So, I have acquired this Visual Novel called Swan Song. All I really know about it, murkily remembered from vndb.org tags, is that it involves some kind of disaster and Life And Death Drama. Oh, and apparently it's depressing.
The readme indicates that the unofficial patch I am using has a fairly good hack of the game; the known bugs are few. After playing Symphonic Rain, I am rather thankful for this... And now, let's get down to business.
First of all the config menu. Music volume down a bit, text speed up a bit. Otherwise things look good - the title screen is playing no music, though. Feels a bit alarming.
Immediately after I click start, I hear sound. I am relieved there is no bug present. Not so relieving is the rather creepy wind loop playing. Together with the snow present in the first graphics, I'm feeling shivers up my spine. The fact that my room is somewhat cold doesn't help, either - Oh well. The first sfx we hear, of boots creaking through snow, is sadly somewhat low-quality. Also, apparently the wind has died down... but the atmospheric wind effect is still there. Oh well, it's setting the mood quite well anyway.
In other news, it's apparently christmas, or at least december the 24th (is that christmas in Japan? Are we in Japan?). Our protagonist, unfortunately, hasn't had much fun. He (or is it a she? I'd like that, but it's unlikely) spends this holiday like all holidays: dozing off at his kotatsu. Which admittedly seems rather comfy.
Since there was nothing at home to drink, our hero has braved the night to get one. We are introduced to a vending machine that defies Bland-Name Product by showing the coke and pepsi logos. He uses it to buy hot chocolate. I did not expect that.
After he responsibly disposes of the can, the peaceful night is shattered by an earthquake. This has two purposes:
- 1. We now know that our protagonist wears glasses. Unfortunately, he loses them rather quickly, as there is a whole lotta shaking going on.
- 2. To make the text shaky, making it marginally less legible.
Also, it will probably set up the whole plot.
We are treated to a scene of devastation. The protagonist notes that there are screams all around him, but no such sound effect is heard (perhaps to emphasize his isolation?). He (I'll just stick to this now until I'm proven wrong) seems to be suffering from some kind of shock, and walks to his apartment feeling nothing, gathers supplies, and then leaves. I must admire his resourcefulness under pressure.
I note that, despite there being others in the three-story apartment building (now one-story), he does not spare a thought for them yet. When he does, he feels nothing.
Our man walks towards a bomb shelter, when suddenly a female cries out, asking for help. Apparently she can't move, which must be terribly distressing. Proving that calling him a hero might not be entirely wrong, he seeks her out, finding her house.
Her voice is fairly cute, which is always a plus in an eroge. As we wander further into the house, we hear the voice of a child as well. Then we see the girl calling for help. She is wearing 'achromatic' clothing, which would presumably be "without color". They could have just said "white". She appears almost luminous (I could have said she was glowing); there is no sign of the child, however.
Our man speaks. He is voiced, which might be nice. He is also a he. While the girl we were shown at first was a captivating sight, she was not our main objective. It also appears that I have been a bit confused before: the non-trapped female is the girl, the trapped female is the woman. The one trapped is buried in the ground. I like her looks, which is always a plus in an eroge.
She appears to be dying, due to the rod pinning her to the ground, having rather unceremoniously pierced through her. She does not feel it, which is a small mercy. Our hero tells the damsel about her situation, and asks if she wants to say anything before he leaves to find help. Meanwhile, the girl in achromatic clothes parrots sentences like a broken record. The damsel calls her Aroe.
As the woman notes, Aroe is a bit strange. Apparently, this is not only caused by shock. Autism? Perhaps. However, the event does seem to have caused some regression in her state, as she was apparently quite normal before the quake.
In other news, our man uses 'boku' to refer to himself, and has a boyish voice.
As expected, we are asked to care for the girl if the woman should die. The woman will die, of course, because tragedy is fun and having a Cloudcuckoolander girl around might well be an excellent source of drama for this story.
We finally learn the protagonist's name: Amako Tsukasa. Since we are intimately familiar with this person, being inside his head, we will refer to him by his first name. Also, having -ko at the end of your name is feminine as far as I know, and what man would want that? Aroe's full name is also revealed: Yasaka Aroe.
In a case of information lost in translation, the woman (who still hasn't named herself) tells the girl to show ''onee-chan'' that she understands her big sister. The woman instructs her imouto to listen to Tsukasa.
Then she realizes she is dying.
She then has a change of heart, and asks Tsukasa to kill Aroe, as nobody except her has ever been kind to Aroe; she can't live alone in our cruel world. It's also hinted that Aroe might not be her blood-related sister, but just someone she picked up. Her speech goes on for quite a long time. Although I usually grow impatient with long voiceover lines, I don't for this one. It's quite touching. And chilling. Our hero, not being of the ruthless kind, reponds that he can't do that. Without even a choice window! Oh well.
And then the woman dies.
With some difficulty, Tsukasa persuades Aroe to walk with him. It's tiring work, and he needs a break - and then he sees this somewhat intact house. Unfortunately the corpse in the hall bothers him a bit, so he moves on with rather less pragmatism than I'd hoped for. Luckily he soon arrives at a church (that sadly does not provide that much cover due to a severe case of the broken windows) and meets Tanomura, who uses -kun for Amako straight away. Seems like a friendly, relaxed guy, so presumably he will turn out to be a ruthless bastard.
Aroe seems to have a Disability Superpower, assembling the pieces of a shattered stone hand with incredible speed. Whether this will ever be useful is anyone's guess.
More people join the party! The only man is near immediately classified as a Butt-Monkey, being pushed aside by a hotheaded girl reminiscent of Tohsaka Rin. A more reasonable woman, presumably a Foil to the girl, asks if everyone inside is alright. The woman is called a girl by Tsukasa, so presumably I was slightly off about her age. The less polite, shorter girl calls her Yukacchi.
The taller and politer girl's name is Sasaki Yuka. As our protaginist, she is a college student (did I mention that about Tsukasa? Well, now you know). I like her; we can always hope that she is a gettable (pity about that first woman dying. The gettable being alive is always a plus in an eroge). Before Tsukasa can introduce himself, our Rin-proxy butts in. Her name is Kawase Hibari.
I am proven correct about Amako being a strange family name, as Yuka mentions it being rather strange as well (hmm, will this be significant? Is he perhaps the product of a secret genetic project? Probably not). The man's name is Kuwagata Takuma, and he goes to the same college as Kawase and Yuka (Kawase only gets last-name basis from me due to her less than desirable manners). Kawase is understandably rather upset at the current events; a minor, silly argument springs up until Tanomura returns from an inspection and cracks a joke. Although this does stop the argument, nobody seems to be in the mood for entertainment. Yuka is showing Yamato Nadeshiko tendencies, being calm in the face of emergency and all that. Since this is a Japanese work, the probability of her being one is approximately one hundred percent.
Aagh, the ambient sound loop is starting to grate on me now. The whine of chafing metal is annoying me to no end.
And then they have some coffee and a bit of cake.
Tsukasa's flashlight has a radio built in, of all things. Ominously, he can't get a signal on any frequency. Even more ominously, there's this unsettling sound in the distance. Is it... Water?