A Butterfly in the District of Dreams – PC Review

Genre: Casual, Indie
Developer: Life a Little
Publisher: Sekai Project
Release Date: May 13, 2017
Edited by KnightAvenger

Journeys are an odd notion, where just about anything can happen and usually does. However, mixed with a story like a slice-of-life novel, these results can lead to some interesting situations that can end up being a complete puzzle or a solid mess. This is one of those 50-50 situations: A Butterfly in the District of Dreams. A Butterfly in the District of Dreams is a slice-of-life visual novel developed by Life A Little, later released by Sekai Project, that, while it has an interesting story premise, some likable characters and plenty of routes to explore, does have a few areas where some changes may have helped.

Like a simple butterfly flying in the sky, A Butterfly in the District of Dreams’ story flies in one direction, only changing when needed, and it leaves more to be desired from some very solid writing. We, the reader, follow through the eyes of Haruki Yumesaki, a university student who, at the start of the novel, has lost all will to really succeed and ultimately spends his time wandering around his hometown or being with his Anzu, who is hospitalized, hoping to keep her spirits high. It is here we are introduced to Ai Tsukibane, who, although she has higher grades and better scores, is Haruki’s best friend and college enforcer of sorts. After dragging him to school the next day by a force of will and enjoying a meal together, the two miss the last train home, but, as they plan to leave the station, an old looking and mysterious train appears before them and they agree to get on it. Upon entering the train and almost disappearing in a flash of light, the two arrive in Olive Village, as the train disappears from sight behind them as they step off. Leaving the two in a situation of unknown ideas and some minor exploring later, they come to a little coffee shop where they meet Yurika, who advises them to visit a local shrine. Ultimately finding out that there is no known way home, the two decide that finding a way home is now a priority, but Yurika has other plans for the two while they remain in Olive Village. I will end the synopsis now, as the story gets deeper and more complex from here, but I do want to give props to the writing of this novel, as it really does feel like the story was the true focus of so much attention to detail.

Unfortunately, with good writing tends to follow other problems. In this situation, they are the pacing issues widespread throughout the story and one annoying character. Pacing is the bigger of the two issues, mostly as it is so widespread throughout the novel and hits the hardest. While some pacing is not bad at places, I noticed so many places where one event would happen, followed by a different one, and these events ultimately changed how we perceive the situation with a completely different vibe and emotional context to the situation. The pacing is to blame on story alone, though, that I can attribute to Riko, another character in the story who becomes the main focus. Riko, to me, was more of an annoyance since, when she did come into a scene, she was loud and very pushy, as children can be. This left a bitter taste in my mouth for her even though she becomes less annoying as the novel progresses. Also, I want to include that the music level, before playing around with it in the options area, is louder than the characters talking. It got really annoying when I tried to listen to each character speak and then the music just overpowered it, more than once I might add.

To describe the presentation of A Butterfly in the District of Dreams, I feel you have to compare two similar but different art styles with a more simplified but classic music style to wrap up the package, but not everything falls into place smoothly. Visually, it feels like the HD-ification of the art did not work as intended, as some of the backgrounds are rendered beautifully, while others look very rough and sketchy. Backgrounds can fall into one of two categories. While they still look hand drawn, they can have excellent detailing and design. Then, there are the backgrounds that look like someone had hand drawn them, but, instead of any polish done to them, they were left alone. The character art is very well done across the board. It felt like they took this chance on character art, and it worked out well, with emotion and nice movements as the characters interact. The mismatch of the character art to the backgrounds can be jarring, though, as there does not seem to be one solid connection between the two pieces.

Trying to make the reader feel at home, the soundtrack for A Butterfly in the District of Dreams was oddly satisfying with its classical tones and its attempt to use some more traditional Japanese instruments. The soundtrack is still fairly based off of instruments like the piano, common fare, for the most part, but it is when the other instruments come into effect that makes the soundtrack more enjoyable. I will admit, because of a number of playthroughs you can do for this novel, that the music can become old and a tad stale, as it does not really spice up too much. The sound effects here are the star, though, being crystal clear and filling the moments with plenty of types to listen to as the novel progresses.

Overall, I found A Butterfly in the District of Dreams, while it has a solid story and writing, some good visuals in certain places, and a nicely done soundtrack, to be marred by numerous issues, such as mismatching backgrounds and overpowering music. The solid story and writing, great attention to detail, multiple ends for each girl, the good background pieces, great character art, great soundtrack and welcoming use of sound effects make this novel worth a look, at least once.

Pros:

  • A solid story with good writing to it
  • Story is very detail oriented
  • Each of the three girls has multiple endings to find
  • Backgrounds (when you find a good one)
  • Great character art design that stays together and flows well
  • A good soundtrack to listen to for a few runs
  • A welcome use of sound effects in the story

Cons:

  • Pacing issues run rampant in some portions of the story
  • Riko, as a character, can be annoying to some readers
  • The music (before lowering the setting), at times, can be louder than the voice actors
  • The background art style has times where it looks more hand drawn rustic with a lot of roughness, whereas, other times, it has the same style but more polished
  • The soundtrack (after a few reads) can lose its charm

DarkLunarDude gives A Butterfly in the District of Dreams a Drastik Measure 7.0 out of 10.0 (70)

For $9.99 USD on Steam, I can only recommend A Butterfly in the District of Dreams for someone seeking a good slice-of-life story and those seeking multiple run novels, as the novel holds up well in those areas specifically.