I am going to be completely transparent- I expected nothing going into Nekoday’s Christmas Tina. Normally, when I agree to beta test a game, I have a very specific reason to be excited about it. The art, the concept, the STUDIO, something! This is the first time I blind grab bagged a title and hoped for the best, and I was pleasantly surprised. I hope you are ready for some shilling, because it is happening!
So first off, I wanted to give a little bit of my own background- I promise this has a purpose. When I was a wee college student, I chose to obtain a degree in Chinese. Something that, since graduating, I have hardly used. It was a great part of my life, something that drove me, something that made me want to see the world and try something new—and then I abandoned it entirely because I couldn’t for the life of me keep myself motivated nor find a use for those skills. My Chinese and my drive for it slowly faded away. Turning on the game, I never expected to hear someone speaking Chinese. Let alone having the Chinese language and communication be a center piece. I felt a part of me that has been long dormant spark. I listened to the Chinese lines and understood many of them! I was overjoyed. This may make my views a bit biased, but I think that is one of the beautiful things about visual novels—finding stories, characters or otherwise that pry you open and make you feel something, sometimes personally.
Now that I have my own personal gushing out of the way I want to talk about some of my favorite parts of the game as a whole. The story of Christmas Tina had me hooked from the opening cinematic to the closing credits. I was captivated by its characters, their struggles, and their triumphs. I literally could not get any more emotional about how well this story drove home the value of learning about someone and their circumstances regardless of if there is some sort of barrier in the way (In this case, a language barrier). I loved it. I think this is the first piece since I reviewed eden* back in the day that openly made me weep. I don’t want to go into detail, as I feel this is a story I would love people to experience for themselves, but please take my word that it is unique, powerful, interesting, and bittersweet. Each of the main characters is given time to really show what makes them tick, both with themselves and with each other. The tension that exists from the get-go begins to loosen over time and then build again in some of the most solid writing I have seen in a long while. I really cared about everyone present in this visual novel, I wanted to see them succeed. And I was heartbroken when they failed. That is just good writing.
The only nitpick I truly have with Christmas Tina is addressed by the game itself. The amount of movement and CGS is slim. There is not a lot of variation in the art that is displayed on screen; However, the developers of the game refused to make that a weakness. Most CGS and sprites, while re-used, are done so in various ways with unique and different points of view, effects, or both! When a new piece of art does appear, it is almost always a turning point in the story as well. They draw your eyes to the screen on purpose. They make you care about what you are seeing whether it is the first or fourteenth time you have seen the sprite or CG. I was floored by how truly creative this team was in displaying emotions through movement and how they made a weakness a strength in my eyes. I haven’t seen anything like it before, but I sure hope I will again soon. I want more visual novels like this. I want to see something new and innovative being shown from a team that very obviously cares about the story they are telling.
I expected nothing when I opened this title. If I am being honest, it was probably the first title I have accepted just because I wanted to play a visual novel. I had an inch and I wanted it scratched. Well, I got way more than that. This is one of my favorite titles I have worked on with MangaGamer. I cannot express enough how much I hope anyone who is reading this will give it a try. I finished Christmas Tina in tears at 2AM because I couldn’t stop playing it at a point. Christmas Tina reminded me why I love visual novels.