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Deardrops Game Review

17 min read

Dreams may change but they only shatter if one gives up on them completely

What They Say
Suganuma Shoichi was a violinist who showed talent from a young age, and joined an orchestra abroad with great hopes for his future – until one day, when a certain incident caused him to lose everything there…… With his path as a musician sealed off, Shoichi gave up his beloved violin and returned home in despair. But having been driving out of the orchestra, he incited his father’s rage and found himself disowned, leaving him with no place left to go.

By unexpected chance, he came to be a live-in worker at a live house, and Shoichi came in contact with a world he’d never known. In this completely new environment, he meets many clumsy people who have continued to assert their individual ways of life and music. Through living together with them, he begins to string his life back together, forming new bonds and finding leads towards a new future. When Shoichi and the friends he was destined to meet overcome their pasts and the trials before them, how will they grow as individuals, let alone as a band? A new world spreads from the live house as these musicians in their prime journey through a tale of rock’n’roll and aim for new heights as they discover themselves deep within.

The Review!
Artwork:
One benefit to a visual novel over the traditional style of novel is that the game makers can use some animation to make characters expressions clear and also illustrate the environment so that not all of the work needed to describe a situation needs to come from the text itself. To help accomplish this Deardrops uses animation style backgrounds with a decent variety having been made to create an somewhat believably sizable environment for the characters to exist in, though those paying close attention will notice that a few of the street environments appear to be reused a number of times. There is no animation for the characters though they use some rather more anime like designs 3-D suggesting style rather than the flat paper 2D dolls from some visual novels to display their characters. In addition to the large images that take place on the screen, subtle (or not so) expressions that help reflect the current dialogue (and which save from having to change all the larger images) are displayed in small portraits near the bottom of the screen along with the text to help emphasize the emotions that the delivery of the lines by the voice actors are meant to convey. The characters in the game are largely limited to a relatively small number of outfits that are changed in the story to reflect certain events or locals where the characters are present at, but like many visual novels (and a good deal of anime as well) one might be forgiven if they got the impression the individuals have a closet full of the exact same cloths. In addition there are also a number of poses and facial expressions that get used often though the story though they are switched up regularly enough (for the most part) and done well enough to convey the emotions that correspond with the events in the novel that they feel more natural than time or money saving reuses.

Text:
The text for this release follows along with the recent pattern of MangaGamer releases of improving on their earliest releases as they work to minimize the errors while also making sure the text itself is both rather faithful to the original (at least in the places I can discern anyway) while also having a flow that doesn’t read as overly literal at the expense of being presented in a way that would serve to alienate English readers. There are still a few errors that pop up from time to time but for the most part the errors aren’t frequent nor are they present to a point where the story is lost though there are a few points where the text might provide some very minor confusion as to what is going on in regards to the flow of the novel, though thankfully none of the occurrences is at a climactic point and the vast bulk of the novel is rather well done.

Audio:
The audio for this game is a particular highlight as the game uses a fairly decent number of different background tracks of varying type from a more upbeat rock one to a softer acoustic to underscore some of the powerful emotional moments from the story. Since the story is about a small group of individuals who learn to work and practice together as they form their band one would expect that the game deliver some rock tracks for that as well which Deardrops delivers on very well. There are seven different songs by the main group the game focuses on and three more from some others that come into play in places or certain story paths in the game. This adds a very nice touch in bringing the audience into the story as there are times where the group is shown creating the music or jamming and it adds a sense of connection with the group’s efforts when they pull the tracks together. There are also a fairly good number of voice actors used in the game with most voices seeming to match the characters they are playing which helps add a dimension to the story with the (competent at minimum and strong overall) cast adding a solid performance to help flush out the story.

Packaging:
The material reviewed was provided as a download so there is no packaging to review.

