Foreword: And finished! I really think I was burnt out with the crappy games that I’m not giving the “good” ones a fair shot, which is the absolute saddest thing you can do as a eroge veteran/review writer. I’ll be focusing on VNs and eroge a bit more than my MMO hobbies because in my opinion, the former is more important to me.
Immediately hooked on due to the opening movie, this title was first on my priority list (along with Giniro Haruka which is now getting pretty damn painful to play), though as with any game where one has more impact overall, Re:Lief was finished first.
Overall what I could call a “decent” game, I’d conclude that this game is graphically and poetically stunningly beautiful. I love it when games include “morals” within them, which this game had, but as a critical review writer, I’m here to also point out the not-so-beautiful stuff which was really a turn-off and rant worthy in my opinion. For that reason, this review may sound generally negative, but I’d like to remind readers that I tend to exaggerate some of the negative features due to personal bias.
I DO want to mention with GREAT EMPHASIS that due to the nature of this game, as well as what my review needs to cover to properly convey my points, this review will contain spoilers. I hate to include spoilers in my reviews, but I really can’t control what NEEDS to be written in a good review, so I’m really at a loss. I mean I can write a shitty ass, vague review
that you’d see on Getchu, but I’m sure no one (including myself) would want to read it.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS REVIEW WILL CONTAIN HEAVY SPOILERS! PLEASE DO NOT CONTINUE READING FURTHER IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE SPOILED!
Title: Re:LieF ～親愛なるあなたへ～ (To you, my most dearest)
Release Date: October 28, 2016
VNDB Link: https://vndb.org/v19587
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=911416
Game Type: Slice of Life Novel with themes of sociology and life philosophy
and sci-fi bullshit
Summary: Society can be such a harsh place. No matter how hard you try, an unfortunate accident, an abuse of authority, or just simply a series of unlucky encounters can crush a person’s efforts to no end. It’s even more unfair since those who are less worthy to succeed are often the ones who do, and the people who are working so diligently are kicked to the curb having to lick their own wounds.
Tryment Project is a plan for these individuals who were oppressed by the unfairness of society, and need a place to relearn and rejuvenate themselves with new knowledge. It is a place of new hope or new paths, or perhaps even new relationships. In the truest sense, the people who are accepted into this program receive a second chance. However, to the protagonist, Nitta Tsukasa, this wouldn’t be just a second chance…
Story Length: Moderate (20 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Easy
Comments: A fairly easy game to complete, most of the choices are fairly straightforward and easy to understand. There are 3 routes for the 3 heroines as well as a “True Route”, after which additional H-scenes open up for each of the routes as a humorous bonus.
Character Design Rating: 3/10
Story Rating: 6/10
Protagonist Rating: 2/10
Game Quality: High
Overall Rating: 5/10
Rating Comments: Now despite these scores, I wouldn’t necessarily call this a “bad” game. It was pretty good for the most part, but the game leaves out some extremely critical things which make the scores plummet.
Contrary to the game starts with Hinako as the PoV in the beginning, she is just placed there to represent the “unfairness of society” and start off the story. The real protagonist is Tsukasa… who is admittedly pretty bland as fuck. Having him introduced in the beginning lacking impact doesn’t do well to create a good impression on this boy, and how he “acts mysterious” or is solemn for the most part directly contrasts his flamboyant or otherwise insecure personality around others when the game switches to his viewpoint. Later portions of the story show this boy’s weaknesses which further degrade his design since he’s that character who’s supposed to be making the change within the heroines, but it is he himself changed or influenced by them. Tsukasa was lastly a poor representation of readers, because obviously the readers of this story doesn’t have two bishoujo “artificial intelligence” to support them if they need a crying shoulder. Not a good way to go with a slice of life game.
It’s a personal pet peeve when a story presents characters supporting the protagonist when the protagonist didn’t really do anything in return. It works in the context in this scenario (Yuu), but still doesn’t change the fact that he’s worthless
Characters (or heroines more like) receive the same criticisms; they each have their own personality, reason, and motives for participating in this
shady-as-fuck program, but the negative here is that they’re all too naive or simply lack common sense in some areas (which includes the supposedly intelligent heroines such as Momo or Ruka). The game presents these characters as people in their early 20s, but generally had the mindset of middle-school students and one of them actually looked like one seeing them boohoo for over half the game for a single failure they made in the past. There’s also the fact that the extreme lack of subcharacters or “mob characters” (such as other students in the classroom, as an example) made this game much less immersive than what it could have been, along with pretty much all the heroines actually being irrelevant to the main scenario (?!?!) for the most part. More on this later.
