Title: Strawberry Vinegar
Release Date: June 8, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Genre: Visual Novel
I’m not always such a doom and gloom person. Sometimes, I feel like a sweet, feel-good slice-of-life visual novel, which led me to discover Strawberry Vinegar. In some ways, I let the pastel color scheme of this game convince that it was nothing but a light-hearted experience. However, reminiscent of the many items of food that the game features, there a few different flavors offered here.
Strawberry Vinegar introduces us to the main protagonist, Rie Sakuraba, who lives with her mom and dad. The relationship between family members is strange as the mom has the occupation of an always-on-the-move actress, while the dad holds the role of a housemaker. Each member of the family is entirely different, and it’s tough to really pinpoint how they work well together, but they get by.
The relationship between the family is centered around meals, which is a focus point of the entire visual novel. Together, they create some sumptuous dishes that make up most of the game’s CGs. It’s also the center of the game’s plot after a demon girl named Licia appears to take Rie’s soul. Yes, that escalates quickly. Licia informs Rie that if she isn’t fed exquisite meals for seven days, she will eat her soul. It’s then that Rie steps up to the challenge, and they become closer over the course of the week.
It’s exceptionally light-hearted in tone, but the characters are somewhat attuned to their emotions and how to express themselves. Each day we learn more about Rie, who doesn’t really get along with anyone as we try to understand Licia’s true goal. The game is said to be a yuri visual novel, but this isn’t really a substantial part of the game. Instead, readers mostly just follow the relationship of these characters, which ends up working for this slice-of-life comedy.
There are some real pacing issues with the game, as Rie heavily narrates many scenes. The conversations will flow for a few lines of dialogue, and then Rie will unpack everything through narration, and it just becomes tedious. The pacing is also hurt as the game relies on reused jokes through the entire 6-hour story.
I can’t really remember how many times people thought it was “cool” or “cute” when Licia was proclaiming to be a demon, or some competitive situation occurred between her and Rie. It just feels like many of these scenes could have been removed without losing too much of the story’s personality.
Another element of the game that really hurts the overall immersion is Rie’s age, which is 9. No, I don’t have a problem with her being a 9-year-old, but the writers decided to make her out to be sort of a genius for no real reason.
Rie and Licia both have conversations as if they are older highschool students, so taking a firm stance on their age was really the most prominent issue this game had. If the developer wanted Rie to be 9, then she should have acted a bit more like a 9-year-old instead of a little ass hole who bullies her dad.
The illustrations of Strawberry Vinegar are lovely. The character illustrations themselves have a soft look about them with light coloring that makes the entire story appear dreamlike. One thing is for sure; the developer loved to put these characters in different costumes. Some scenes had the characters changing outfits three different times, which made the day feel incredibly long.
There are minimal CGs during a playthrough, but players can unlock more across each of the game’s routes. During the dialogue, players can respond to characters as Rie. Some of these choices didn’t really seem to make a difference in the outcome of the story, but there are a few that create branching paths, even if you don’t notice them right away. The choices can also lead to some romance, but it’s incredibly innocent. The food CGs are also really excellent, and the developer did a great job of integrating them into the story.
Strawberry Vinegar ends up being incredibly straight forward if not a little messy with some of its story elements. I thought the writing was comical and engaging, but then the pacing would be hurt by Rie’s unbalanced characteristics and overly mature attitude. In the end, it’s a visual novel about food and friendship, and you’ll get plenty of that here.
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