Genre: Music Visual Novel
Developer: KOGADO STUDIO
Release Date: Jun 14, 2017
Edited by kytten
Music in a visual novel is a key element to setting up the mood, or flair up a battle to get you pumped up, and while it tends to be limited to just the music you hear – some novels take it a step beyond, allowing us as the reader to become the musician. Case in point: Symphonic Rain. Symphonic Rain is a musical adventure visual novel developed by KOGADO STUDIOS, later released by Degica, that lets the reader become the musician – but at the cost of a slower story build up and a quick to learn, yet hard to master, piano mechanic.
Striking up the Fortelle with gusto, Symphonic Rain’s story is a slowly unraveled but strong tale that quickly grows on you as a readers delves farther in. We, the reader, are introduced to Chris, a third year at the prestigious Piova Communal School of Music that plays the Fortello. The Fortello is similar to a piano but requires a form of magic to play, and sounds different with each player due to a degree of emotion of the player. Our story starts us off with the reading of a letter from Chris’s girlfriend back home Arietta, where we get some backstory of the differences between Piova, where it rains every day, and their hometown. After a quick read of the letter, a magical fairy named Phorni appears in the room and the two begin their usual practice. Cut to next day where we meet Chris’s music teacher who teaches us the biggest mechanic of the game but also rants on Chris for not having picked a partner as he must have one who can sing for his graduation concert in less than 2 months time. I will end the synopsis here as the rest of the story does enter spoiler territory, but the music is beautiful and shines with the story, even with slower pacing involved.
As with most stories, nothing is perfect and while I did enjoy the nature of the tale given to us by Symphonic Rain, alongside the emotional depth the characters build up as you progress, I did find one issue that while it was not a story killer, did take away some of the impact: The slower pacing. Upon starting to read Symphonic Rain, I noticed that the pace was slower at the start, and while I have found that this is a common start that goes faster as you progress, this one did not speed up much at all. The nature of the tale is slower, and I think it does compliment the story well in that aspect – but for some readers, that slower pacing may be a turn off.
Now let us talk about the best thing I found Symphonic Rain has to offer in terms of unique content to other music-based novels: the piano sections. As you read through the novel, you will run into sections where you can play the music of the game using your A, S, D, F, J, K, L, and : keys like a piano, and while this does makes the novel more challenging to get the multiple endings the novel has, it also keeps it fresh and original. I found myself going back into free play mode, a mode in the novel where you can play the songs of the game with the piano mini game, more than once just to try and improve because how well you perform at these portions in the story itself actually alters the ending you will receive at the end of your run. This mode is a challenge for new readers, so practice is recommended – but I found it highly enjoyable and a nice break from the story itself.
Coming off like an old leather bound book, the presentation of Symphonic Rain is set to a classical period with more rustic, yet simpler visuals, and a variety of classical songs to keep it interesting. Visually, Symphonic Rain is interesting because you can tell the artist aimed for a more rustic feel with the hand drawn graphics, but kept a semi-modern take on the character art to not overload the visuals; this ultimately does the opposite in the sense that you can lose the focus of the visuals, and it becomes torn between the two styles. The backgrounds are rough and hand drawn, a perfect vehicle to tell the story visually as the novel, while set in the modern era focusing around a point of society where classical arts and older touches tend to have more of an hold then a more modern look. Character art wise follows a similar flow but with a modern twist for the character models to fit between the two styles, though I will admit these characters can feel stiff, lacking the same depth that their lines try to deliver. The only issue I want to raise here is for how good of an effect the visuals bring to the story, the also ages it in what some may consider the wrong ways.
Pull out your sheet music as the multitude of classical pieces used in the soundtrack of Symphonic Rain acts like a binder, one that will set quickly in the story. The theme of the sound track is purely classical, something at one point I dreaded as I felt a story using nothing but piano and the various other classical music instruments would be bland and get stale quickly. However Symphonic Rain built the story around the music instead of the reverse so it ultimately fit better here and becomes very memorable, especially the piano piece you can play. The sound effects were toned down in Symphonic Rain but that is alright as I felt the soundtrack carried well enough that you do not miss the effect and the just add to the score when used.
Overall, I felt Symphonic Rain as a visual novel had great music and story design, alongside one of the most unique play elements in a novel to date that while not perfect, lends itself to a great experience even with its slower pacing. The excellently written story, deep character building, Unique piano playing mechanic, multiple endings, older style hand drawn art, excellently orchestrated soundtrack and minimalistic approach with the sound effects makes for a inviting reading experience .
- An excellently written story
- A deep character progression that changes with each playthrough
- Multiple endings for the novel with two to three hours of playtime each
- The ability to play the piano with your computer keyboard as a progression method
- An older style of art with a hand drawn styling to it
- A soundtrack that works with the story to create an emotional experience
- A minimalistic approach to sound effects that works well
- A slower paced story
- The piano mechanic is not really explained too well
- The older looking graphics could be considered archaic to some readers
DarkLunarDude gives Symphonic Rain a Drastik Measure 9.0 out of 10.0 (90)
For the price of $39.99 USD on Steam, I can highly recommend Symphonic Rain to those seeking out a novel with multiple playthroughs and challenge, especially if you enjoy novels where the music is the story and adds to the memorability.