Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi Review
Hoshikaka was released to much anticipation after countless delays, bringing an end to feng’s ‘sora’ trilogy. It promotes itself as the first bishoujo-ge to use binaural audio. With an interesting cast of characters, pretty art and coming from an established company, will it be able to stand out from other chara-ge?
There is a patch (ver 1.01) for the game that fixes some minor errors.
There is also a Valentine Day patch which adds bonus scenes for Ui and Hina. It’s recommended that you complete the game first. To see the new stories, type in ‘hekaru’ at the title screen.
I played this when it first came out and decided now’s a good time to review it since the anime is debuting next week. Does it deserve an anime? Well, that depends on what you are looking for in your weekly entertainment.
Well, this is a good start. A catchy theme sung by Nomiko that I ended up listen to dozens of times thanks to all the delays. The animation however needs some work as it’s basically just a mishmash of about a third of the CGs from the game. And what is that white thing!? It’s a mystery…
Kazuma moves to the rural town of Yamabiko with his sickly little brother Ayumu because it’s better for Ayumu’s health to be away from the city. They stay at the Yorozuyo Inn with a family friend Senka as their guardian. After dropping Ayumu off at his new school, he gets lost trying to make it back to his own.. A girl notices him wandering about and knows that he’s the new transfer student. She introduces herself as Ui and grab his hand to take him to school via some shortcuts (through forests and across creeks). He slips when crossing a creek and falls over her, accidentally kissing her. Even though he quickly apologizes, they was already seen by Ui’s best friend Ibuki, who does a flying kick on him and declares that all guys from the city are perverts.
Hoshikaka is the third and final game in the ‘Sora’ series (Akasaka, Aozora no Mieru Oka), but uses different scenario writers from the previous two titles: Hiiragi☆Takumi and Akumakko. The game is divided into roughly 18 short episodes, the first 12 of which are the common route (including one cameo episode). This is a similar structure to Koisora and Moshiraba. It’s pretty much a slice of life chara-ge since there’s barely any drama and nothing really happens. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t written well at all. Actually, they were mostly horrible. Especially Hina’s route. Oh god, I want my time back.
But before I rant about what went so terribly wrong with this game, let’s focus on the few positives. Madoka’s route was the best route by far, even though it was only decent by chara-ge standards. Her story at least had some depth, with elements showing up early in the common route and persisting even across other routes. Sure it’s clichéd, but that’s just the way (uh huh, uh huh) I like it. She really should have been the main heroine. Hands down. I highly recommend that you leave her route for last.
As you probably noticed from the opening summary, there’s not really much plot to begin with. You’d think that some major plot element would be introduced as each route progresses, but nope. Don’t expect much development because there won’t be any. All the girls (with a few exceptions) seemingly like him pretty quickly and have him call them by their first names, which is not really that believable. Are rural folks really that open? I would expect that there’d be some form of obstacle, but there’s none of that in sight, only little speedbumps that are over by the time you know it. The game is about normal in length, but why did they have to waste a full episode to show Akasaka chars? That time could’ve been much better spent actually building up a much deeper plot. The pacing was also pretty horrendous with subcharacters sometimes randomly appearing and then disappearing just as quickly, for the sole purpose of moving the ‘plot’ along. For example, I love Koyori and all, but what’s with Shii showing up at the end and the idol event aside from getting her to cosplay for an H scene?
Another problem is how Kazuma’s actions differ so greatly across routes. In one route, he moves back to the city; in another, he decides to stay. In one route, Ayumu gets sick; in another, he’s perfectly fine (other than being a burden). I accept some level of deviation, but when it’s so different, Kazuma just seems like he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. And because of that, I can’t believe him one bit when he says he has fallen in love with the town. Also, didn’t they realize that the cold winters wouldn’t be a problem for the sickly Ayumu? Actually, why is Ayumu’s sickness so important to the story anyway? Last time I checked, he wasn’t the main character.
