A blog for reviews… that's really not much of a blog

Foreword: It’s been far too long without a review! I definitely have my schoolwork, employment, and other hobbies to blame, and even thought about quitting this site purely because of how little I was able to read VNs.

On the other hand, critiquing and reading VNs is one of the hobbies that I find unique about myself, so I just can’t really blow it off. It’s admittedly quite fun, especially when I get to talk trash about a title I hate. Why do you think I read bad VNs, you nerds?

However, I ultimately decided to swallow my pride and start DROPPING games. I generally had a very negative connotation about players dropping games in the first place (and still do, don’t get me wrong), but when one doesn’t have enough time to spend on a title as myself, this is pretty much the only option available since there’s way too many titles that’s dragging my time and not worth reading when in the end I’ll be complaining about how shitty it is anyways.

My biggest critique about players dropping games for whatever reason is that said reason is never expressed and doesn’t provide the player’s impressions on that game. This is why even if I do end up dropping games, I plan on mentioning them as well as my reason for dropping them. Whether I’ll do this as a monthly post or along with other reviews, this’ll be from trial-and-error, so please bear with me in that aspect.

Onto this title though, Kanojo Step! To be honest, I was actually quite surprised I completely forgot about this title; primarily because Smee is a company I find favorable especially with their writers specializing in intricate but silly humor. Overall though, I found this title was pretty much a copy-paste of another dating sim I found to be good, Lovely x Cation 2, so that was something I didn’t appreciate.

Let’s get on with the review!

P.S. After reading my review after writing it, it sounds pretty cringey, so I apologize in advance. I guess I forgot how2write during the long break.

Title: カノジョ*ステップ (Kanojo * Step)
Producers: Smee
Release Date: September 30, 2016
VNDB Link: https://vndb.org/v19347
Getchu Link: http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=903610
Game Type: Comedy Dating Sim

Summary: Aki has never belonged anywhere due to his parents always moving around from one place to another, he was never able to make friends or form a deep relationship with anyone. With his parent’s death, his older sister takes him in and brings him to the countryside, where she promises would be the last “relocation”, and encourages him to form relationships here.

While Aki hates many things about the countryside including bugs or the lack of convenience stores, he is still grateful to his older sister for bringing him here, and genuinely decides to foster relationships he thought he wouldn’t be able to form during his school years. Perhaps that it’s time for him to settle down.

No Shiina, you can’t settle down on that bench

Story Length: Moderately Long (25 hours)
Complete Story Clearing Difficulty: Moderate
Comments: The difficulty stems from how there’s actually FIVE heroines and not the four that you see prominently on the front cover. This also took me by surprise as it turns out that fifth heroine is more of a bonus route that you can unlock via certain ways, and this was quite an interesting concept I’d like to discuss in a bit.

Tomiko asking for attention because the writers obviously didn’t like her :^)

Regardless, after selecting the heroine, you are given a scenario and ultimately three options to “respond” to the heroine; one of which will raise the affection of the heroine as denoted by a jingle sound effect and the flashing of hearts on the bottom right corner. Unlike Fureraba, it seems that selecting the wrong option continuously ends up with the given heroine impossible to “capture”. (aka, you’ll be stuck with a bad route)

Character Design Rating: 7/10
Story Rating: 5/10
Protagonist Rating: 8/10
Game Quality: Moderate
Overall Rating: 7/10
Rating Comments: Quite the high ratings indeed, the protagonist was actually a bit better this time around purely because he was displayed as someone who was more intelligent than what previous games displayed. While limited, Aki does have small bits of knowledge which allows him to genuinely start up conversations with girls, and I especially appreciated how his ideals on romance was well displayed through his monologues. As with previous game’s protagonists, he participates in the humor quite extensively as well.

Characters are also quite colorful, each of them having traits and problems of her own which is slowly displayed to the readers as you progress with the story, it was quite a bonus to have a fifth heroine in addition to all this which added more enjoyment for me as someone who like these kinds of games.

It also brought back the old concepts of romantic relationships

On the other hand, it should be noted that unlike Fureraba, Kanojo Step heavily lacked subcharacters and their interactions, and heroine involvement in other heroine’s routes. It wasn’t too drastic, however, so I didn’t think it was that great of a problem.

Story is more or less lacking, as the typical school-life romance background revolving around heroine conflicts. This game starts out very humorously and maintains that humor creating a rather shallow and light-hearted story. The problem with this is that it makes the transitions into heroine conflicts and the more “serious” scenarios later on much more difficult, and this game especially suffered with how and why heroines would feel such strong and unconditional affection for Aki (and vice versa) only after a couple weeks or months, similar to Fureraba.

