If My Heart Had Wings
Developed by: Pulltop
Published by: MoeNovel
Release Date: June 27, 2013
That's not to say this release is undeserving of your time and attention. It's an excellent tale buoyed by great editing and a competent translation that truly runs the gamut of emotion. The well-rounded cast includes a healthy mix of familiar tropes such as the childhood friend (Ageha in this case), Asa the adorable freshman, Asa's sister Yoru, and Amane the "crazy genius girl" type. It's a harem you've likely seen time and time again if this genre is one that you routinely explore, but the heroine and protagonist are where the narrative path truly shines. If My Heart Had Wings is an emotional roller coaster that's worth the entry price, even if it is watered down.
Kotori is the star of the show and resident tsundere, having lost the use of her legs. She is confined to a wheelchair, and this disability forms the base on which the novel is built. Character development centers around her handicap, as well as protagonist Aoi's knee. Aoi has difficulty with strenuous activity, which prevents him from being able to live his dream. He loves cycling, and the ability to do so has been stripped away from him. Understandably, Aoi and Kotori are able to empathize with the other using loss as a bridge to the heart. It's touching to be sure, and each vignette and story path stems from the idea of loss.
There are some interesting ideas explored within aside from the obvious "endearing girl in wheelchair" tropes, such as the exorbitant amount of time spent on introducing the player to gliders. There's a hefty amount of educational material within the game, including entire segments where characters themselves are engaged in the hobby -- hence the title. From the basics all the way up to assembling a glider, it's all in here. Not only do these segments act as windows of sorts to another world, but they also contain certain expository elements as well. Aesthetically they appear out of place but as narrative vehicles at least they make sense. The 3D is a bit jarring, like overdone CG in a traditionally 2D-animated series, and I would have found it less silly and outdated had they simply drawn the glider as well as the girls and Aoi himself.
What's even stranger, however, are the amount of edits made to the game. Nudity, graphic sex scenes, and a good amount of dialogue have been removed completely, attempting to turn the novel into what appears to be a more wholesome experience. While I understand the intention, I'm not a fan of censoring or altering content in any way, especially in a genre that's already persecuted on so many levels. I'm not familiar with the entirety of the original work, but upon researching for this review I uncovered a wealth of extra content that, while sexually explicit, had its own place in the game. While this neutered version still manages a good amount of emotional resonance, adult players especially should be given the option whether or not to view these scenes. I'm not going to judge the game on the merit of the missing scenes, but it was a glaring omission, especially considering the alterations made in their place.
Some dialogue segments make little sense now, and graphical edits give heroines bathing suits at times when a bikini simply doesn't make sense, for example. If you ever watched the Pioneer dub of Tenchi Muyo!, you probably have a good idea of what these types of edits look like in practice. It's awkward and unnecessary, though it could have been avoided and supplanted with the option for a "clean version" instead, while leaving everything else untouched.
With all that said, I enjoyed my time with If My Heart Had Wings. Its clean interface, engaging narrative, and precocious bunch of characters were enough to keep me playing to the end, then back through again to try out a different path. It's sweet (perhaps too sweet with this edition), poignant, and memorable, and in the end that's what I look for in visual novels of this sort. It's nowhere near the caliber of Saya no Uta, but it's worth your time.
7.0 -- Good (This game could have been destined for greatness, but it was held back by some unfortunate flaws. While some may not enjoy it, fans of the genre will definitely have a blast.)
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