Developer – Key
Translator – Amaterasu Translations
Length – >50 Hours
PPD Experienced – No
Rewrite was a Visual Novel that I had been looking forward to playing for quite some time, as I had enjoyed previous Key productions like Clannad and Little Busters!. While Rewrite has a fairly high production value I feel that it falls short in its creative department, mostly due to an inconsistent tone and variable story quality. Many others seem to have thoroughly enjoyed it though, so you might too, but it’s not a title that I plan on ever revisiting. There were actually 3 writers involved in Rewrite’s production so it’s difficult to review their work all in one go. Because of this I’m going to be writing a little bit for each of the routes in the game; there aren’t going to be any spoilers, but bear with me because this is going to be a little longer than most of my reviews.
It’s kind of hard to come up with a summary for Rewrite’s plot but I’ll give it a go anyway. Tennouji Kotarou is a rather average high school student living in Kazamatsuri, an environmentally friendly town supporting cutting edge environmental research. What isn’t average about Kotarou, however, is his ability to rewrite his own body in any way he wishes; he can become stronger and faster at any time he chooses. Due to his strange power and his choice of friends, Kotarou becomes caught up in a war between two major factions with the fate of the world at stake (literally). In a battle of superhumans versus summoners and their familiars, can anyone really come out on top?
Overall, Rewrite attempts to tell a story using ideas, as opposed to atmosphere. For example, it’s very different to state that “there was a battle and this, this and this happened” than it is to craft a narrative that engages its readers. It’s all well and good to say “and then he pulled out a 5 meter long sword and another person launched it like a missile while I was holding onto it”, but you can’t just throw that kind of thing in willy-nilly and expect a good story to come out of it. Some people will be entranced by that sort of writing, perhaps filling in the gaps with their own imagination, but for me there needs to be some sort of justification for what’s going on; if the pieces don’t connect then the whole puzzle doesn’t form properly. What I’m trying to explain isn’t the easiest concept to get across, so I’ll just move on and try to convey it through the examples I give.
In addition to the issues described above, Rewrite as a whole is just kind of…shallow, I guess. It was often very easy to see which feelings a scene was supposed to evoke, but they hardly ever actually made me feel that way. It’s sort of like the writers finished the basic story they wanted to tell and then just tacked on emotive language afterwards as an afterthought. Being an all-ages VN there are no H-scenes, but if a title tries to include romance it needs to go beyond a basic acknowledgement that two people are going out and Rewrite never feels the need to go that far (with only 2 real exceptions). Despite the overall poor quality of the writing, though, the characters themselves are all well done and have interesting pasts – even if there are parts where their actions aren’t consistent with what their personalities would dictate they do.
Here’s where I get into specific criticism for each route (spoiler-free!), so if you’re not interested in that then you can just skip ahead to the AV stuff. On top of its seven-ish end routes Rewrite has a long and meandering common route, so I should probably start there.
The common route’s length and over-the-top events, coupled with the fact that very little actually happens during it, very nearly put me off Rewrite from the beginning. It has a silly tone overall which fails to mesh with everything that comes after and serves to unbalance the entire Visual Novel. I think the idea was to use juxtaposition to emphasize the change between the carefree high school life of the protagonist and the mysterious, deadly world he is thrust into at its conclusion, but the switch from silly to serious isn’t pulled off for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is that there are a lot of factors that are purely silly in the common route are revisited during the later game with the expectation that they should then be taken seriously. On top of that there are parts where the VN randomly jumps back into the over the top jokes and situations; it’s actually rather jarring.
Another issue I have is that the pacing of everything is radically off in places. Relatively trivial things are long and drawn out while more important and interesting points are skimmed over. This is shown best in Kotori’s route, so I suppose I’ll move onto that. I’m going to go in order of the routes I liked best (starting at the worst), so expect a bit of negative feedback for the next few paragraphs.
Kotori is the obligatory childhood friend character that I normally quite like but in Rewrite she gets relatively little attention, which is a shame because her background is really very interesting (remember those bits I said were skimmed over? That’s one of them). Her route is probably the shortest and least well-done of the lot, with things moving very slowly right up until the incredibly rushed ending and sad excuse for an epilogue. An epilogue which Kotori doesn’t even feature in, by the way, making it hard to wrap up her relationship with the protagonist; though that’s just Rewrite’s first example of how not to do romance in a Visual Novel. I guess the biggest disappointment about this route is that it had the potential to be so much better – the writers had a genuinely interesting and heart-breaking character in Kotori but proceeded to throw her story to the dogs (literally, actually).
