Otome game review: Wishes in Pen: Chrysanthemums in August (Demo)

wishes in pen

Hello everyone! Wishes in Pen: Chrysanthemums in August is an otome game by Lunaniere which had a successful kickstarter last year and is currently on the works. This review will focus on the demo.

Lunaniere actually contacted me quite a while ago (around August 2018) to ask for a review of their demo but, since I was a bit busy at the time, I told them it’d probably take me a while. I didn’t expect it would take me this long, though, so I apologize for the wait!

The MC is a young woman from modern Tokyo who works as a fashion designer and goes on a business trip to Kyoto for a fashion event. However, she just isn’t happy with her work and wishes she could live another life… Who would have thought that her wish would come true in the most unimaginable way possible?

The demo starts with you choosing a name as well as an appearance for your MC. This is certainly nice and the otome games that offer features like this are very few. I decided to go with the original MC.

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When the MC wakes up, she’s phone called by her best friend Chie, who works at the same fashion company and we learn they are on a business trip in Kyoto for a fashion event. Chie is originally from Kyoto, so she gets to stay with her parents, but the MC and other employees stay at a hotel. Another curious piece of information is the fact that the MC is a HUGE gamer 😆 and prone to daydream about imaginary scenarios where she’s (ironically) the main character in a fantasy setting. This is something that I liked a lot; despite otome games being…well, games (genius), it’s not very often that we get to play as a gamer ourselves. MCs in a lot of otome games with modern settings, especially those from a japanese background, tend to be noobs when it comes to games and/or technology and common sense; often depicting a more “serious” personality. Of course, this doesn’t mean that they suck (think Saki or Ichika, for instance) but it’d be nice to see more heroines who are more at home with technology (and who played at least ONE game, I don’t even care if it’s candy crush).

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Say yes to gamer girls!!

The MC and Chie arrange to meet at the Tanabata festival but, due to Chie’s mom planning a meeting for Chie and her old high school crush, the MC ends up going alone. She’s not disheartened, however, and writes up a lot of wishes on a bunch of small papers (called tanzaku) that she ties on a bare bamboo tree. Writing wishes on tanzaku and later hanging them on bamboo is a tradition that japanese people follow during Tanabata. The MC is surprised when a guy tells her she took up her own tree but she isn’t quick enough to see who he is as he promptly walks away.

The next day, at work, the MC and Chie talk about a mysterious kimono exhibited at one of Kyoto’s museums. The beauty of the kimono was well preserved but, apparently, the name of the maker has been lost to time (I believe this could be a strong foreshadowing that the MC might be the creator herself). The main mystery regarding this kimono, however, is an anonymous letter that’s been found inside of it: the sender told their intended recipient that they wouldn’t forget them no matter what and that they would wait for them to return (this also looks like foreshadowing to me).

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The mysterious kimono

The MC’s boss interrupts their conversation by calling the MC into his office, where he harshly scolds her for not doing a good job on her latest design proposals as well as adding that he thought she had promise when he hired her. The MC’s reaction is, of course, one of exasperation and sadness. She feels like she’s never happy when looking at her flaws in her own work, like she doesn’t belong anywhere; which is why she constantly resorts to her videogames and daydreams for escapism. This really touched me; I could personally empathize a lot with the MC here because I too turn to videogames and daydreaming to escape from reality.

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The MC’s way of escapism

 

After work, while strolling around with Chie, the MC finds a strange bar that makes her daydream of all sorts of magical scenarios and she drags a reluctant Chie inside for a drink 😆 . The bar is better than expected: cosy, quiet and with a hot cute bartender. Unfortunately for Chie, the MC gets super drunk and starts spouting all her real feelings: how she hates her boss, how she’s fed up with her mundane life, how she feels like she’s a good for nothing, how she wishes she felt more alive. The bartender, Tsubasa, then makes her a particularly strange albeit interesting question: “If you had the chance…would you really rather live another life?”. As expected, the MC answers yes and passes out soon after.

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The question that starts it all

Somehow, when the MC wakes up (after deciding to sleep some more in the hotel) she finds herself in a river and, once she gets back on her feet, in a very old Kyoto. Panicked, she starts asking questions to passersby including if they have a cellphone who treat her like a lunatic. Things get so bad that some guards try to take her to the police station. A man called Yatsuya (who’s a lieutenant) helps her and she finds out that the current ruler is Emperor Meiji. After she spouts out some trivia about the battle of Toba-Fushimi, which has yet not occurred in that time, Yatsuya gets suspicious of her and takes her to Kyoto’s Imperial Palace. There, she meets all the remaining bachelors: Iori (a physician), Mitsuki (a first assistant diplomat), Amane (a chief estimator) and Haru (a surveyor of housekeeping). Since she finds herself at the great risk of being passed off as a lunatic (and also because neither Yatsuya nor Iori find much sense when she says she’s from the future) she lies about being a seer.

