Developer: Haikou Soft
Release Date: July 13, 2019
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: Sol Press
One of the most common settings for any sort of Japanese media with a young cast of characters is the high school setting. Basically, these students will go to school and then save the world, find romance, start an occult club, I think you get the point. An often stated reason for this is that Japan’s work ethic is incredibly high, with employed citizens working ridiculous hours to live with little free time to spare. So that time during high school is when these teenagers have simultaneously the sparest time and a substantial amount of independence, ergo people look back fondly on these juvenile years.
Enter, the Sol Press localized Haikou Soft title, Yotsunoha. Unlike your typical school-based visual novel, it decides to base its story on the idea of looking back on these nostalgic memories and simpler times.
During Yotsunoha, players take the viewpoint of Makoto, Mackie for short, you and some of your friends have decided to have a small reunion at the now-closed and abandoned “Mochizuki Academy”. A school this group of friends used to attend before it shut down three years ago and the band was split up. The group did, however, take the time to bury a time capsule before they left. Now that the group is back together, they planned to dig it back up but run into an inconvenience that takes the form of one of their old teachers. He dug it up first and left a puzzle in its place, leaving the group to bunk down for a while to solve the puzzle and find their time capsule.
It’s innately a wholesome concept but you’ll realize very quickly why this is an eroge. If you missed the R-18 patch entirely, you’ll notice that before the game properly establishes its premise, you’ve seen about six dirty jokes from our almost frustratingly boring Mackie and two panty shots. I’m leading early with the flaws because this is basically how the game works. Somehow, beyond all belief, this actually works to the game’s favor. You see, it puts your expectations for any sort of quality on the floor. And if you’ve played any other Haikou Soft title, such as Sakura Sakura, you should know it can really only go up from here.
This visual novel doesn’t give you much in the way of choice, but the player is given a striking amount of interaction. The game’s progression comes in the form of trying to solve the puzzle left by the teacher, which will require exploring the school building. Players will access different areas of the school using a map. Whilst you don’t actually have to solve any puzzles yourself, you will be the one navigating around the four-story academy. As you navigate the academy, Mackie and his friends will reminisce about their time they once roamed the halls and share their experiences from the previous three years.
As a result, the story is told in a heavily achronological fashion making it easy to get invested in, or lost in if you aren’t used to this method of storytelling. It also means that you never get too much plot at once because before long you’re on your way to the next location. While the cast isn’t immediately eye-catching nor do they have any extensive or in-depth backstories, there is a decent amount of fun to see the cast’s ever-changing dynamics as the story changes time periods. Because that’s the whole point of this title really, the real rewards are the memories you made along the way — and the H-scenes, but we’ll get to those later.
One of the great things about stylized visuals is that they never get old in the same way something does when it’s going for realism. Yotsunoha, as you’ll have noticed, has the whole old VN art style thing going on. This is probably because the game was originally released in Japan 13 years ago, but it doesn’t look bad by any means. The title also extensively takes advantage of other means of immersion. Moving around the main speech bubble shaped text box, for when different characters are speaking, and the use of cut-ins as reaction images or to depict Matsuri giving Mackie a well-deserved flying kick because of his perverted antics.
If you’re into the explicit content, then you’ll be interested to know there are a substantial amount of H-scenes for the character routes. I mentioned earlier there are no choices, so the routes are pre-determined and unlocked by completing the previous route. Which sounds suspect at first but actually turns out to be a really interesting way of utilizing the way the game’s story progresses. So when you finish the first route and progress into the story, you’ll definitely know who’s route it is you’re on. But it leaves the question of, how did you get there, to begin with? A simple question, but it’s a solid motivator.
I’d absolutely give it a recommendation if you like playing eroge, but there may not be enough content in the game if you’re not going to download the R-18 patch. The game utilizes some unique and fantastic ideas that I find commendable, but climaxes in, well, a literal climax. Maybe if the game does well, Sol Press will be able to bring over the content from the Playstation 2 rerelease (released 13 years ago). Unlikely, but hey, four-leaf clovers bring you luck and that’s literally what Yotsunoha translates to.
This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.