Hidden Gems #3

Hidden Gems #3

Welcome to the third edition of our Hidden Gems series. This series of articles aims to promote visual novels which may have been overlooked by the community but are still worthy of the spotlight. These novels, whether full releases or demos, have fewer than ten reviews on itch.io and/or Steam and have been released for at least one month.

Red Moon of April

Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, PS Vita (Homebrew) (itch.io)

Red Moon of April is a sci-fi visual novel packed with action, bipedal pilot-operated machinery known as Metal Knights, and a war between Great China and the Japanese Federation. The story follows a female protagonist, Kohime, a Metal Knight pilot on a quest to return to Japan. In order to get back home, she’ll have to cross Chinese territory, but it isn’t safe to do so given the circumstances of war. Will Kohime be able to get home, or will she face grim encounters on her path?

The first noteworthy feature of this visual novel is the Metal Knights, in both design and battle mechanics. The Metal Knights are the weapons of this era and make this game stand out. Players have the opportunity to pilot Kohime’s Metal Knight and experience battles with other Knights in a turn-based style of gameplay. What I like most about these battles are the visual effects that appear based on the attack moves you choose, a nice touch that makes the game feel more immersive. The battle system is pretty in-depth and includes stat distribution and specific attack moves. A lot of work went into making this battle system, both in programming and art design.

Another major aspect of this game is the lore. I love games and stories that have intricate lore. The developers of Red Moon of April did very well at envisioning fictional futuristic political tension between China and Japan. We get to experience this tumultuous world through the eyes of Kohime, a girl simply trying to return home. I’m a huge fan of visual novels or stories that take place in the desert, but they’re not something I see often. The Red Moon artwork and the desert landscape backgrounds are what immediately caught my attention with this visual novel, because these are very unique style choices.

If you’re looking for an action-packed sci-fi game rich with lore and battle mechanics, Red Moon of April will give you just what you need. Typical sessions last about an hour, and there are a quite a few dialogue choices and multiple paths.

Crimson Waves on the Emerald Sea

Price: Free

Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux (itch.io) (Steam)

Crimson Waves on the Emerald Sea is a linear story set in the Victorian era. Cecil is a runaway rich kid on a journey to search for his missing best friend, and along the way he meets Nemo, a pick-pocketing vagabond. The two set out to find what they are searching for, but first they must uncover the mystery behind a series of vampire attacks.

The story is very well crafted with good pacing and dialogue. I was immediately immersed into the story with how naturally everything flows. The dynamic between Nemo and Cecil is my favorite, because the contrast of their personalities makes them stand out. I like that the writer swaps between both of their perspectives; I’m fond of this kind of storytelling. POV switching typically doesn’t bother me, and I think the writer did a good job at making sure it isn’t confusing.

Aside from the story, there’s a lot to love about this visual novel. The artwork is plentiful, and the game is packed with subtle animations and transitions that bring everything to life. They’re a nice touch that keeps the game from feeling static. A few chapters into the story, you meet Eustice and Elizabeth, a married couple who the boys encounter along their journey. I really love the design of their characters, and their personalities are also so distinct and opposite that I chuckled at their interactions with each other.

All in all, I’m a big fan of kinetic novels. I think there’s a lot of opportunity for them to spend more focus on developing the story, and in the case of Crimson Waves on the Emerald Sea, the developer has gifted us with a wonderful story.

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