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Genre: Adventure Visual Novel
Developer: 07th Expansion
Release Date: Nov 17, 2017
Over a year ago, I read through the Questions Arc of a series following after the Higurashi series, known as Umineko, and while I found the series to share many traits, I also found that it left an odd taste in my mouth, as it felt more like a straightforward novel, with some well-placed mystery elements in it. Now we delve back into the world of insanity and mystery with its follow up: Umineko When They Cry – Answer Arc. Umineko When They Cry – Answer Arc is a mystery adventure anime visual novel, developed by 07th Expansion, which was later released by MangaGamer, that lets us, the reader, follow up with Battler and his ongoing game with some solid story, great music and its fair share of problems on the side.
As a side note, I will be covering over the fifth chapter in this review to avoid heavy spoilers of the following chapters and story plots.
Resuming like if we had paused time from our last adventure, Answer Arc wastes no time in dropping the player back into its world with another four chapters to delve into and explore. We, the reader, resume our primary role as Battler, who after the events of the fourth chapter, has put the golden witch Beatrice into what seems like a soulless doll-like state, not really moving or responding except with her eyes. This is where Battler meets up with two little witches, who as is tradition, must continue the game until Battler actually beats Beatrice, though he refuses at first returning to the garden where he and the now doll-like Beatrice are playing chess. The butler, however, reminds him that he will not win the game unless even in this state, he continues to fight Beatrice and beat her properly. So with a new resolution at his side, Battler returns to the parlor and joins the newly continued game, not only for Beatrice’s sake but also his sister’s. I will end my synopsis here as by delving any farther we can reach some spoilers to the earlier chapters, but I will say the novel keeps the timeline well, even with the few plots holes it has.
Speaking of plotholes, Answer Arc is a novel that, while it doesn’t show them often, does reveal its problems, and there are only two I felt really affected the story in this regard. The first problem I found was the start of the overall chapter felt very oriented to readers who knew the stories’ lore. As I said in my intro, I have not seen any of the stories since 2016 and when I booted the story up, while yes it was a straight continuation, I felt heavily lost and had to gather my thoughts to understand some of the events. My other issue is mainly the lack of identity Battler has as a character, regarding what side he is on. Battler in the Questions Arc had his priority straight, beating Beatrice at her own game to break the curse; whereas here, Battler is torn now between wanting to beat the game for the sake of getting free and seeing his sister again, or beating the game to end the suffering he sees Beatrice in now as this lifeless doll. It just felt like a mistake on the writing end of the novel’s part.
With its older charm, the presentation of Answer Arc is a blast from the past, but maybe not in the best way, with its true-to-style graphics from Higurashi series and simple, but suspenseful, music choices. Visually, I genuinely like the use of the same twin art style from prior novels but I do feel like the effect can start to wear thin after so many usages of it. The backgrounds here work well, creating the setting of the current place of interest with a mosaic-like style background that is unique to the artist’s style. However, it does start to lose some of its unique flairs as some of the backgrounds tend to look similar as you go on. The character art can suffer from this same effect, but does not fall so far into that pit as the characters are the frontal feature on screen at any given point, and can be changed to look like the more modern style used for the remastering, or the original more hand-drawn style of the original release.
Pulling out the classical quartet, the soundtrack provided in Answer Arc acts like a play, only used to fill the mood the writers wants you to feel. Musically, I like the attention to effort, as I felt like it made the more creepy scenes have that scare factor, and the scenes where general conversation be more subtle and build up the drama underneath the surface. The sound effects are spot on for this one as well, used only as a needed addition to the soundtrack to increase the mood of the scene in play.
Overall, I found Umineko When They Cry – Answer Arc, while it was a tad confusing at first story-wise, to be a solid story with some great music and a unique art style that holds true to the series artist. The solid story with decent storytelling, focus on answers for many questions, ability to switch between art styles, stain glass style backgrounds, use of music as an effect and purposeful sound effects made for a novel that fits the end of such a deep mystery.
- The solid story with decent telling to back it up
- A focus on providing answers to reader’s questions
- The twin art styles that the reader can decide on
- Use of the stained glass-like backgrounds
- Music that acts as an effect, is not overwhelming
- Sound effects had purpose
- Battler comes off as confused in intentions in story
- Background art can come off as archaic
DarkLunarDude gives Umineko When They Cry – Answer Arc a Drastik Measure 7.8 out of 10.0 (78)
For the price of $29.99 on Steam or $29.95 on MangaGamer, I can recommend Umineko When They Cry – Answer Arc to fans of the series, or those looking for a good mystery novel, as this half focuses to wrap up any loose ends left behind from the first four chapters. It is highly recommended though that you read Umineko When They Cry – Questions Arc first, as the story is a direct continuation and does not deviate from this path going forward.