Thursday, June 15, 2017


Author: Happy Backwards
Availability: Free, Download
Format: Visual Novel (with turn-based combat)
Genre: Nautical, Fantasy
Rating: Teen

Found at

My Scores (Out of 5):

Writing: 3.5
Art: 3.5
Gameplay: 3.5
Romance: 2.5 (“Meh, I suppose it's all right.”)


In Ishara, you are...Ishara.  Your family promised you a boat in exchange for severing all ties with them, but when you got enslaved and disappeared for five years, they figured you were dead and so reclaimed it.  Now, they plan to use it as your sister's dowry.  You, however, have other plans.


The Writing

If I may start with the bad news, first: the English in this is awful!  “Guard” is constantly misspelled as “Garde”, tenses shift between present and past at the drop of a hat, and there's a shipload of grammar errors and missing words!  It was also difficult to get used to the sudden changes in POV: one minute we're in Ishara's head, the next, we're in Cendre's.  Since the narration is always in first person, it took me a minute to realize someone else was talking. (Thankfully, the character sprites help sort this out).

On the plus side, the story itself is good and very entertaining.  Talon's dialog is hilarious, yet she never comes across as a mere “comic relief”, being just as awesome and intimidating as Ishara, if not more so.  The back-story is heart-breaking, and the overall tale makes for a great discussion about standing by while  people in power do terrible things: do you keep your head down, buying a bit of temporary and unsure safety, or do you take a stand, causing the entire system to lock its aim onto you?  It's a question that will probably be important until the end of time.

The Art

The art is decent, and I like the music.  The main-menu has a nice water-color look to it.  I find it interesting that Ishara and her sister have both red hair and dark skin (with Grandmama's being even darker).  Since this is a fantasy world, it makes sense that racial traits could and would be mixed-and-matched (unless I've misunderstood and they're simply either biracial or deeply tanned).  Anyway, it's a welcome bit of variety, and I'm whipping out the “non-white protagonist” tag for it.

The Gameplay

For the most part, Ishara a very linear story.  There are very few choice points, one of which determines which story you follow, and one or two (depending on route) which determine how it ends.  There are also a couple bugs where the narration doesn't quite match up to what happened: If you choose to leave Cendre behind, for example, the story still describes her boarding the ship with you.  Considering how few branch points there are, this really should have been corrected.

The combat mechanism livens things up quite a bit.  This is the first visual novel I've ever played that includes such a thing, and I found myself getting kind of addicted.  Unlike most turn-based rpgs I've seen, not every party member gets a turn: rather, each team gets a turn.  This means you have to choose between attacking the enemy or healing a wounded party-member.  Also, since the stun effect only lasts for one turn, this makes the fight even more challenging.  I think the part of the combat that I like best is the AP system: each character has a certain amount of Action Points, and each of their skills cost a certain amount of points to use.  These points slowly regenerate over time, which means that you can have one character wailing on the enemy while another saves up for a group-wide effect.  It invites strategizing, rather than thoughtless spamming of an attack button.  Still, I was miffed that victory had no permanent results, instead only giving bonus AP in the next battle; perhaps I've been spoiled.


Ishara is a great story wrapped in awful grammar, and I don't just mean the pirate-speak.  The art and music are nice.  The gameplay is mostly linear, but has some very challenging combat scenes sprinkled throughout.  Overall, I give it a resounding “Yarrr!”

As usual, mateys, this be one lass's thoughts on the matter. Ye might thank the stars for this game, or ye might want to have it keel-hauled.  Hoist yer colors in the comment section! Yarr!

...I should never do that again.

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