Title: Under One Wing
Release Date: February 28, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Sol Press
Quite often, you find games that do a lot of work building some sort of fantastical world for you to explore. Obviously, visual novels are no exception, but often due to the fact that the medium uses little in the way of gameplay, the worlds created are not very different from the real world.
Which, thanks to Sol Press, brings us to Harmoise’s debut title, Under One Wing. A cute romantic visual novel that takes place in a world not so different from ours, except, airplanes are people’s primary methods of transportation. Hold on, what?!
Under One Wing opens with a little bit of exposition to justify the concept before throwing you into the shoes of our latest almost invisible protagonist, Junichi Sasaki. He’s flying to Tsubasa dorms, a tiny dormitory where he’s going to be staying while finishing off his high school years at Shouou Academy. Unfortunately, there’s a slight hiccup. The dorm had planned to take only two more students, but the dorm manager managed to accept three applications. So, in classic Japanese eroge fashion, Junichi will have to survive dormitory life in a place that doesn’t have enough bedrooms and is also home to five attractive girls and no one else. However, will he cope?
We’re exaggerating here, because, as difficult as it may be to believe, Junichi isn’t the hopeless pervert you may have expected from a visual novel with character designs like this. He’s instead a decent human being. This means that instead of Junichi seeking out your standard fanservice scenes, he avoids them, which means they end up occurring accidentally. You get this sort of negative times a negative makes a positive scenario, as your classic stupid scenes get thrown on their head and end up sometimes being almost wholesome and much more amusing.
This is all well and good, but what about the planes? After all, that’s a very specific detail to have in a world. Planes are used to justify what the game calls “fairy fights”, dogfights with fake weapons and sensors. Fairy Fights are, of course, the game’s main sport. Like a trading card game in a series about the card game. Everyone and their mother wants to be a top fairy flight pilot. Someone on the writing team really wanted to write dogfights into their high school romance eroge, and I’m ok with this.
The amount of depth and lore they put into the planes and dogfights is actually quite significant, in fact, splash screens with planes and exposition are used as a transition screen between scenes that need a cut. They weren’t kidding when they said “learn more about planes that weren’t used during World War II” in their advertising. These screens show of character’s planes, the history of them, lore about in-universe things like the fairy fights and everything else in between. The fairy fights themselves are super cool too, as the writing is quite solid and there are a number of plane CGs and cockpit shots, to get you as close to the action as still images can get you. The energetic soundtrack isn’t something to write home about but its use of motif is great for these parts.
The characters themselves are pretty neat, each appearing to use some very common anime archetypes such as, a hard student council president, innocent rich girl, and a tsundere but it doesn’t have them play any of the archetypes that strongly. There is also a very strong supporting cast that games of this genre rarely have and the characters play fast and loose with their roles leaving them open for more fun shenanigans. This is good because the game is full of them and while it lacks CGs for most of these, the writing is strong enough to have a lot of fun with them.
That’s fair since the CGs go towards the plane shots and h-scenes. The h-scenes appear pretty late game in each of the four romanceable character routes and is totally optional, you really don’t need them and the all-ages version of the game does fine without them. These routes themselves are ludicrously simple to do, you get 80% of the way through the game and you literally just get to pick which route you want. I was expecting it to be more complex considering the game gives you the option to jump back to your last “Choice” but dialogue options are few and far between. It’s a neat feature anyhow.
The character routes honestly leave little to be desired. They’re a bit odd. Throughout the game, the cast have all sorts of story threads set up for their individual routes, but because the routes only focus on one character, each ending feels a bit incomplete as only one member of the cast ends up really getting a complete story. Even the viewpoint character, Junichi, gets story threads that are abruptly cut off when you go onto a certain route. Characters exclusive to certain routes cameo in others and hint towards those events, but the route ends so, I feel like I was missing something. When I finally finished all the routes I half expected some sort of true ending to wrap everything up, but no, that’s it. I’m not sure what happened here, because the game is fantastic up to this point.
Under One Wing is a unique and beautiful visual novel that stumbles at the end. With that said, the writing and visuals are strong enough for me to definitely recommend the title to other romance and comedic visual novel fans. However, the endings can ultimately mess with the overall and lasting experience of the game, which makes it feel incomplete. As a debut title, I think Harmorise did a fantastic job and I hope to see where they soar from here.
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