A year in the life of a small group of friends who become closer through music featuring a magical summer of touring where love may bloom or life may drive them apart.
What They Say
Shikanosuke Maejima is a student at the Missionary school, Oubi Academy. He doesn't attend his club, he doesn't put much effort in his studies, all he does is show up at his part time job; in short, his life could be better. One day, he meets a strange girl, Kirari Shiino, at work and before he knows it, they've formed a punk band.
The four of them embark on their final adventure, a long tour of Japan, armed with their dreams and their instruments, all aboard a rickety van that could fall apart at any moment.
"First stop, Nagoya!"
The benefit to a visual novel is that the game makers can use some animation to make characters expressions clear and also the environment so that not all of the work in describing a situation needs to come from text. Kira Kira uses animation style backgrounds with a decent variety having been made but clearly some backgrounds are reused and treated as more generic representations-such as a parking lot or street. There is no animation for the characters and they are more static 2D characters that look like paper dolls but are interchanged out to reflect dialogue or changes in character emotion. The characters are designed in a way that doesn’t try to pretend they are 3-D but they are drawn with care and attention paid to details and scale. The characters have a small number of outfits that are changed in the story but there are more than just two clothing designs for each of the main characters. There are also a number of poses and facial expressions that get used often though the story though they are switched up often enough and done well enough to convey the emotions that correspond with the events in the novel.
The text is a bit of a hit or miss thing though and is the biggest issue on the release. While the vast majority of the translation works well there are a number of spelling and grammatical errors that pop up in the story that makes it look like the script could really have used a once over with an editor to fix. For the most part the errors aren’t frequent nor are they present to a point where the story is lost but there are a few points where the text provides some confusion as to what is going on in regards to the flow of the novel. Thankfully none of the occurrences is at a climactic point and the vast bulk of the novel is rather well done.
The audio for this game is a particular highlight. The game uses a fairly decent number of different background tracks of varying type from a more upbeat rock one to a softer acoustic to underscore some of the powerful emotional moments. Since the story is about a small group that forms a punk band one would expect that the game deliver some rock tracks for that as well which Kira Kira does very well. There are eight different songs by the main group the game focuses on and a song each from two different groups that play a part in the story. This adds a very nice touch in bringing the audience in to the story as there are times where the group is shown creating the music or jamming and it adds a sense of connection with the group’s efforts when they pull the tracks together. There are also a fairly good number of voice actors used in the game with most voices matching the characters they are playing and working well overall though one of the main characters Kirari may take a bit of getting used to with her high pitched and high energy voice.
The material reviewed was provided as a download so there is no packaging to review.
The menus to this release are a basic but mostly intuitive affair. The main menu starts with an image of a hand held up to the sky holding a pink guitar pick against a blue sky with some cumulous clouds and the sun while a rock track from the game plays in the background. The options are Start, Load, Extra, Configure and Exit. Start goes right into the beginning of the game with its beginning at a music house with the music swelling and crowd noise. Load will take you to the save screen (save is detailed later in this section). The extra option will take you to a screen that collects pictures, events and songs from the game. The CG Gallery looks like a picture album of shots from the game which can be clicked on to enlarge and sometimes change slightly the pictures and Scene Replay collects the 7 sex scenes from the game after they have been unlocked and can be clicked on to replay them. Song Library collects the 10 songs from three groups in the game and allows for them to replayed after being unlocked. The configure screen allows the user to customize sound level, effect level, text speed, voice level, the right click option and text skip as well as the game window size.
On the game screen itself there are quick buttons in the lower right hand side to either do a quick save or quick load, return to the menu, skip text for game replay to advance thorough text you have progressed past before, auto text so you don’t have to right click and log. Log is useful as it contains the entirety of text from the game so if you miss a point or wish to review something (an added benefit is that if you click on a line you can get the voice actor delivering the line if it was one of their text) though you have to search through as there is no quick search in the log. The save menu allows you to save at almost any line as point (minus a very few points that are short in length) and has space for three quick saves and one hundred regular save which also have the ability to either display the current line of text or that you can create a name for.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally created by Overdrive in 2007 the Japanese version of the game was originally released for the PC. The game was the second one produced by the team under its own label though the team had previously worked together on the game Green Green. The popularity of the PC game lead to a sequel game (Kira Kira Curtain Call), the transition of the original game over to the Playstation 2 and an iPhone app as well. There are two versions of the game available from Mangagamers, one with the original adult scenes in the game and an all-ages version of the game where the adult scenes have been removed.
The game begins with the protagonist of the story, Shikanosuke Maejima, attending a live show at a local club and finding himself annoyed that the atmosphere has begun to affect him. A flashback shows his girlfriend is just breaking up with him and demonstrates his general disposition as it is shown that he really has a calculating personality to try to change her mind but once she leaves he isn’t quite devastated. He had recently quit the tennis club after an injury and connects with little in his life. He goes to school because that is expected of him and works his job with no real plans to use the money. His life takes a change though when Kirari Shiino comes to work at the same restaurant he works at.
Kirari goes to the same high school as Shikanosuke and is even a member of the same club (the second literary club) though Shikanosuke is a member in name only. The two converse and Shikanosuke discovers that the club is to be shut down at the end of the academic year. Even though Shikanosuke has never attended a meeting he feels sad to hear it is going away and is guilted into attending a meeting. A chance encounter with members of an indie group named Star Generation at the restaurant that he works land him and Kirari at the concert that the game opens with. The concert sparks the idea that the second literary club will perform as a band at the school festival as a send off for the club. Together with his childhood friend Chie Isurugi and the sickly school idol Sarina Kashiwara who are members of the club Kirari and Shikanosuke will be trained in music by Star Generation’s genius guitarist and fellow student Kenta Tonoya as they plan to make the school festival a scene where no one will forget that the Second Literary Club existed.
The farewell performance of the Second Literary Club will grow beyond their dreams and lead to an unforgettable summer where the four members will travel to perform at a music club in Kyoto. This trip will leave Shikanosuke with the ability to either spark the flames of love with another member or be collapsed under the weight of emotions and decisions made as the group gets more offers to extend their trip. The choices made during the game will decide which path that will be traveled as there are a number of possible endings based on the decisions chosen.
The game does a very good job of drawing the reader into the protagonist’s life by showing his relationships with the various characters and events that unfurl around him. Particular care is taken in trying to develop a world where characters exist and may have past each other before yet not trying to make every minor event seem like it is some grand cog in the wheel of fate. Instead some moments simply are just that-moments in time that add flavor to events that come after without having to have them all have dramatic effects on story progression. There are some parts, particularly early on, where the story feels a little predictable but once the story gets into the second chapter of the story it enters an area where it feels that almost any event can happen and the story really finds its own legs.
Those who have a problem with the adult scenes (of which there are seven total) should give a look at the all ages version while those looking for a game that focuses on mostly on adult scenes will find that it takes a long time of playing to get to these scenes. Many of the adult scenes are done with some sense of being part of the story and not thrown in just for titillation but as a natural progression of the story though each of the main women has a second scene that is a little closer to gratuitous.
Kira Kira is an engaging journey into a part of the lives of a small group of friends who decide they want to form their own band after being moved by seeing another group’s performance. It is a story that focuses on the friendships made-and possibly lost-due to their desire to embrace the world of punk music. There is a nice variety in tone and scenery with the individual story paths the player can choose and a wonderful selection of background music, songs and voice acting in the game that greatly enhances story elements. Highly Recommended.
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