Menu:
The menus to this release are a basic but mostly intuitive affair overall. The main menu uses a white background with a colorful collection of rising lines on the left side that plateau and become an arrow that stretches over the top portion of the screen while a number of picks and buttons that have images associated with some of the characters are present at the bottom of the screen as the menu options are listed under them and a rock track from the game plays as background music. The initial options are Start, Load, Extra, Configure and Exit. Start goes right into the beginning of the game as it sets up its protagonist and the situation in which he now finds himself in while Load will take you to the save screen which allows the player to select from any of the saves that they have made in the game to date. The configure screen allows the user to customize the game to their preferences, adjusting sound level, effect level, text speed, voice level, the right click option and text skip as well as the game window size to the level that suits them best.

The extra option will take you to a screen that collects pictures, events and songs from the game as well as the CG Gallery Scene Replay collects the 7 sex scenes from the game after they have been unlocked and which can be clicked on to replay them. Song Library collects the 10 songs from three groups in the game and allows for them to re-played after being unlocked as well.

On the game screen itself there are quick buttons represented by small tabs on the lower right hand side that expand out when highlighted to allow for quick save or quick load, return to the menu, skip text for game replay to advance thorough text you have progressed past before in a previous play through, and auto text (which advances the text at an adjustable pace so you don’t have to right click) as well as a log function. Log is useful as it contains the recent of text from the portion of the game the user is in game so if one misses a point or wishes to review something (an added benefit is that if you click on a line you can get the voice actor delivering the line again if one wishes to re-hear a reaction) though one has to search through manually as there is no quick search feature available in the log. The save menu is accessible from using the left click on the keyboard or mouse which allows the player to save at almost any line or point (minus a very few points that are short in length) and it has space for three quick saves and one hundred regular save which also have the ability to either display the current line of text or that the player can create their own name for. Also accessible from the left click is the ability to adjust system and sound settings, hide the text box and the ability to return to the main menu or to exit the game completely.

The Steamy Side:
Following in the path of Kira Kira, Deardrops is also an erogame which for this game means that it contains a number of encounters with the protagonist and whichever of the four young women he is courting on a particular path. Each of the scenes fall along the lines of being willing and “vanilla” in that there is a relationship and attraction involved rather than some force by either party. Three of the young women get a pair of scenes while one gets only one but it is extended and serves basically the same as two with a switch in positions happening which falls in line with the other scenes where each of the female characters gets a position in each and each young woman also has an oral scene as well. The scenes are largely standard in appearance with no toys involved and very little in the fetish category either and all scenes are free from mosaics.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Coming off the success of Kira Kira and its follow up Encore, Overdrive took a game off to stretch their wings a bit by returning to their Edelweiss property before once again launching into a tale of music bringing a diverse cast of characters together in the face of some adversity in this story set in the same universe as Kira Kira.

The game begins by introducing its protagonist Suganuma Shoichi who is probably best described as incredibly gifted young musician whose whole world had been devoted to his love of the violin and performing on stage. But life isn’t easy even for those who may be considered prodigies and Shoichi finds that his dreams have been shattered by an act he committed which has him returning to Japan crushed as his future prospects look bleak and he is having trouble reconciling his action with his present self.

Luckily for him before he took up the violin and found his focus on it consumed almost all his attention he made friends as a child with Sakurai Kanade. Both of her parents where both in a band before she was born and her father Sadao now owns and operates a live house known as 696 which places in a position to help Shoichi find both employment and a place to live at the same time as her father has a renovated bus on the roof of the building that can serve as a comfortable living environment for Shoichi tostay in while he works there.

Given Shoichi’s focus on violin he has practically no experience with rock at all and his early days are a bit of an assault on him as he comes to terms with the music as well as the diverse clientele that visits the live house as in addition to putting on concerts the building makes a good part of its money on the private practice rooms that it has available for booking. It is through these rooms that Shoichi first meets the irascible but very talented bassist Gonda Eiji with whom he butts heads when Eiji litters outside 696 on his way to stop in as Shoichi is attempting to clean.

