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Glorious romp through fantasy romance.

  • Indra
  • 04/10/2015 04:21 PM
  • 3238 views
April was a Fool is a visual novel. Let me say, right away, that if you are even passably okay with reading visual novels, there is a big chance you will enjoy this game. Like 99%. The only reason I can imagine for NOT enjoying the game comes tied to the simple reason of not liking the visual novel genre.

With that out of the way, let's talk about the game and how I LOVED IT. I was anticipating it eagerly, and got my hands on it as soon as it came out to stream it, I was so excited. And wasn't disappointed.

The game's plot is simple: two years ago, six heroes defeated the big bad. Now another big bad is rearing its head they must set out again. Problem: one of them, April, was killed recently. The remaining heroes do not want to tell the old king she is dead, so they hire a lookalike, May, to be her replacement during the meeting with the king. The meeting goes without a hitch, but when her part is done, May, who wants to become a hero too (and was in fact working to save up for the Hero Academy), decides she would rather go with them. Also the goal is to maybe probably get with the characters romantically. Maybe.

And from there on you pick one character and go through their route, and that's it! There are a few choices during the game that affect the affection rate with characters (that you can view at any time in the pause screen), and if you have enough love power with the character, everything goes well and you get a nice ending. If you do not have enough affection, everything goes wrong in horrible and heart-wrenching (but distressingly well written) bad endings.

The "plot" of the game is largely an excuse and little else, the real focus lies on characters: May is largely a mute protagonist, narrating her thoughts but not explicitly saying any lines, so you can make up your own dialog for her. She's a pretty average girl but not a doormat, and has a few very satisfying moments where she breaks the typical “dating simulation protagonist” stereotype by verbally and physically rebuffing unwanted advances and largely not being an annoying ball of bleh, as the case with this type of game's protagonist often is.

The other five heroes are Erwin Gates (rogue), Gunn Rose (priest), Kent Kentson son of Kent (barbarian), Blake Embers (knight) and Gabby Embers (pyromaniac).



Look at this group of varied idiots.


Each character is fully fleshed out, have their own motivations, past history with the deceased April, their reactions to May and her similarity to their dead friend, and their own struggles to overcome during the game. There is something here for everyone, from complex and what I would call “assholish”, to gentle, odd and abrasive characters. Your relationship with them largely ends up in romance (yes, even the female Gabby. No cop-out “friendship girl route” here) but, most importantly, the progression and resolution of each relationship feels RIGHT. There are no forced moments, like in so many other dating sims of this type, where characters suddenly profess undying love, leaving you confused as to when exactly they started liking each other.
I'd rather not describe the characters too much to avoid spoilers. The game does an excellent job of introducing them in broad strokes before making you choose a route, and they all feel unique and different.
The game also makes fun of the “fantasy game” tropes in amusing ways, and while there is a lot of comedy in the game (especially during the first half), things can get quite tense and serious later on without feeling unnatural.

Moving on, the graphics in the game are very distinctive and do a good job of portraying the emotion at every moment (there are very few exceptions when it's clear the deadline for the game made a few cutscenes sligthly off, but they're very rare).
The graphical style is very cute but pulls off the tense and sad scenes well. Audio selection is also good and I have no complaints about it. There are a few very well hidden typos, but nothing flow-breaking. Even the execution of the dialog has a good variety of choreography, making the portraits change faces, move around and interact with each other enough that it doesn't feel static.

Does the game have any flaws? Well, not really. There are some aspects that could be improved, sure, but most of them fall squarely into the box marked “had no time for within deadline”.
The developers already stated there are some missing portrait variations (the pajama version of the characters) and the backgrounds are all sketches due to time constraints.
If anything the game feels a bit short and would benefit from having a couple more scenes to pad out the routes, but considering the devs set themselves a realistic objective for their time frame, these are all issues that can be easily improved with an expanded game (which may or may not happen, but would be something glorious).

If you play the game, some recommendations: play the bad and good end for all characters. The bad ends are extremely well done and will destroy you, but they're worth the pain, I promise! Besides the character's good/bad ending there is a bonus bad ending if you have absolutely crap affection with the person whose route you are on and can be triggered in any route except Gunn's.
Personally I felt the bad endings were almost better in a bittersweet, more complex way, since they were such a disaster but managed to be so well done and genuinely heart-rending (I can't even pick my favourite). You'll probably want to watch the good ending right after to wash away the pain, which is a good way to measure "holy shit, that was well done".

