No more side trips, no more interruptions. It’s NaNo Time!
NaNoRen, much like NaNoWriMo, is a writing event where visual novel creators must create a full VN in one month’s time. Stitching together a full VN with branch-able paths in such a short time is a difficult prospect for anyone, amateur or veteran.it’s its not shock and no problem that some projects don’t end up finished on time. But the ones that are, and function decently, are worth all the praise they could get.
Our journey begins with an entry by Seraphinite, the writer and artist behind Regency Simulator de jure, The Lady’s Choice. She does the art and story all by herself in these things, so I’m really not surprised we’ve gone down from three choices to two. But, for what tiny product we are given, we’ve got a lot to chew on.
Still one of my favorite gifs.
Tiana (or whatever you decide to call her) lost everything in the past month; her job and her appartment more specifically. And yet, a job presents itself right as her life appears to be falling apart. She’s asked to house-sit while lawyers duke it out over ownership, which seems simple enough. What they fail to mention was that the house is a mansion, fittingly named The Crossroads.
Nice looking bugger, too.
The only other souls in this lovely house are two handsome gents, as luck would have it: Lucan, the bold and charming steward; and Tristan, the rugged and friendly handyman. The more time she spends with these souls, the more she starts to notice that something seems a bit off. The boys have a strange feud going between them and won’t explain a series of strange happenings around the house. What’s going on at this massive estate and why does it all connect back to her?
The point behind a visual novel is to set up a story that has branching pathways, that shifts depending on the choices the reader makes. However, when you only have a month to choke out a full VN story, you can’t exactly blame the writer for cutting a few corners to finish on time. This is a big inevitability of NaNoRen, so I wasn’t too surprised that Crossroads only featured two plots with minimal difference between them. The story plays out pretty much the same whether you chase after Tristan or Lucan. I was, however, surprised to see a protagonist who could be customized a little. That’s ambitious for a NaNoRen project, so kudos.
I made a pale ginger for the hell of it
But, as always, the meat of our gameplay comes from choices. Seraphinite saved herself a headache and adopted the same choice system from The Lady’s Choice. You’ll be greeted with either four choices to decide what kind of person Tiana is or three choices to make an important character-interaction choice. This time, however, you’ll also see two choice moments where you must pick to either trail after the gardener or the stewart, as neither are willing to spend time together.
Sometimes they make this easy
You’ll end up with whoever you spend the most time with. You’ll know you’re on the right track when, every so often, you’ll be greeted with a jaw-dropping CG. Both paths are unique in tone, despite the similar structure, and make all playthroughs a fun time. The actual story in and of itself is not terribly detailed but makes narrative sense at its core.
Seraphinite also returns as the artist, producing highly detailed art that’s a treat for the eyes. Backgrounds are lush, even though you’ll be seeing only a few different areas all the time. With the hunks being, well, hunky, and the CG’s looking like the cover of a romance novel, it’s safe to say that this game is easy on the eyes.
Which is why I’m mildly sad at points to see a fade to black, where things have to be glossed over. It’s an inevitability of a NaNoRen project, but still something that’s unfortunate.
The handyman and gardener of the estate, Tristan is easy-going, friendly, and sweet as can be. He’s got a “good ‘ole boy” vibe about him that makes him attractive to approach, and a calming aura to keep you hanging around. Casual and warm, you’ll rarely ever find him in the house. He’s almost always trimming something leafy and green, enjoying the nature around him, or just hanging around wherever there’s greenery. He’s a gentle, sweet soul who seems to blunder about his way romantically, and yet it’s hard not to find his genuine nature charming.
Lucan the steward is very interested in Tiana, interested to the point of it being uncomfortable. He’s our bold flirt, making almost every conversation into innuendo, and struts a very forced sounding charisma. His flirty approach will work, most certainly, but one can’t shake the feeling that it’s a mask. When he’s not dropping spicy lines, he’s sophisticated, suave and dazzling. If you can pry off that flirtatious mask of his, you’ll find a wonderful gentleman crouching in the wings.
The Crossroads is good for what it is: a short-story done in a month’s time. It’s short and sweet with good dialogue and art, but not as many details as The Lady’s Choice. I would have loved to see either path have a different plot, but also understand that such things would likely take more time than given. As a quick project, The Crossroads is fun distraction and I’d adore seeing it improved.
Next time: What’s Your Name?
Got a favorite NaNoRen project this year? Have any opinions on this genere at all? Feel free to share the comments below. And don’t forget to like and follow for more content like this.