Yosuga no Sora Review
Well what to say, I have finally gotten around to playing Yosuga no Sora as a response to the airing of this seasons anime. Given the similarities Yosuga (Not typing the whole title every time) shares with Natsu no Ame I was expecting something that had greater impact and felt less like a punishment game. As I wrapped up the final route for Yosuga I found myself wondering exactly what value people saw in this game to justify making an anime out of it. I can only conclude the fact it had a twincest route made it more interesting and appealing than it otherwise would have been. Honestly I really wanted to like this game, I tried so hard to like it but there was just no content there that was worth it.
This story begins on a train where we meet Haruka our protagonist, and his twin sister Sora as they travel from the city that was their home to an old house in a rural village their dead grandparents lived in due to the death of their parents in an accident. With all relations that could possibly interfere in the story events safely out of the way and accounted for we are able to move on to the rest of the character introductions. After getting settled in their new home Sora begins to show her selfish side demanding Haru feed her cake, which he then goes to purchase, this then leads to a brief glimpse of Akira as she recognizes him from afar as well as a chance to show how dependent Sora is on Haru with their conversation upon his return. Later on when returning from shopping yet again, we have the first real introduction of a heroine in Nao when she helps Haru carry the food home. Speed ahead a few days for the rest of the character introductions in quick succession once Haruka goes to school and finds them in his class positioned in the seats surrounding him.
After careful consideration lasting several days wracking my brain in an attempt to formulate some good things to say about Yosuga I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing good to say about Yosuga, except perhaps it has a twincest route for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Otherwise Yosuga is a patchwork of standard eroge designs and clichés, there is nothing unique to be seen here and the writing of those same clichés is sub par at best. Rather than feel as though I was reading the slice of life story Yosuga was meant to be, I felt bored and disconnected from the characters wishing only for the game to end as soon as possible releasing me from the torment of reading. There is only one positive I can think of and even then it is conditional, as not everyone cares or wants a twincest route, without Sora I feel this game would have been quickly forgotten as only the little sister lovers could care about a game like this.
To be more specific the problems with Yosuga stem from all aspects of the game design and concept, the writing itself, the stories told for the individual routes, and the characters all come together in a way that gives an impression this game was made by a group of individuals who never spoke to each other. Every component of the game feels independent of each other in such a way that it never quite melds together to form a cohesive whole. When reading one of the first things to really come to light is how off the pacing of the dialogue and interactions in general feel, there is no serene flow which subtly drags you into the setting and mood as most good slice of life stories tend to do. Instead the writers saw fit to over embelish scenes and actions that had no need to be written in such detail while skipping over just about everything else that could have mattered. In general the characters had no real development scenes, instead any interactions they had were either useless group events or directly tied into the plot for that individual. Without the unrelated encounters or events the story lacks the progressive interaction necessary to drive a storyline, especially one that is slice of life by design.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment in Yosuga was how plainly bad the individual routes are, the majority are almost a carbon copy of each other with minor changes to reflect situations which differentiate the characters from one another. The standard Yosgua formula involves almost no build up of characters save Haruka commenting he might have feelings towards a specific heroine, followed by a random quick encounter that leads to a mutual confession and H scene, followed quickly by yet another H scene then a problem that usually results in a break up giving rise to a quick resolution, third H scene, and end. There are of course a few scenes that resemble the standard dates in eroge, however there are usually only one or two of these and they are over very quick with almost no development for the relationship. What development there is always appears suddenly and is over just as quick without advancing things. Of all the routes the best example of the worst route you can imagine was Kazuha, her route was more about her relationship with Akira than it was about her relationship with Haruka and development of her character. Sadly the rest of the routes do not fare much better, with lackluster and cliché characters further degrading the already dull, nearly identical routes into something that makes reading feel like a chore.
Finally after a long and arduous journey through sluggishly paced stories mimicking one misused cliché after another our collage of mediocrity can finally reach a conclusion fit to reflect the events which lead to it. Not surprising by this point the endings were nothing special, a quick confirmation of the stories resolution involving the characters currently on display to show how things changed as a result. Other than Motoka the endings did not even really involve their relationships or even Haruka, but instead were more about coming to terms with their pasts. While this is not necessarily a bad thing there is little to no feeling of conclusion, as the endings are so brief that nothing feels as though it changes. Lets give an example, if one character was in the wrong and was confronted about it as a resolution to the relationship problem, the end would simply have them saying “Hello, lets talk” to the character they had wronged with a slightly different attitude than before, the end. Not quite as bad as the Koisora endings, Yosuga miraculously manages to come ever so close with their incompetently inconclusive endings. Sora probably had the worst ending of all, also showing just how bad the writing was as their attempts to lead the reader into a false conclusion in the last five minutes of reading utterly fail, even when the ending itself is a completely nonsensical construct by the writer.
