In partnership with Nyu Media and Capcom USA, 773′s doujin game Cherry Tree High Comedy Club was released in the US. I had a chance to play through the game and after a slight change of plans managed to write my thoughts on this charming little title. Hit the jump for a full review of this adventure.
The game follows high school senior Miley Verisse as she attempts to gather members and revive Cherry Tree high’s legendary comedy club. To do this she must convince her fellow students to agree to join her club or risk failure to revive it.
The simplest way to explain this is if this game was just Shin Megami Tensei’s Persona series’ social link system. However I would be doing a disservice to Cherry Tree High as it is poor taste to compare games to each other. Rather, I mention this so that you would have a general idea of the goal of the game.
Mainly you must build your relationship with various characters to a certain level where they would be willing to join your club. You control Miley and take her to various destinations so that she can either spend time with potential club members, take on part time jobs, do homework, or other miscellaneous activities. This isn’t a traditional point-and-click game as I had originally imagined but actions are fairly limited to running and conversing.
The term doujin throws off a few people who generalize the term as being of the “dating sim” variety but it is simply a term equivalent to indie group. This isn’t a game for romance but of friendship and it is a breath of fresh air because of it. You have six potential club candidates both male and female each with their own stories and preferences that you navigate for maximum positive impact. You achieve this through daily conversations where you figure out each character’s likes and dislikes and use this knowledge to your advantage when deciding what topics to discuss with them. Successful discussions will trigger cut scenes where you will learn more about these characters and become one step closer to making a new friend.
Some pitfalls that are common to this type of gameplay remain, mainly time management. The day is divided into three parts: Morning, Afternoon, Evening. During the morning and afternoon, depending on whether it’s a school day or not, is your chance to explore the town to build your relationships or preform other tasks while evening segments restrict you to your dorm where you can preform specific activities. There is a deadline in which the club must meet its requirement of 5 members or fail to become a club. Now deciding which routes to pursue or which activities to accomplish will make time move surprisingly fast and if you’re not careful or focused you could find yourself strapped for time.
This can all be avoided if you have a clear set of goals but it will take some trial and error to figure out a schedule that works for you in which you can balance out relationship conquests and other interesting activities around town. This has the risk of repetition but an unfolding storyline and some new areas along the way prevent this from becoming an issue. It may be harder for some than it is for others (I finished with the minimum amount of members just two days before the deadline on my first playthrough) but as with all things a little focus goes a long way.
In the end the gameplay suits the genre of game amazingly well. There are a few details left unexplained outright and a few of the extra options are a bit shallow but the game delivers where it really matters and that is a deceptively tricky social sim with aspects of time management and a few segments of exploration and for that the game succeeds.
[+Tight gameplay][+Challenging and engaging][+Still interesting despite some repetition][*Some elements of the game are vague][*A few activities aren't as deep as they could have been][-Careful not to lose focus of your goals]
Nyu Media chose a very interesting route in translation that rather than a straight translation they chose to instead localize the game. This means that names, places, and other details have been westernized so as to make the game more familiar for its audience. The only time I remember enjoying a localization that I was thankful that it was done over a straight translation was in Capcom’s other project the Ace Attorney series. Nyu Media even brought in Tezuka Productions (the company that worked on the Ace Attorney localization) to help with Cherry Tree High. Well I suppose I should add another game to this list of successful localizations as Cherry Tree High does a great job in this regard. Nothing in the dialogue feels unnatural and the flow and rhythm are consistent with a natural conversation. There are even some clever lampshade hangings to explain some of the more difficult aspects of localization (Why is there a Japanese style temple if the game takes place in America?). The emotional scenes remain just as they would have been in the original language and for a game that relies on jokes and wordplay localizing the game was a far smarter choice than a straight translation. A lot of this was explained on their official website as well if some of you still have your doubts.
The story is fun and light-hearted but it is endearing. There will be characters that you find particularly fascinating or just enjoyable to be around and those will probably end up as the one’s you try your hardest to recruit into the club (Though recruiting all potential candidates will of course be the ultimate goal). Personally I particularly liked Cindy, the punk rocker who hangs out in front of The World is Mine Music Studio (Hmmm?) and Vivian, the foreign exchange student and daughter of the art gallery director. However each character has their own unique charm that I’m sure many of you will find something particularly resonant and in the end form a well rounded cast of interesting individuals.
The art matches this “fluffy” material quite well and the character designs are cute and frankly adorable (May). I found myself hooked from the start with the visual design. The town is a particularly pretty location and the NPC’s range from inconsequential to fairly entertaining. All in all the only thing that needs to be said of the design is that everything is charming. It’s a pleasant little town full of warm people and bright environments that simply brightens the mood.
The story is pleasant, the dialogue is frankly amazing (I recommend visiting a certain shrine maiden for a daily conversation), and the production is top quality.
[+Great dialogue][+Amazingly well done translation][+Enjoyable characters][+A very pleasant town][+Funny]
For $7.99 you’ll be getting a reasonably lengthy game that has replay value depending on how good you are the first time around. Not a whole lot of extras either to be honest but if you want my opinion the game is worth the asking price. You get a quality tale, a game that will occupy your time, and a level of difficulty that asks for completion. You could do a lot worse and supporting indie development is a reward in and of itself.
[+Replay Value][+Justified price tag][-Not a lot of extras]
Not everything needs to be serious. Just like the tagline for the game “Laugh and the world laughs with you”, Cherry Tree High Comedy Club wants you to enjoy your time with the game and genuinely wants to make you smile. It’s a game that wants the player to enjoy themselves, not feel pressured (too much), and simply have fun. The game succeeds in that respect and it mirrors the intentions of its lead heroine well. The world is meant to be enjoyed with friends and filled with laughter. The game creates that sort of world that is a pleasure to inhabit filled with people looking for the same sort of happiness. I really liked my time with the game simply because it felt like my ultimate goal was to just have fun.
[+Tight gameplay][+Challenging and engaging][+Still interesting despite some repetition][+Great dialogue][+Amazingly well done translation][+Enjoyable characters][+A very pleasant town][+Funny][+Replay Value][+Justified price tag][*Some elements of the game are vague][*A few activities aren't as deep as they could have been][-Careful not to lose focus of your goals][-Not a lot of extras]
Purchase the game over at the official website.