A short while back I reviewed a game called The Sacred Tear TRUE which was published by Nyu Media. While I didn’t love the game, I thought there were some good things about it and I don’t regret having played it. So when I was offered the chance to play another game published by Nyu Media I was happy to do it.
I was given the opportunity to “play” Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! by the small, independent Japanese developer 773. They are responsible for a number of different projects, none of which I had actually heard of, but I am always interested in playing Japanese indie titles. Sadly, I was slightly misled going in to the game. Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is not actually a game. It’s really a moving visual novel. At best it can be described as a manga with moving characters. I say manga and not anime because you still have to read all the dialogue and press a button to progress the story.
Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is not actually a game.
Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is the sequel to Cherry Tree High Comedy Club, which actually is a game and honestly I would rather have gotten to review that, but only because I was looking for a game and not a book. Outside of the non-existent gameplay, Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is actually very well done and I was impressed by most of the other elements of the project. That being said, I reviewed it the way I would any other game and based it on the same criteria.
The graphic style used for this game works really well for the way it’s presented. The game is broken into a number of different areas around a place called Cherry Tree Town. Throughout the game you see many different places such as a mall, a dorm, and of course parts of a high school. The backgrounds are very impressive. The vibrant use of colours mixed with many finer details such as books on shelves and stained glass window designs really brings the experience to life in the way an anime invigorates a manga. The characters are quite detailed as well and change appearance (costume) a number of times throughout the game, giving everyone much more character than many games do. My only complaint about the character designs in the wide shots is that many of them look pixelated on the edges.
Characters have a number of different kinds of reactions and interactions on screen, most of which are expressed with sound effects and thought bubbles containing various symbols. These often prompt the beginnings of dialogue.
Conversations are held in the foreground of the screen while characters can still be moving around and interacting in the background. Dialogue is done in the classic JRPG style where only two characters are ever shown in the conversation at a given time and they communicate through text boxes, which are very nicely designed in this game. While the dialogue progresses, the two characters often change expressions in a number of ways traditionally done in JRPGs.
There is a simple HUD, for lack of a better word, which is constantly shown on screen. It shows the day, time, date, and location that the scene is taking place. While it does keep you oriented, in a lot of ways it’s unnecessary because the story isn’t hard to keep track of. The two menus the game has are for level selection and configuration. Both are very nicely designed with round elements, easy to read block text, and colour-coded options. All in all Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! looks great for a manga style visual novel. I can actually say that little could be done to improve it while still keeping the integrity of the genre and its predecessor game.
Again Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is not really a game. Surprisingly it is available on Steam and a number of other PC gaming platforms, but there really isn’t any gameplay to speak of. It just runs on its own unless you click out of the window and you have to press the enter key to progress dialogue. The only real game elements it has are the fact that it’s split into several episodes which can only be accessed by viewing the ones before it. As far as gameplay is concerned, it gets an F if it has to be given a score at all.
The sound quality in Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is excellent. You have options to play around with the volume levels for music and sound effects separately. The default music setting is perfect, but I had to turn the sound effects all the way up. The music is almost constantly playing even during conversations. There are a number of tracks, all of which are very appropriate and upbeat. They do loop tracks based on the place in the story so you will notice a bit of repetition, but I didn’t mind it too much. You do hear the breaks between tracks sometimes though. I was very happy with the music overall.
The music drowns out the sound effects.
Sound effects were a bit of a different story for me. The first thing to note is that they are used very rarely throughout the game and only for certain key occurrences. In many ways they’re more comedic than anything else. I didn’t even notice any sound effects during the prologue, which is the main reason I felt the need to turn them all the way up. The music often drowns them out. But honestly they don’t add much to the story to begin with so you won’t notice not having them that much in any case. Ultimately I give the sound overall a B+. Great quality, great music, but the effects need to join the narrative more.
The first thing I would say about Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! in terms of writing is that it’s very informative. Even though I haven’t played the prequel game, I didn’t feel like I didn’t know what was going on because of my lack of experience with the first adventure. The game fills in the blanks very clearly and quickly.
Most of the information is presented through dialogue, but there are a number of moments, usually at the start of sections, where title cards are used to give necessary background information. The plot does have a few holes in the end but that’s clearly because another sequel will be made. This has already been confirmed by the developer as well.
The game is broken up into episodes. There are 7 main episodes plus the prologue and then another 5 bonus episodes with mildly relevant sub plots which are used to develop characters that often appear in the story. The game follows the story of the Cherry Tree High Comedy Club and a few of its key members and their hopes to become professional comedians. I’d be lying if I said it was a story for everyone. It’s clearly meant for people who enjoy manga and stories focused on high school girls. I was greatly reminded of the manga/anime Azumanga Daioh.
The story is very down to earth and follows plot lines that aren’t really that serious or important in the grand scheme of the world, but mean the world to the characters involved. Though it is admittedly boring to people like me, I will not say that it is badly written. I’m simply not the target audience and I won’t fault 773 for that.
The dialogue is funny at times, albeit a little over the top in the way many anime characters are. Often dropping double entendres and subtle jokes about sex and other inappropriate behaviour, the characters are very distinct from each other and fill specific roles in their social circles. Realistic is a good way to describe the characters being presented and the way they interact with each other. It’s well written, but I have to say that it wasn’t written for me.
Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! has no real replay value. Unlike its predecessor title, which actually was a game and had multiple outcomes, this is pretty straightforward. I’m sure some people will enjoy it enough to want to re-watch it or at least specific episodes, but ultimately the experience will be exactly the same every time like when you watch a TV show or read a book. Each of the 13 episodes ranges from 10 – 15 minutes depending on your reading speed giving you a total of about 2 – 3 hours of story. If I was in the business of visual novels I would probably tell you that the $3.99 price tag is within the realm of acceptability. But in the realm of gaming it’s not because you would be paying for only story, graphics, and sound. You can get actual games, many of which are really good, for the same price or less.
My job first and foremost is to tell you whether or not you will enjoy a game in order to help you decide if you should buy it. As a gamer I have to say Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls! is a pass. Unless you’ve played the first one and care about the continuation of the story, which will ultimately continue into even more subsequent titles, you will gain no gaming enjoyment from this project.
I’m not saying this is a bad visual novel, because it’s certainly not. Good sound, graphics, and solid writing for the subject matter. But as a game it’s severely lacking and regardless of your gender, age, and interests you will be bored with this if you’re looking for a game. I gave it a 5.1, but take into account that the score reflects graphics, sound, and writing while giving a score of 0 for both gameplay and replay value. That’s really all that needs to be said about this project.
- Great Soundtrack
- Funny Writing
- Solid Graphics
- No Gameplay
- No Replay Value
- Ineffective Use of Sound Effects
OS: Windows XP
Processor: Pentium 3 or better
Memory: 128 MB RAM
Hard Drive: 95 MB available space
OS: Windows 7
Processor: Pentium 3 or better
Memory: 128 MB RAM
Hard Drive: 95 MB available space