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Norn9: Var Commons Review, part 02

magic The first part of the review is here and includes my thoughts on Senri, Kakeru, Sakuya, and Heishi and is free of spoilers.

holllywhat This is going to include spoilers for the entire game. Like seriously, I go into one of the big surprises of Akito’s route two sentences into it.

The Espers

Of the routes I have left, I’m going to divide them into two — the Espers and the Rebels.

Akito

He had an interesting story. For one, we learn a lot about his and Nanami’s past, along with Senri’s past.

I did not expect at all that he was actually Senri’s brother, or that he and Nanami knew each other from the past, and hated each other for it. The fact that in their route all three of them managed to find some sort of happiness by the end was great.

What’s particularly nice about their story is that it has forgiveness, awkward romance, and a good amount of lore. They end up growing as a result of their romance and find redemption to what plagued them. It was nice reading a story about two people that grew as a result of their romance and found happiness in each other, especially since I did his story after Ron’s, which wasn’t exactly… well, you’ll read my opinions on that in a moment.

Oddly, my only complaint is Nanami as a character is really… boring? I think it’s her monotone voice. She acts really oddly at times too. Almost impulsive but she goes from being impulsive to being excessively reserved? It’s hard to explain. It was really hard reading about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, though. She spends a lot of time talking about her past. Before I lost the reviews the first time, I had reviewed SWD: Scarlet Fate. If you’ve played it, the heroine’s narration is similar to Nanami. If you haven’t, she obsesses over her past sins constantly. When I think of that game I think of “sinning sin sins sinner sinned”. Thankfully she’s not that repetitive, but she does have guilt that haunts her every day.

There is one detail that I found odd. In another route (tbh I forgot who, one of the rec’d routes I played in the beginning) it was mentioned that the water power was split into two, and Senri and him both had “half” of it. Then in his route he was named basically “not an esper” by Nanami and his non-esper body not being able to handle the water power was a big deal in the plot. But then it’s even mentioned in the end that The World taught him how to steal powers as a kid, and he could only handle a bit before having to stop.

Plot holes, man.halp

Masamune

Ugh, Masamune. If there’s one word for him, it’s disappointment. Ding you just unlocked a keyword

Disappointment there wasn’t anything added to the lore at all (and in fact, it was like  a poorly executed reshash of several other routes)

Disappointment we spent half of the route away from him, and only real interactions were several touchy-feely scenes. Hey, if I don’t feel anything for the guy, I can’t get the nice shivers when I read the touchy-feely scenes, can I?

Disappointment I had to sit through yet again another fairytale dream. JFC it was hokey the first few times I played it, after all the men I went through it became an annoyance.

And… he did something that just doesn’t sit right with me.

He had Nanami erase her memories. It was for her own happiness, or her own “purity”, whatever the reason you want to use — That just ain’t right, man. You erased a part of her, a part of her that experienced a lot. Yeah, she wasn’t your pure little innocent angel anymore, sure, she would have to mature and grow from it –no matter how miserable she was while doing so.

And he did it without her permission.

That just really got to me.

At that moment, I felt sick after reading it. It’s one thing to ask that of someone. It’s another to do it without their knowledge at all.

Itsuki

Oh, Itsuki. I am not interested in you at all. In fact, I held off this review for months while I waited for the urge to finish you up and this review.

I guess, I didn’t like it. But it’s not like it offended me bad, it just wasn’t good enough to get my attention bad.  It’s well documented here on the site that I’m not fond of the playboy archetype. Itsuki honestly wasn’t a bad portrayal of that at all. I just thought his story was boring, that’s all.

I felt like his was also self-contained like Heishi and you wouldn’t ruin anything by playing his first.

The Rebels

Two of the men available aren’t espers and they don’t have any powers. One is linked to Nanami and the other is linked to Mikoto. Actually, I played their routes straight after playing the recommended. nervous I just really like the conflicted/complex sort of characters. nervous

Ron

Ron’s route interested me because he was the traitor, but not so much because of his personality. And I didn’t enjoy his story.

He’s an interesting character, no doubt, his motivations are all over the place and it’s hard to read him. But the second chapter he forces a kiss on Nanami and it left a sour taste in my mouth. I know I like to read forceful characters all the time (and I even write them), but Nanami’s innocence and the age difference just didn’t do it for me. bummer Oddly, more so than Natsuhiko, he felt more villainous and cruel.