Story is obviously the best thing this game has to offer, presenting a very poetic overall tone to the readers though the entirety of the game does have that “slice of life” ish aura throughout. The score for story is much less than what it could have received due to two things: One, the game leaves out critical story elements as I’ll rant in the comments section, and Two, the game tries to include bullshit sci-fi elements and crush that aforementioned “slice of life” atmosphere, which was what was more desirable. Again more
ranting info on this later.
Hinako is the character whose viewpoint you receive first, being harassed by her superior at work after she fails her assignment for the second time. Having just graduated from high-school, she thought she could become independent by working, but soon realizes that her skills in the office are abysmal and eventually finds herself settling into a routine of simply riding the subway just to emulate her “going to work” until hearing about the Tryment Program from a senior.
Unfitting for a woman in her early 20s, Hinako is naive, slightly childish to a certain extent, and cheerful. Despite this personality, she has suffered a traumatic experience with “presentations” to the point she faints on the first day, but grows strong within her group of friends to the point she is able to lead them on her ideals. Hinako was really a character who fit the game’s theme of “Try Again One More Time”, along with how she herself was a dynamic character.
Contrary to how I found her character to be well designed, I found Hinako to be extremely naive and like the protagonist Tsukasa, fragile both mentally and physically. While she does have that slow (To be honest, it wasn’t that gradual) change into becoming independent, I really didn’t like how it was never Tsukasa who caused this change, but the group of friends around her or Milya (who I’ll rant about later). In this sense, I felt as if Hinako was “more protagonist-like” than Tsukasa himself, who I’ll cover later.
Ruka is essentially in the same boat as Hinako, though her story is a bit more tragic as that member who was unable to leave her current company which was crumbling already due of her own stubborn pride and hubris that she would be able to change the company for the better. Reality slaps the girl with failure as she wonders if there was something she did wrong as she also becomes a participant for the Tryment Project.
Her route is mostly about her pride in her abilities which was crushed due to said previous event, and her trying to obtain some form of accreditation by studying all the time.
However, her route (as well as Momo’s for that matter) are extremely vague. Ruka’s route ends with Tsukasa essentially having a deus-ex-machina and remembering the entirety of his past and pretty much freeing the entire population on this island using his Authority, with Ruka finding this boy in a coma in real life. Basically, the Ruka’s route is most similar to the True Route, except for the fact that Tsukasa is still in a coma.
Momo is considered a child genius, as someone who has successfully created a fully independent AI capable of returning and providing conversation, just like a normal human. While all these efforts were to follow her parent’s footsteps as scientists, she was always left alone. In retrospect, she seemed most like Kyouko, Tsukasa’s mother.
Momo’s route starts with Toto, her AI, seeming to have emotions; something she didn’t expect the AI to have. This causes the two to argue, which requires Tsukasa to step in and resolve.
Momo’s route ends with Momo leaving this island for something, and Tsukasa being left alone in this island with the incarnation of Toto who agree to “wait for Momo with him”.
This scene would incite so much “wtf” if the reader didn’t go through the last route. I’d say this is a bad thing, because the writers are essentially dependent on the readers to forget most of the bullshit that happened in this route to have that “ah-ha!” moment after finishing the last route. (e.g. If someone went through Momo’s route after having played the last route, they’ll probably see a lot more flaws than if they didn’t)
Despite how vague the endings are for the three routes previously, they are more than enough to realize a lot of things that the True Route reveals more explicitly and in more detail,. In the unlikely scenario the viewers reading this are unaware, I’ll list them below. The problem with most of these points are that they’re missing the explanation or at least vague:
- This island is a virtual reality created by Kyouko to save her son (Tsukasa) who was fatally injured from an accident and put into a coma.
- Previously, this “Tryment Project” did exist, but as Kyouko changed the purpose of this project to save her son (and bring in AIs to do so as well), the result was that all the participants (including the staff) were locked in this virtual reality.
- “Authorities” are the only ones able to unlock the gateway to the real world, and are Yuu and Tsukasa.
- “Yuu” or “Alpha” is the very first AI created by Kyouko and assigned to look after Tsukasa ever since he was bullied at school.
