Today we have our third and final Christmas Tina tester’s corner!
So pretty much the first thing that happens before I start a test: I get linked a vndb page and asked if I’d be interested in it.
“Chinese Protagonist,” huh. Nothing super unusual here, though I feel like there’s definitely a conflict between “80s” and “Modern Day Tokyo.” Sure! I’ll bite. It could be cute!
I was, of course, 100% right about it being adorable, but the tags VERY MUCH understate how unusual it actually is… the mixup here is that the devs for this adorable piece of work, Nekoday, are Chinese. This is a Chinese VN. “Chinese Protagonist” is played totally straight- he’s an actual Chinese speaker… and mostly does so for the entirety of the game. The tone and subject material absolutely blindsided me on what I basically expected to be a nakige. Prior to MG’s release, the game actually already was on Steam- released in Chinese only. Our version is to be released on the MG store of course but also as an English language add on to the Chinese version, which I thought was neat.
Which brings us to the story itself! I called it cute earlier, and I’ll stand by that… but also I’m not entirely certain if cute is really the right word. It’s a story set in late Showa(80s) about a high school girl, Kanna, who dropped out in order to work and save up money, in order to help her parents afford an expensive heart surgery for her younger sister, Emi. Between her desperation for work… and other circumstances, she decided to try moving to Tokyo and ends up accepting a shady job from a girl where all she has to do is… live at an abandoned train station for a year.
At the same time in China… Jing decided he was fed up with the life he was living, working in a resturant with basically no future. He had been rejected by the universities he applied to and didn’t have a plan beyond that… In order to continue his studies, he decided to work somewhere more profitable, and also headed to Tokyo. His contact there ended up… being a shady man, who offered him shady work- to live in an abandoned train station for a year.
Having both taken on the same job, but neither of them being able to DECLINE the job, they end up just splitting the pay…
Having outlined all that, EVEN WITH THAT INFORMATION, I feel like it’s probably not possible to actually predict the directions the story goes. Rather than a visual novel, it reads more like a period film, almost. It’s good! Great, even. I don’t have a good word to describe it, but overall the writing is touching in ways I definitely wouldn’t expect from a VN. It ends up dealing with several heavier topics completely uncharictaristic to the genre, which I suspect is just a concequence of being made in a totally different culture in the first place.
From my perspective, this is extremely refreshing!
The music is pleasant, and again is… very different from what I’m used to. It’s very… Kitschky, almost? It’s definitely not Showa-era bgm, but it does kind of have an olden feel to it. A lot of instrumentals- especially piano and guitar, but every so often they’ll throw some curveball synthy sounds. It’s neat! In spite of their curve-ballyness, they match the tone to everything really well so you never really notice it until you go back to the music mode and listen to them and write a review and you’re like “Oh this is nice, actually.”
Sounds like something I’d expect from a Story of Seasons game.
The CGs, like the music, definitely aren’t the focus of the game… but are again kind of subtly overperforming in a way I can’t articulate very well. The art style is very cute! There’s not much to say- it matches the tone and everything very well. This is an all-ages game… so we’re not looking too closely regardless but ultimately it’s part of a package that’s very comfortable and… like, grounded or something.
All in all, this is definitely a story I can recommend to anyone who wants a more real read.