Title: YOU and ME and HER: a love story
Release Date: May 5, 2020
Reviewed On: PC
Publisher: JAST USA
Genre: Visual Novel
There are visual novels that are often brought up as “must-reads.” Most of these titles are subjective and only really concern those who enjoy a particular genre. However, those who really wish to dive into the medium and question their own feelings about the genre will be introduced to Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi, localized in the west as YOU and ME and HER: a love story.
Throughout this 20 hours story, readers are taken on a journey that transcends the genre itself without overstaying its welcome. I’m not even sure if the writers felt like they were creating some prolific game while developing this title, but it turns out that something has been missing from my life, and it’s been this uniquely dark and emotional game.
YOU and ME and HER: a love story has a plot that shouldn’t be spoiled one bit. Before its western release, I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of the game or knew about its themes. From what I’ve seen, this is the best way to experience it, so if that’s what you’re looking for, I urge you to skip ahead to the score and conclusion to make your purchasing decision.
The story focuses on three characters Susuki Shinichi, Sone Miyuki, and Mukou Aoi. Shinichi is a rather average male protagonist who keeps to himself for the most part and doesn’t try to stand out too much. He’s not loud or incoherent, and he approaches situations with a bit of thought put behind his actions. However, he is curious and will follow that curiosity wherever it may lead him.
We are introduced to Shinichi as he finds himself on the roof of his school, where a strange cell phone begins to ring. God is calling, but he doesn’t answer. Upon further investigation of the phone, he finds a visual novel that displays a girl on top of the faceless protagonist. Then he hears the voice of a girl named Aoi standing behind him, pretending to be an antenna. She jumps on him and proclaims that she needs sex to charge. The scene is oddly similar to what he just witnessed in the game, and Aoi even looks like the same girl.
Before anything can happen, Shinichi’s tsundere childhood friend, Miyuki, appears to put a stop to it. This is the first time this triangle of friends are together and then after we are taken down a rabbit hole of twists and turns, unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Aoi seems to think that life is just a video game. The soulless expression displays her tuning out reality as she admits that she is receiving updates with her hand raised.
The story nails tension, which slowly builds after each hour. It gets to the point where an unnerving feeling begins building in your chest. You know something is coming, but you can’t really understand the lengths the story is going to go. YOU and ME and HER features multiple endings, but after playing, I don’t think referring to them as “endings” really works with this game. Those who have played visual novels in the past love unlocking all of the routes, but here, things begin to get a little weird. It’s like the story teases you as you try desperately to find a new outcome. However, when you finally find the right path, you’ll wish you had quit while you were ahead.
Throughout the story, the name of the game unpacks before your eyes, and you are left breathless at what transpires. The narrative loves to foreshadow events as it plays on the idea that visual novels are “real life.” I found myself questioning my own understanding of the medium and how I make choices without any care for how it truly affects these character’s relationships. Sadly, some story beats are introduced too early in the adventure and not revisited until much later, which does impact the delivery.
Character illustrations are quite good and have a classic anime appeal to them. The character’s appearance fits their personalities and reflects the actions wonderfully. The CGs have a minimalistic design to them that only adds to the tension of the scene. How can things go so wrong with such a cute cast of characters!? Well…about that.
Music in the game doesn’t add to the overall tone. I felt like I enjoyed the scenes more when the music was absent or at a low volume. The voiced audio, on the other hand, is outstanding. Still, with so much happening, there were times I wished the main protagonist was voiced if only to get a better understand of the emotional impact the events have on him.
YOU and ME and HER: a love story is a visual novel that might not be for everyone; it might not have even been for me. The story surpasses what you’d expect from this genre and makes you suffer the consequences of your actions as the player. The game’s brilliance is something that can’t be overlooked, and I’m glad I was able to experience it.
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