Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Due

Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel
Rating: Teen 


My Scores (Out of 5):


Writing: 4.8
Art: 4.8
Gameplay: 3.5
Romance: 4 ( “Why are all these onions here?!” )

Summary


In A Due, you are Sona Song-- a punky slacker whose Father inexplicably left you his orchestra. You wouldn't actually care, except that you only get his money if you attend their practice sessions, and you happen to owe a lot to some shady people. One day, though, you run into a strange fellow named Hao; he doesn't speak English, and you don't speak Chinese, but you can tell he's very upset with the quality of your orchestra's playing. Can the language barrier be over come by the language of Music...or even the language of Love?

Review


The Writing


This is one of the few games I've played through that made me want to cry. Granted, there are a couple clich├ęs and I groaned when I found out the protagonist of a Music-themed story was punnily named Song, but for the most part, this story really stuck a chor—um, hit home for me, especially since I have a music background myself. The musician's interactions with each other and their conductors really rang true (minus the violence and chair-throwing), and the themes of music's universality and how it brings people together just went straight to my soul.

I also like the fact that not only do we have a Chinese protagonist (perhaps the first one I've seen in any of these games), but her being Chinese isn't just “decorative”. Sona has to deal with racism, people assuming she can speak Chinese, and finally: the language barrier. Language itself is almost a character in this story, and the theme of language is blended exquisitely with the theme of music.

On top of all that, it really is a touching story with good humor and emotional moments, and there's major character development in both the protagonist and the love interest. I became very interested in these characters and their bond, and when the game was over, the story still lingered on in my head. I needed more. That's usually a sign of good writing. (As a bonus, this game also teaches you Chinese and Italian! What more could you want?)

The Art


The backgrounds are photographs, and the characters are decently drawn in the anime/manga style that's pretty standard for otome games. I got a kick out of the buttons being shaped like musical notes: that was a nice touch. Also, the chibi drawings between chapters were pretty cute. Another graphic detail I really like is the way that whenever Hao speaks Chinese, the words Sona actually knows have their transliterations written above the character: it helps to put us inside Sona's head (Plus, you get to learn Chinese words this way!).

The real show-stealer, though, is the music. You'd expect a game with a music theme to have a decent score, and A Due does not disappoint! Several Classical pieces play throughout the story, as well as a couple numbers that are a bit more Rock. As a nice touch, the background music even correctly corresponds to the songs name-dropped in the script: when Sona decides to have the orchestra play the theme from Romeo and Juliet, guess what you hear in the next rehearsal scene? Also, the story's own theme song is probably going to stay in my head for a long time.

The Gameplay


The gameplay is mostly linear; while your choices do affect which ending you get, the story itself doesn't really branch out the way Frozen Essence or Requiem of the Abyss do. That said, there are three endings, and getting all of them unlocks an epilogue. While not the shortest game, it can be totally completed in a day.

TL;DR


A Due is a beautiful story about language, music, and the need to love what you're doing. It's beautiful in every way, with good writing, decent art, lovely music, and clear, straight-forward gameplay. This might be one of the best games I've reviewed; it's definitely one of my favorites, although that might be partly due to my own personal biases.


What do you think, though? Is this a game you'd play con amore, or do you just want to smash a guitar over it? Feel free to compose your thoughts in the comments.

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