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By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 30 Dec, 2014 At 08:51 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarIsabel Heyninck

I love the first Cherry Tree High game. A lot. It set itself apart from most visual novels I’d played because unlike most visual novels it was highly interactive. Usually you just get the dialogue and a few choices, playing more like a pick your own adventure novel. It is a medium with endless possibilities and lends itself to some splendid storytelling. The medium however is only widely used in Japan, with most western VNs being subpar cash ins for anime fan money. Cherry Tree High was a visual novel and a strategic video game at the same time. You can read all about why Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was so good in my previous review.

Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is the follow up I never expected to actually happen. When I saw it in the Steam store I could barely contain my excitement, and from the first episode with the subtle humor I’ve come to expect from the series out in full force I was greatly looking forward to some fun time with Miley and all her friends.

cthcc8

Wait what’s going on? Why are all the names Japanese?” was the sentiment that followed. When I first played the game it was westernized, with the setting in America along with appropriate name and reference changes. This was really alienating after playing through the westernized game. I couldn’t help but wonder if they made an original version of the first game so new players can seamlessly go from the first game to the follow up. Turns out they had.

original or localized

I’ve learned about some wonderful things in Japan by replaying the original version.

Now as to why they’ve deviated from localizing this particular game unlike the previous one can be attributed to an entirely Japanese phenomena. Idols.

idol cherry tree high

As to what idols are; you could equate them to pop stars but the culture surrounding them is so much more different than that of the west, it’s a difficult topic to explain. Unlike the first Cherry Tree High game where the plot involves happenings that can occur almost anywhere, the emergence of an idol in the story now makes it impossible for I! My! Girls! to take place anywhere but Japan.

The events of I! My! Girls! take place where the original game left off with the comedy club’s founding and all potential club members recruited. This new chapter in the Cherry Tree High series involves an idol, real name Ai Fujino, who finds out about the comedy club’s revival and decides to attend Cherry Tree High to pursue her dream of being a comedian. This of course is something that poses a problem since she is an idol.

comedian

The story, while primarily focused on this new character and Mairu the main character, also gives time to tell the stories of the other club members while introducing new characters.

Unlike the previous game, this one is purely visual novel. There are no choices, the story is told and slowly revealed. The game is broken up into “episodes” each with a chapter of some sort.

episode select screen

To me this actually felt more like reading a manga than playing a game since there are no choices. Did I like it? Yes I enjoyed the game for what it was. But do I think someone who knows nothing of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club should buy this game? No, this isn’t a story one would enjoy unless they are already acquainted with the characters and setting. It is knowing the character and seeing them carry on with the promise of the previous game that make I! My! Girls! satisfying.

Mairu faces challenges to her comedy club from rivals, you learn more about the adult characters from the previous game, about the Cherry Tree High Comedy Club’s history, you see character bond with each other, and so on and so forth.

I don’t want to describe the plot further since I wouldn’t want to spoil it but any CTHCC fan would like it. You get the atmosphere of the previous game and the same easygoing slice of life dialogue while being told a new story. The game ends on definite note of  more to come, and as much as I enjoyed this, I hope the next installment is as interactive as the first game. It’s a good companion to CTHCC, but as a standalone game it lacks footing.

What is it that I find most disappointing about I! My! Girls! is the fact that this is not a game I could show to my non-otaku friends as an example of how visual novels can be for anybody, that it is not an obscure medium, and they can tell wonderful stories anyone can enjoy. Unlike Cherry Tree High Comedy Club it doesn’t lend itself to wide appeal outside of Japan.

The creator can’t be blamed. This game was made with a Japanese audience in mind, foreigners are the last thing doujin circles try to cater to. In a Japanese market obsessed with Love Live! School Idol Project and used to simple VNs like these there is no obligation to be innovative. I’m not saying the creator wrote to pander, it’s obvious through his writing he enjoys what he does, but the fact I! My! Girls! was so different from CTHCC disappoints me a bit.

Conclusion, play Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and then Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! If you’re unfamiliar with VNs and not a big fan of slice of life anime I suggest sticking with the first game unless you’re willing to take risks. Luckily, both games come in a bundle deal for max savings. Happy gaming!

 

By Inactive or EX ROG Staffer On 23 Jan, 2013 At 11:57 PM | Categorized As Featured, Indie Spotlight, PC Games, Reviews | With 0 Comments
CTHCC Main Menu

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CTHCC Main Menu

Cherry Tree Comedy Club is the type of Japanese game you never see brought over to English audiences because it’s a type of game rather obscure to the action seeking video game audiences here (at least what you’d think it’s what they are from video game developer decisions), a visual novel, what makes it even more unique is it comes from a small doujin group known as 773.

You are Miley Verisse, the school’s goofball, and your ultimate dream is to become the next great stand up comic to come out of your high school and to get closer to that goal you aspire to revive the CTHCC, the comedy club founded by the famous comedy duo The Grinmeisters. So far you and your best friend are the sole members of the comedy club and you need a minimum of five founding members to create an official school club, so your goal is to recruit at least three more students to get your club up and running. Of course you have your arch nemesis and former friend Octavia Richmond trying to see that it doesn’t get to happen. Via social interaction and coordinating your daily activities, you work towards becoming close friends with potential recruits until they decide to join.

