Yu-No Review – Bizarre and Satisfying

    Title: YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world
    Developer: Mages
    Release Date: October 1, 2020
    Reviewed On: Switch
    Publisher: Spike Chunsoft
    Genre: Adventure

YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world is a very long name that you may expect to see on a poorly translated title of a light novel. However for Spike Chunsoft’s latest release, a localization of MAGES’ 2017 remake of the Elf corporation developed 1996 point-and-click adventure game, it is a necessary name. I had heard of the title, but up until the localization announcement, I didn’t know anything. Which is a good thing, as the only real way to play it in English previously was via a patch for the 2001 windows port, which allegedly has some issues.

Looking up the game had me wanting to play it, as Yu-No seems to be a progenitor of adventure games with applications of scientific elements. Yes, I did my research. The title is also a reference to a frankly bizarre piece of literature called The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World. You don’t need to read it, and it really will not help you understand this drug trip of a visual novel.

Yu-No stars a high school slacker named Takuya Arima, who has received a package from his father who has been long-missing and presumed dead. To his surprise, the eccentric historian has left him a set of items; a strange mirror and some weird ore with slots partially filled with orbs called jewels. Accompanying these items is a note, that tells Takuya to bring the device with all of its slots filled with gems to the shrine at the mysterious sword mountain. Tonight.

Takuya gets there a bit late, to find a naked woman collapsed on the ground. She acts pleased to see him and then presumably died in his arms before disappearing. Then Takuya’s principle shows up with a gun, threatening him to turn over the package with its contents. Takuya’s stepmother also shows up, without any clue as to what’s going on. Before anything can happen, however, space distorts around him, and he ends up alone at the base of the mountain, leaving Takuya to figure out what his father’s motivations are.

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Playing as Takuya, you’ll notice that the plot beats are very dependant on your exploration. The gameplay is heavily point-and-click, Takuya must navigate from different areas to talk to people and investigate locations to try and wrap his head around the game’s mysteries. From the get-go, there are a lot of moving parts and places to visit.

During the story, players will see a shrine that stands out of place by the coastline’s geological makeup and a construction site run by a shady company. However, that’s not even mentioning the business deals within the school at night and everything connected to Takuya’s father. How you decide to explore will dramatically change the story, as Takuya entwines himself with people of various goals in your attempts to solve the game’s mysteries.

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To help him in his quest is the Automatic Diverge Mapping System or A.D.M.S. for short, which houses the bizarre object that incases the jewels. Takuya can use these jewels as literal save points within space and time. Once the A.D.M.S is open, slap down a gem, and you’re good to go. Running low on jewels isn’t the worst because the game lets you jump back to an unneeded save and automatically claim it. However, it’s good not to run out, or you won’t be able to open the system until you find one you’ve set before. You’re also able to warp back to the end of the prologue at any point.

All of this is relevant because while Takuya’s memories don’t jump with him, his inventory does. You’ll need to find items scattered across various character routes in other timelines to open your path to their endings. The game prompts you when an item can be used or can be found, minimizing any form of pixel hunting. The flowchart and objectives are also both color-coded per route, so it’s not too tricky to figure out what to try next if you get stuck.

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The art direction of this remake is fantastic, character designs are marvelous, with some beautifully drawn CGs. The content of them, however, can be up for debate, as the title doesn’t exactly try to hide the fact the original game was an eroge. There are enough panty shots here to rival Punchline, hell, the game’s opening scene includes one. It’s also a cloth poster with the day 1 edition. Huh. Well, Yu-No loves its dirty jokes, and Takuya is your stock eroge protagonist after all. The only difference he has on most of them, however, is that he starts successful, having already had a fling with one of his teachers before the game began. What?

Thankfully a lot of this dialogue is optional, and you are rarely forced to make questionable actions. If you do enjoy this, or can get used to it, you’re in for some fascinating story routes. I’m not the biggest fan of many of the cast members, even as good as they look, but I am a big fan of solving conspiracies. Watching the interlocked character routes unfold is a lot of fun when you start clearing them with the bonus of watching the same scenes again from a new perspective. Additional context lets you see just how much foreshadowing the writer was able to inject. All I can say is that this was a massive feat for the localization team, who did an impressive job keeping it all together during this enormous script.

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The final route of the game is especially notable for having a reasonably shocking twist that left me impressed. It’s not the most significant twist in the world by any means, but it’s of the kind that I highly recommend someone is left unspoiled. Yu-No is not a game that likes giving you reveals linearly, leading to very inconsistent pacing. It does ultimately have a very literal jigsaw puzzle plot though. It takes a while to start connecting those pieces, but it’s relatively simple to get the edges together.

The title becomes tricky when you realize the picture on the box doesn’t match the one you’re constructing. However, once you spend 40 hours or so getting the meat of it together, you’re left with a story that has no right being as good as it is. The soundtrack is also something that stands out as brilliant, and what makes is better is that you have two choices. Players can pick between the remake or original, which are both exceptionally good. I often switched between them in different locations so that I could hear all the music.

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Overall, Yu-No: A girl who chants love at the bound of this world is an unmissable title for those who adore visual novels and would like to experience this piece of history. The game itself has been the inspiration for dozens of other stories after. The pacing here can be messy, and some design choices can be “explicit,” to say the least. However, Yu-No’s presentation and sound design have compounded with a brilliant setup to make this a bizarre and satisfying adventure. All in all, it makes for the kind of title that I feel the need to recommend highly.

Score:
8.5/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Jacob Kavanagh

Staff Writer - Illusions to illusions. Will solve murder mysteries for money so he can buy more murder mysteries. @JacobPFZE on twitter