Character Summary:

Not so archetypical as the student council president is Shiina, who is the girl who Aki meets on the first day of arriving at this countryside and someone who has quite the sense of humor which was a good match with our protagonist.

Born and raised in this town all her life, Shiina genuinely takes pride in her birthplace and has various hobbies of her own which involves taking care of the school garden or the children in her free time. This well-rounded heroine seems to be top in academics and athletics, but doesn’t seem to have a boyfriend for some strange reason, which is what interests Aki to get closer to this upperclassman.

As it turns out, there was two reasons for this; Shiina herself claims no one was able to really stand out in her eyes, in addition to how all the guys she knew seemed like family, AND her father strictly prohibiting such romantic relationships advocating educational goals instead.

As Aki spends time with Shiina, he finds his interest towards her mutate into affection, and soon comes to challenge the two things which kept the heroine from being involved too much in romance.

The girl who is introduced soon after Aki arrives at a motel where he was to stay, this well-mannered girl is completely opposite to him in the sense she loves insects and mother nature. Well-mannered and calm describes Noe, who enjoys reading and spends most of her time in the library, and she’s shown even to be very shy and timid in her route.

Her interaction with Aki starts out by being classmates, but soon comes to open her heart as Aki displays utmost respect for her, calling her Noe-sensei, and continuously being in her radar, if you will.

Noe actually displays bits of androphobia, which has prevented anyone from being too close to her. Aki soon realizes the best way to befriend this girl would be to continuously pursue her, and the two soon form an inseparable bond.

She literally “falls from the sky” as according to Aki, who is utterly surprised at this and how athletic Asuka can be. While slightly less intelligent, Asuka is very flexible and mobile, which leaves a strong impression on the protagonist, along with how her acrobatics outfit was “erotic” in his eyes.

Like Noe, Aki’s relationship with Asuka start as simple classmates, and begins when Aki witnesses Asuka’s passion for acrobatics for which he found to be mesmerizing. This results in him trying to know more about the girl and finding out many things including how she started performing acrobatics to become more like her older sister.

More straightforward and honest, Asuka is someone Aki admits to being jealous of, because she “has something she’s passionate about, unlike me”, and aims to assist her fully in her goals. This leads to the girl falling for the protagonist, which begins Asuka’s route.

Quite an interesting character, the girl immediately responds to Aki’s jokes and humor without batting an eye, and this really surprises the protagonist. Originally meeting each other in the art room for which the club is mostly nonexistent, Aki describes Kuon to be a beautiful girl who looks like a doll, which brings him back again and again.

Seemingly an “ojousama”, Kuon is shown to be rather lacking in terms of commoner’s ways (which is ironic because this is a countryside), and Aki manages to teach her about various fun activities from camping the convenience store or teaching her about board games.

Corresponding to her appearance, Kuon is rather childish and covers this personality with a graceful facade. However, she finds herself showing her real self to Aki exclusively, for which she states is “more comfortable” around him.

The fifth and final heroine who is not shown anywhere, this heroine can be captured as you interact with other subcharacters and is displayed first as a girl with very little self-confidence in herself due to years of teasing from both boys and girls. This lack of self-confidence almost becomes an annoyance as it is repeated over and over again, while Aki himself believes that this is the reason why he can’t really leave her alone.

Quite an interesting take on designing a route, I found Tomiko’s route to be an interesting one purely because it seemed to be the most “natural”; how you might meet a girl like Tomiko who changes gradually with the protagonist’s help. Strangely enough, I found her route to involve the other main heroines the most, giving that immersion which was not present in any other part of the game.

It’s just a pity Tomiko’s route was rather short compared to the other ones.

Aw yis, gimme dat shirt of yours

Sexual Content: Moderate

Comments: So I would call this game a “good dating sim” based on what I’ve seen in the game. It really had the atmosphere of a different game called “Lovely Cation 2”, with the humor that I’ve seen in both Fureraba and Pure Connect. While I do sometime criticize the entire game for being rather generic with its settings, the writers were really able to go above and beyond their parameters (e.g. having “part-time” experience at the sole convenience store in Kuon’s route) or incorporate many “rural” aspects that I was foreign to, so this attention to detail was something I greatly appreciated.

I really didn’t see anything this game did terribly wrong. I guess there’s the fact that the immersion of this title was lacking and the romantic transitioning was also absent, but considering how that’s the “norm” of galge nowadays, I’m not even mad at this anymore and genuinely wondering if it’s just me or the past titles just being that much better in terms of displaying character romance.