Oddly, the line that stuck out to me the most was on the tragic ending route. Nanami says, “…I don’t hate… things that make me suffer.”

Things I did like —

  • He was blind/nearly blind in one eye. Natsuhiko made him a cybernetic eye and it worked well, but wouldn’t replace his other eye until he finished his mission. In the good ending, he destroys his cybernetic eye in a moment of self-sacrifice, shocking for his character and a show of how far he came. I could believe he would do the things he did to save his sight.
  • Nanami’s power is to erase memories and he chose to have his erased.
  • His bad/sad ending (the true one with the CG) is… well, a natural extension of his character.

On the flipside —

  • There’s just not a point where I felt like there was a love there, not until the very end. I’m okay with the sort of twisted love that Ron is meant to be, but I felt like there weren’t enough moments of true romance between them. It doesn’t help that Nanami also knows there’s not a true romance between them. Hmm, that last part could be something positive too…
  • The sad/tragic ending isn’t so sad when I can’t imagine the point where things changed. For instance, in a truly well-written route, I could pinpoint the times where saying the wrong thing, going the wrong way, ect had consequences and changed the course of time. In this one, he tended to think nothing of her and it didn’t change.

I guess it’s a route that I didn’t like much plot-wise or romance-wise, but I don’t hate it, which is an odd stance to take, I suppose.

Natsuhiko

I loved Natsuhiko and the romance with Mikoto. They’re both odd characters and their romance is quirky and entertaining. In fact, I feel like this is my favorite in the game.

Is it just me or does he look like Gackt?

Err… I feel like I should talk about it more, but I just loved it and I feel bad because I have nothing more to say than that. Jeez, that makes me a bad reviewer, doesn’t it? nervous I guess it’s easier to talk about what you didn’t like than what you liked.

I think what made this a stronger romance was the fact that Mikoto spent most of it away from the rest of the cast and crew, which lead them to focus more on just her and Natsuhiko, which means we learned a lot more about them. By virtue of him being one of the antagonists, we get to know a lot more about the world they’re in and the lore as well.

The fact that he used the little robot hiyoko to get close to her (and secretly voiced it) was adorable.

General Thoughts
  • I didn’t like that esper powers could be stolen and transferred. Mostly because it seemed to be brought up as convenience for something in the plot rather than a true plot point. The characters that knew about it took advantage of it, but they took advantage of it far too late in the plot. Why didn’t they do it earlier and prevent all of their problems?  lolwut I don’t buy “love” as a conflict either, because they still ended up doing it in the end, and in the case of nearly every one, at a completely personally opportunistic point.
  • I absolutely adored the concept. However, all of the routes were really short. bummer
  • But it was completely voiced, even the female parts. upupup Aside from Ron, Senri, and Nanami, I enjoyed the vocal cast. Heishi’s voice annoyed the hell out of me but it was a good performance of that character archetype.
  • Some of the tragic endings were really good. I really like when the bad endings are truly bad. I really like bad ends in general.
  • The fairy tale dream sequence… I do think it was a nice thing in a few routes (Senri and Kakeru), but as a whole I hated that it was reused so often as a crutch.
  • The short routes meant that a lot of routes felt rushed in the romance department, then I felt like I wanted to know more about the world and the lore but instead they focused on the romance aspect…which in most of the routes wasn’t even a good romance. heart12
  • I adored the world and the concept, I just wish it had enough breathing room to do it justice. I feel like a lot of this is wasted potential and it frustrates me because it could have been so so so so so so much better.
  • The music is amazing. I loved listening to the soundtrack.
  • The art is nice too. Nothing groundbreaking, nothing really wowed me, but I did enjoy the artstyle and the little sidegame with the 8-bit sprites was great.
  • Hey, that kid that was there for no reason? Yeah, that’s all. No reason. Barely factors into anything at all. Why even have the character exist?
  • I would like to say that having him exist for an infodump epilogue in an attempt to tie up loose ends that should have been tied up in the actual routes is a cheap cop-out.
  • And this is coming from someone who actually ended up liking the precocious kid by the end of it.

Final Score

heartglowheartglowheartglow

My normal grading system doesn’t really apply here. But it’s not a horrible game, it’s just not a great one, and eeks by as good for certain parts. If you’re buying to support otome games in the west, you will still have a few good routes and a promising lore to make it worth it. It’s just not going to have crossover appeal, which is disappointing, because I feel like if it had realized the potential of the concept it would have. heart12

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