This week’s review is brought to you by long-time Geek Clinic reader and friend, Shinygami!
Developer & Publisher – Visualnoveler
Length – 2-10 Hours
[A review copy was kindly provided by Visualnoveler]
[Visualnoveler had no input into the content of this review]
Ladies, gentlemen, I go by Shinygami and today, it seems it’s my turn to talk about the first VN/Simulator outing by Visualnoveler, a webapp that has decided to make the jump from letting people track and discover VNs to making them as well. Or at least a simulator that wears the trappings of one. It ain’t the worst, but it’s not the best, it’s the OELVN: Anime Studio Simulator. And today, I’ll take you through my experiences with it. Roll the intro… What? There’s no intro? Oh, you mean that WAS the intro! Sorry, new to this.
The story focuses primarily on Yukari, a young woman who has just graduated from high school and has decided, before attending university, to fulfill her dream of directing an anime! Already on board is her childhood friend Mayumi, who will act as the sound director, but they still need artistic and writing talent. Very quickly, they manage to enlist the aid of sisters Yuuko and Sumiko (who is slightly younger than the other characters), a pair of opposites in personality, who work on the characters and the backgrounds respectively. And last to join them is Shunsuke, a logical sort who comes to the group after catching wind of their project. Shortly after the team is assembled and manages to acquire their startup funds, you get the chance to pick what your anime’s genre will be, Mystery, Action, or Harem, and then name your creation. From there, the game takes off in full.
The interface is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. Outside of your standard VN image, text, and sprite scenes you also have the above menu where you make the bigger decisions at the start of each week. The problem is that the decisions on this menu can be too simple and, as a result, left me feeling disengaged, with my choices usually just ranging between figuring out whether a character should hone their craft to increase their proficiency, work on the anime, or to reduce their stress by relaxing. Yukari as director is a little different in that she also handles funding and has a management skill, though I honestly never figured out what it affected. Beyond assigning your characters, you have the option of outsourcing to freelancers and studios and as part of the story also outsource your animation, which shows a nice reality of the business for a small start-up: you can’t handle everything alone.
As the story goes it, too, is also straightforward and simple. Don’t go into this expecting twists and turns, or anything amazing and breathtaking. It’s a simple story of something most fans take for granted, and while it’s nothing to gasp in awe over, I can’t say it was handled poorly. The overall writing, aside from one late-game reveal, was handled very well. I feel the reveal wasn’t up to scratch because they made it so obvious, seemingly by intent, at the midpoint of the game. I understand its purpose, but it does nothing to add or subtract, it just sorta exists, and I shouldn’t feel that way about this kind of reveal. Especially considering that the characters are handled fairly well, even if they each have their gimmicks. As the story progresses you can see a friendship grow between them all and are even treated to decent character development, which is too often lacking in indie titles.
As the character art goes, it’s probably the most pleasant part of this VN. It’s nothing too exaggerated or too plain and, most importantly, it stays consistent between sprite and CG. The colors are fairly easy on the eyes, and the proportions aren’t too whacky. I have to give my honest praise to the artist. Unfortunately, though the backgrounds aren’t bad there were a few features that caught my eye and made it clear that some of the art had been an exercise in copy and pasting. During a few particular scenes there’s at least one image with a Deviantart tag on it, which I just couldn’t ignore, and though I understand the reasoning behind these next two examples, there was a clear image of Amagi Brilliant Park and another of (possibly) Date a Live. Perhaps I’m being too critical about this point, and big name anime posters makes sense, but the Deviantart one in particular just feels weird. Moving onto sound, there’s no voice acting, something that is common in OELVNs last I checked (Though that seems to be changing!), and the music is… nothing noteworthy. It does what it needs to, but with no real flair. To its credit, I’ll say it never really feels out of place, and it does set the mood properly, but there’s nothing else to say, really.
Summary – All in all, I’ll say that Anime Studio Simulator is a solid experience that meets its goals, but doesn’t exceed them. If you love simulator games and like VNs, this game fills that niche, but beyond that fanbase, I can’t really recommend it. Everything from the writing to the art is generally okay, and I found myself knocking out large chunks of the game when I played (because I do enjoy simulators and VNs), but couldn’t find much reason to keep going back to it.
Score: 6.5/10 – Average