Chihaya is the obligatory rich transfer student character (or maybe not-so-obligatory…oh well). Her route is the biggest offender in a number of categories, so I’m not entirely sure why I rate it higher than Kotori’s…I suppose it’s because there’s at least a little more interaction between the two leads, even if their supposed relationship never goes beyond words. At the beginning of the review I gave an example featuring a five meter long sword, which I pulled directly from this route. No, the sword isn’t mentioned anywhere else in the VN. I can only assume they’re trying to overload the reader’s “cool” receptors in an effort to hide their guilt over featuring the “and then they lived peacefully ever aft- oh wait there’s a giant monster that appeared out of nowhere!” cliché. Unfortunately, however, Chihaya’s route is full of that sort of stuff, even to the point where it eclipses any other good features it may have had.
Shizuru is the obligatory quiet love interest from another year character (perhaps I’m taking this obligatory thing too far…), though I don’t have all that much to say about her route. It was better than the first two, having decently explored her past and moderately developed her relationship with the protagonist. The ending was rushed but not to an obnoxious degree, though the epilogue was just weird and completely unsatisfactory (I would love to rant about it but there would be spoiler issues). It was average in most senses of the word with very little actually happening, but I liked Shizuru as a character, so there’s that.
Akane is the obligatory student-who-holds-executive-power-over-everyone-and-literally-lives-in-her-own-office-in-the-high-school character. Wouldn’t it be weird if those really did crop up everywhere? In any case the point I’m trying to make is that she’s different and that’s good. She starts off a little slow but once you get into things the improvement in quality is readily apparent – this was one of the only two routes I was genuinely interested in finishing because the writing and events portrayed were engaging and exciting. The romance feels a little awkward, but at least it’s there and fits the character involved. Akane’s route also had one of the only two epilogues I enjoyed, featuring some good, albeit a little rushed character development that actually made sense.
Remember how I mentioned that there were 3 writers involved in Rewrite? One of them only penned one particular route and it was hands down the best of the lot. Lucia is the obligatory class-rep character that repeatedly suffers from misunderstandings with the protagonist. Here we have a character with an interesting quirk, a tragic (and damn, is it tragic) past that she makes progress toward overcoming and the ability to form and maintain a meaningful relationship with another human being. Lucia’s story is almost entirely different from all the others, veering away from the main plot for the most part while remaining connected in a sensible way. Lucia’s character development was a step ahead of any other character in this Visual Novel and her route was also the only one with anything resembling appropriate pacing, though I do have one complaint.
There is a point near the end of the route where Lucia’s personality does a complete 180; there are reasons for it but I feel that they don’t justify the extent to which her core values change. It’s almost like her character was warped to fit the plot rather than the plot being adapted to her character. Despite that problem, however, Lucia’s route was the only one that gave me any sort of PPD worth mentioning.
Once you’ve survived the first five routes two more become available. The Moon and Terra routes attempt to bring everything together (much like Refrain did in Little Busters!), but the excuse used for everything being related is the most bland they could have ever come up with. The concept of the Moon route is relatively interesting and I liked it better than Terra, but it’s still fairly average overall with a big Deus Ex Machina event at the end that fans of Chihaya’s route will just love, but that for me served as another break from proper storytelling on Rewrite’s part.
The Terra route is a little odd in that, while being the finale of the entire Visual Novel, it doesn’t feature any of the main heroines in any meaningful way. Instead it focuses on many of the side characters introduced throughout Rewrite that never seemed all that important anyway, and for that reason it’s hard to view it as anything more than average. I would be the first one to admit that the earlier routes may have blunted any positive reaction I may have had to the ending, though two out of seven (not counting the common route) isn’t a good run no matter how you spin it.
For those of you that left us at the start of the route discussion, here’s the score:
Bad: Chihaya > Kotori > Common (2-4/10)
Average: Moon > Shizuru > Terra (5-7/10)
Good: Lucia > Akane (8-9/10)
That may upset some people, but remember that I started playing Rewrite with positive expectations so these opinions were formed despite that.
On the AV side of things I have to start by praising the work done for Rewrite’s OST. There were a couple of really good tracks in there, including original voiced songs, that did a great job of setting the mood throughout the Visual Novel, and the voice acting was pretty darn good too. Visually I felt that Rewrite was a step back for Key – the tiny pool of backgrounds (considering the length of the story) and odd character proportions were really obvious. The overall quality was fairly good though, so those complaints are minor ones in the long run.
Summary – I really wanted to like Rewrite – I looked forward to playing it for a long time before I actually did – but when I only enjoyed two out of the seven routes I would be lying if I said I plan on playing it again in the future or recommending it to anyone. On the high end of average visually and with a good OST, a mixture of poor pacing, average writing and jarring changes in tone make Rewrite much less than it could have been. My opinion isn’t the only one out there though, and a lot of people liked Rewrite, so it may still be worth a go.
Plot – 5/10
Characters – 7/10
Audio/Visual – 7/10
Overall Score: 6/10 – Average