I don’t play many visual novels, or dating sims, or similar fare. The last one I played was Katawa Shoujo earlier this year, which was excellent, but this, released on Steam some time ago, while having less characters and maybe less complexity in terms of having to think straight on decision points, was very well written and executed, and even more clever in interactivity. This is Analogue: A Hate Story, an indie game by Christine Love.
The premise of the game is that you are in the space-future, tasked to recover the logs of an old ship that once held people bound for space to create a colony, a colony ship essentially, but it was lost for centuries and finally recovered. Upon connecting to the ship’s system to discover an AI interface that was part of the ship while it was still functioning with crew members, and you begin to unravel the story behind the ship’s crew and inhabitants, and the events that led to their mysterious death.
Vague description, but I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, it’s very well put together and very well written. I can tell you that the story deals in a largely patriarchal culture formed by the people aboard the ship prior to their doom that emulates the medieval Joseon Dynasty of Korea. Much of the logs chronicle three families centered around the highest of power among the ship’s denizens and their lives and struggles within. It touches a variety of topics, from love, to betrayal, family, social graces, customs, homosexuality, and transhumanism, among others.
The controls are very simple throughout most of the story, you simply choose answers from one or the other in context as you speak with the AI about the logs. They aren’t presented in order, so you often have to go back and check with the AI on many entries to get the next set of logs unlocked for view. To spice it up however, a Linux-style command console is put into play at the beginning and throughout various points of the game that direct certain events, adding an interesting element to the gameplay, and making it similar to the author’s previous title, Digital: A Love Story.
Like a good visual novel there are multiple endings, and ways to end your game midway should the AI’s “personality” not like your answers. Much like Katawa Shoujo there is plenty of chances for a BAD END and at least one Steam achievement that unlocks for doing so. Speaking of achievements there are a few, mostly for passing key spots in the story, but also for unlocking the various endings, and a couple others for taking certain actions in the game with the AI.
Simply put, if you’re looking for a way to blow an evening playing a well-written visual novel that will only cost you a few bucks, consider picking this up on your next pass through Steam. It’s worth a buy AND a play.
Edit: I was looking around Steam for similar fare and reading some blogs and besides pretty much concluding that this is the first VN Steam has gotten so far, rumors of JAST releasing Nitro+ and 5pb’s Steins;Gate on Steam at some point this year has me wondering if there is a market for either independently-made VN games on Steam, or translating Japanese VNs to English for sale on Steam. Certainly it would be cheaper for companies to translate and release to Steam because there would be no need to dump money into traditional retail promotion and packaging where you can sell directly in digital and take advantage of Steam’s sale opportunities to push your game after the initial release period.
But seriously, Steins;Gate? JAST USA better not be shitting us.