It’s no secret I’m a pretty big fan of visual novels. I’ve also really enjoyed joining the fandom right around when many VNs released are from small teams outside of Japan as well as it gives some interesting stories we might not have gotten such as Highway Blossoms. A game play mechanic I’ve never cared too much for, however, is stat management. I’m someone who prefers easy to play, difficult to master type games and without following a guide (which I hate) or tons of trial and error (again hate) I always have issues balancing my stats and end up having an early end because I didn’t get one of my apparently vital stats high enough. For whatever reason though Just Deserts intrigued me. I can’t even say it’s the trailer or screens because I never saw any, just a press release and I decided to give it a try and here we are.
*Note: A code was provided by Sekai Project for review
The story follows a character who you name at the start but all the voice acting says Lieutenant so I’ll call him that, as he becomes, fittingly, a lieutenant at an army base that is in the middle of a desert (hence the name) in order to fight off aliens and eventually figure out how to get rid of them. There’s 5 other main members who all happen to be female so using visual novel logic I think you can figure out what hanging out a lot with these girls will lead to. Anyway something somewhat unique is each girl comes from a different part of the world, Cornelia DeAnyana is the General from the UK, Yumi Wulandari is the Staff Sargent as well as Executive Officer who is mixed Indonesian and Japanese, Eve is 2nd Lieutenant (and sniper) who the game hides the nationality of but some of her dialogue just in the common part makes it fairly obvious, Jennifer Crawford is an American Captain and Pilot and (best for last) Cecile Chevalier is the French Sargent of the 1st Class and Mechanic.
The game play is pretty straight forward. You have a certain amount of time and energy to spend pretty much doing whatever you want. You can lift weights, swim at the coast or practice shooting which all take a different amount of energy and give out different stats after completion (just watching a chibi animation consisting of 2 frames), go on patrol which pays you a different amount of bz (currency) depending on the aliens you fight off (40000 bz if you don’t find anything) or interact with the heroines. You can do this multiple ways including by chatting which helps you learn what they like and dislike, accepting quests which is usually things like “buy X amount of Y item” or “Do X activity Y Amount of times for/with heroine”, giving a gift (or medicine if they get sick, or item to complete quest) or, depending on where they are, you can invite them to swim/shoot/weight lift with you. These activities boost their love for you until they reach a certain milestone (you can keep track how far you are at any point) when you can ask them on a date. Do this 3 times and you’ve maxed out their love. You can also bring them on patrol but I’ll explain the advantages of that while talking about patrols.
After a few days the city that was quarantined down opens up allowing you and the heroines to go there. Unless you’re interacting with a specific heroine the only real advantage of going here is to buy items not at base as swimming costs money and gives no extra stats and I never found myself needing energy so badly the base’s cafeteria wasn’t enough compared to the restaurant’s higher cost. This however leads to my first problem and that is, the heroines seem to spend too much time here and there’s no way to call them back. For example the above picture was taken on a Thursday morning. Why are Cecile and Jennifer at the city? I can see weekends and evenings/nights but not Thursday morning. As I was going for Cecile’s end it was annoying to not be able to patrol or workout with her.
That brings us to the battle system which is fairly basic but works well. Basically you’ll get attacked by 1-3 aliens and have to either fight them off or run. If you choose to fight (which why wouldn’t you?) you choose your weapon, target (which is a bit annoying to have to keep clicking if there’s only 1 enemy) and let loose. Make sure to keep watch as your weapons have a certain amount of ammo which leads to another issue of mine. I don’t mind having a limit to how many times you can use a specific attack, most, if not all, RPGs have some kind of limit but the limits felt a little low for the amount of damage they did and the aliens didn’t appear to have any sort of limit on their attacks. This wasn’t too much an issue until the final boss (which I’ll get into later) who kept spamming shields and its big attack making it really hard to attack as I had to keep healing or switching to my knife. The reason for that is while shields are up you can only use your combat knife which is garbage. It barely does anything and is especially annoying when stronger enemies keep using it lasting 3 or 4 turns just to refresh it on the last turn. I wish the accuracy was lower on it or guns just had a reduced damage amount or something.