A couple of things I did want to mention was that the pronouns utilized by heroines seemed very inappropriate. To clarify, Kanojo Step has a feature where you can choose to have the heroine call the protagonist by his default name (Kobayashi Aki), or simply a secondary pronoun, such as “あなた (anata)” or “君 (kimi)”. Problem is, even if you do select the former option and expect the heroines to use the pronouns like “Kobayashi-kun” or “Aki-kun”, the general secondary pronouns are much more prevalent which made some scenes rather awkward (such as with Kuon calling Aki “anata” even when it’s rather inappropriate in context). This was rather subtle back in Fureraba and Lovely x Cation 2 pretty much had a whole different system for protagonist’s pronouns.

This sentence (if you can read Japanese) is really awkward with “anata” as its pronoun. On the other hand, a specific pronoun such as “Aki-kun” would make it more fluid.

Another thing I wanted to mention was the design of Tomiko; there is absolutely zero information about her on any official page despite the fact she also gets a rather complete route of her own. In my opinion, this really worked two ways. For one, this allowed for that “randomness” to take place, meaning if Aki really did transfer and was in a new environment hanging out with his male friends, Tomiko’s route would be the one “most likely” to have happened instead of him actually pursuing any of the other main heroines.

Tomiko’s overall design to be that down-to-earth character allowed for this plausible factor to take place, along with how her route was quite immersive with the remaining heroines appearing and receiving relevance.

Though it should be stated other heroines appear and play a role, more as a “comparison” to the respective one.

On the other hand, this route which was uncalled for was much shorter, with the character herself not exactly the most attractive one. Tomiko’s route had that sense of reality but if I had to be critical, her character was frankly annoying and the romance between the characters was even worse than the other heroines.

Affection for the Characters: High

CG Score: 5/10. Not really a fan of this art. Wish Ametoyuki came back :(
Music Score: 6/10.

Addictiveness: Low

Conclusion:

Pros

  • As with previous Smee games, the humor is great and highly intricate.
  • Characters are relatively original, colorful, and contributes well to the humor
  • It is easy to feel affection for the heroines, which was this game’s goal as a charage.
  • As surprising as it is, most H-scenes are worth going through purely for how erotic or descriptive it can be.
  • Protagonist is more ideal this time around

Cons

  • The game is excessively is like a copy-paste from other dating sims
  • The humor gets slightly excessive to the point the entire game becomes shallow, and makes the heroine routes a bit less valuable for what it’s worth
  • Strangely, the 5th route (Tomiko) was most immersive meaning it involved all the characters to the greatest extent, almost seeming like a “true route”
  • It was quite unnatural how each relationship was formed, and makes it so that the romance in this game is rushed.

Overall, Kanojo Step is not that great of an improvement from other Smee games (except Pure Connect was shit), but that last bit with Tomiko’s route was something unique I found to be enjoyable and a good twist to the norm of galge. While I’m rather disdainful about the artist and the large lack of CGs in general, Kanojo Step should be on your list to play if you’ve enjoyed previous Smee games, or is a fan of dating sims in general.

Again, this game wasn’t extraordinary, but it was definitely not “bad”.

P.S. ALL ABOARD THE HYPE BOAT; THE GODDESS TSUBASU IZUMI HAS RETURNED please don’t be shit like karesekai. I’d genuinely bawl my eyes out

(Looks like the game will be released in “parts”, however… Not sure if that’s a good thing. We’ll see how it goes)


Dropped Games:

Magical Dears: Why did I expect anything from Navel Honeybell? I remember them for having a good concept at creating games but the worst form of execution to the point it’s just plain cringe. Here you have essentially a story that’s supposed to be geared towards population of over 18 years of age and this game seems and feels like it’s geared to middle-school kids with all this chuunibyou and harem bullshit. I picked this game up due to my favorite CVs, Ichikawa Hinako (in addition to some pretty nice CVs including Akino Hana, Fujisaki Usa, and Kusuhara Yui) voicing a character but immediately regretted it from the prologue where I knew this game would be shit.

Zannen na Ane to no Love Comedy: Well-done love triangles dictate the “best story” in terms of romance, and this was what I half-expected in this game… which turned out to be more of a bakage instead. The beginning just rambles on too much about the lifestyle of characters and subcharacters and has nothing to do with Miyuki’s relationship with his older sisters nor their utmost affection for him.

Didn’t really like Miyuki’s design either, so I didn’t really have too much fun with this title and the huge focus on H-scenes was a turnoff in the end.