Traditionally characters in any sort of visual novel are required to make us feel for them in a variety of ways to best suit their individual personalities and situations, after all this is what makes the games not only worth reading but worth completing the routes even for those heroines you may not be particularly fond of. Yosuga on the other hand suffers from a bland array of characters who never quite feel like they could be real people nor are they interesting enough to feel as though they belong in an imaginary world. The way these characters skillfully slip through the cracks into a grey area of bland uncertainty limits their impact not only as a means of connection with the reader but even as simple plot devices. Upon completion of each individual route I found myself looking back on the characters with a feeling of antipathy the scale of which no successful eroge should ever elicit. Not only are we stuck with characters that embody nothing truly unique, but their development is almost nonexistent other than a slight change their surrounding settings and circumstances.
The protagonist of Yosuga, Haruka is Sora’s twin brother and for all intents and purposes her guardian as well. Ever the standard clueless yet “Kind” protagonist Haruka embodies the usual vanilla character archetype on display in almost every standard eroge. Without parents or relatives to rely on Haruka has a tendency to take everything upon himself especially when it involves Sora. So of course Haruka is so standard a protagonist by design that had he not been the protagonist he would have been quickly forgotten as a bland side character with little value. If there was to be one protagonist chosen to embody cookie cutter character design, Haruka would be first in line.
Sora represents the other half of Haruka as his twin sister. A selfish and unsociable girl with a childish attitude she nevertheless cares more for Haruka than she would like to admit, as aside from her route there are only a few short scenes that really depict the bracon in her. Nevertheless Sora is almost completely dependent on her brother and is surprisingly supportive of his relationships saying little against whomever he choses with the exception of Nao, whom Sora plainly detests due to Nao’s treatment of Haruka the last time they came to visit their grandparents. Other than making demands of Haruka and showing her distaste for Nao at every opportunity Sora generally prefers to hole up in her room with her computer (Despite not having net access, the poor thing) and keep to herself. As far as her character traits are concerned Sora is something of a bipolar tsundere, rapidly switching between both the tsun and dere sides, with a bit of amaenbo thrown in to her route for good measure.
Representing the older sister type of character for Haruka Nao is a reliable childhood friend who is always there to help whenever and however Haruka needs her, be it assistance with cooking, or just someone to talk to and offer advice as ones senior. Other than Sora, Nao is the only character who has pre-existing feelings for Haruka, feelings which culminated in an event during his last visit to the town where Nao took advantage of him. Despite her mostly good intentions Sora holds a deep grudge against Nao and acts openly antagonistic towards her, giving a glimpse of Nao’s downtrodden and remorseful character. Little changes for Nao even with her route as the problems faced are superficial and dull, leaving her feeling as though she would have been better cast as a side character.
Akira is an energetic and childish friend who needs to be reigned in by her best friend Kazuha. Ever the optimist Akira is usually the person that brings everyone in the group together. With her innocent and oblivious attitude she invites everyone to join in any event, often despite Kazuha’s adamant protests. So straightforward and honest with her desires not even the icy Sora can dislike Akira, Ryouhei often uses her to instigate something of a proxy war within the group of friends, suggesting ideas which Akira then faithfully carries out, usually this involving teasing Kazuha in some way. On the downside Akira’s route was pretty bland and uninspired, even by Yosuga standards the Akira route was predictable and lackluster as far as character development.
Obsessed with Akira. No, make that completely obsessed with Akira, Kazuha can almost always be found next to Akira as though they were literally joined at the hip. As the token ojou-sama character Kazuha plays the violin and has the stereotypical upright and refined character we have all come to associate with characters of this type. More of the temperamental subtype ojou-sama Kazuha has a short fuse with everyone who is not Akira and as such plays the typical tsukkomi character for what little comedy there is in Yosuga. Kazuha’s character suffers even in her own route as there is more focus on Akira and their relationship rather than developing a relationship with Haruka, this leaves her character the most undeveloped of all the heroines giving her route a grey and tasteless feeling that leaves you wondering why they even bothered to give her a route.
