Occasionally, I find myself seeking media that soothes and comforts me, and visual novels typically do the job. However, the frequency of releases that appear to have a similar plot makes it challenging to choose quality titles. Island Diary is a title that adopts the general umbrella of slice-of-life calmness, though its premise offers a somewhat unique approach that may engage players for its brief playtime.
Throughout Island Diary’s linear narrative, players witness events from the initially nameless protagonist who eventually calls himself Ryou. He finds himself washed ashore on an island, lacking memories of his past life. This dreary initialization does grow warmer, though, as Ryou encounters three girls on the island; Momo, Kuro, and Moca.
Momo is a carefree spirit and more than a bit of an airhead. She is the first girl players are introduced to, and her constant aura of exuberance aims to comfort Ryou in this understandably worrisome situation. Additionally, Kuro is your quintessential tsundere, and Moca is a bashful worrywart. These girls used to live together on the island before Ryou washed ashore. But, unfortunately, a curious incident regarding a notebook they found tore the sisterly dynamic apart, and they ended up living alone on separate sections.
Ryou desires to bring them back together not solely for a collectively increased chance of survival but also because he’s just a damn nice guy. Island Diary’s tone is a conflicting one that isn’t necessarily an inherent benefit or detriment. Despite the premise being living on a deserted island, most scenes are what one would expect from a typical romantic comedy. Wholesome exchanges frequent the runtime with classically lewd hijinks and humorous dynamic clashes.
None of the characters are truly standout or unique in any way, but they do possess an undeniable degree of charm that results from their tried and true tropes of interaction. Additionally, the art style greatly complements these scenes, with gorgeous character illustrations that will likely serve as the primary selling point for several prospective buyers.
The girls are all cutely designed, and their expressions truly sell the ‘visual’ part of the visual novel experience. Furthermore, during the dialogue, the girls’ expressions change mid-sentence, which may seem minuscule but is, in all honesty, a game-changer with active immersion while clicking through text boxes.
As someone who tends not to listen to the entirety of voiced lines in Japanese, the continually morphing expressions granted an unexpected incentive for listening to every voiced delivery to their fullest. In contrast, while the backgrounds are stunning, there are few in number, and they can grow somewhat mundane to see repeatedly by the end.
What makes this visual novel stand out from the crowd, at least slightly, is its setting being an abandoned island. Select scenes embrace this troubling prospect, and the tone can shift to surprisingly dark undertones such as death or implied starvation if events don’t become better. Granted, it never becomes wholly ghastly, which may potentially ruin the experience for some players.
The title never focuses on one singular tone and is instead wishy-washy about being simultaneously wholesome and frightful. This tonal clash occasionally pays dividends in scenes possessing engaging interactions where the cast tries their best to get along and surmount their troubled circumstances. Still, its lack of decisiveness to showcasing a more dreary outcome can come off as a lack of realized potential.
The soundtrack is a component that became grating after a certain point. In a remotely similar vein to the background visuals, the tracks are a tad too repetitive and cheery for their own good. They were never a blatant ruiner, but I did end up muting the music at points because of their irritating consistency.
Regarding performance, one notable issue is how the opening theme song and ending sequence played at the top left corner of the screen for me, regardless of window size or resolution. These segments are brief and don’t necessarily sour the experience, though it is an undeniable fault that can take players out of the initial hours.
I will mention that the game’s base price is steep for the handful of serviceable hours it contains. One can play through the entirety of Island Diary in roughly the span of an afternoon.
Island Diary is never incredibly moving or particularly hypnotizing or eventful. However, it still manages to be a casual-laid back time with a sense of distant urgency, regardless of its efficacy of utilization. The four characters in this title have enticing relationships and exchanges as they are undoubtedly the crux of the package at large. If you desire a quick, wholesome time with some cute girls overcoming petty and relationship-defining conflicts, this is the visual novel for you.
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