallel story feels more grounded, with fewer over-the-top characters and a closer view of war’s tragedies. We still get little information about who’s fighting or what they’re fighting about. Still, I think that’s a good narrative choice for the first few chapters of a larger story to help the reader empathize with the individual characters rather than focus on the broader worldbuilding.
The narrative is linear but still has a lot of choices and the aforementioned point-and-click segments. Given the linearity, I expected the outcome of choices to be mostly cosmetic, with maybe a few lines of changed dialogue before the plot progressed regardless of your choice. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that some choices lead to extended alternate scenes. Still, it’s unclear if these choices have any lasting effect on future episodes.
The artwork Guilty Parade is gorgeous, with expressive character sprites and dynamic art direction, and a lot more detail and variety than I would expect from such a small team. Everything has a World War I aesthetic (although I’m unsure whether the setting is supposed to be alternate history or another world entirely). The soundtrack is all stock music but used well to add to the atmosphere.
In general, the user interface is slick and polished, especially in the adventure segments, and there’s some great attention to detail, which really adds to the experience. For example, the text box has a different color scheme for day and night scenes, which I don’t recall ever seeing before in a VN. My only nitpick is that text when you examine parts of a scene doesn’t get added to the history, so if you miss information, you aren’t always able to check back to remind yourself.
The English translation is a weak point; it’s clear enough that it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the game, but it could use another editing pass for grammar and flow. It’s apparently already improved from the original demo translation, though, so I hope it will continue to be polished for future episodes.
It’s always difficult to rate an episodic story like this. With only two of five planned episodes released so far (episode one is available for free), there are still plenty of unanswered questions about the setting and characters, and there’s no telling whether all the setup will pay off and whether early choices will have an effect later in the story. I’m also somewhat wary about how the character of Ruf, who’s implied to be trans but not taken seriously by the other characters, will be handled in future episodes.
As it stands, Guilty Parade is an auspicious beginning to a series with an engaging cast of characters to befriend, a mysterious and intriguing setting, and beautiful artwork that helps bring everything to life. Fans of stylized visual novels with a quirky cast and gameplay, such as 999 and Danganronpa, should definitely check it out.
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