[Jonathan Tubbs, who you might recognize from our sister site Tomopop.com, has taken the plunge into the world of ero-ge with Kira Kira and shared his thoughts with us. He certainly goes in-depth and answers just about any question you might have about the title. -- Brad]
I never thought much about visual novels before. Heck, books are something commonly foreign to me. I don't know how I made it through all of the Lord of the Rings and the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books. So, picking up Overdrive's adult visual novel KIRA☆KIRA is a bit of a step for me. One, because visual novels are pretty much books and two, the fact that it falls under the eroge genre.
Scenario: Setoguchi Renya
Character Design: Katakura Shinji
Version: Uncensored (also available for All Ages)
Operating System: Windows XP (32-bit) or above
KIRA☆KIRA has you play as Maejima Shikanosuke, student of the Ohbi Gakuen Christian school. Your fellow classmates include the optimistic new student Shiino Kirari, the and childhood friend Isurugi Chie, the gentle Kashiwara Sarina, and the passionate Murakami.
After quitting the tennis team and getting dumped by his girlfriend, Shikanosuke becomes a drifter in school with no goal in his life. He is a part of the Second Literary Club at school but never attends it. After meeting the strange new student, Kirari, and attempting to go to the club for the first time, he learns from his childhood friend, Chie, that the club will no longer continue after the school festival.
This has no real bearing on Shinosuke until after attending his first live concert with Kirari to see famous, local indie punk band, STAR GENERATION. Kirari is completely taken away by the band and comes up with the idea that the Second Literary Club should do a concert of their own at the school festival to leave a lasting impression for the club's final days. With Shikanosuke agreeing (if you so choose) along with Chie and Sarina to form their very own punk band, the story of this game truly begins.
The story is sluggish to get through to the forming of the band part but once you hit that point, it becomes a solid adventure. The more the story progressed, the more and more I became interested in the little band that could and seeing where they would go.
Being a visual novel, there are moments where the game will have you make a decision that will cause the story to take a different turn. Most of the time it's an immediate effect on the story, other times you won't know until it's pretty much "game over."
Luckily, Overdrive offers 100 save slots to work with so you can go nuts with trying to mark key moments. If you feel like you have made a mistake, the system allows you to load any where at any time. You are also able to name the save files allowing you to note what the save file is about.
However, save files will not always be enough to save your butt. Overdrive recognizes this and uses a system that allows you to speed through parts you have already played through to take a new path or in some cases, correct your mistake. The dialogue system also saves what text you have read and what text is new with color coding. Old text is colored in blue while new text is colored in white. If the game comes across any new text in skip mode, it will stop skipping automatically so you don't miss any new story. A very handy feature when trying to find that new path.
As stated above, the story follows bassist Shinanosuke, drummer Chie, guitarist Sarina, and vocalist Kirari as they all work together to put on a performance to have the end of the Second Literary Club go with a bang. That is only the beginning of the story. The band is noticed by STAR GENERATION and using their influence, the Second Literary Club now find themselves going on their very first tour. The band works hard together as they try their best to do everything they possible can without the help of STAR GENERATION. This is also the point where the story can go any way.
In the middle of the tour, the story will branch out in three different ways depending on which female lead you are the most affectionate with. Each branch will have a different plot to how the tour comes to an end. This is actually great as it adds a good 4 to 6 hours of gameplay to the story for each female. It's great watching, er, reading how everyone comes together and the ordeals they overcome.
Then there is a third part of the story that focuses on the days after the tour and your relationship with which female you have fallen. This is also the part where you and your love will embrace each other finally making the title into an eroge.
But the story doesn't end there! After completing the courting plot line, the story continues with an epilogue following the events of what happens after. An amazing way to put closure to the game.
Only once did the story ever have me screaming "get on with it!" besides the sluggish opening. A very solid story of having out right silly moments such as the band saying "fuck" to everything; endearing moments such as bond of friendship as everyone comes together after a fellow member cracks during a live performance; and going as far as toying with your emotions with a storyline that will induce tears.
Stunning visuals is all I have to say. As my first eroge, I found myself stopping to explore the artwork for just the backgrounds alone. For a game that runs at a 800 x 600 resolution, I honestly couldn't tell from the detail of the art.
The character models consist of the same poses and facial expressions with different clothing depending on the point of the story; a common trait in most games. The character designs are somewhat unique to common anime styles which was one of the drawing points for me to own this game. Get use to the these cut-ins as that is what you will be seeing often. Which is no problem for me.
There are key moments in the game that will feature special CG art work of the characters to add emphasis on the story. During concerts, the game will make use of wipes, fades and various color effects to give life and animation to the still frames used. I was impressed and it drew me in.
The score to this game brought so many types of emotion with just guitars. I loved every bit of it and wish I could own it on CD. The melodies would have a upbeat pop rock sound for moments of having a great time with your friends, a slow, rough sound, and gentle, classical style for tenderness. It was a wide gamut of types with guitars and I applaud Milktub for their excellent work. Check out these samples below to see what I mean: (I had a hell of a time choosing just three!)
Sample 1 | Sample 2 | Sample 3
The Second Literary Club band is suppose to be a punk band but one will have to question what Overdrive considers "punk" as the vocal tracks from the band sounded nothing like punk music. It is definitely a catchy J-Pop Rock style which is not bad.
Speaking of vocals, the voice actors did a great job with their roles. Kirari (Nakamura Tomoko) grained the eardrums at first but I got use to her soon after as I got to know her character. Chie (Mizusawa Kei) hit all the sweet spots as she was average and I like average. Sarina (Kojima Megumi) is soft and sweet which compliments her innocent character. I absolutely loved Murakami for his teddy bear personality that his voice actor brought to life. There were only a few side characters that annoyed me but, overall, superb work from the cast.
There was one flaw that popped up repeatedly throughout the game and that was very poor grammar and spelling from the translated script. I'm not sure if this is something common from MangaGamer but it was enough to irk me time and time again. Oddly enough, I eventually got use to it and began to overlook it as I continued playing. I enjoyed the story so much that I was willing to ignore these issues.
On completion of the very first scenario, the game will open an Extras section at the title screen allowing you to view a gallery of the game's CG, playback music from the various bands (including band covers!), and replay the intimate moments. It's actually fun to look through and note what you are missing, making it more worthwhile to go back and play the other possible paths. Well, if you are a completist.
The whole reason I blindly picked up this game was because of official art work I aimlessly came across of Kirari. Funny thing is I ended up liking Chie's character when deciding who to go with first. Outside of affection, I loved the entire cast involved in the story. Everyone is likable from the writing, the illustrations, to the voice actors doing a wonderful job in making them come to life. The visuals are gorgeous and the score from Milktub completes everything about this game.
As my very first visual novel, I am greatly satisfied and highly recommend this title to everyone. And for those who are not too keen on the adult situations, MangaGamer has an All Ages version available. This version removes all adult scenes which, in all honesty, weren't really vital to the story to begin with.
As a rising band story, I'll go as far as saying that this is way better than K-On! In fact, I really wish KIRA☆KIRA was an anime. Apparently there's a manga which I will now have to hunt down. So, again, this visual novel is a must get. Now my only concern is that this game has set the bar too high for other visual novels.
Available now at MangaGamer for Windows XP (32-bit) and above:
Uncensored Adult version - €36.95
All Ages version - €29.95
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