As you may know, I’ve been working on an ongoing project where I follow five Kickstarter titles from their initial campaign to the game’s release. One of the games I picked is Reimei No Gakuen, a visual novel that is about one thousand dollars away from being funded with twenty-five days to go. I thought I would give the demo for Reimei No Gakuen a try and give my general impressions of the game.
The first thing I noticed is that the demo for Reimei No Gakuen is fairly impressive from a length standpoint. It took me about two hours to finish and is comprised of the prologue and first chapter of the game. The final game boasts seventy or more hours of gameplay with branching storylines and multiple endings, so I have no doubts that there is plenty more to come in this story, with this demo being just a sliver of the overall content. Still, the demo’s length shows that the developers have a pretty good idea of where the game’s story is going, which gives me confidence in the final project.
What gave me a little less confidence was how unfinished the demo felt. While I understand that this game is in an alpha state, a lot of the backgrounds and character models were in varying states of unfinished, from just looking a little unpolished all the way to black and white sketches being used as placeholders. It’s understandable, but since visual novels don’t have gameplay to sell people on, the graphics are an important part of the game, so it would have been nice to see a little more polish around the art.
The art that was finished, however, was beautiful. Both backgrounds and character models are unique and pleasing to the eye, so I’m just sad about how jarring it was to look at a beautiful finished scene and then go to a black-and-white sketch for the next backdrop. It makes me wonder if a demo that was smaller in scope, maybe even just an introduction to the characters that was separate from the main story altogether using fully finished assets, might have been a better option. That would allow for a more polished overall demo, while still allowing people to get a taste of what’s to come and decide if they want to back the project.
Still, at the end of the day, a visual novel needs to have a strong story to be worth playing, and this is where Reimei No Gakuen shines. The central premise is that some young people are born with special powers, but those powers come with this curse of sorts that brings great misfortune into their lives. Students with these powers hide away from demons and beasts that may want to harm them by going to a special school. The game follows Sheryl, who has been at the school for several years, as strange events begin to unfold around her. Sure, the plot sounds a little like X-Men, but I still really enjoyed my two hours and think the story has a strong setup and holds a lot of promise for the future.
In terms of the overall presentation of the story, however, there’s still some work that needs to be done, though nothing here is a deal-breaker. The entire prologue scene is basically one giant info-dump as Sheryl narrates the entire backstory and lore of the game, only for it to be explained again later on in chapter one. I’m not a big fan of over-reliance on narration to give lore, so I think I would prefer to just start at the beginning of chapter one and piece things together myself, rather than have the prologue spoon-fed to me. The game also keeps telling me about character’s personality quirks, such as this person being shy or this person actually being quite forceful or hostile, but nothing in their written dialogue really makes me believe these statements to be true. Some more work in making the character dialogue unique and easily differentiated is something that could really elevate this game from good to great upon its final release.
Overall, I’m really excited for this game, so the demo did its job. I would have liked to see a little more polish on the demo, but I still think that it should sell people on the story and hopefully be enough to meet its campaign goal. If you want to try the demo yourself, it can be downloaded here, and the Kickstarter campaign can be found here if you want to toss a few bucks toward the game. I’m really intrigued by the story and can’t wait to see what comes of this!