Release Date: September 15, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Visual Novel
Salthe: Saleté, Une femme qui danse sur la scène is a hell of a title, so let’s break this down, so we know what we’re getting into here. Salthe is the name of our main character and doesn’t have a meaning. However, the rest is French, for “Dirt, a woman dancing upon the stage.” The mentioning of “Stage” is promising because I can get behind a good play.
However, upon further inspection, the title implies that this Salthe character is being likened to dirt. Combine that with the imagery we get from the steam description stating that it is a “comedy” about the struggle of a theatre performer who has since died. We get something that certainly sounds like we’re in for something heavy out of this Soiree developed title.
Salthe: Saleté, Une femme qui danse sur la scène, which we will just refer to as Salthe from now on because we’ll be here forever otherwise, stars a young woman named Salthe, who is the former princess of the kingdom of Mersin. Where like Nero Claudius of the Roman empire, she was also a famous stage performer, participating in the vie ‘stâr theatre festival, which occurs every four years, taking home awards for her sheer talent over simply being royalty. However, the accolades were short-lived.
In case you missed it in my quick description, Salthe is, in fact, the former princess because, well, she’s dead. Waking up with inconsistent memories in an empty, fantastical, mystical theatre, Salthe is met by a mysterious and well dressed masked jester named Klaon, who explains her dire situation. However, lucky for her, Klaon claims to be an ally and will restore Salthe’s memories so she can act them out on stage to work out how she died to be brought back to life.
This premise could go quite well with some sort of mystery fiction and could be very interesting. But, that would require a story to be present. The opening sets up that someone has betrayed the princess by helping the Izel Empire invade the kingdom of Mersin, leading to her capture; she gets stabbed a bunch and then killed.
However, none of the supporting characters get any worthwhile or interesting screentime, so we don’t care about the whole betrayal. This means that we can summarize 90% of the first act, which takes up about 75% of the story with a single sentence. “Salthe gets tortured by soldiers from the Izel Empire.”
In Salthe, the title character gets abused somehow, and you are presented with a decision. Yes, one option will lead to a bad end where she is tortured and killed, and the other means you get to live, for now, with each scene intercut by a short discussion between Salthe and Klaon where Salthe is bitter and Klaon is cryptic. You, the player, don’t get anything to care about.
And then you go off to another abuse scene, rinse and repeat until the game decides to present its only real story beat, which will be a plot twist. Presentation-wise, this is excellent, there’s a great CG with some good music, and since your expectations are so low by this time, any type of content that requires a modicum of thought is a big step up. Still, as you sink back into your chair to reflect in the big scheme of things, you realize that it was a load of BS.
The twist does not play fair, it presents story beats and characterizations that could have actually provided a story with some depth and interest, but it chose not to. Which is made worse by Klaon and Salthe acting like this was the most significant twist ever written in fiction. It’s a game that likes to parade around how much of a profound theatrical masterpiece it is, while in reality containing no more depth than a toddler telling you what color of crayons they prefer to eat.
It calls itself a comedy in the same vein of the famous Charlie Chaplin quote, “Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot.” It even uses the exact quote in the story and attributes it to him. The medieval visual novel uses a quote from a real actor, who did almost exclusively slapstick comedy. It’s nonsensically tone-deaf. Because slapstick comedy is an “excellent foil” to torture porn. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that there’s an external patch filled with H content. It’s almost exclusively non-consensual and also has all sorts of wholesome anime-girl torture porn.
Salthe doesn’t achieve anything worthwhile at the end of this “comedic” tale. There are only two scenes that stood out to me, with everything else being an insufferable waste of time. In fact, maybe the story should have gotten back to its original premise of bringing Salthe back to life because it’s never brought up again after the opening. Perhaps that’s the big take away; maybe the joke is on me for reading this mess.
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