It isn’t the only coincidence –or perhaps working of fate- that Shoichi discovers as he stumbles across a high school girl (Kaguya Riho) walking home bare foot as she is also being harassed by some local youth as her looks have caught their eye. While his rescue attempt doesn’t go as planned (it actually fails miserably) a connection is formed and when he discovers more about this girl he will become mesmerized by more than just her attitude and demeanor.

In short order Shoichi develops an interest in rock leading Sadao to offer to let Shoichi to choose from a number of guitars he has available and it seems that there is something special about the instrument Shoichi chooses from the older man’s reaction. But the guitar is a different instrument than a violin and while Shoichi seems to have a gift for music that branches to this new interest he can’t learn it alone. To help him Shoichi is introduced to Ohba Yayoi, a young woman who is supremely talented on the guitar in her own right (even if she changes a bit from her usual demeanor while playing the instrument) and who is willing to tutor him in exchange for practice time at the live house. Though gifted she is at a cross roads in her life as she is coming up on her final year in high school and she has to decide if she is going to focus on college entrance exams or find some other path for her life.

The final main actor in this drama is Tamano Rimu whose father was a skilled musician and who taught her drums from an early age though he left her mother and her when she was not very old. Whether it was this young start or something in her blood, Rimu possesses a spectacular skill that far exceeds her age, though unfortunately she also seems to possess an extremely capricious temperament and her ability to focus is a bit lacking which makes her come off as spacey and less than completely reliable and which when combined with her inability to coexist well with those not up to her level of performance makes for a bit of a volatile combination when it comes to building a group chemistry. Still a band needs a drummer and eccentricity seems to be the flavor of the day when it comes to the supremely talented musicians.

As Shoichi’s skill grows so does his desire to once again perform on a stage and so he is going to have to try to persuade the gifted people he has run into to form a band with him though he is going to have to work hard himself as his innate talent is going to be playing catch up with those who may not have his raw gifts but who have been diligent in honing the skills they do have through years of practice which leaves the prodigy in an odd place as the weakest link in the chain. In order to impress them he is going to have to show his passion as well as ability to grow fast least they grow weary of him holding them back and move on to other groups as many of them have talents that other bands are dying to get into their group- though this may be the least of his tasks as each member brings their own baggage with them and on top of that securing their talents may also make enemies of those who also want those same members to play with them.  But if they can somehow bond together perhaps their talent can take them father then they allow themselves to realistically dream as the group may find that the road ahead offers the chance to find fame and fortune- but will the road also allow for the chance that each members past or fears may catch up with them as well? And will this group of individuals find it within them to handle success and all the temptations and trials that may come with it or will they wind up being the kind of story of a group that didn’t quite make it that fans of the group talk about years later?

Creating something that captures people’s attention isn’t easy. For every best seller there are hundreds of books that will never make their authors rich, and for every one of those books that don’t bring fame and fortune there are hundreds- if not thousands- of ideas that never make it that far, either by never finding a publisher or by the person who has the idea simply not believing it is worth the trouble as they don’t think the idea will capture people’s other imaginations. And if success is hard, following it up can be even harder as there are scores of lists of “one hit wonders” who produce a song, book or film that gathers attention and sales and whose creators are unable to follow that big hit up with something that even approaches the success of that one hit. With Kira Kira Overdrive had created a fantastic tale of a group of students who found a new aspect to their lives as well as love through their bond in music. But even with a follow up in Encore and a release in another of their series franchises one might be forgiven for wondering if Deardrops might not be returning to the music well too soon.

