Genre: Visual Novel, Otome
Platform: PS Vita, PC via Steam
Release Date: March 12th, 2019
Special thanks to Intragames for providing a review copy of the game.
7’scarlet is an otome game developed by Otomate and Toybox Inc. It was first released in Japan back in 2016 and received its first English release in 2018. Thanks to INTRAGAMES, its PC port was published via Steam early this year. At first glance 7’scarlet appears to focus on a murder mystery, yet its narrative is deeply entwined with the supernatural.
7’scarlet’s main heroine is Ichiko Hanamaki, a university student. A year prior to the start of the story her older brother, Hanate, went to a small town called Okunezato and never returned.
On summer break Hino Kagutsuchi, Ichiko’s childhood friend, convinces her to join him in a visit to Okunezato. He is a member of the Okunezato Supernatural Club, which is holding its first meeting in Fuurinkan Hotel, the only hotel in the town.
In the meeting, Ichiko meets the club’s other members: Isora Amari, Toa Kushinada, Sosuke Tatehira, and Yua Susano. A young boy named Yuki Hirasaka is also among the attendants since he’s one of Fuurinkan Hotel’s workers. The Supernatural Club is puzzled because the administrator of their online forum never shows up, but they progress with the meeting and make plans to hang out at other times. Their main purpose was to continue discussing the mysteries of Okunezato, yet they end up focusing on getting to know each other.
7’scarlet’s story explores the overarching mystery surrounding the murders in Okunezato and the truth behind the disappearance of Ichiko’s brother.
7’scarlet’s narrative is messy, decent at its best. A huge problem with the game is that it feeds you random chunks of plot in a disorderly manner. All of the romance is so rushed and forced that instead of feeling rewarding, it feels like an obstacle in the way of the parts of the story that you’re actually invested in.
The most blatant example of a half-assed romance is Yuzuki’s route – despite the fact that the protagonist has just met him, the content of the route is what you’d find halfway through a usual visual novel route. Ah, yes, my boss whom I just met – let me spend a whole day taking care of him while he is ill and speaking to him like we’re as tight as thieves. Oh, and after only interacting about four times, all of his enemies will kidnap me, because apparently I’m his one weakness.
The story can be so inconsistent that in some routes Ichiko doesn’t even try to find her brother. The whole point of her trip to Okunezato is looking for Hanate, yet she makes no effort to do so and this entire plot point is forgotten in the face of romance.
You’d expect that following the player’s efforts to complete all the romance paths to unlock the true routes, they’d receive a satisfying conclusion that ties everything together. There is no such thing. The conclusion of both true routes is so cliché and straight-up unsatisfying that it feels like playing all the way to the end is the equivalent of tossing your time in a wastebasket. What is the point of enduring all of the mediocre writing? There is no point, the goal is just more mediocre writing.
7’scarlet’s visuals have its ups and downs. It’s clear that Chinatsu Kurahana’s art style is beautiful, but she struggles a lot drawing dynamic poses and expressing motion. The CGs are often very bland and stiff. The angles depicted in the illustrations are awkward and highlight the faults in her technique, which is a real shame.
On the other hand, the backgrounds are gorgeous and help to set up the mysterious, horror atmosphere that contrasts with the character sprites.
Another important aspect in the visual department is that it employs life-like videos and adapts them into cinematics. Although the concept might sound interesting on paper, the low-quality videos clashed with the high definition 2D resources drawn by Kurahana. They’re not a particularly good look.
7’scarlet’s music has nothing particularly special to offer. It lives up to Otomate’s usual standard of delivering basic tracks that fit different situations. It’s decent, albeit unmemorable.
The voice acting is okay like everything else in the game. There are big names in the cast, which is something that excited me at first. However, as the narrative is mediocre at best, there is no real emotional nor challenging dialogue for the actors to work with. They get the job done, delivering their uninteresting lines perfectly.
7’scarlet is a game built from decent performances in most of its different areas. A lot of its faults are minor and can be easily overlooked. Nonetheless, the writing is a big, glaring flaw that permanently hinders the player’s enjoyment. Once 7’scarlet’s various departments assemble to build a bigger picture, it’s not a horrible game, but it’s also not a great game. It toes the line between bad and decent. Its horror narrative has received praise from a few reviewers, so I feel obliged to mention that there’s a slim possibility of liking the plot.
I believe your opinion will depend on your prior experience playing visual novels. If you’re a more experienced player, you won’t find anything you haven’t seen before, and the execution of every plot point will look subpar when compared to similar games you’ve previously played. It’s an option for the average player searching for a supernatural visual novel, however, I’d recommend Psychedelica of the Black Butterfly instead. Not only is the story more interesting; the plot progression is also far more organized.
7'scarlet attempts to mesh romance with its main mystery, yet the mix of the two sacrifices the plot to rush the development of romantic relationships. All the romance routes have plot holes, and some even forget Ichiko's original motivation. The positives are that the game's art style and backgrounds are beautiful, and the voice acting features talented individuals taking charge of the script. Although 7'scarlet doesn't particularly stand out in any area, players new to visual novels may enjoy its story, since they haven't had major exposure to the unoriginal clichés employed by the narrative.