Rie Sakuraba, age 9, is a cynical and grumpy student. She has no friends and likes it that way, her mother is a famous actress who loves natto, and her dad is a stay at home parent who loves cooking and baking. All seems quiet and content in her world until she meets a hungry little demon that changed her perspective on all the things she thought she didn’t like and could do without.
Strawberry Vinegar is your typical lighthearted, fluffy visual novel, featuring numerous static backgrounds, beautiful characters that are semi-animated, tasty imagery of food, and a story that may seem familiar to those that have played other VNs similar. There are extras like screenshots, author notes, and music as well.
There are plenty of options in the setting’s menu to tailor your experience. You can set the game to auto-advance the text at a speed you choose, which is how I played it. There are 2 pages to save your games should you choose to switch decisions. Even if you don’t save before every decision, you can skip over everything until you reach a decision should you not want to sit through the text every time. Also, to note, there is no voice acting whatsoever, not even partial.
Rie is a loner who has already read The Capitalist Manifesto and Dante’s Divine Comedy at her age. I was still learning how to write cursive at age 9 nevermind learning about free enterprise, binary economics, or pre-eminent Italian literature. She decides one day that she wanted cookies. So she set about to bake them. Unknown to her was that someone had already set their sights on the cookies. And that individual is Licia Dia Ivlis, or Licia as she’s known.
Licia has the outward appearance of a 9-year-old with platinum blonde hair, pink horns and since she’s from Hell, there’s no telling how old she really is. As the demon sin of Gluttony, she loves food, cute things, and hanging around Rie much to her discontent.
As you play, you’re tasked with choosing options that move the story along either positively or negatively. Every option does so, but each option will also net varying responses from the characters. You only see images of Rie, her dad Kazuki and her mom Yuki, Licia, and her older sister Aurora Superbia Ivlis. No other person is represented other than by a name. In the concept art section, the other sisters were conceptualized but never made it to the final game.
For some reason, neither the over emotional father constantly seeking validation or the bubblegum pink mass that’s supposed to represent people bothered me, but the manner with which Rie spoke and thought did. Her overall diction just seemed really advanced for a 9-year-old girl. I get that she was already reading at an advanced level, but some conversations made me think I was reading something from an emotional 15-year-old, not a child still in elementary school.
The story is cute and wholesome, but it’s the images of food that are the real stars. They are exceptionally well done and Rie’s descriptions sound like she could have a bit part on Master Chef. I won’t lie, I was pretty hungry anytime food came on the screen. Except for natto. I’m not as big a fan of natto as Yuki is. I applaud the little nods to pop culture like The Ring’s Sadako and the shoujo-ai anime Strawberry Panic, which is an anime about girls falling in love with other girls.
The music tends to fit each scene nicely and sets the scene well. However, there are times when the music just stops abruptly which can be a little jarring if you’re especially engrossed in the story and wonder why it suddenly went silent. Other times, the sound effects feel a bit off. As for the graphics, imagery and art are fantastic. Not only do the characters look great, but the images of food all look photorealistic.
As you play, you note a gradual shift in Rie and how friendship really is magic. She’s never had a friend, but in a week if you chose correctly, Licia was able to prove to her that everybody could use a friend, no matter how much you enjoy being alone. There is always something wholesome about visual novels where two people find friendship and Strawberry Vinegar is definitely a saccharine story that can take anywhere between 3-4 hours unless you skip everything.
Strawberry Vinegar is an innocent fluffy visual novel that shows how just one friend can make all the difference. If you don’t mind there not being any voice acting, you’re golden. Everything else about this visual novel, though cliché, is definitely sweet and pure about two friends who find friendship or more depending on what you choose.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Strawberry Vinegar Review
Gameplay - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
Strawberry Vinegar is an innocent fluffy visual novel that shows how just one friend can make all the difference. If you don’t mind there not being any voice acting, you’re golden.
- Great art style, very vibrant colors and semi-animated expressions.
- Each character is full of personality.
- 6 endings to go through.
- Conversations/thoughts seem advanced for a 9-year old.
- No voice acting.