tl;dr Rating: 6/10, Fair
I was a big fan of Kira☆Kira, OVERDRIVE’s previous rock music visual novel, but DEARDROPS is a disappointing follow-up. Both games are fairly typical galge fare with an assortment of girls to chase after while chasing your rock ‘n’ roll dreams. However, this iteration apparently eschewed story and character depth for slightly improved production quality. Upon completing every route the game left me unsatisfied, wishing that the main character had formed a stronger bond with each girl and that their respective endings left a bigger impact.
Many eroge have wild deviations between multiple — but closely related — routes, but in DEARDROPS the chasm was just so great that it detracted from the enjoyment of the overall work. The major shortcoming is that the main character, Shoichi, only overcomes his past trauma in half of the routes. It makes one question the value of a critical character point if it is confronted in one route with great drama, but things ended up perfectly fine without it being addressed in another. It’s so decisive, in fact, that I would recommend just playing Riho’s route and not bothering with the others. As much as I love the other girls, one would likely have a richer experience solely experiencing Riho’s route as you wouldn’t have to witness the game undermining itself.
In many places, advancing through the game felt like a chore as the script felt drawn out and inconsequential in too many places. In many areas Shoichi’s narration would restate the obvious or make droll observations which lead to much frustration. This may have been the case with past visual novels I’ve read and I just didn’t notice it, but in this case I played this game immediately after finishing Majikoi. Since it was so easy to compare it to Majikoi's to-the-point writing, DEARDROPS's fluff stood out even more.
In the few Mangagamer games I’ve played, there have always been a fair share of typos. There’s nothing that would make the text unintelligible, but when a butcher of the English language such as myself can pick up on mistakes every few minutes or so, it becomes terribly annoying. I don’t expect perfect English, but I do except simple spelling and grammar errors to be absent from a professional product.
One place where Mangagamer improved was the font selection. I don’t know if it was just my system setup or not, but Kira☆Kira's strangely colored and super-thin Courier-esque font nearly ruined my eyes; the fullscreen text box didn't help things. That being said, OVERDRIVE didn't take any steps to significantly improve the game engine. The game was released in 2010, but is still stuck in 4:3 ratio. The lack of navigation controls such as skipping to the next choice were extremely annoying.
DEARDROPS's bright spot is its music. While the BGM unfortunately inherited Kira☆Kira's dullness, once again, the vocal tracks do not disappoint. I particularly enjoyed the opening song (Kibou no Uta), Yayoi's ending theme (Be loud!) and Riho's ending them (Noisy Sweet Home). Where DEARDROPS really outshines Kira☆Kira is the addition of the violin. While most of the in game tracks don’t have Shoichi’s violin accompaniment, the My dear stardust CD adds it to all relevant tracks and the results are stunning.
Another improvement is the character designs. Gone are Kira☆Kira's monkey ears and odd proportions; all the characters in DEARDROPS are beautiful, especially the girls. I was also pleasantly surprised with the number of nice non-ero CG.
There are certainly better games than DEARDROPS, but if you enjoyed Kira☆Kira's rock theme then this could be worth checking out. At the very least, the vocal tracks are worth giving a listen to. Otherwise, I would recommend spending your time on a more worthwhile game.
From here on out are some notes (read: nonsense) I had about the game.
- Chika - That’s right bitches I’m going with the loli. When Shoichi comes back from Germany, she’ll be ripe for the picking. Oh yes.
- Yayoi - If a cute, pink haired, twintailed master guitarist with glorious eyebrows is normal, then what the fuck am I?
- Riho - Hits all the notes aesthetically, although I could not handle that personality in reality.
- Rimu - Glorious tits, but another personality I could not handle.
- Kanade - I don’t think there will ever enjoy the childhood friend archetype.
- Riho - Indisputable. Not only do we resolve Gonda’s past in this route, it’s actually believable that Riho’s presence would help Shoichi to overcome his own. My only complaint is that Shoichi didn’t have much of an impact on Riho’s life. Sure her personality somewhat changed, but she’s essentially the same person as when we met her.
- ——— Shit ———
- Yayoi - While cute, it seems like they hook up and then the route suddenly ends. Without confronting Shoichi’s past (or Gonda’s, poor Gonda), or even an epilogue, it feels incomplete.
- Kanade - Kanade’s competition with DEARDROPS is contrived at best. Her losing her hearing (exept Shoichi’s violin, of course) is a plot device of the worst order.
- Rimu - The biggest mismatch. I did want to hurt Samejima for preventing Shoichi from meeting Rimu, but I wanted to murder Shoichi for hardly resisting.
- Just wanted to mention that no route even came close to Kirari’s normal route. It’s not a stretch to say that DEARDROPS is basically Kira☆Kira without that route. It’s cute enough and there’s some touching moments, but there’s nothing that left a lasting impression. The power of Kirari’s normal route is how Shikanosuke drags himself out of the gutter.The closest thing to that is when Gonda’s past catches up to him, but he’s not the main character!
- As for the ero, like I mentioned in the review I had just finished Majikoi and DEARDROPS's ero doesn't even come close. While the image of Shoichi's glasses dangling from Riho's lips is quite provocative, none of the actual scenes did much for me. At least Kira☆Kira had the Sarina-in-band-uniform scene.