Nevertheless despite her bland stereotypical character design and lackluster route Kazuha remains my personal favorite character of Yosuga no Sora. Hau~ Omochikaeri.
Stereotypical clumsy maid, who also happens to be a raging alcoholic. Motoka is yet another cookie cutter character design this time filling the clumsy maid role, though from her viewpoint she is more of a reliable older sister… Best friends with Yahiro, Motoka often goes out drinking with her only to come back drunk, dumped, and angry. Despite being a maid working for Kazuha’s father Motoka is incapable of everything a maid is known for, not only is she clumsy, but she completely fails at cooking and cleaning, perhaps due in large part to how lax her character becomes the instant no one is around to supervise her. Among the heroines from Yosuga Motoka goes through the most character development over the course of her route, progressively changing her mindset and even her capabilities to become a slightly less clumsy maid by the end.
Most of the supporting cast are only notable for their involvement in one or two routes, having little to say or do throughout the rest of the game. The biggest problem with the secondary characters comes in the way they are used mostly as plot devices, leaving all save Ryouhei and perhaps Yahiro as fixtures to adorn the background only to chime in with a few words or phrases when they are necessary for the plot.
The ever present eroge best friend who is openly perverted and obnoxious in order to enhance the value of the protagonist in the eyes of the various heroines, ah if only everyone had such a good wingman. Despite the clichéd role Ryouhei has a deep character showing just how well he can uhh… be a perverted best friend in eroge.. yeah that’s about it nothing much else to his character other than the same thing we have seen in almost every other eroge in existence. As usual he is one of the key characters that drags Haruka around and helps him befriend those around him, besides that and his typical antics he serves little purpose other than a few lines late in some routes to help things along ever so slightly.
Yahrio owns a small shop that sells cheap sweets for kids and doubles as Akira’s guardian. Although she has a rough personality Yahiro can be surprisingly caring at times, not that she would admit it. As a side character Yahrio shows up quite often either has Motoka’s partner or whenever Haruka goes shopping, and yet never plays a significant part though she does have a minor role in the Akira route. Sadly if you want a Yahiro route you have to play the fandisk.
The class president for Haruka’s class Iincho shows up often throughout the course of the game during the school settings. Apparently she has taken a liking to Haruka as soon as she saw him, often acting far more nervous whenever he is around. Otherwise she embodies the standard iincho qualities, usually serving as the tsukkomi partner for Kazuha when in school. Another character who has a route in the fandisk.
Well finally something I can say good things about, the artwork in Yosuga is far better than normal, few games can compare to the consistent delivery of quality artwork that Yosuga manages to achieve. There are only two noteworthy problems with it in general, one is that some of the backgrounds, usually when looking through windows from inside are overly simplistic. The other is the lack of non HCG, which is not surprising given there are almost no scenes that warrant CGs to begin with, yet I would still like to see more of the artwork.
In my opinion the style of the artwork fit Yosuga far more than the writing and story did, the artist replicates the feel of situations and characters quite well, making Yosuga look much better than it is at first glance. The more sedate colors and pastel tones bring an earthy sense of realism to the artwork that mirrors the concept of Yosuga quite well.
There were no major issues with the sprites or backgrounds to note either, giving a good sense of character emotion and properly displayed settings. While the backgrounds were often done in a very simple manner using custom brush settings, there was little need to make them any more detailed, they support the sprites and CG images well without being too intrusive nor leaving a feeling of misplaced inadequacy.
Though not really a complaint but I did notice that in many CGs the camera angle was selected in order to minimize backgrounds and content as much as possible. Certainly understandable considering the time it takes to make each CG but it still deprecates the impact an image has.
As something of an afterthought I would like to mention that while the art was technically brilliant, the artist needs work when it comes to portraying emotion, the artwork feels a bit sterile overall. Based on the quality and consistency of the art alone it would probably be the best I have seen in an eroge, however without that extra spark to really give life to the image there is something missing that prevents the artwork from reaching its full potential. Of course this may have just as much to do with the bland nature of the subject matter, as it is hard to make inspiring artwork without an appropriate muse to drive it. Regardless of the reason behind it, the CG for Yosuga illustrates the difference between a good drawing and a good work of art.
As per usual the voice acting in Yosuga was well done, in fact it was one of the few aspects of the game with little to nothing worth complaining about. All of the characters voice work matched their personalities and emotions giving the characters more life than the writers ever could. It really is a shame that the writing was so poorly done, as the voice actors did a commendable job in recreating the characters vocals, if the writers had worked as hard with their dialogue the characters may have been appealing enough to overcome the lack of story.