When I first saw this title, I thought it might have something to do with the Tanabata legend. Madoka’s route somewhat references it, so that’s why I believe that she should be the main heroine. Aside from Madoka, I personally liked Koyori’s route since it actually had some development as she goes from hating him to finding out he’s not that bad of a guy, and experiencing love for the first time. Ui’s route was really simple, but I did like the final part when they show their love for each other. Tsumugi and Ibuki’s routes were quite forgettable and I would very very much like to forget I ever played Hina’s.
Hina’s route was a total disaster and by far the worst route I have ever played. Ignoring the fact that her character type isn’t my preference, her story is just absolutely unbelievable. Her father is a stubborn asshole and yet Kazuma is able to win him over with only a few words? They’re not sure of their own feelings and yet decide to hit the sheets with nary a confession? It also doesn’t help that her seiyuu can’t voice her properly, especially when drunk, and all her event CGs were badly drawn. Someone get me a bottle of vodka.
Oh, and there’s an Ayumu end if you want that. I know I don’t.
Micchi’s recommended route order:
Ui, Ibuki, Tsumugi, Koyori, Madoka (don’t play Hina)
Micchi’s route rankings:
Madoka, Koyori, Ui, Tsumugi, Ibuki, Hina
Kazuma has a little brother complex. That’s the main reason why he moved to Yamabiko-chou with his doting otouto Ayumu. After some early misunderstandings that all guys from the city are all perverts and playboys, he gets used to the rural life with all his friendly classmates. His father was a famous author, but he doesn’t have much literary talent. He is pretty athletic since he used to play sports at his old school. Sometimes a bit of a show-off.
He’s your typical dense and kind protagonist. As mentioned before, his personality changes depending on the route, which basically makes it difficult for me to attach any concrete image to him aside from being a bracon.
Ui is a lively girl who makes friends very easily since she’s so outgoing. Very innocent and doesn’t doubt anyone. Other girls (especially Ibuki) often become jealous of her tennen and honest nature. She was born in Yamabiko-chou and loves the town and wishes to live the rest of her life there. A voracious eater who has a sweet tooth.
She also has an onii-chan who moved away from the town and she misses him a lot. This leads to a scene where she calls Kazuma onii-chan (maybe nii-san or onii-sama would have been just as nice). I love her innocence and strong faith in others. While I don’t have any general problems with her character, she doesn’t live up to the main heroine status. This is probably due to the shallow development in her route, which is a common theme for this game.
Kazuma’s classmate and Ui’s best friend, Ibuki didn’t like him from the start since she thought he was attacking her from the moment he moved into town. She decides to protect Ui from his evil clutches, but soon realizes that he’s not that bad of a guy. Classic tsundere who is not honest to her feelings. She has a strong sense of responsibility and helps others a lot. Part of the kyuudou club and is also the class rep.
Ibuki is pretty similar to Achikoi‘s Aka since they both believe that guys from the city are scum. Of course, behind her tsun personality lies a sweet girl who is afraid of scary things and can’t swim. She treats Ayumu like her own little brother and respects Tsumugi a lot. As tsunderes go, I didn’t care that much for her.
Tsumugi is the older sister of the Toudou sisters and is like an onee-san to everyone. Very calm and family-oriented, making her an ideal wife. She is quite observant of other people’s feelings and gives good advice. At school, she’s a perfect student who is highly respected. She helps out at the Yorozuyo Inn as a nakai (waitress at a ryokan). Don’t get her angry.
To be honest, I played her route just because her imoutos Koyori and Kasane are always with her (have to defeat the guards to get to the final boss). And after playing it, I’m not sure what happened since… nothing happened. She feels more like a mother than an older sister, although I do like that calming presence. I wonder how her hair is always off to one side…
Koyori is the second oldest among the Toudou sisters and one year younger than Kazuma. Extremely energetic girl who probably watched too many superhero anime growing up and now acts like a hero fighting for justice. She declares him to be her enemy and she will do anything to protect the town from him. Even though she may have a childish sense of justice, she is very hardworking and will always help someone in need, probably having learned that quality from Tsumugi. Loved by everyone in the town. She doesn’t have any experience in love. Uses ‘atai’ to address herself. She’s also a surprisingly good cook.