- Ai is a clone of Yuu, which raises the question why the heck she is the heroine for this true route when she’s not even relevant.
- The Tsukasa you’ve seen in the three routes are fake, meaning they’re Tsukasa’s alternate ego minus his black box past of being bullied; or in the purest sense, what Tsukasa wanted to be. The real Tsukasa appears for the first time in the True Route as he stabs his fake.
So basically, my reaction towards all this was:
Aside from the painful fact that Ai was somehow the heroine for this route (even though the choices suggest it would have been Milya instead), this true route suggests that the previous routes the reader saw were only “possibilities” and the heroines themselves are relatively worthless; the true route is essentially about Tsukasa needing to “grow a pair” and stop being a wimp just because he was bullied
Then there’s the deus-ex-machina where Tsukasa recovers from the fatal accident and no one’s obviously going to mention it because it’s one of those “unspoken rules” /sarcasm
The real problem I had by the end of the true route was that very little of the stuff that the game presents are explained (as I’ll rant in the comments section below). However, this true route does give you a very vague answer to why stuff happened in the heroine routes as it did, so I guess in that sense it had meaning.
On the other hand, Tsukasa was matched best with Hinako, so I’m wondering why the writers decided to stick with Ai as the heroine for the last route.
Sexual Content: Low
Comments: Alright. Let’s get to the
ranting criticisms first before I forget about them. There’s a lot.
First is the romance. Absolute shit. People lied to me when they said it was “just a bit rushed” because it was more or less absent even when compared to nukige. It was at least a relief that this “romance” was short-lived and there was only one H-scene to break the otherwise engaging atmosphere of the story, but the mere fact that it exists (as well as how the True Route was literally Tsukasa
man’ ing up and coming to confess to Ai for absolutely no fucking reason), the game would have done better simply by making this an all-ages title and removing most of the romance. If at all, they should’ve had the romance start from after this game ended–I probably have more romance with my fucking pillow that I drool over at night than the characters in this game.
Character relationships were also formed a bit too rapid in my opinion as well. They literally spend maybe 2 months and by the final route heroines are saying they “know Tsukasa so well they can read his moves”
Second is the game setting. Oh, a mysterious program with a mysterious motive but on the outside helping those who failed in society take another chance? Doesn’t this sound all a bit too convenient? The mere setting was almost screaming at my face since I’ve received the synopsis that there’s something behind all this…
Which is that stupid, idiotic, and unnecessary sci-fi. Yes, I’m salty that the theme changed from a nice reality slice-of-life game where you might see characters overcoming their traumas to ridiculous theories about AIs, fictional characters that weren’t even relevant, and various story elements (cherry blossoms, piano) thrown around just to give this that “poetic” atmosphere. This might be a bias on my part, but anything “fantasy”, whether it be magic, technology, or anything fictional just bugs the hell out of me when it’s not properly introduced in the beginning. This game thought it would be cool to have it be a source of several unexplained events and deus ex machinas, so fuck you game; I’m criticizing you for it.
Why did you need to include the fantasy, game? You were doing so well without it.
Unlike Sakura no Uta and similar games of this atmosphere, the game does a very poor job with foreshadows. One route ends with the readers having absolutely no idea what the fuck happened, then the True Route goes ahead and reveals everything in the most incoherent way possible, it sounds like I’m playing this game all over again, which is never a good thing (though at least this game had the impact). It was a good trait that the readers are given that “ah-ha!” about that heroine route after having finished the true route, but even then the analysis of the heroine route is left up to the readers and made things much more vague, which raised additional questions.
Next is Milya and Ai’s design. The former character is an actual person from the real world (not an AI) named Saki related to Hinako, but her role was more or less absent throughout the entire game (in addition to her name “Milya” not having a definite explanation). The game makes many suggestions that she herself IS an AI, but the reason why Milya was added to this overall story was simply unexplained. In fact, Milya’s addition to the story gave more focus on Hinako instead and helped her look more like a protagonist than Tsukasa. As it stands, she had absolutely no relation to him either.
