Genre: Adventure, Casual
Publisher: Frontwing USA
Release Date: Aug 24, 2018
Edited by KnightAvenger
Sometimes, the greatest mystery comes from the lack of remembrance or a lack of memory, and while this can often deter people from the truth, those who seek it, get the greatest reward. At least, that is what it seems our next novel is out to prove. ISLAND is a casual, adventure visual novel, developed by Frontwing and later released by Frontwing USA. This charmer of a novel sets up a simple story at its base, then expands to one of history, mystery and a will to remember one’s self, with a depth not seen by many novels of its type.
Like one of those bad dreams where you wake up naked without reason, the story of ISLAND starts out slow, building into a much more character driven and focused experience, depending on which of the three girls your focus will be on. We, the reader, follow the story through the eyes of a Setsuna Sanzenkai, or Setsuna for short, as I will call him, when he wakes up naked on a beach with no memory of the past, or even his own name. Our naked hero makes his way to the island’s police station, where, after a brief talk of how he is a future traveler and some interference from the mayor of the island, is put into a boat hull to be sent off to the mainland. Inside of the hull, however, is the mayor’s own daughter, Karen, who is trying to escape to the mainland and leave behind the island forever. Setsuna quickly ruins her plan after stealing her butterfly knife and making a break for it back to the beaches where this all started. It is here, however, where Setsuna meets Rinne, a name he remembers from some visions of what we have to assume is the past before the story begins. He claims to be confused and becomes a new servant to her household, which he quickly agrees to, as being sent to the mainland is not on his to-do list. Rinne explains how this situation will work, which is not an issue in any form until one more young girl enters the picture, a shrine maiden by the name of Sara. After some passive story, Setsuna agrees that staying on this island and unraveling its mystery, alongside learning more about the three girls becomes his goal. I will end my story synopsis here, to avoid spoilers for the stories’ three main routes of play, one for each of the girls involved. I do want to say, though, that I like how the story gave the player a chance to fail, without ruining a run of the story, with the novel’s various bad endings scattered throughout based on story choices.
Now, before I delve into the story’s negative aspects, I do want to bring out the game’s flowchart system, an interesting element brought to the table. As I said at the end of the story synopsis, the novel has multiple bad endings, but it allows the reader to learn from these decisions and progress further with the flowchart system, a series of dots that the reader can access at any point during their run, and go back to another point in the story, without losing their progress at that further point. This helped me a lot in my runs, as I got multiple bad endings, and this showed me where I went wrong, so I could progress and learn for a future run of a different character story.
While the premise of the story is solid and appealing, there are a few issues the story brings with it I would like to discuss, mainly an awkward pacing issue that happens periodically throughout. The story shifted from energetic and fast, to slow and meaningful pretty frequently, which I enjoyed, but this left the novel at some key story points going faster than it needed to be, or slower than it was supposed to be.
Like staring into the clear blue sea, the presentation of ISLAND comes off as detailed although sometimes flat and a focus on an island-vibe style soundtrack, with some classical notes on the side. Visually, the presentation of ISLAND is beautiful in its rich details, especially in its backgrounds, although I will admit these backgrounds did feel flat compared to the characters and their animations in the foreground. The backgrounds are an excellent presentation point, as they focus on many small details like the stars in the sky or the bubbles in the water when someone is swimming, but some of these scenes, like the daytime beach scenes or forest scenes as prime examples, feel like they were supposed to feel more alive but then don’t give off that aura of liveliness. The character models, as well, are another point of this novel’s artistic design, as the characters are expressive, both in facial and body movement, as the scenes go on, which can easily feel stiff when used incorrectly, which is not to say the models (on the occasion) do not show some stiffness.
Listen to the sounds of the sea, as the soundtrack for ISLAND brings many of these simple, but welcome, sounds to the forefront, alongside a, sometimes, silent but orchestrated backup. The music here is an element I enjoyed, as I grew up near the water, so the constant sounds of the ocean and waves crashing felt like home. However, the actual soundtrack of the classical-themed pianos, strings, and winds often times felt overpowered by certain sound effects, hampering my enjoyment of the overall sounds. This is not to say that when the sound effects let the music shine through, it makes the novel feel more complete but just gets overshadowed by the sound effects in a fair number of scenes. The voice acting presented is nice as well, where each voiced character gave their lines exceptionally well, with feelings behind each word, although Setsuna is not provided a voice, which can hamper a few scenes of their emotional value.
Overall, I found ISLAND to have some excellent storytelling and presentation, even with the pacing issues scattered about it and occasional lackluster presentation in the background department. The excellent storytelling and story itself, in-depth development of each character, three endings around six to eight hours each, use of the in-game flowchart system to track progress, beautiful and richly detailed presentation (including backgrounds), excellent soundtrack when heard, and top-notch sound effects make ISLAND worth the trip to read.
- Excellent storytelling and story
- The in-depth development of characters
- Four total endings, with about six to eight hours, read time each
- The in-game flowchart system
- Beautiful and richly detailed presentation
- Top notch sound effects
- Awkward pacing scattered across the story
- Sound effects can overpower the main soundtrack at times
DarkLunarDude gives ISLAND a Drastik Measure of 9.0 out of 10.0 (90)
For the price of $39.99 (USD) on Steam, I can highly recommend this to those who have seen the anime. As to my knowledge, it is a retelling of that story in a more visual form. I can also recommend this to those seeking an emotional story, as this novel delivers on that front very well.