Hmm… Koyori’s a bit of an oddball who at first I didn’t like since she was pretty annoying (throwing coins at his head), however I soon grew to love her a lot. Her story is pretty much about first love as she begins to feel emotions that she had never had before, and she doesn’t know what to do. My jaw totally hit the floor when she changes her hair style and tries to speak more feminine. From dango to short twintails? From uzakawaii to hau~ omochikaeri~ kawaii? Then they put her in a santa outfit as well? What are you trying to do feng, trying to kill me via excessive blood loss!?
Hina is Kazuma’s senpai and Tsumugi’s best friend. She doesn’t speak much and has a fear of strangers. However, she is quite kind once you get to know her. She has a complex about her height and slow speech. Helps out with doing deliveries at her father’s liquor store, however she personally cannot hold her alcohol well. She has a fondness for cats which she normally doesn’t show others.
I don’t know if they were trying for gap moe or something, but I feel absolutely nothing from her. She also doesn’t factor into many of the routes, except for the occasional line. If I had to compare the two senpai, Tsumugi would win hands down. She gives way better advice. Also, please please don’t give her alcohol.
The daughter of the priest of the local shrine, Madoka is not that good at talking with boys around her age. Very gentle-mannered and kind, but panics when she hears anything about love affairs or dirty jokes. It also doesn’t help that she easily misunderstands things. She helps out at her father’s shrine as a miko and performs at the annual festival.
Madoka is the true heroine of Hoshikaka in my eyes. She is also THE Yamato Nadeshiko, both in looks and personality. Her panic mode is really funny since she starts spewing sentences so long that it won’t even fit in the textbox anymore (similar to Sana in a way). It’s a toss-up between Koyori and her as my fav heroine.
Eyzs: “what’s the problem the main character faces in hoshikaka anyway”
Eyzs: “that’s it?”
There are 4 main subcharacters: Kazuma’s doting otouto Ayumu, the youngest Toudou sister Kasane, Yorozuyo Inn manager Senka and Kazuma’s idiot friend Daigo. Don’t be fooled by his baby face, Ayumu is a cockblocker, pure and simple. I’m surprised why he isn’t the protagonist since everyone likes him and wouldn’t mind sleeping or taking a bath with him (aside from maybe Kasane). Even the anime is marketing him as the male lead. Just look at him getting all the ladies. What a playboy.
Kasane is my fav subchar and she really needs a route. Playful and always aware of any rumours in the small town. She prefers manly men, but does have some feelings for Ayumu (that lucky son of a…), although it may be just that she feels she cannot leave him alone. She and Ayumu often help push the plot along. There’s also Kazuma’s osananajimi and idol Shii who appears in two routes only, which is a shame since I kinda like her two-sided nature. Akasaka‘s Minato and Yocchan make cameo appearances and Minato even gets a CG (which means one less CG for the actual chars).
Overall, the heroines are all pretty appealing (aside from Hina) and this is one of the few bright spots. I mean it’s a chara-ge after all. If you screw up the characters, there’s not much left. However, even though there’s a wide collection of eccentric charas, they don’t really leave a lasting impression.
Micchi’s character rankings:
Koyori, Madoka, Ui, Tsumugi, Ibuki, Hina
There are 5 illustrators working on this game: Ryouka, Nachuraruton, Tsurusaki Takahiro, Arikawa Satoru (subchars) and Sawano Akira (SDs). This is probably why there is such great inconsistencies in quality. While I was quite happy with most of the CGs (especially those in Ui and Koyori’s routes), the graphics in Ibuki and Hina’s routes were quite badly drawn. The body proportions and perspectives were all wrong and backgrounds are too simplistic. The game sometimes zooms in and out and it makes the mistakes even more obvious.
Look at the picture above. What do you see? Desert? Mountains? It seems like not much thought was put into the background at all, including that fence which definitely needs editing if you look at it up close. Coming into the foreground, Hina’s head is too small for her body and this is the same for almost all of her CGs. Then, there’s the sandwich. It honestly looks like one of those food samples made of plastic that you find in restaurant windows. Can’t see it properly? Have a closer look. It looks sooooooooo appetizing, right?
Another problem relates to the way the game is structured. Once you are locked into a route, you basically don’t see much of the other heroines, and hence, there’s no group CGs at all. Not even one. It’s as if they were all lived in separate universes. This is probably because each heroine was drawn by a different illustrator and it really detracts from the feel of the game. It’s like they’re trying to make it seem like a happy group of friends enjoying their time together, but there’s no pictures or memories of it at all.
There’s a few SDs littered about, but I don’t find they add much to the experience. They’re too rough, almost like oekaki, which isn’t the level of quality that I expect from a moe-ge. Also, they basically reused all the same images in the OP in the ED. You would think that with all the time they had, they would have fixed all their flaws.
I really liked Koisora‘s episodic set-up, but it didn’t work with Hoshikaka since there’s no story to tell. The episodes seem too short and the episode previews end up giving away what the upcoming plot is before it even happens. In between episodes, you can play through side episodes which are told from the perspectives of other characters and add in events that you don’t see in the main story (through Kazuma’s eyes). I liked them since you understand more about the relationships between characters. Nothing much to say about the starry interface; it has all the stuff you need. Same goes for the config screen. There’s 80 save slots which is plenty. There are lots of choices to be made, but it’s pretty obvious (just selecting the character you want to pursue).
The episode previews are voiced by each character and you get a random one every time. What is that white thing…?
Occasionally, the perspective will change to the heroine’s side during a route to show their feelings. I just wanted to show cute Koyori in pajamas. ^^
After completing a route, the omake mode opens with CG, scene and sound galleries. Note that SD CGs do not show up in the CG mode.
The main reason why I even considered playing this game in the first place was because it promoted itself as the first game with binaural audio. You can listen to samples of what binaural sounds like on the official game site. While it is a good idea in theory due to a realistic feel, it actually isn’t used much in the game, only for a few scenes and the H scenes. It also was quite confusing, especially when I see Ibuki on Kazuki’s right side on the CG, but I hear her whispering in my left ear. In the H scenes, the BGM stops altogether and hearing the girls whisper and pant in alternating ears is not conducive to an enjoyable experience.
There are 38 tracks in the sound gallery, including the OP, ED and 3 inserts. My favourite track was Madoka’s BGM “Ishidan Aruite” (both normal and arrange ver.) since it’s quite calming and representative of her character. I don’t have any problems with the seiyuus aside from Hina, who is dreadful especially when trying to speak drunk. Ibuki sounds totally different between her tsun and dere sides. Koyori is kind of annoying (uzakawaii like Chinami) and speaks weird, but I’ll let it pass since she’s criminally cute.
Each of the 6 heroines has between 4 and 5 H scenes (including Ui and Hina’s Valentine scenes), with 1-2 positions per scene. I don’t have problems with the HCGs, aside from Hina’s random nekomimi scene. I also wasn’t expecting Ui to get a H scene on her first date. Of course, there’s the binaural issue I mentioned in the sound section. My fav H scene was probably Koyori’s 3rd one in his room. It’s funny because you find out in the side episode that Tsumugi and Ayumu overheard them from the hallway.
All of Micchi’s reviews will be rated by assigning scores out of 10 to each of the following categories: Scenario, characters, graphics, system, sound, and H scenes. Half marks may be given. The scoring is as follows:
- 10 – Absolutely satisfied
- 9 – Among the best, only minor improvements
- 8 – Good overall
- 7 – Average, a mix of good and bad
- 6 – Below average, slightly disappointing
- <5 – Very disappointed
The overall score is a weighted sum (3x Scenario + 2x Characters + 2x Graphics + 1x System + 1x Sound + 1x H scenes) for a total out of 100.
- Scenario: 4
- Characters: 6.5
- Graphics: 6
- System: 7
- Sound: 6
- H Scenes: 6
- Overall: 56
If Hoshikaka was any other chara-ge, I might not have been as nitpicky about minor problems. However, since I had relatively high expectations for a game coming from an established company that had ample time (9 delays) to make a great title, I ended up being extremely disappointed. The shallow stories were the main downfall of Hoshikaka, compounded by inconsistent art quality, sound misuse and generally forgettable characters. When a game falls flat on so many parts, it just ends up being a bad game.
Yet I will watch the upcoming anime series because there’s no way it could be any worse. … Right?