I make no bones about it- I loved Kira Kira and found that it was a fantastic journey with a group of friends who had some connections (to various degrees) beforehand but were only brought together in a close knit bond because of the band they form. In part this was due to the main character Shikanosuke Maejima who while not completely likeable due to his apathetic nature at least was the kind of character that seemed rather normal (other than his looks anyway) and who once spurred on rose to the occasion. In Deardrops though main character Suganuma Shoichi is about as far away from Maejima as one can get as from a very young age his talent was recognized and he had poured everything he was into it before he lost it all in one act. While he is often likable if not a bit depressed (understandably) at the beginning of the game the idea of using a genius as the protagonist rather than a more relatable and ordinary young man is a bit of a hurdle for the game to clear as if one doesn’t buy into Shoichi and his struggles the game can be hard to get into. In order to try to combat this, the writers gave him some very relatable issues of trying to figure out what to do with his future even if the specifics may not resonate with everyone.

Probably the biggest hurdle the game has though is that the writers chose to save some of the best moments that really define the characters and make them shine for the individual arcs with the revelation of Shoichi’s past being slightly different in some and the other male band member Gonda and the demons that drive him only being reveled in one particular route. This is a tremendous risk as it creates a barrier between the characters as they interact with each other as well as for the audience to really bond with them as a couple of the characters have some major quirks and psychological baggage behind it but the long journey to get to some of these motivations may wear the audience out. This stretching of some of these revelations out can make it so that the audience builds up a level of hostility (or worse indifference) to the characters that just can’t be overcome when the game finally gets to the point of opening up the character and finally letting the audience in to their emotions and drives that they had been hiding to one extent or another. Leaving so much to the individual paths is a bit of a risk as it can concentrate all the emotions in one spot leaving the audience overwhelmed when they finally get there, though the intention was probably to create a crescendo effect that would be remembered better than some of the more mundane (by comparison) moments earlier in the game where the absurdity of the actions was the highlight rather than the psychological underpinnings.

That isn’t to say that the game isn’t a success because it really is in most respects. Outside of Rimu whose route couldn’t pull back the moderate dislike/apathy that I had developed toward, the individual paths really opened up the other members as characters and made them finally feel complete along with dragging the protagonist into the limelight as well as his past butted up against the future both of the group as well as the future he was heading toward with whatever girls path he was on. The revelations of both the past that haunts him as well as that which haunts another band member were masterfully done and when combined with the band’s actions as a whole as well as the individual actions with the chosen girl they these revelations pull back the curtains that the writers kept around the characters for a good deal of the game and which serves to flesh them out and make them memorable.

This curtain as it were is probably the biggest fault the game has as it separates the audience from getting to know the characters and it is probably in acknowledgement of this that the writers had to create an antagonistic character for the group to gather against in the early stage of the game but which felt less like a believable and realistic challenge than like something out of a low budget 50’s or 60’s American teen beach flick it its execution. It is a tribute to the writing staff that they were able to get past this mark but perhaps it is a blemish on them that they felt they had to create this moment and save up so much of the revelation behind some of the characters for the really emotionally heavy payoff and which then forced them to try to use a device not all that different from the one in Kira Kira to accomplish this which may cause some feelings of resonation for some users while others may feel it a redundant tool. Still the early parts of the game and some of the difficulties both relating to the shrouded characters as well as caring for some of the trials they face (particularly the one that doesn’t feel quite organic against the early antagonist) may be part of why the payoff works so well as it was definitely a risk taken to save up so much of character motivation and growth to make sure that the endings have an almost palpable ability to floor the audience when they finally arrive. While it doesn’t feel like it quite reaches the zenith that Kira Kira managed, Deardrops finds far more right notes than not and serves as another wonderful journey into the world of music and some of the more colorful characters that journey gathers. Recommended.

In Summary:
While not directly following after Kira Kira as a true sequel exactly, Deardrops returns to the same world that its predecessor played in though it takes a different route by creating a new cast of characters with some very different goals and motivations than those in the earlier game. While some of the initial impact of the game feels a bit muted by the writers holding the characters development close to the vest in early going the eventual payoff in discovering just who the characters that the audience has come to know (if not always love yet) is powerful and which makes Deardrops a title that stands on its own and which brings its own charms to the table while the addition of some wonderful songs created for the game works as icing on the cake. Recommended.

Grade: A-

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