OEL Visual Novel Review: Memo

by eternal on August 25, 2010

I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that you haven’t heard of Memo, an EVN by artist Doomfest. I normally don’t review EVNs for the obvious reason – to put it bluntly, the vast majority of them aren’t worth reviewing – but this one stands out as a solid attempt and a prelude of what’s to come.

As you can see from the sample image above, Memo‘s strongest point is its art. I hesitate to say that it’s the game’s only strong point, but that would be unnecessarily harsh. Glancing at the project page, it seems that there were only two core members in the team: Doomfest directing the art and story and someone named Serithnal writing the scenario. The fact that the game was directed by an artist is very evident in the final product, for better or worse.

Probably the most notable feature of the game is the background art; it’s fairly uncommon for doujin games to not use photographic backgrounds, and for good reason. All of the backgrounds are appealing to the eye and, most importantly, feel natural. The character art is great, too, and even the “idiot friend” character’s design isn’t bad. There are a few more event CGs than you’d expect from such a short game (~3 hours), like this one, which is a pleasant surprise since most VNs have the opposite problem. There’s even a bit of fanservice if you know where to look. It’s also worth commenting on the interface; I’m not sure who designed it or how much effort it took, but the game is very well presented for a Ren’Py game. It’s quite common to see potentially interesting stories told through the standard Ren’Py interface, which is a bad move if you’re targeting anyone who has been around the EVN scene for more than a couple days. The default skin isn’t bad but you get sick of it very quickly.

As for the negatives, the first thing that comes to mind is the music. I believe the game uses stock music throughout, which is understandable but also disappointing. The only other issue would be the story. First of all, it’s difficult for me to comment on this because I couldn’t make a mental flowchart of the game; I don’t think I ever found endings 1-3 (out of 6), but I somehow finished the CG gallery. Does Kazumi have a route, or is the entire story focused on Liz? I’m not sure, but suffice it to say that the game is fairly standard plot-wise. The writing didn’t strike me as bad and it has its entertaining moments, but it’s as if the story begins with a ton of fluff, arbitrarily cuts itself off when something resembling a conclusion is found, and directs you to the credits. It’s not bad, but it’s inconclusive.

Anyway, bonus points for the game’s decision points. They’re arranged in such a way that you’re not really sure where each decision will lead, and it was apparently intricate enough to confuse me, so that counts as a success.

I don’t know Doomfest personally and I’m not sure what his goal was for this project, but I’m quite impressed by it overall. The positive traits showcase the skill and potential of the staff – superb art, amusing dialogue, clean presentation – and the negatives appear to be a result of lack of manpower and the small scale of the project. On a related note, the director is apparently serving as lead artist for Cradle Song, an OEL visual novel on a much larger scale than most projects that actually reach completion. I realized a long time ago that writing and drawing are generally mutually exclusive talents – Ryukishi07 is a prime example – so I’m very interested in seeing what Cradle Song will turn into since the developers appear to have put together a solid team. At the very least, I have enough faith in this project to say that it won’t be dropped. We’ll see if I’m right in a year or two.

At any rate, Memo is a solid EVN and a prime example of how a two-man group can compose a playable visual novel, but it’s more likely to appeal to people who have worked with Ren’Py and understand the challenges of developing a game. For the typical reader, I’d put it on the same level as the lesser-known Japanese doujin titles translated in the old al|together festivals: it’s not amazing, but it’s pretty good, and there’s a fair chance that it won’t bore you to death. If you enjoy fluffy stories with cute girls and romantic undertones, there’s no reason for you not to like it. Either way, Memo has shown me Doomfest’s potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing if the Cradle Song devs will be the first group outside of Four Leaf Studios to make an OEL visual novel that I’d actually pay for.

~ ETERNAL
つづく

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

mefloraine August 25, 2010 at 9:02 pm

I have doubts that Cradle Song will be dropped. They’re so excited about it.
Not to mention, doomfest has already drawn so much for it.

I love doomfest and his artworks (and I think he’s pretty cool), so I’m kind of dying in anticipation. Seems like it’ll be a bit though. ;_;

The VN wasn’t magically awesome or anything, but it was definitely fun playing through it. Even if I never got that last CG.

Reply

ETERNAL August 28, 2010 at 8:39 pm

I think the last CG was Kazumi’s? The one where you agree to help her for the student council stuff? It’s funny because I think it guarantees a bad end. I dunno, this game needs a walkthrough :P

Reply

mefloraine August 28, 2010 at 10:49 pm

No, it wasn’t the last last CG. It was somewhere in the middle of the page.
I know for sure I got all of Kazumi’s. I loved her.

Reply

Krozam August 26, 2010 at 11:54 am

This sounds interesting, I’ve got to check it out. It’s such a pity that most of the good VN’s haven’t been translated. Well, there are a few that have been fan-translated. Official translations, I only know one really good one: Snow Sakura. The dialogue is absolutely hilarious, the voice acting is clearly above average and I even got attached to the characters, like in any good anime. Highly recommended.

Apart from that, if you can read Japanese or if you’re willing to use translators (using two different gives you a pretty understandable result) and AGTH to rip the texts to your clipboard, there’s one I most highly recommend: Fortune Arterial. There’s a dead fan translation project somewhere around, I used it for a while, then continued with the translators. The brilliance of the writing shone through even the horrible machine translations, and I actually fell a little for the main female lead – something that’s only happened once before in my life, even though I practically live through various stories, a fair share of them romantic. Well, it’s possible that there’s no need for you to read through it – after all, there’s a possiblity that they DON’T mess up the anime.

I’ve been waiting forever for Demonbane to be translated. The anime, despite being mediocre, gave me a feeling that the source material is pretty amazing, the director just wasn’t good enough to bring out the potential in the anime adaptation. It’s been in translation for years, I wonder if they’re ever going to finish it…

Reply

ETERNAL August 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I played Snow Sakura a year or two ago and I quite enjoyed it, though I preferred the fluff of the common route over the actual stories. I went for the cousin character first (I think her name was Saki?) but I didn’t really get attached to any of them. I’ve been behind in VNs lately so I can’t speak from experience, but Crescendo and Yume Miru Kusuri are both supposed to be good commercially translated eroge (both by JAST). There’s also MangaGamer’s stuff like Da Capo/Suika and Higurashi.

I’ve had my eye on Fortune Arterial for a while, partly because I love bekkankou’s art, but I deliberately avoided reading up on it to avoid spoilers. I don’t want to risk ruining a game with machine translations, especially since I’m going to start learning Japanese this school year, but I’ll certainly check out the anime. The story looks more interesting than Yoakena’s and the main girl is relevant to my interests, to say the least.

Demonbane is being worked on by the original fan translation group and JAST, right? I know they made a deal of some sort for the Nitro+ stuff. Well, I haven’t seen the anime, but I’ll certainly play the game when they finish. I’m also waiting to see what they’re doing with Chaos;Head Noah – it’s a remake/expansion of some form so I’d rather play that than the original.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: