Symbiotic Love is a coming of age yuri visual novel set in an all-girls high school in China. It’s a prequel to Melancholy Love, which was translated to English earlier this year and is set in the same school a decade later. However, it was initially released in Chinese, so reading them in reverse order, with some knowledge of the characters and their implied tragic backstory, might give a different perspective.
The English demo of Symbiotic Love is only a brief introduction, covering the first hour and a half of the story. The demo begins in media res with the shocking, violent scene of a student’s apparent suicide. Her surviving group of friends includes Qingwei, who will later become a teacher in Melancholy Love, and one of the protagonists, Zihua, will later become the school headmaster.
The story jumps back earlier in the school year, and we meet the other protagonist, Jisuo. Zihua has just transferred to the school, and Jisuo quickly becomes enamored with her. Zihua, however, is aloof, telling her, “I don’t think I need friends.” But it soon becomes apparent that she’s not just cold; she’s trying to protect any potential friends from her incredibly controlling mother. The protagonists’ home life is put into sharp contrast when we meet Jisuo’s mother, who’s warm, caring, and supportive of her daughter’s sexuality.
Symbiotic Love uses the same engine as Melancholy Love and therefore has the same technical issues, such as the text speed resetting to slow after every scene change, which can be frustrating. Although I recognized many of the tracks from Melancholy Love, the piano soundtrack is fitting, and again, I think it might have a different effect if you play the games in their original order. The English translation reads well, and the full voice acting Mandarin helps the characters come to life.
Like Melancholy Love, the story is slow-moving with a focus on school life with a group of friends, and the Symbiotic Love demo only shows the first hints of a budding romance between Jisuo and Zihua. The specter of the opening scene creates tension, mainly in whether Jisuo can be saved from her fate. (And, if you’ve read Melancholy Love first, whether the ending implied in that story is the best one you can achieve.)
The end of the demo left me a bit stressed, not knowing whether the story is an inevitable tragedy and not finding enough English info on the game to answer my question. I suppose I’ll have to wait and find out.
The English version of Symbiotic Love is scheduled for a summer 2021 release, and the demo is now available on Steam.
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