Same with Ai. The game makes the obvious comment she’s related to Yuu, and it’s later revealed that she’s a clone of her… but for what purpose? Why was she considered the heroine or why does she have a different personality/mindset than Yuu? The game does make the very vague implication that Ai is an AI who has “advanced” by learning from her mistakes (which is another theme this game conveys), but that raises the question of “when” such advancement occurred. This lack of explanations is reminding me of Dark Souls. At least that game had good lore goddamnit
Simply put, the writers may have had some intentions of creating a game this vague and unexplained, but as it stands right now, such intentions, morals, and lessons were very poorly conveyed to the readers. As a matter of fact, a quick look-up at the writer’s profiles on Getchu show that this was their first work, so I would highly doubt they had the experience or skills to connect all the dots they presented in the end. If at all, I’m seeing idiots on Getchu saying this game was “deep and meaningful”, and I’m just facepalming that there are people who can’t take anything with a grain of salt and somehow ignore all the bad parts of this game.
Don’t even get me started on how Yuu, an AI, gets CONVINCED by Ai, another AI who’s a clone of her. Sure that makes perfect fucking sense. Why don’t we also put two computers to play chess against each other and watch that because that’s fun as hell.
End rant. Let’s talk about some good points. Overall the poetic atmosphere was appreciated, though as mentioned previously, some of the story elements should have been elaborated more (piano/cherry blossoms). The character’s viewpoints and theory on sociology and life philosophy in the beginning was really nice though I absolutely despised how the topic shifted to sci-fi bullshit (Yes. I’m saying this twice because it really means that much to me). As it stands, characters were well designed (with a unique background/conflict of their own) in the beginning, but the later portions of the game pretty much throw that all outside the window and makes each of them worthless to the scenario (e.g. Ruka doesn’t contribute to the true route at all).
Music is something I won’t hesitate to praise this game for, with very soothing and gentle tunes along with melancholic lyrics which does do well to give this game that serious tone. The fact that the game contains moral lessons make this game one of the more valuable ones, and as everyone who played the game will mention, the CGs are quite an eyecandy for veterans and amateurs alike who enjoys this genre, so I would definitely recommend playing this game if the visual/auditory elements of a Visual Novel are more important to you.
It’s quite beautiful in my opinion.
Affection for the Characters: Low
CG Score: 8/10. The lack of characters in general equals the lack of CGs/Sprites for them, but otherwise I praise this game’s artwork.
Music Score: 8/10. Love the music; as mentioned, I was really drawn to this game by the opening movie. It’s just unfortunate that the lyrics of the Opening didn’t really match up to the romance of the game (LOL)
- Music is great and the thing which brought me to try this game out.
- Art overall is stunning, unique, and beautiful.
- Game includes important morals such as “Keep trying” and “Don’t give up” and elaborates on those morals.
- Heroines are unique and colorful for the most part; it’s just that they should have had more participation within the last route.
- Romance is objectively bad
- Heroines rarely make a difference for the story as a whole and seems more to be placed in the story for H-scenes.
- Protagonist is a spineless wimp who the readers can’t relate to, making him more annoying for the readers who have suffered much more than simple “bullies”.
- Players are likely to drop this game if the ending of the three heroine routes becoming too vague and frustrating. It’s a game that you absolutely need to complete 100% to even try to understand what it was trying to convey, and even then might incite the question “Well why didn’t they just get on with what they wanted to show the readers from the start?”… At least that’s what I thought
- The game rushes through everything too quickly. Whether it be romance, the conflicts, or even the main details that contribute to the theme of the game (explanation of AI, theories on how said AIs obtain emotion or “learn”), there’s no effort to help the reader keep up with the information presented and the story just zips by.
So overall, this game was quite a disappointment. Yes, it started out strong, but never bothered to explain many of the things they presented (e.g. Cherry Blossom, Milya, Theory of AIs obtaining emotions) and left everything so vague it was almost a philosophy itself trying to analyze this game. Yes, the morals presented over and over by the end of the game were more clear, and while it was an uncommon way to present the same topic, doing a very roundabout way of presenting said moral “Do your best and never give up” made them include more unnecessary crap (such as sci-fi) than anything else. Yes, the game was very heartwarming indeed, but that does not cover up or become an excuse for poor story elements I’ve found in this game.
Re:Lief is a game that’s overrated in my opinion for its visual or auditory elements to the point players do not have a second thought at HOW the game presented its morals. This lack was completely a turn off for me, and prevented me from having a good time with this game.
Also, did anyone see the reason why they opted to capitalize every beginning and last letter in their words for like, everything?