Review: Melancholy Love

Follow the romance of Qianxun and Mianxue, two classmates at and all-girl private school. The Chinese yuri game, localized into English, is a tale of opposite’s attracting, breaking free of family and societal expectations, and mutual longing that struggles to be acted upon.

Melancholy Love from developer White Dew Games and publisher Kikai Digital tells the romance of Qianxun and Mianxue, two classmates at an all-girl private school. This Chinese yuri game localized into English is a tale of opposites attracting, breaking free of family and societal expectations, and mutual longing that struggles to be acted upon.

A Steam game key for Melancholy Love was provided to us by the publisher.

The art is the quality and style to be expected from a mid-tier or larger commercial studio, clean and highly polished with generally well-thought-out character designs. When the girls can be out of uniform, their clothing choice has something of a street fashion flair that strikes me as very bold and shows off their out-of-school personalities. That being said, the sprite design does fall into a lot of the usual traps of this style of art. The poses force the girls into occasionally backbreaking positions, and their expressions are a little bland when they do use them. Occasionally the clothing (especially prevalent in the blazers of the school uniform) conforms to some very strange rules of physics regarding their relationship to the wearers’ anatomy. In favor of maintaining a cuter style, the teacher characters don’t look that much older than the students. These are all minor grievances that aren’t unique to this specific game but are present nonetheless.

The backgrounds are soft and delicate while still being bright and colorful. The UI is applied with a light but well-structured touch. The CGs are lovely and emotive. The overall visual feel is well-constructed and pleasant to look at even if the aesthetics themselves aren’t particularly novel.

The central romance between the two leads, Qianxun and Mianxue, is very charming. The mutual pining between social opposites angle makes for compelling romantic storytelling, and the addition of a third character, Qianxun’s “sister”, thrown into the mix drives the slice-of-life story forward as you wait to see how it all unfolds. It starts off a bit strange, introducing the setting with two characters that end up being pushed back into secondary slots once the game gets going. It’s an interesting choice, but it sets up the expectation you’ll learn more about the relationship between these two characters (teacher Qingwei and headmaster Zihua), but it takes some time for them to even show back up again in a meaningful way. There’s also some additional plot involving them in the background, but with the way it meanders through the main romance, it can sometimes get a little lost. The switching between different characters’ perspectives, however, is a fun-to-read way of exploring the budding romance. The characters have such strong voices that the point of view shift injects some extra interest into what could have turned into a tedious extra-slow burn romance.

As a localization, the writing at a small scale is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s been translated from the original Mandarin Chinese, but not all the language transfers well. For example, a specific acknowledgment of a classmate (perhaps an honorific) gets transliterated into a long, bulky phrase placed before a name. Some of the dialogue also reads a little stilted, but it’s hard to know whether this is a result of the translation and localization or something from the original game. That being said, the language of the narration flows wonderfully with a melodramatic flair that really brings all the parts of the story together.

Broadly, this game does what ostensibly amounts to slice of life extremely well. While it still has its slow moments, the characters are enjoyable to just sit with and listen to. The central romance, from both perspectives, is compelling enough to drive the story forward on its own, and non-conflict complications add an extra bit of interest at the right time without feeling shoehorned in. Qianxun and Mianxue are both interesting, multifaceted characters in their own right, and their chemistry together is the perfect blend of angst, yearning, and bittersweetness.

Melancholy Love is a sweet, sometimes melodramatic coming-of-age story. While it doesn’t break the mold, it’s full of charm and endearing characters that you come to care about deeply as the story progresses. It’s a gentle and, at times (as the title suggests), a melancholy love story that ultimately leaves you with soft, warm feelings.

Melancholy Love is available for purchase on Steam and, with a demo available on both platforms.

Ashe Thurman

Spooktober 2022 Visual Novel Jam

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