Title: Hikari! Clover Rescue
Developer: Toffer Team
Release Date: 22nd October, 2018
Reviewed On: Android
Publisher: Toffer Team
Back in 1958, the science fiction genre was heavily stigmatized. Critics would pick out the worst examples and use them to claim that “90% of the was genre was complete crap”. Science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon was pretty mad and shot back at critics with what is famously quoted as, “90% of everything is crap”. This has become known as Sturgeon’s Law. However, I’m an optimistic person, so I like to follow it up with the corollary, “but the remaining 10% is heaven on earth.”
How is this relevant you ask? Well, Hikari! Clover Rescue is a visual novel, a genre that is heavily stigmatized in the west and I find that really disappointing. So I’m always on the lookout for more exciting VNs to play and share with people. Sadly, this isn’t even remotely like any of them. It is indeed one of the 90%. It’s also, technically, a sci-fi story. It’s also hosted on Nutaku.
Hikari! Clover Rescue is a short, kinetic visual novel for PC and Android. It stars an unseen protagonist named Keigo who works as some sort of hired help, doing errands and things for other people in his vintage ship. The ship is vintage because he doesn’t spend money upgrading it and instead spends it on alcohol and going to strip clubs. He ends up being kidnapped by a girl named Kasumi who needs his help rescuing some girls from “The Corporation” who hold mystical clover amulets like his own. Hence the title.
The Corporation is a mysterious evil entity who have ears everywhere and want to take over the world. To assist them in their conquest, they yearn for the mystical clover amulets. However, The Corporation doesn’t know how to power these relics, which is where Kasumi and Keigo have an advantage. They know the secret to the amulets. It’s… sex. Yeah. This is that sort of title. The story takes you from one location to the next as you track down and rescue the girls, then power up the amulets. And honestly? Said loosely, I feel I’m giving the game too much credit.
Each ‘rescue’ involves Keigo and Kasumi going to an unnamed building owned by The Corporation, it’s always the same building with a slightly edited illustration. Then some questionable shenanigans occur which allow the party past the unseen guards and immediately to the girl who the cast need to rescue. The girl will proceed to unload the entirety of their backstory in some frustrating attempt at writing character depth. Then you head down back to Kasumi’s ship and power up the amulets with an H-scene. That’s it. That’s the entire game.
Infodumping a backstory isn’t inherently bad, sometimes it’s even necessary. However, this is a matter of both bad timing and poor pacing. This title is about an hour and a half long, and a solid 20-30 minutes is going to be spent reading this dumped backstory. Logically, the backstory should be given after the rescue, but instead, it’s in the right in the middle of it. Not only does it break up any semblance of potential tension, but they’re also ultimately pointless tangents as 95% of the time none of the information will ever be relevant again. These dumps are also the only sort of attempted depth the game contains, often their content seems to imply the game is trying to tragic or meaningful but it comes off extremely forced as Keigo, an extremely unlikable protagonist, will immediately woo them before you move onto the next girl. There are many lines that appear as attempts at jokes or amusing scenes, but because of their sheer length or mangled handling, they come off as frustrating.
Can we talk about the visuals? The character sprites aren’t great. The designs are rather lackluster and some have rather obvious… anatomical problems. The character sprites of the five girls, background CGs and H-scenes are the entirety of the art contained in this game, which doesn’t sound bad at first glance. However, each of the five girls has only one pose and a few facial expressions, there are 6 background CGs with some very noticeable palette swaps and the H-scenes are really not good overall. They range from ‘ok’ at very best to ‘god please avert your eyes’ at worst. There are no images for smaller items, such as Kasumi’s special phone she uses to distract guards that one time or the guards themselves. The clover amulets disappear entirely during some of the H-scenes, even though they’re the whole justification for these scenes. In fact, the protagonist’s amulet is never even seen. This seems minor but it really takes away from any attempt at immersion.
The worst problems, however, come from the text and UI itself, especially on a mobile device. The white text is often on a white or brightly colored background making it next to impossible to read. This is because the text box is totally transparent as opposed to being a solid pattern or color or at least being opaque. In what seemed to be a silly joke, each character’s name is written in a different solid color that is associated with them, which may sound nice at first, with Keigo in white and Kasumi in light blue. However other characters have bright, highly saturated colors that are difficult to read or just look bad. Reducing the saturation of the names and changing up the text boxes would be easy fixes.
It would not, however, fix the script itself. The credits show there were two proofreaders, and honestly, it seems that neither of them speaks English very well as the script is fraught with very awkward sentence structure, spelling errors, and it may be a programming error, but there are ludicrous amounts of text boxes with finished sentences that don’t even have full stops at the end. All in all, Hikari! Clover Rescue is an experience filled with frustration and things that really need fixing, and that’s putting it kindly. I mean, if you managed to pick this game up somehow, at least the game’s text speed is set to maximum at the beginning? I guess that’s nice. Could someone get me a drink, please? I could use a soda.
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