We all know that I’m a big fan of visual novels, so it’s no surprise that I’m also an avid reader of more, well, standard novels as well. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a library atmosphere? Also, getting absorbed in a good story is incredible amounts of fun. Now, indie developer ADELTA enters the scene with a title starring a wannabe writer who works at a bookstore, by way of MangaGamer, called Hashihime of the Old Book Town. There’s also a murder mystery and time loop shenanigans that take place. Well, I think those are probably more inviting factors than the book store pitch, but now you know.
Hashihime of the Old Book Town is a BL (boy’s love) visual novel that takes place in Tokyo during the Taisho Era, midway through 1922. Tama Mizumori, Tamamori for short, was a prospective university student who dropped out due to a severe lack of self-discipline because he wanted to focus on his writing. Luckily, he somehow managed to procure a job at a used bookstore where he spends his days wishing for something more to do with his life. So, of course, everyone he knows starts dropping dead as he is hunted down by a mysterious person wearing a demonic mask. If that’s not enough intensity for you, he finds out that he can use puddles of rainwater to travel backward in time. You know, normal mystery adventure VN stuff.
You will want to be aware this is a very niche game from the get-go as it is both very long and kinetic, which means there are next to zero choices. The choices that do exist kick off separate endings, but you won’t be seeing those until a second playthrough, and they couldn’t be less evident than a giant flashing neon sign. Towards the climax of each end, there are sex scenes, which means some male on male action. They aren’t even close to being in your face by any means, unlike most other titles with erotic content, and contribute next to nothing to the actual story so you can ignore these scenes if you want. So for all seven of you who’s attention I still hold, let’s see what Hashihime of the Old Book Town has to offer.
You’ll notice the game has a fantastic visual style, and the art is excellent across the board. The colors are soft and muted without being too bright, which goes well with the somewhat dark tone the game has. The CG scenes are seriously impressive. There is a wide variety of them to cover all sorts of emotions. There’s even a map to show you where Tamamori is and where he’s going during a scene change. Credit where it’s due, almost the entire game was developed by one person. One artist did all of the CGs, all one hundred and ninety-nine of them. This person did everything except for the soundtrack, which is commendable.
The story is where the game starts to fall short. The common route bursts out of the gate with an intriguing plot and cast of characters. Then the game tumbles and doesn’t quite know which way to go. It does pull through though with some seriously good set pieces and character moments now and again, which comes together for an extremely gratifying common route end. The following endings, however, are a chore to complete. They do next to nothing to build upon the information you already know, and all culminate in the true ending. Which is, to be completely honest, abysmal, which takes away all the goodwill I had for the game’s story. There aren’t any plot holes left unfilled, but the execution and reasoning were extremely dissatisfying. Though if you’re here for the gay scenes, which is what you’re most likely here for, it’s a surprisingly in-depth plot with ludicrous amounts of beautiful art.
I also found the characters, particularly the love interests, to be a mixed bag. Tamamori, however, was the star of the show, holding a brilliant dynamic with his OCs, the frogman, and Haruhiko. He’s a writer, don’t question it. The remaining supporting cast members are also excellent, and the literary references are loads of fun. Don’t worry if you miss them, though. The game explains every uncommon term or reference through either plot or glossary so that you won’t miss out. The game also figured out how to implement exposition and backstory in a very entertaining way, using CGs I would describe as a psychedelic loading screen. These screens alter depending on the exposition, and Tamamori takes time out to catch the audience up to speed. It’s fun and straightforward, which is the best combination.
Hashihime of the Old Book Town is a delightful little title that sadly overstays its welcome. ADELTA has a grasp on character writing but stumbles on romance and resolution. They’re also, however, an exemplary artist, and I’d certainly be keeping an eye out if they end up working on any other titles. If you want eye candy for days, psychedelic images, or just some BL in your system (or all of the above), then I’d highly recommend taking a trip to this truly bizarre old town.
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