Title: Riddle Joker
Release Date: December 18, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Riddle Joker is one of those classic visual novel names that mean absolutely nothing and is used as part of a card game motif the illustrations are fond of. I mean, technically, card games come up in one chapter, but that’s a technicality and has nothing to do with any overarching story.
But now that we’ve established the name means nothing, what on earth does this Yuzusoft developed visual novel give us? Really cute girls, that’s what.
Riddle Joker stars Satoru Arihara, your regular faceless voiceless high school protagonist. Except he isn’t your regular high school student at all. Satoru and his younger sister, Nanami, are basically freelance secret agents who work for the SFD, the aptly named special forces division. Their boss is their adoptive father, and a lead on their latest case has brought them to Kikka Academy, the local high school for kids with superpowers. They’ll have to infiltrate the school, undercover as transfer students, and determine which student is most likely involved with the case.
It’s a good thing Satoru and Nanami already have superpowers because those are probably very hard to fake. However, when the duo tries to break into the school’s database to figure out which students would most likely be the target, they end up in the middle of a kidnapping attempt aimed at the face of the school, student idol, Mitsukasa Ayase, who seems to be concealing several potentially dangerous secrets – She has fake tits. That’s it, that’s the secret.
Oh, you thought this title was going to be serious? It has its moments, but Riddle Joker doesn’t try to escape the fact that it is, well, an eroge. As such, it has practically no gameplay at all. What it does have, though, is a UI and options menu that wants to meet up with a Frontwing title in an alleyway and throw hands. The bottom of the screen has little pop-ups that allow you to adjust settings mid-game without actually going to a menu, a progress bar for voice lines; there’s a lightning effect for when you bring up the backlog we haven’t even made it to the actual menus yet.
Once you bring that up, you’ve got yourself ten sub-menus that contains everything and the kitchen sink. We’ve got the whole ensemble of chapter skips, text log customization modifiers, individual sound modifiers within scenes, alternate auto modes, fully customizable system sounds, allowing you to pick even not-heroines as your system voice. One of the first things I did was change the font to comic sans. I don’t remember what the default font was. Don’t tell me.
As an eroge, there are several heroines you can romance. Your love interests include the characters on the title screen; the idol who loves cats, a lab coat doctor student girl, the obligatory president who is in this title the ‘dorm’ pres, and the completely pointless and unneeded younger sister route. There’s actually a not-so-secret fifth girl, and she’s… also pointless, and you aren’t missing out if you just didn’t run her route.
Basically, Riddle Joker has three good character routes filled with cute, fun, and very amusing stories. Each of these routes takes place after the common route, segueing off after the initial story is concluded, as you’ll be able to see in the title’s handy-dandy flowchart. The choices don’t make up much in quantity, but the flowchart makes short work of replaying a 10 or so hour common route, with most heroine routes being roughly the same length. This makes for nearly 40 odd hours of decent or better content, taking into account the three good routes, which have some enjoyable story elements, with well-executed reveals with small twists thrown in.
Whilst we have gone over the UI and menus, Riddle Joker has a few more tricks up its sleeve in terms of visual design. Aside from the fact that the character portraits look really nice, they will actually change expression or pose mid-sentence allowing for more emphasis and a more animated experience. There are also some really super ultra mega cute chibi sequences to go along with these. Our protagonist is given a face in these that lines up with how he looks when he is slightly in a couple of CGs and a backstory portrait.
Hang on. They gave a younger version of the protagonist, a face and a voice!? But couldn’t go the whole nine yards and give them one generally? Oh, come on, you were so close. Please, developers, I am begging you, give your protagonists faces and voices. I will accept no voices, as long as they have a face. Yes, I know voices are expensive.
I’d typically say this is a good title for a lonely night, but Riddle Joker’s sheer length, as well as the quality of (most of) the story routes, actually makes this a solid visual novel regardless of how lonely you are. The title excels through its visual style, cute sequences, and some precious heroines.
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