Release Date: April 8, 2021
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Visual Novel
Musicus! is a visual novel developed by Overdrive, who’s also worked on Kira Kira, Deardrops, and other games that came over to the west through MangaGamer. As with the two titles I mentioned, it’s a story about a group of people forming bands and dealing with the trials and tribulations of the music industry.
Musicus opens with Kei Tsushima living his daily life. Tsushima is a high school student who has always received good grades until an incident forced him to abandon his old school and attend night school to catch up. This seemingly sets his future in stone as someone who will always be behind and defined by his past.
He ends up writing a short story for a contest, and one of the judges asks him to write an impressions piece on a band. This situation feels very much like pure happenstance and evolves into something that changes his fate with great effect. He may not be the most seasoned fan of music, but meeting the cult indie band Kacho-Fugetsu and watching their live show turns his opinion of the genre around.
Through this experience, he has the opportunity to enter the world of music and taste what it is like to be a part of a band. Depending on the player’s choices, he may play in different groups and enter relationships with one of four girls. However, it’s not just fun and games, as the hardships of this career and life circumstances constantly threaten to wear people down.
This relatable source of pain, anger, and hopelessness mixes with the magic and exciting sides of music. The daily life aspects of the narrative allow the story to come off as more human and grounded. With that in mind, Musicus’ focuses much of its time on the slice-of-life themes. This isn’t just the story of a band reaching success, but a story of people dealing with the constant weight of trying to find some meaning to life and their careers.
The story doesn’t focus on just the hardships, though, as there’s plenty of comedic and lighthearted moments too, which slows down the pace considerably. The way the group of friends interacts is funny and interesting, making it easy to relate to them as if you were hanging out with your friends. Even the characters’ parents joke around and are fun to listen to.
In that regard, the Japanese voice actors are very good at expressing all the emotion needed for the scenes. And, as a music-focused visual novel, the soundtrack is nice to listen to, with the vocal tracks stealing the show when used, which is, unfortunately, a little rare as they’re saved for specific scenes.
However, I should point out those special moments have a specific choice of making the text progression automatic. Though this is meant to let the player enjoy the show and appear different from the rest of the game, it also makes the player unable to control the rhythm based on their own reading time, which can be a problem, especially for slow readers.
Nonetheless, this is a small issue in what’s otherwise a great visual novel. Besides the story, voice actors, and soundtrack, the art style is also of high quality. There are many different backgrounds to cover locations for band tours and other events, and the characters have multiple poses and some CGs.
The illustrators went all out with the CG of Kei’s relationship with the girls making them clear and nicely composed, allowing their faces and bodies to be properly appreciated. During general conversations, the game also uses positioning to simulate things like sitting face to face with the characters in restaurants.
Coupled with the gripping, relatable narrative and the great voice acting, this range of visuals and music make this visual novel a fantastic read. It’s a slow burn, but it’s also a cozy experience of seeing the struggles of people dealing with their circumstances and fears as they try to make their path in life and music.
Musicus! brings with it an experience to remember and keep close to heart. Just like how its characters talk about the way music can emotionally move you, this is the kind of story that can deeply connect to anyone willing to dive into it.
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