While the voice acting as done well the background music on the other hand was terrible, the game feels like you are playing in an elevator with monotonous music that puts you to sleep. Sure the music sort of fits given it is standard eroge music but it is so standard that it no longer fits the game or situations, only detracting from enjoying the game. It is common for most games to have boring background music as the standard, and while I may not like it I do understand the need. However even when there are boring songs there has to be at least one or two songs that really stand out and fit the individual mood of the game instead of just borrowing the standard sheet music that every eroge seems to have. Without some sort of unique sound the game lacks the sense of individuality that a reader needs to fully empathize with the characters as distinct entities.
The first important issue to note is that the basic interface is not pink, and so all is well thus far. However! When the perspective changes to one of the heroines the text box changes to a very light pink, almost salmon color, which is ok since it is there for emphasis and does not last long. With the most important stuff out of the way the rest is pretty standard, in fact it is almost exactly the same as the system used for Natsu no Ame, or well visa versa. The only real difference is that the sprites and CGs are lumped together in Yosuga and separated in Natsu no Ame.
Problem number one with the interface however is the lack of saves, there are only 60. Even though Yosuga is a short game there are far too few saves, is it really that hard to allow the usual 100 saves? This was the first game that I ran out of saves for in a long long time, due in part to my constantly putting the game down to avoid reading it, though even then lack of saves are not a problem I have had to deal with often.
And now comes the fun part (Where I can copy paste most of this from the Natsu no Ame review) that makes the interface at least a little bit unique . The Extra features menu is well done, simplistic and organized. Left side column allows you to select which heroine or all the sub characters together, while the individual folder icons separate the individual types of images. Starting with the left they are normal CG folders 1 and 2, H scenes, and sprites are mixed in with the normal CG usually the at the top of page 1. I personally cannot recall any other game that let you view the sprites in the game itself other than a sprite editor such as the one that came with KoiSora. Normally you would have to extract the sprites to view the various changes. While this is certainly not a major groundbreaking feature, I did find it to be a nice touch that added to the overall feeling of polish to the game.
As you can see along the right hand side are all the background songs from the game, click to play. A simple and effective setup works best for these things, I really like that while they was nothing groundbreaking about the interface there was nothing at all to complain about either. Everything about it was implemented thoughtfully and precisely, which really shows in the final product.
I suppose I should give Sphere credit for being consistent, even if it is consistently bad. After finishing Yosuga I have come to conclude these are the worst H scenes I have ever borne witness to bar none. Even most nukige give more character development and lead ins for their H scenes. In Yosuga not only do they come out of nowhere but there is nothing before, all the relationships start out with H scenes, yes they START with H scenes, not prior development. Typically a scene goes along the lines of “Oh hey, I think I might like you!” , “Really? Me too! Lets have sex now!”. I really wish I was kidding, but sadly I am not. There is only one way things could be worse, and that’s if they included rape. I have seen similar scenarios with H scenes before, however there is usually a long standing pre-existing relationship there to support such actions, considering most of the characters have only known Haruka for maybe a month at most aside from a few meetings as kids there is nothing to justify the sudden change in relationship.
Not only are the scenes misplaced but they are far from the touching scenes most eroge try to recreate, instead we get excessively long scenes that are written with about as much care and skill as your average fan fiction. I could ignore the absurd length of the scenes had they been well written and at least gave a vague impression of character development, instead the scenes feel more like a one night stand.
Feeling as though the game was created by copy pasting bits and pieces from other eroge, Yosuga has nothing special to offer that we have not already seen done far better elsewhere. Only the artwork stands out as something unique. With so many better games to choose from there is little reason to waste your time with a sub par game using twincest as a gimmick to boost sales.
I use a percentage based system to grade the various aspects of a game in a final section here. The breakdown will be that a 50% is dead neutral, completely apathy, no plus or minus. Below that is bad and above is good. The Overall score is simply a rating of the game in its entirety and is somewhat unrelated to the other scores. It may end up being better or worse than the sum of its parts.
- Overall: 33%
- Story: 22%
- Characters: 34%
- Artwork: 88%
- Sound: 65%
- Interface: 57%
- H Scenes: 25%
The offical Sphere website can be found here.
Walkthrough for the game can be found here.
Getchu link : http://www.getchu.com/soft.phtml?id=444445&gc=gc