If you bring a heroine on patrol you can use her for support, these do things like extra damage, raise one of your stats or reload your weapons. Bringing them will also raise their love which at a certain point will unlock a second support. I’m not sure at what point as Cecile’s is to restore your armor and I maxed her out before buying any armor so I didn’t get a chance to see when it unlocked. My main issue with these is they cost money. I do think they need some negative but money becomes way too hard to come by. The good guns are 500000+ bz, armor and health kits are pretty expensive too, plus the gifts heroines request (Board game costs 100000 bz? and Cecile wants 3 of them!?) so maybe if you max out their relationship make their first support free as it’s not like that’s super easy to do and probably costs more than you’ll spend on the support anyway.
Since I couldn’t fit it anywhere above (and this review has been reading really negative so far) I love everything about the characters, except one. Their designs are all great, all have unique personalities and their voice actors did really good jobs. The except to this is Cornelia. While I don’t have an issue with her design I dislike the “High&Mighty” attitude she has in pretty much every character I’ve ever seen with it. I also just couldn’t get into her voice (luckily we can turn off individual character’s voices) but that might have been because of the attitude coming along with her voice.
The graphics are also pretty good as is sound. One minor thing is I wish the creators had just given the player a name instead of making us pick as hearing “Lieutenant” or just silence while my name was written out which, while not really good or bad, was a bit disjointed. I also really like the bios for each heroine and the ability to replay scenes from the gallery too. The daily events could have used actual names (such as Daily Event #4 being called “Eating Sand”) to help distinguish so I don’t need to go through them all to find the one I want. For some reason it also unlocked some of the date scenes for every character when the only one I even got close to seeing the date scene was Cecile who I ended with.
My final paragraphs will be about the final boss. While I’ll be vague when possible if you want to stay completely spoiler free skip to the summary paragraph.
So I was enjoying the game, hanging out with Cecile, working towards upgrading armor and weapons, laughing at some funny moments when suddenly day 28 hits, I go to sleep and I’m thrust into a cut scene. Once that cut scene starts you have no more opportunities to save which didn’t affect me too much as I always saved just before sleeping anyway but I could see that messing someone up (could have been fixed by allowing us to save during story and only disabling it during battles). Once I actually fought the final boss I couldn’t beat it. My weapons all ran out of ammo (which as I mentioned, doesn’t take very long) and I was stuck with the knife. Confused I went to the Steam forum expecting to find I was missing something and found it has a weakness. Cornelia’s second support. At no point in the game did I notice anything telling me to get friendly with her, in fact until the cut scene the only mention of the weapon was some of Cecile’s text so if I went for Jennifer would I know nothing of this weapon? Anyway on top of apparently not being able to use this super weapon unless you bought the General a bunch of junk it also costs 1000000 bz per use and apparently the boss takes 2 (and I already mentioned how I think money needs balancing) and it always goes last and if a shield is used it’s useless.
I really wanted to beat the boss but didn’t want to restart. On top of this I found its moves really strong. It has a shield and a decent healing move which are annoying with the massive amount of health and its strong attack which did ~2000+ damage to me as well as lowered my accuracy (even when the move missed) as well as another decently strong attack with only 1 of its 5 being an easy to deal with move. Eventually I came up with a strategy of spamming Cecile’s support to reload my sub-machine gun every 8 turns (it’s her base support if you’re looking for tips on beating the boss) but this still took 80+ turns and I failed once because the boss kept spamming its powerful attack and I ran out of Med-Kits. I get the developers wanted a challenging fight but this felt a little too unfair as I already thought shields were a bit broken and combining with the lack of foreknowledge of when the fight would happen (you’re told about a month so I assumed 30 days) and not telling you until it’s too late, the price of Cornelia’s support and the fact it’s locked behind her relationship status just made me dislike the fight entirely. I’m also guessing the developers assumed that’s the only way anyone would beat it as text afterwards strongly implies the weapon was used even though I never saw it fired.