Reviews: Shikkoku No Sharnoth

don't call me kitty!: a review of shikkoku no sharnoth

As the third game in the What a Beautiful series, Shikkoku no Sharnoth distinguishes itself from its predecessor—Sekien no Inganock—in two important ways. The first is that while Inganock was essentially a rambling fairy tale set in a fantastical city, Sharnoth is a Lovecraftian conspiracy thriller set in a London that is similar to but not quite the London from our world. This serves as a double-edged sword; while Sharnoth makes a lot of neat allusions to history and literature, and possesses a plot that is ultimately a lot more complex than Inganock's, the vagueness of the whole situation actually works to the visual novel's detriment instead of adding to the atmosphere as it did in Inganock. Many questions are left unanswered, and a handful of characters at the end are left unexplained. It doesn't help that Inganock ended a lot better than Sharnoth, as well (although Sharnoth's ending isn't quite as bad as others have said)

The second is that while in some ways Sharnoth takes obvious cues from Inganock, it also contrasts it in some very clever ways. While Inganock was wierd shounen at its core, featuring a protagonist who was practically unbeatable, Sharnoth features a heroine whose role in the game's events literally require her to be a damsel in distress. The game complements this by featuring what is essentially a survival horror video game in what is otherwise a traditional visual novel; while it is initially frustrating, it does give the reader a sense of exactly how much the main character is struggling and actually becomes more fun as the game goes on, which is always a plus. Other elements, like ticking clocks and spiral staircases, reappear, establishing obvious connections with Inganock as well as later games in the WAB series.

In many ways, Sharnoth isn't as good as Inganock—the characters aren't quite as interesting, the exact details of the mystery at the story's center are annoyingly vague, and there might actually be even more repetition. Despite this, Sharnoth is a world apart from the traditional visual novel—aesthetically brilliant, unusually thoughtful and occasionally really, really cool. If you enjoyed Inganock then you will almost certainly enjoy this.

Also, it has one of the best O Ps of anything I've ever seen: