I’m a fan of most genre’s across all art forms, but my least favourite has to be romance and rom coms. There is something about these bitter sweet tales that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Is it the predictable nature of the plot, with very few twists and turns, or is it that I just don’t like others to be happy. Who knows, all I know is that I steer clear of these types of stories, and prefer horror, action, and Sci-Fi. Whenever I’m offered a visual novel to review I rarely turn them down, mainly because I love reading, but I also like the break away from fast-paced games, and shooting strangers from around the globe. The Language of Love is a melancholy tale that takes you on a trip of isolation, loneliness, friendship and love. Developed by Ebi-Hime and published by Ratalaika Games, this is a strong team that brings another touching and in depth visual novel to an expanding Western market.
The tale revolves around 3 main characters; Mitsuki a 23-year-old male who has moved away from his family in the country to study for his university entrance exams in Tokyo. Kyouko is in her mid 20s, she is an attractive single mother, who catches the eye of Mitsuki. Her tale adds to the pressure and woe of our leading man’s story, but also allows him some comfort and light at the end of a miserable and dark tunnel. The final character is Kyouko’s daughter, Tama. She is a cute little thing, cheeky, strong willed, but far too trusting. A chance encounter with her at the beginning of this story sets you on your path, and without her, Mitsuki would be destined to live a lonely existence.
The plot is a rather sombre affair. It focuses a lot of its energy on both of the lead protagonists’ lonely lives, and how they must help one another in order to be happy. Both are social misfits; no one wants to be their friends, neither have any family nearby, and this giant capital city with its millions of people leaves them feeling empty and cold. Mitsuki stumbles across Tama in a park near the apartment block that they both share. Tama has lost her key and is upset about not being able to get home. Kyouko has left her by herself so she can go food shopping (it’s a little odd that an adult would leave such a young child, but if she hadn’t then this chance encounter would not have happened). Mitsuki takes Tama back to his apartment and looks after her. He dries her hair, allows her to watch TV and feeds her an evening meal. When Kyouko eventually returns, she is both relieved and happy that her daughter has been looked after by such a caring man. This ignites a spark, and their relationship starts off slowly, friends at first, but as time passes, maybe there will be more? You must play the game if you wish to find out.
I’ve played several visual novels (VNs), and what I’ve always enjoyed is the interactive approach in altering the story through narrative decisions. The Language of Love doesn’t follow this traditional structure, instead it runs its plot as the developer wants the story to unfold. It was odd to sit back and be a voyeur for the entire game. I found that this unusual approach made me more engrossed in the characters and the story. Because I didn’t have to stop and consider how I thought it should play out, I could relax and wait to see how the author wanted their story to develop. It felt more like a traditional novel using this method, and though I didn’t have any influence on what was happening, I loved the world that had been created, and enjoyed how the action unfolded.
Another area that I found unusual compared to the other VNs that I’ve tried, was the lack of characters. Other than the 3 main ones, you interact with a few other individuals at key moments in the story, and that’s it. I guess it was Ebi-Hime’s way of highlighting the lonely existence that the protagonists were experiencing, but for me, it left me wanting more. It would have been nice to see more faces, and to know if the main character’s perception of the world was correct, or if they were creating their own isolated bubble.
Talking about the world in this game, it’s beautiful to look at. The art is stunning, and full of details. The scenes move to a variety of locations that not only look good, but they worked with the theme of the game. The art style was bold and colourful, and a joy to look at. Each of the characters had the traditional over the top reaction to any dialogue, which I love, as it’s so absurd that you can’t help but laugh. The developers used colour and tone alongside the text to add emotion. This delivery method worked surprisingly well and helped me to empathise with each of the characters.
The audio was charming and had a classic feel to it with a modern day twist. It supported everything that Ebi-Hime had created, with a mix of sad piano music, to odd high tempo songs that attempted to lighten the mood. Using silence and simple sound effects reiterated the sense of loneliness. The lack of spoken dialogue will not be to everyone’s taste, but I prefer it this way, as all the other elements of imagination have been removed. The audio was simple and worked really well within this game.
As with all visual novels, the controls are very easy to follow, and will not concern you. The only thing that you will want to be aware of is the fact that you can skip all the dialogue if you wish, but if you do this, you’ll miss the whole story, so I’d suggest not doing this.
Because of the lack of dialogue choices, the replay value is vastly reduced. However, the 80,000 word story will provide you with around 5 to 6 hours of reading to consume. A simple achievement list can be unlocked by finishing the novel. Now that I have completed this game, will I return to play it again? No. This isn’t because the tale isn’t interesting, it’s down to the lack of different outcomes, so now I know how this ends, I don’t fancy going through it again.
I opened with the statement that I dislike romantic stories, and I stand by this. But I enjoyed my time playing this title. The bonds between the characters is heartwarming, and the speed at which the plot runs makes it easy to follow. Do I recommend that you play this? I do, it’s a sad and sombre experience that will make you grateful that you have friends and family close by. Call upon the help of a stranger and see if they can bring some light to an otherwise dark existence.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Language of Love Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 3/10
User Review( votes)
The Language of Love is a melancholy tale that takes you on a trip of isolation, loneliness, friendship and love.
- A touching story.
- Beautiful imagery.
- Charming audio.
- Easy achievements.
- A lack of dialogue choices reduces the replay value.
- I would have liked to see more characters throughout.