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Comments on: "It’s Time to Settle Down: Review of [160930] Kanojo Step" (7)

  1. Great review!! It’s been a while since i played a dating sim and this seems to be right up my alley.. (I LOVED LxC2)

  2. Dropping games is a good thing since chara-ge vary in quality greatly. And you’re keeping this review marathon for almost 5 years already, it’s worth relaxing from time to time. I use your outlines to draw my own reviews at vndbreview and I’ve followed pretty much all of your 8 to 10 review grade games, but just found out I could not stand chara-ge. Anyway, no matter for how long I drop out for new western game releases I keep coming back to VNs eventually, so taking a pause is great because it reinvigorates you and takes down accumulated weariness. So take it easy!

  3. Nice review, now I know which vn to play next.
    I would be sad if you stop doing this website :(

    • Thank you for your support! It really does my heart good to see people enjoying the reviews I write, and that’s the best incentive for me to push on and keep doing what I already love doing! :)

  4. Glad to see you back, it’s been a while! I completely agree that you should drop games if you just don’t like the way they’re going. Not so long ago, I would force myself through at least one route just because otherwise I would feel like I could be missing out, but lately I’ve had no shame in dropping games as early as the opening movie, because I can just tell that the read will frustrate more than entertain me. Maybe I’m wrong and could end up liking the game if I gave it a proper chance, but I just don’t want to invest the time anymore to find out. Obviously it makes writing a review impossible, but a few words on what you dropped and why can still give a small indication.

    I’ll admit I was a little surprised at this review’s introduction. I thought the whole “dropping games because they’re shit” was referring to Kanojo Step, and I’m glad I read on to clear that misunderstanding. I’m not sure I would compare SMEE’s latest to Lovely x Cation 2 though. Heroines are not all similar, LxC2 had little shimoneta humor and much more random trivia, far less interaction between heroines (none?), many more sex scenes, an item collection/stats raising game… Really, I just don’t see what they have so much in common for Kanojo Step to be called a copy of LxC2, apart from both being charages.

    If I were to compare Kanojo Step to anything else, I’d say it’s an inferior version of Fureraba, with less interesting heroines (though Kuon and Tomiko were quite good), less interesting conversations, too much reliance on shimoneta for humor and a radical change of art style, obviously not for the best… Still, I found it a step back in the right direction and it makes me hope that SMEE realized what was good about Fureraba and didn’t work in Pure x Connect.

    Generally speaking, I found the heroines a little weak this time around for their inability to keep up with the protagonist jokes and energy, and more often than not just blush and say nothing. Shiina was sometimes able to respond but would more often than not just stand dumbfounded, and Noe and Asuka remained completely defenseless. Kuon was the only one able to really counter with spikes of her own, and I really liked the gap that created for her character, especially as loli/kouhai heroines tend to be assigned the ‘naive’ trait. Her route also had the most involvement of other characters.

    Tomiko was something completely new to me and for this reason alone, I really liked her route. I’ll admit I had to resort to a walkthrough to find her, as I was trying to fill out the CG collection and was missing a couple in the “others” tab. I was actually expecting some short omake route with the big sister of the teacher instead, so I was really surprised. Her low self-esteem and negative outlooks on everything are so pushed to the extreme that I did sometimes find her annoying as well (especially when she just wouldn’t believe the protagonist’s confession), but that’s part of her charm and I liked the protagonist dedication to staying with her despite all her blunders. She’s certainly a memorable character, though I’m not sure I would have been able to endure her character for a whole route’s length, so it being short was a blessing in itself.

    No comments on the game’s premise of being able to keep the relationships hidden or not? I haven’t explored all the options (only Kuon’s) as I tend to prefer when character are open about their relationships, but from what I could tell it doesn’t change much, yet changes enough that taking that out could have meant a better tempo for each chapter, as I found that the transition from laughter to seriousness was really brutal this time around. That or a full length route for Tomiko…

    • It’s great to be back! I’m glad you’re rather supportive of my decision to start dropping games, which is just feelsgoodman right there.

      The only reason why I found Kanojo Step to be similar to LxC2 was purely its setting of how the protagonist comes into a new environment, as well as the town’s “lore” of how men from outside usually come to fall in love with the women who already resides there. It’s just a few phrases to build atmosphere and generalize the setting, but it was almost the same in my eyes which made me think it was a copy-paste.

      Very much agreed on Kuon being the best of the heroines! I agree the heroines this time around were a bit… lackluster if that’s the right word. I mean they’re cute and all but they didn’t really seem to match well with Aki.

      Ah, I knew I was missing something! The decision to be open about their relationship or hiding it was quite an interesting concept (and is how Smee adds variability to each heroine route). I personally didn’t explore with this too much, but found that overall it only made a difference in a couple of scenes and didn’t really affect anything else (e.g. CGs in Fureraba).

      I think this is pretty much the first time we’ve had essentially the exact opinions on a single title! That’s actually pretty cool!

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