Release Date: February 14. 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Genre: Visual Novel
Dealing with supernatural elements is never easy. Especially if you’re a protagonist, who can’t be bothered with much outside of his own plans. The Yuzusoft-developed visual novel Senren Banka appears to be just that, but as the story develops, so does this competent cast of memorable cast members.
Senren Banka opens up with Arichi Masaomi, who finds himself in his hometown of Hoori for the summer. The town is very traditional and has many customs, even though it’s seen as a tourist destination. After meeting up with some of his childhood friends, they visit a sword known as the Murasamemaru, which is stuck in stone. As you could have guessed, Arichi pulls the sword out, and his whole life changes.
It turns out that this town has more significant problems than large groups of tourists. Evidently, it is haunted by spirits, and now that the Murasamemaru has been pulled out, more will be on their way. After being confronted, Arichi is told that he must now marry the shrine princess Tomotake Yoshino who is holding a magical secret back from the town and needs Arichi’s help to bring her back to normal. Just to make things more interesting, the blade that Arichi holds is home to a spirit by the name of Murasame, who isn’t technically dead, but I won’t get too much into the details of it all.
That story itself is full of lows and highs. The game takes things rather slow to inform the player of what is going on, but once the pace picks up, it stays pretty consistent throughout, at least for the common route. Still, much of what Arichi encounters feels a little too convenient at times, which takes away any real tension.
As the main protagonist, Arichi is blunt and carefree. He doesn’t want to be spending his summer here, but he seems to enjoy interacting with these characters and being a part of their group. Watching their relationship develop is excellent as the game’s pacing for the relationships is spot on.
However, it does seem like the writing focuses a little too much on Murasame and Arichi’s relationship, I can only forgive this, considering they are pretty much bound to each other. Still, the different relationship routes didn’t feel right after seeing how great these two characters were for each other.
Across each route, more is revealed about the situation that Arichi and the town faces. Over time, the cast members are affected by the high level of supernatural activity, but they must do their best to hide these events from the people. Not every romantic route has the same impact as each reveals something or another about the overarching story.
As much as I liked each of the characters, I didn’t really enjoy Yoshino’s route. This was mostly because she never really seemed that interested in Arichi, and when it all goes down, it just happens with little build-up. This is perhaps why I enjoyed the other routes more, but Murasame’s stands out as my favorite.
One thing I really liked about the story was the “Another View” features. This allows players to witness events that the main protagonist isn’t in. It also reveals things about each of the characters that they might not be ready to share with Arichi.
The character illustrations in Senren Banka are gorgeous. Each character has a range of expressions and several different outfit changes. These illustrations would even look good when the camera zoomed in close during dialogue as they retained their crisp details. The CGs are just as great as each break up the lengthy dialogue of the game.
I will say that background illustrations are nice, but you’ll be revisiting the same areas over and over again, considering the story takes place in a small town. Additionally, the sound design fits the themes of the traditional village setting, which ramped up during some of the more active scenes. When it comes to additional art, the story loves to include plenty of hilarious chibi scenes.
In terms of the h-scenes. Things are kept rather vanilla here, but there are a lot of scenes between characters once you are locked into their route. Each romance route takes place after the common route and is dictated by the choices made during gameplay. I felt this made the conclusion feel someone lacking since it feels as though you complete the game, and now you move on and date the girls. I’d also like to point out a cool feature that shows players the branches in the story and allows you to jump to different points to unlock alternative routes.
Senren Banka is an extremely high-quality visual novel that does a great job of getting the most out of its small cast of characters. The game builds up these relationships over time alongside the threat that spirits will soon take over the town. Sadly, the conclusion didn’t really stick the landing, but the journey there was well worth it.
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