NaNoRen 2017 has passed, meaning it’s time to pan for new digital boyfriends. But before we get the prospector gear on and start grazing the fresh crop of Visual Novels, I wanna take a moment to glance at a title that came out last year on Halloween. Since I missed NaNoRen last year, it’s only fitting I look at once of the success stories before any of the new releases.
Once Upon a Hallow’s Eve is a two-year project that looks very promising. Written by Lemmasoft user Ran, the novel promises a spooky msyery, alongside serious romantic drama.
Our is the slightly spoiled Cara Lee, a graduating college student on a hiking trip with her friends. She wakes up after being caught in a landslide and manages to wobble her way through the woods on a bad leg and broken arm. She stumbles upon a decrepit old mansion with three attractive boys within and begs them to shelter her from the rain. While the oldest seems willing to help her out, the youngest is afraid and the middle boy is doing all he can to make her unwelcome.
Cara is beginning to agree with him. As the days go by, the boys seem hesitant to take her down to the village to call for help, as they promised to do. Cara begins to notice that time passes strangely; there are no clocks anywhere in the house; she can’t find a mirror anywhere, and the boys are tight-lipped about their situation to the point of being defensive. What are the brothers hiding from her and can it be undone? Or is Cara stuck in this strange mansion forever?
Since this was made with the plethora of VN engines available for creators, it runs predictably: sprites dance in front of painted backgrounds while the player makes a narrative choices. Specifically, the decisions in the first half of the game dictate which of the three brothers you’ll be warming up to. The latter half is spent hopefully making the correct conversational calls to make them fall head-over-heels for this somewhat spoiled college student that sorta fainted her way through the door. The problem is that it’s not obvious which choice warms you up to which brother and you could very well find yourself cozying up to the wrong guy.
Furthermore, playing the game is an interesting auditory experience. There’s lots of really well done piano pieces ranging from beautiful to spooky, but the background music changes so suddenly at times it can be pretty jarring. Some of the score choices are a little odd as well; I would never have thought to pick a plinky-plonky xylophone track for a spooky mystery game. I might have also just been a little salty since Cara herself is rather abrasive to viewers. She comes off as vain and spoiled, which could be an acceptable flaw if her good qualities were given more polish.
This is also the first protagonist I wasn’t a big fan off right off the bat. Cara Lee is friendly and bouncy as a person but also spoiled and used to getting her own way. Maybe such is the life of an only child, but I feel that her good characteristics need to be pushed a little harder to balance things.
But while the game has some rough spots to buff out, it’s solid in the story area. The mystery itself has really good build up. And while getting to the correct guy isn’t easy, it’s easy to get his good ending once you do get to him.The Game has no CG’s as of right now but I saw sketches on their page, so, fingers are very much crossed.
Lemmasoft user Ermun did a great job on the art. It’s very clean and crisp for most of the game, with only the forest areas looking oddly fuzzy. The sprites themselves have a very bare-minimum look to them, but I have no issues telling anyone apart. I can see the anime inspiration from the figures and a realistic look to the mansion backgrounds. It all blended together very well, so I’m excited to see what Ermun can do with some more detailed pictures.
Vik is the eldest of the brothers and a trained medical student. When he isn’t bandaging up Cara’s broken arm he’s usually doing the cooking, cleaning, and other household necessities. He’ll do anything to take care of his brothers, including pretending that nothing sinister is going on. How do you hold in such a deep, dark secret?
Viktor feels like a weird hybrid between the Cheery Type and the Moody Man, but it kinda works in its own fashion. The romance between Cara and Vicktor needs some fleshing out in places but, ultimately, it comes across like your average Rom-Com.
Speaking of moody, meet the socially inept middle brother who quickly turned into my favorite. The first meeting of Vonn is sour indeed; remember the pouty blond who asked why you hadn’t left? But when Vonn isn’t overreacting to protect his family, he’s passionate, snarky, and an old-fashioned romantic. Poor Vonn, however, has a lot of guilt resting on his shoulders. If you’re gonna get past his caustic behavior, you’ll have to sift through an avalanche of trouble.
As Vonn has dreams of being a writer, how could I not find myself attached? Snippy and temperamental, yet sweet and caring, it’s hard not to think of Vonn as some Byronic prince. It was why I was disappointed when his romance turned out to be far too chaste for me. There was real drama here and the mystery played off a lot of strong emotions. It’s sad that this is the one they chose to be coy with.
The last and youngest of the brothers is left out of the loop on a lot of things. HIs memory before the mansion is pretty shot and he seems deathly afraid of their new guest. Not too talkative and childish to the extreme, Vern wants to know the truth just as much as Cara does, but his fears might be the only thing stopping him.
I wanted Vern’s path to be fun and, in a way, it was. The “Shy Guy Romance” is always adorable in its own right and there is some appeal in a guy who behaves immaturely. But when you lay it on this thick, it doesn’t always trigger romantic feelings. I didn’t want to date Vern; I wanted to buy him ice cream and hang out at the park. But as there is no accounting for taste, I encourage everyone to still give it a shot.
Once Upon a Hallow’s Eve still has some kinks. There are some tiny art inconsistencies and the characters lack a little polish. But the plot in and of itself is very well done and I did enjoy the final twist. I ended up liking the game when all was said and done and look forward to seeing what this game could be with some more elbow grease. I do hope this creator tries again as I’m sure what pops up will be even better.
Next Time: The Lady’s Choice
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