Developer: KOGADO Studio
Price: $39,99 USD
Release Date: June 14th, 2017
Original Release Date: March 26th, 2004
Symphonic Rain is a Visual Novel with light rhythm game elements and a traditional structure. In the main story, the protagonist is a music student at a prestigious school, enrolled in the Fortelle course. The Fortelle is a fictional instrument that supposedly works with magic, and cannot be played by most people. His goal during most of the game is to graduate, and to do so he must find a partner for his graduation recital.
The game is divided in two segments. Chris is the protagonist during the main game, and has one route available for each of the three heroines. In the second part, the player’s perspective changes to Tortinitta’s viewpoint, his childhood friend, with two more endings. The final route is played again from Chris’ perspective.
Symphonic Rain is a character driven story. The actual events taking place are hardly worthy of note, but rather the relationships and pasts of each character are the moving force behind the plot.
The game’s setting is very peculiar. Piova is a city of perpetual rain and music. Throughout the game there is no mention whatsoever to technology of any kind, except for trains. There doesn’t seem to be telephones or even electricity anywhere. Despite this, the narrative and characterization does not seem to imply that there characters are living in such a remote past.
Chris is a 3rd year student and has no classes left to attend. Instead he spends most of his time practicing, either by himself or with one of his musical partners. The musical mini-game shows up throughout the story and influences the dialogue you’ll receive after performing. You can change the game’s difficulty at anytime, choose to auto-play the songs for perfect scores anytime, or simply skip altogether.
The mini-game itself is very simple. Notes flow horizontally across the screen and the player must press a keyboard key at the correct time to play the note. Your evaluation goes up if you get a hit, and down if you miss or mistake notes. The difficulty can be pretty high for some songs but, thanks to the auto-play and skip functions, it’s impossible to get stuck or fail because of the mini-game.
Usually games that have music as a central point of the story have excellent and memorable tracks, but the same cannot be said for Symphonic Rain. While the tracks aren’t bad, there aren’t enough of them to not make them seem repetitive. Furthermore, none of them stood out. My favorite songs from the game ended up being the vocal pieces sung by the heroines for the rhythm mini-game.
Fortunately, the mini-game itself is quite fun.
All the art assets are purposely made to appear childish. The backgrounds are beautifully traced and filled as if they had been painted with scholar colored pencils and crayons. All the character designs are simplem blob shaped with simple lines for detail, and everything has pastel color tones. Dark shades are used during external scenery due to the never ending downpour, while very light shades define most interiors.
While the scenery and art style are certainly unique and beautiful, it was something else that caught my attention. The portrait sprites transition several times during dialogue. Traditionally, the sprite for the person you’re interacting with changes with every line, but in Symphonic Rain you had face and body language transitions during each line. Sometimes up to three or four different expressions on a single line of dialogue, even. The zeal towards artistic direction is by far the best aspect of Symphonic Rain.
The main flaw on Symphonic Rain can be summed up as: the game is just boring. Most of the first half of the game consists of characters telling Chris to find a partner and start practicing already, but instead he would rather put-off the decision until the last second while dwelling on less important things. This game is far too long for a story in where nothing happens and the protagonist is a lousy whiner, to the point where one would start imagining how he made it that far in life in the first place.
It’s quite a rare occurrence for me to lose interest in a Visual Novel halfway through. Despite the art looking good and the mini-game being passable, I couldn’t bring myself to care enough for those characters or the world they live in. I was further annoyed by the game outright not working properly for me under certain situations. The game lags while playing Windowed Mode, and the skip previously read text feature simply did not work most of the time. Perhaps because I am on Windows 10, notoriously known to cause problems with several older VNs, but nonetheless I expected better from this release.