Cherry Tree High Comedy Club rivalry

CTHCC is unlike a typical visual novel considering you manipulate your character strategically to achieve the goal of the game. Visual novels tend to be pure dialogue as the story is already made up for the player and the only interaction the player will get goes along the lines of, do action A or action B, and after that the story goes on. This game has you move your character as an 8 bit version of themselves throughout Cherry Tree Town and doing whatever the hell they want (sometimes only if she has the money for it).

Cherry Tree Station

There are about four things Miley can do. One of the most important things is she can do several activities to increase her expertise on select subjects, video games, romance, whodunnits, fashion, music, sports, art, travel, history, pets, politics, and cooking. Getting expertise on subjects is of primal importance because the best way to quickly advance the relationship you have with the characters is by discussing subjects with them, but be careful, characters can either love, like, feel neutral, or dislike a subject, and the best way to figure out their feelings on them to select the right conversations is to occasionally chat with them and get notes about it on their profiles. Now knowledge can be gained in a variety of ways whether it’s through reading, watching something, or going to various locations, but the options are as endless as the cash to accomplish some of these activities is limited. You go up to level 5 at the highest for each category starting from this.

Cherry Tree Comedy Club Miley's expertise

The second activity Miley can do is earn money. One of the easiest way to earn it is to run around town and look for yellow circles on the floor. You can get a bottle you’ll collect and once you collect 10 turn them into your dorm manager for a bit of cash. Sometimes you’ll get an old discarded magazine and get a free boost from whatever category it covers, a great free advancement…. or if you’re really unlucky dog poop, but whatever. The only other “jobs” Miley has is making jewelry, cleaning up at a shrine, and later on in the game help at organizing an art museum. But watch your fatigue or Miley screws up whatever she’s doing.

Paid less

Dammit Miley!

The single most important action however is interacting with other characters, some just drop from the sky while others have to be discovered. I didn’t discover the last character until playing a second time and actually chatting with Harriet Sinclair, the only friend in the club with me. Choose your conversation topics and give them time to chat idly in school and over the phone because the deadline will be close before you know it.

The fourth thing and definitely the last thing you want Miley to do is have her waste her time by going back to her dorm early. If you ever do that you’ll regret that precious lost chance to do something.

With the game explained I’ll go further into my personal opinions about this game. The translation from Japanese to English has been done in a Phoenix Wright fashion, with the story localized in America and with the script occasionally changed to make references and jokes any English gamer can understand. I’m usually against localizing because sometimes I find it extremely unnecessary to deny the fact a game takes place in Japan, but because this series centers around stand up comedy and I’m sure Japanese people don’t know who the hell Dane Cook is any more than we know their stand up comics so it’s fair use. They did a pretty good job explaining why there was a shrine in America and they changed a character’s background pretty well. Basically an air headed foreigner’s ethnicity was changed from American to Swedish, however if you play the game with this knowledge it might be painful seeing how other countries view Americans.

The humor in this game is pretty nice, Miley Verisse is basically the type of overly excited girl often seen in anime and manga, and as a result some pretty funny stuff comes out of her. Also some outrageous shenanigans and subtle manipulation occurs, keep the every day aspect of the game interesting.

I hear you're 30 years old, keep a wild beast in your dorm, and climbed Mount Everest.

Miley’s comment afterward: Those were all rumors I started myself!

The characters you recruit in this game in general are very multi- dimensional and have a story that comes with them. As you get to learn more about them they start revealing themselves to you and you begin to understand them more. It’s sad that Miley on the other hand is more of what I call a “simulation character” on that aspect, a character who is rather undefined compared to the others so the player can feel it’s them in the story. It’s sad you only learn about the person who’s had the most impact on Miley’s life from Harriet and she doesn’t break out from her genki mold even in serious moments.

Sad moment in Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

MILEY WIPE THAT EXPRESSION OFF YOUR FACE DAMMIT.

As for the look and feel of the game it’s very smooth. The background is charming, but a bit too simple in some parts. My only real complain is that I can’t play this game full screen and I’m restricted to a small window. I’ve read many other reviews complaining about the music but I personally like it and always keep it on while playing the game. Different atmospheres and scenes also changes the music so it doesn’t get very repetitive. The controls are simple and allow me what I want to do, all you’ll need to play are your arrow keys, enter, and escape, just perfect.

 background of shrine

This game makes it easier to attain the best ending by saving your info on likes and dislikes of potential recruits as well as all the gains you’ve made with your repertoire. I still haven’t attained it, but I know it’ll be worth it. Honestly I really want a second Cherry Tree High Comedy Club game where you manage the club that time around, but whether or not that’ll happen depends on the support the game gets. Here’s my first ending.

cherrytreehighfinal

And with that I give Cherry Tree High Comedy Club an 8/10.

You can buy the game now for $7.99 from the official website and other sources such as Steam, Gamestop, and GamersGate.