Visual Novel Review: If My Heart Had Wings

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This review will be divided into three sections: general information, the tech, and the stories. ‘General information’ will give just that, the main info about the VN in a general sense. ‘Tech’ will cover the art, wording, translation, interface, etc. And the other one is obvious; I’ll go into the various story arcs (spoiler free of course).

After 100%-ing this visual novel, I feel the need to keep the three separate.

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GENERAL INFORMATION

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So, to start off, I’m simply going to give you the English synopsis:

Aoi Minase returns with shattered dreams to his wind-swept hometown of Kazegaura. There, atop a hill lined with windmills, he encounters a wheelchair-bound girl, Kotori Habane, and a beautiful, white glider soaring through the sky. Together, they decide to revive their school’s defunct Soaring Club in order to ride the “Morning Glory”, a phantom cloud carried on the wind that blows across Kazegaura.

This is a tale of youth, a tale of boys and girls who loved the sky.

Screenshot (555)

IMHHW was originally released in Japan on April 6th, 2012 as an 18+ eroge title. The version I played was the English-localized, non-hentai (all sex scenes and sex jokes removed) download edition released on June 28, 2013 by a company called ‘MoeNovel’.

The game contains 5 character routes, and one bad end. My play-through took me 43 hours over the course of 10 days (luckily I was on spring break). This is NOT a short game by any means. There’s a LOT of content packed into here.

Here’s the opening:

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TECH

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It’s nice to get a visual novel that runs in 16:9 (widescreen), rather than 4:3 (square fullscreen) like most I’ve played have. Also, HD is always nice too, it makes the visuals much more crisp and clear.

The menu and options are simple, direct and work well to customize the game’s settings to fit you.

The Main Menu

The Main Menu

An example of the configuration menu.

An example of the configuration menu.

Now onto the art.

The art itself is very high quality. The backgrounds look good, and character models and their expressions are decent… but not that original. Overall, it’s the best art quality that I’ve seen in a visual novel, though not my favorite in the style area, that honor goes to Steins;Gate.

An example of the non-character art.

An example of the non-character art.

An example of the character art - featuring my two favorites from the game.

An example of the character art – featuring my two favorites from the game.

And the occasional chibi art never hurts. XD

And the occasional chibi art never hurts. XD

Translation.

The English translation by MoeNovel was decent at its core, but there were many times when the translation gets EXTREMELY lazy and sloppy. I speak near-fluent Japanese (been teaching myself for around 8 years, studying hard and often) and found that what the characters would say would often be translated as something that, while close to what the character said, was also very much off the mark in the nuances the statement meant to convey. For example, forms of the word “aishiteru” were used and translated as “I like you” or “I’m crushing on him?!” – when that word is literally a blunt way of saying “I LOVE…”. It is a word for clear, cut-and-dry love, not a crush or simply ‘liking’.

There were also times when the characters would monologue, and MoeNovel thought it appropriate to only translate the ‘important bits’. Luckily for me, I speak and understand Japanese almost fluently, but as 99% of Americans that aren’t Japanese (and even then, some of them) don’t speak Japanese, they’ll miss out on a pretty sizable amount of dialogue.

Then there’s the English grammar of the translation. When the grammar was correct, it was correct. But at times it was absolutely horrid. Almost 1/5th of all of the grammar is wrong and confusing!!

Grrr!

Grrr! That grammar!

Alright, I’ve ranted enough on that. I’ll stop hammering it in.

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STORIES

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The first thing in the game is the common route. It follows the synopsis I gave above and leads you to the choices that may eventually take you to your desired destination if you choose correctly. (The character introductions are in the opening embedded earlier.)

In your first run through the game, only three of the 5 routes are available. Yoru’s unlocks after you complete Asa’s, and Amane’s unlocks after you complete Kotori’s. This isn’t just to infuriate you. The two locked routes make a LOT more sense after first going through the route required to unlock it, which is nice, rather than just being locked to get you to play more.

Alright, onward to the routes themselves. I’m gonna go in the order I did them while playing. I played without any knowledge concerning the routes at the time. In other words, I played the whole game ‘blind’.

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Ageha’s Route

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Ageha is a great character: fun, energetic and kind. But, regrettably, she has the worst route when it comes to plot-progression and pacing. There’s a solid reason for this though. In the original Japanese version, the two were “friends with benifits”, but eventually fall in love with each other and become a true couple. Of course, that got taken out for this non-hentai English version. That makes the plot feel very off. The reluctance and timidness that Ageha expresses towards their growing feelings for each other don’t make sense when the element that was its foundation originally is taken out and not replaced with anything else. What ends up occurring, is that Ageha acts COMPLETELY and jarringly out of character, and the drama seems needless and ungrounded.

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But, there is a bright side. The last third of her route, once you get past the awkward bits, is pretty dang fun and heartwarming. It also ends well and solidly. It’s just the beginning and middle that make me almost want to apply the restoration patch. Not for the sex scenes, but to see the route in its true literary glory that the Japanese version is supposed to be. Almost…

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Kotori’s Route

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The next route I finished was Kotori’s. This is the second best route in the entire game. It shows the entire transition the two go through: from meeting and not really getting along → to becoming friends and learning to trust each other → to falling in love and getting together → and then their lives as a couple. Surprisingly, this route contains a very well-developed, grounded, realistic and sweet relationship. There’s very little drama, and the drama that is there actually adds to the story, rather than subtracts.

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I had fun reading this particular route. Rather than pointless drama, it gives you a straightforward, realistic relationship. More VN’s need to learn from this.

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Asa’s Route

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After being pleasantly surprised by Kotori’s route, the next one I played turned out to be rather standard. It wasn’t particularly good, but also wasn’t that bad. I’m guessing it was just that, of the 5 girls, Asa was my least favorite and has the least development throughout. This led to me just not being that invested, especially when coupled with the fact that the story associated with her route was just kinda boring to be honest. That’s all that needs to be said.

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Yoru’s Route (a.k.a, the unexpected harem route)

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I’m not big on polygamy, so this route is my least favorite. If you like that sort of thing, then you’ll like this. The story development itself is decent, and facets of it were enjoyable, but the whole thing just seemed weird to me. Though it’s a harem route, the majority of the focus is on Yoru. The double relationship is merely used as a means for plot development on her part. But, it was prevalent enough to make me uncomfortable while reading it. Call me old-fashioned or narrow-minded if you wish, but I just didn’t like this route.

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Amane’s Route

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This is the best route in the game without question if you ask me. Not only was Amane the best character in the entire game, but her route was also the most well-balanced (between pertinent drama, humor, and excellently crafted romance). It was the most meaningful to the overall story of the entire visual novel itself, and was also the only route with an ending that satisfied me 100%.

This is, honestly, the best route I’ve ever experienced in any visual novel thus far.

Looks like, by chance, I saved the best for last! 😀

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One thought on “Visual Novel Review: If My Heart Had Wings

  1. I’m not a fan of censorship, especially when the cuts ruin one of the routes. If the company is concerned about smut I’m not sure why they didn’t translate an all ages novel instead. Alternatively they could have released two versions (a kid friendly one and an adult one.)

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