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A lie for the sake of survival

That night, after finally changing her clothes into an outfit more fit to the current time period and being given a room to sleep in, she dreams of someone calling her on her cellphone to ask her if she’s enjoying herself. Although it’s not explicitly mentioned, it’s heavily implied that the caller, as well as the one who sent her there, is Tsubasa, the bartender. As if that weren’t enough, the following day the MC ends up having to meet the emperor himself 😆 to speak of her “visions” regarding the battle of Toba Fushimi. Since the MC’s not a history otaku like her best friend Chie, she has trouble remembering the date of the upcoming armed conflict. Thanks to Mitsuki, a past conversation with Chie is brought to her mind: in the past, a lunisolar calendar —called Tenpo— was used. The MC rushes to have a meeting with the Emperor once again and tells him that the battle will happen in 3 days. Emperor Meiji resolves to trust her and, should her “prediction” be right, he’ll offer her a place in the Imperial Household as well as a man of rank to marry to. If her prediction is wrong, however, she’ll have the death penalty.

One the MC is back in her new room, still panicked and scared, she wishes the man that she’ll come to marry could at least be one of the ones she knows; and this is where the route selection comes in as well as the end of the demo.

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I hope Tsubasa will have a route too…

The premise of this game, a girl from modern Tokyo who ends up in old Japan through some sort of time travel magic, is not something particularly new. There are some other well-known otome games who also fall under this premise; like Ikemen Sengoku and Destined to Love, to mention a few. Ikemen Sengoku also shares the fact that its heroine works in fashion while Destined to Love shares the matter of a letter addressed to (presumably) the heroine. This is most definitely a coincidence, but I’d still like to point out to the developers that it’s important to keep these in mind to avoid running the risk of being too similar to games with the same theme.

Another thing I want to point out is the lack of a glossary in this game. It’s true that there are many anime/manga/videogame fans out in the world and the ones who play otome games are probably among them. Still, that doesn’t mean they should know all about stuff that’s mentioned in a game that’s so heavily leaning on japanese history. Just like how the heroine likes to play Hakuouki Historuoki, a japanese history-heavy game and, thus, with a glossary, her game should have one too. Speaking of the heroine, I liked her very much but I personally think she took too long to accept that she was in the past. I know you can get confused and all that jazz but, guuuuurrrl, it shouldn’t take you that long, and even less having to grab a real katana, to accept the fact that you’re a victim of time travel.

As for the art, I’m gonna be honest, the backgrounds are gorgeous but the sprites just don’t do it for me. Take out the hair and many of the faces look almost exactly the same, if not very similar, with a minor variation of the eyes. I happened to pick the original MC and when Chie and her were together I felt like I was looking at the same character, only with different hair. I saw the trailer and I have to say that I much preferred the 2d sprites (those are gorgeous!) to the 3d ones. Speaking of the sprites, another thing that was jarring to me was how the characters had almost no difference in height. It was not as noticeable with the bachelors, but when Tsubasa and Chie stood next to each other it looked very strange. I think it’d look much better if the heights were a bit more varied.

The main problem I found with this demo, though, were the animations. The ones on the background would sometimes stop abruptly as if they were a gif that wasn’t properly looped. The ones on the characters’ sprites moved too much and all the time. I had to turn off the MC’s animations because I just couldn’t understand what kind of expression she was making according to the lines in the textbox. The other sprites didn’t have this option, though, so their expressions moved a lot. I think the only one whose expressions didn’t move as much was Tsubasa. Also, sometimes, the sprites would make a sudden abrupt movement, sort of like a very fast zoom-in zoom-out that would give the impression that the character was shaking. The sprites’ transitions suffered too, at some points, but not all the time.

Overall, the game certainly has a lot of promise and I enjoyed the demo quite a bit. The MC was funny and her inner conflict relatable, the guys look cute and intriguing please give Tsubasa a route, the backgrounds are gorgeous and the story (while it’s not the first time I’ve seen this theme) makes me want to know more. However, the demo still has its flaws and I think it’s important for the developers to address them so that the finalized version of the game is more polished and satisfactory to the players.

That’s all folks! Thanks a lot for reading until the end, feel free to comment and see you next post!! (≧∇≦*)/

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