Almost a year ago now is when I read my first visual novel. I really liked the way the format could tell many different stories simply based on choices you make through-out. Eventually I heard of a popular trilogy all with the name “Grisaia” and just as I was about to check it out Sekai Project they would be releasing the entire trilogy in English on Steam (only the first had received a fan translation) and now, here we are, taking a look at the first game which releases May 29th.
*note: I have seen the anime so I had a general idea of the story, I have also yet to complete all the routes but unless something super major happens it is unlikely my opinion will change.
The story opens with Yuuji Kazami transferring into a new school, Mihama Academy, with us instantly knowing he’s not a normal person but not revealing how. Yuuji ends up meeting the 5 other students over his first few days (they all happen to be of the female gender) with his first actual introduction being to Sachi Komine, a timid girl at first who is dressed like a maid because she was told she’d look good as one and as we later find out, not only does she take everything someone says literally, but she will obsessively work until she is able to fulfill any command given to her. The next two he saw as he entered, the first being Amane Suou, described as the horny big sister type and is constantly throwing herself at (and pushing her breasts up against) Yuuji, and the second being Makina Irisu who starts off being so shy she won’t even shake Yuuji’s hand but ends up becoming a filthy speaker, not holding back any thought that jumps in her mind, and providing a lot of comedy. The next day at class he meets Michiru Matsushima who is obsessed with the tsundere to the point of mimicking their behavior and lastly, Yumiko Sakaki. A girl who generally keeps her distance and whenever Yuuji tries getting close to her, attempts to attack him with a box cutter.
I might have mentioned it in my review of the anime but Grisaia is so far, the only visual novel where I like every single heroine to the point of having trouble picking a favourite. All of them get a pretty decent amount of development through-out and unlike most multi-route VNs I’ve played, there is no true heroine (Yumiko used in a lot of promotion, Michiru has a spin-off game, Makina has longest route and gives a lot of Yuuji’s backstory and Amane gives Yuuji’s family backstory and in general seems to appear most often, Sachi gives more backstory to Yuuji). The side-characters are also decent with the “major” ones being Chizuru Tachibana, the principal of the school, Michiaki Sakaki, Yumiko’s dad and the owner of the school (only family member you see during common route I believe) and JB (Yuria Harudera), Yuuji’s boss. None really get any development in common but Yumiko’s dad is the primary antagonist of her route.
It’s actually quite hard to describe the story as I don’t want to spoil the routes and the common route is fairly unique (from what I’ve played and read online) in the fact it’s not only super long, but follows a slice-of-life structure of scenes not really connecting to each other. I really liked this method as before we even get the choice to start branching off into routes you’ve not only got to know every heroine, but you’ve also gotten hints dropped through-out relating to what their major problem is (some more obvious than others). Compare this to something like Clannad or Kanon and there’s a very high chance you won’t meet some of the heroine unless you are going for their route and some you’ll have no idea about their issues until it’s too late to switch.
I don’t have many problems but one is kind of major. My first is for some reason I find it really annoying how it uses ” ` ” instead of ” ‘ ” (example “can`t”). I think that might be the font as quotation marks have a similar slant and it didn’t really affect anything but I found it a little annoying. Another is an issue I’m not sure if it came from the Japanese version or a new issue that somehow arose but when I finished Michiru’s route I had to completely exit the game before I could load a save. I didn’t encounter this issue with her bad end or anyone else’s routes. Finally my biggest issue that lies in the writing itself. All these characters have some sort of troubling past which is good. That’s the point of the story after all. My problem arrives from the delivery. The backstory is told generally all at once with either a black background or some static image with no sprites. Every once in a while a CG or sprites show up but I ended up getting quite bored with a lot of these segments (especially Yumiko’s) as they felt like the dragged on way too long. Other VNs give small reveals through the route before the huge reveal (for some reason I always lean on Kotomi, Tomoyo and Yukine [Clannad] as well as Lucia and Shizuru [Rewrite] as my examples) but that never really happens in The Fruit of Grisaia. Sure the common route drops minor hints but most of those aren’t obvious enough unless you already know their problem (especially Amane and Sachi).
The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag for me. For one I absolutely love the sprites and the style used on them. They all look bright and they’re all expressive. My main issue comes from the CG. Look at the picture I used for the graphics category. How is Yuuji holding that pose? Why is he so skinny? Why does his face look so off? Yuimko’s face also looks kind of weird compared to her other CG. Michiru’s face in her CG also look a lot different from her sprites. I’m guessing different artists worked on all the CG or something but whenever I’ve seen that I find the quality is usually pretty consistent but not here.
The game is fully voice acted aside from Yuuji and some flashbacks. I always wondered why VN protagonists are rarely voice acted, I’ve seen some say it’s so you can related or put your self in their shoes easier but with the amount of backstory Yuuji gets I can’t see how anyone that didn’t have the same childhood as him (which would be pretty much impossible) could relate to him at all. The voices all fit but for some reason it felt even weird Yuuji wasn’t voiced when random boy #7 that runs by in the market once is. The music, aside from the credits tracks, is fairly forgettable. There’s a few good tracks but nothing I’d buy a soundtrack for or even catch myself humming. Each route ends with a unique credits track (as well as theme for their route) and they were all great. Probably the best 5 songs in the game.