Each character's route past the general shared introduction should take you maybe an hour at most, and at 5 routes that is not that long for a game of this type. The inclusion of the “skip all previously read text” button is a great help and makes replaying for different endings a painless task. Pausing the game at any time (by pressing the right mouse button) will show you a fake status screen with HP/MP (which is all for show and has no real effect on the game, but is neat to see change from the game's progress) and an affection score with each character, so you can easily check what choices net you the best score. There is absolutely no fiddly or obscure gameplay here.



See the damage on Erwin? You will know exactly when this is from if you play the game, there is NO mistaking it.
(And yes, I called myself Bitchface, come at me if you dare)



If it was not clear from nearly a thousand words so far, I really loved this game. My only real issue was that I wanted MORE. And maybe how one character cheated me out of a make-out session (the stingy bastard).

Should you play this game? Yes, definitely.
The only reason you should not is if you flat out hate reading and are the kind who skips through engaging dialog in games. Otherwise there should definitely be something for you to enjoy here.


Also Kent Kentson be mine, I'll fight anyone for that! (Come at me, I ain't afraid!)


Posts

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Holy shit, I didn’t know that the character’s HP and MP drop over the course of time. I always thought that it only had to do with their affection ratings and that’s it. Shows how many times I brought up the main menu over the course of my playtime.

And you can have your Kent Kentson, Indra! I’ll be happy to take Gunn Rose off the preverbal market for myself. (He’s a dreamboat!)

Good review, though, and we even ended up giving it both the same exact score. Awesome!
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
13829
gunn is mine i called him like months ago

also i thought that the game was 100% linear (outside of "where do we go) until I beat every route and then realized there were scenes still unlocked... then i went and did my best to mistreat gunn and. uh. holy shit.


I got Gunn and Erwin's good endings, and the bad endings for everybody else initially. So. Apparently I'm an awful person.


anyway my review i plan on writing at work (like four days after i said i'd do it, whatever, i didn't wanna rush the game) and mine will cover some pretty different things from this one despite having the same score (after realizing i could fuck up gunn's life ( :< ) i changed my mind from 4 to 4.5). indra can have the overall review, and i can have the review where i overanalyze everything about May! !!


kent's bad ending tho.
Indra
YOU ARE BEING TOO AGGRO
10801
@Craze: The glorious sadism of the bad endings can bump 0.5 alone, yeah ;-; Thank god they're optional or I'd cry forever OTL

As long as I WAS FIIIIRST! (to review) And would have been by a wider margin if the site didn't take so long to approve reviews, dengit. *said by the dork who quickly made the review when she heard other people were gonna, coz I'm 3 apparently.* I LOVETH THIS GAME, I MUST BE THE FIRST TO SCREAM ITS PRAISES FROM THE REVIEW HOUSE ROOFTOPS (no those external sites who did short pieces do not count, damnit)
Thanks for the review~ I'm still really glad you enjoyed the game and our lovable cast of fools. :)

@Addit: A lot of time the HP didn't get to change because the line said "they got hurt, but Gunn healed them." But yes, we rolled through the whole game and deducted HP and MP as time goes on. It's mostly just cosmetic, or for a laugh, or to depressingly remind you that yes, right now 1/2 your party is a zero HP. (or negative HP as the case may be in a couple of situations)

@Craze: I look forward to hearing a review that overanalyzes May! That sounds unique compared to things we have read overall.
Kent's bad ending is truly a piece of art... Fought back tears writing one part of that.


@Indrah: So THAT'S what all that noise has been lately. Just Indrah screaming from the rooftops about her undying love for my penmanship. ;D
I'm pretty sure our editor claimed Gunn first back in late-February/early-March when she first started working on edits for us.

Kent's ending (both the bit leading up to the split and the actual split too) is probably my absolute fav. Once we added music to it, I know I watched it quite a few times. Probably a few times before music too, but that just took it to the next level.
CashmereCat
Self-proclaimed Puzzle Snob
10827
Oh, you have an editor? Who's your editor?
My good friend, a teacher, Mamono. It's her birthday today!! :D

(she's not involved with the game making community)

Her editor notes were precious. (especially during the bad ends)
author=Craze
gunn is mine i called him like months ago
author=Racheal
I'm pretty sure our editor claimed Gunn first back in late-February/early-March when she first started working on edits for us.


…Damn.

(Three-way then?)
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