Miniature Garden takes place at a small school of the same name, which holds a unique sort of school festival known as the Miniature Festival each year. Several mysterious urban legends surround their school, including one that states a student will die on the night of the festival and be found the next day. The protagonist, Yasunari, doesn’t believe any of this… until an unknown assailant knocks him unconscious during the festival, and he wakes up to find that he and a handful of other students are now trapped in the school under strange circumstances.
It is a mystery story with supernatural elements as well as questions relating to the characters’ pasts. In fact, it piles on question after question as more unusual events come to light and characters begin acting strangely, only answering them as you get closer to the end. As a result, the early parts of the story—especially if you end up on the path to a bad ending first—can feel almost as though confusing things are happening with no rhyme or reason, although it does make an effort to explain everything in the good endings.
There are seven different endings you can get: three good endings connected to each of the three heroines, and four bad endings that shed a little more light on the story. Which ending you get depends on the choices you’ve made during your playthrough. A few feel a bit illogical, such as getting a worse ending if you answer a question in a certain way, but most of them make sense. The ending requirements don’t seem too strict, so you should be able to see all the endings relatively easily, especially since you can skip text you’ve already read to make different choices.
Despite an occasional line that sounds odd or out of place, the visual novel is generally well-written. The music and art are both nice and contribute to the atmosphere, and there’s a surprising number of CGs considering the short length. It should only take you a few hours to reach one of the good endings, with a bit more time if you return to see all of the outcomes. Since the main routes follow the same general story path, with only a few deviations for specific scenes until the ending, subsequent playthroughs are much shorter than the first. Unfortunately, while visual novels can tell a great story in just a few hours, here it feels like it’s a little too short for the story it’s trying to tell.
I was drawn into the mystery when Yasunari and the others found themselves in this strange predicament, and I wanted to know the truth about why all of these things were happening. It does answer the major questions if you play through each of the main endings, but everything develops so quickly that it feels slightly disjointed. Several points felt like they would have been stronger if the story slowed down to reveal certain details at a more gradual pace and in more detail, and at the end I felt like there were still some unanswered questions.
For such an interesting story, it ultimately feels like it’s missing something, although it’s difficult to put it into words. Nevertheless, Miniature Garden was an enjoyable mystery with likeable characters and intriguing plot points—I just wish it had done a little more with its story than it did.