Before jumping into all the fun things, I would like to first thank Aedes and Aero for letting me to post my review on their blog. I don’t know how high have their writings set the standard for me, but let me get this straight…I am a very terrible writer, so don’t expect too much (>_<).
I would like to remind all the readers that even though I can read Japanese, my proficiency at the language aren’t that high. Most of the time, this does not pose any problem but unfortunately ‘＆’-空の向こうで咲きますように- isn’t your usual Romance-Comedy エロゲ. The games touches on many different philosophies like friendship(友情), prayers/wishes(願い), Miracles(奇跡), Gods(神), and some pretty difficult topics. Therefore, I would like to apologize in advance in case there is any incorrect information on my review m(_ _)m ゴメンナサイ.
Warning: Please stay away from this game if you can not handle a healthy amount of chuuni(厨二).
Warning: Please stay away from this game if you expect high dosage of raburabu and ichaicha.
Let us get started then, I hope everyone will be able to enjoy their stay here, お手柔らかにお願いします。
Game Name: ‘＆’-空の向こうで咲きますように-
Website: http://www.akatsukiworks.com/product/and/top.html (blocks foreign IP)
Release date: 2012/03/30
The opening is pretty good in my opinion since some parts are animated and those same animations are actually taken directly from game itself. The song is sung by Itou Kanako, the same singer who sang for most of Steins;Gate songs.
Eight years ago, a group of children decided to do an adventure to end of the world. These children, led by the group leader Haruki Urara, took a bullet train to a distant town. In that town, they grabbed more local friends and formed an adventure(冒険) group composed of nine children, and together they explored the town.
On that night, these children arrived at a place with an unusually big tree where they observe an unbelievable scenery: a sky with two moons.
Back to the present, our main protagonist(主人公) Kanno Kou suddenly start seeing two moons on the sky and it reminds him of the scenery that he witness during the adventure eight years ago. In order to investigate about this oddity, he decide to go back to that town during his summer vacation and in that town he meet up with some of his childhood friends who are also experiencing the same problem.
At that same time, a rumor about a big tree which is capable of granting wishes is spreading in the town. Convinced that it is the same tree which was at the place where they witness the two moons eight years ago, Kou and company set out to search for the tree. Even though it took them a while, later they found the tree in an area camouflaged as a construction site.
They gather around the tree and say their prayers/wishes and vision of ten objects appears suddenly in their mind: a hand bell, a box, a billiard/pool chalk, a telescope, eye-glasses, a rod, a bracelet, a bonnette hat, a handkerchief and a pair of gloves.
The next morning, they wake up with one of those items and not surprisingly those items are magic items which are capable of “granting” their wish, with a twist of course.
He is the main character of our story(主人公). A self-proclaimed gentleman(紳士) though I think pervert gentleman(変態紳士) suits him better. He is not your usual 鈍感 and 鈍い protagonist, but he is also not a superhuman like Kaito from Akatsuki no Goei. He is a little chuuni(厨二), in fact he is the main source of most of the chuuni(厨二) sentences in the game, but is much better that the usual へたれ main character in my opinion.
Urara is the leader of the group and she can also be considered as the true heroine in this game. Even though her rash and thoughtless attitude often get the group into troubles, she has this strange charisma about her that make everyone follows willingly. If in other games everything revolve around the main protagonist, in this game everything revolves around Urara, she is the very pillar that support the existence of the group.
Despite of her ロリ looks, Riko is the mother figure and ‘stopper’ in the group, since she is the only one capable of controlling Urara and has the most common-sense. Riko is very family-oriented(家庭的) and that make her a very good house wife and mother. Just like any good mother, she is extremely scary when she is pissed off and will give out ‘punishment'(罰) to her ‘children’ (mainly Urara) when they misbehave.
Yae is the oldest in the group, in fact I am guessing that she is at least four years older than other group mates. She act as the main horse power throughout the story since her physical ability is easily equal to those characters in action movies. Other than her extreme bird-loving antics, Yae rarely speaks and acts mostly as a supporting character in other routes except for her own. She is exactly like an お姉ちゃん who is caringly looking after her mischievous siblings both eight years ago and now.
Tsukasa is supposedly a genius girl and the brain of the group. She indeed display a very objective and scientifical way of viewing problem, but just like any usual genius girl (in games), some screws in her head is a bit loose. I personally find her objectivity a big problem during ichaicha since love is a very subjective matter. In fact, I can barely feel her love for the main protagonist at all.
Maki was in the adventure(冒険) group eight years ago but does not trust Kou and company enough to join their group again after eight years blank in their friendship. Just like any ojousama(お嬢様) character, she has a very high pride and refuse to be dragged around by Urara and this usually lead to a big fight between them. She may sound like a stuck up ojou(お嬢) at first, but she is very loyal once you got her on your side and her naive side is also pretty sweet in my opinion.
There are actually several other collectibles in this game other than the usual CGs, Scenes and Music collection. Photo Album and Adventure Map are two system that I find very entertaining.
Apparently our main protagonist has a casual hobby of taking pictures, so from time to time he will take pictures which will be stored in the Photo Album. The Photo Album system is actually very similar to the standard CGs collection system. However when a photo is chosen and made into full screen, there will be audio commentaries by the game characters that accompany the chosen photo.
Eight years ago, Urara pulled out a piece of white cloth and said it is a map for their adventure which she later tied to a stick and made into a flag (see the second picture). When the other children pointed out the fact that it is just an empty piece of cloth, Urara innocently replied “Then we just need to fill it up along the way.” It takes Kou a while but he finally sees the wisdom behind Urara’s word: a piece of white paper is indeed a map, it is a map with so many possibilities which have yet to be drawn on it. Eight years have passed since then and they are starting a new adventure so Urara again picks up a piece of empty paper to draw a map of their adventure.
There are many really outstanding soundtracks in this game which help greatly in building the atmosphere during the memorable scenes. Although there are parts where there is this abrupt change from a high-beat to a low-beat/slow music and I really find them irritating. However that maybe because I was reading and scrolling through the game too fast for the soundtrack to finish before switching to the next one.
Instead of writing descriptions on how awesome is the soundtrack, I decide to upload several of what I consider as the best soundtracks in this game.
‘＆’-空の向こうで咲きますように- uses a ‘locked route’ system where all routes except for the first has a prerequisite route(s) that need to be cleared before they can be played. The routes are in the following order: Riko, Maki and Tsubasa, Yae, Urara and finally an Omake route. As you progress through the routes, more and more information will be revealed and the story lines become much more complete. This kind of routing structure automatically put the first few routes into big disadvantages since they will be full of plot-holes and unsolved mysteries.
I also find this game to be very lacking in ichaicha and raburabu department. The writer dedicated a big part of the game into solving the mysteries and putting them together which is not a problem personally. However for those who are hoping for many romantic scenes and build up, I suggest you to get you raburabu dosages some where else.
Overall: 85/100 (not a total)
Although sometimes I got really embarrassed from all the (厨二) sentences, I really enjoy the game especially the last two routes (Yae and Urara). In my opinion, the best part of this game is not about the characters or any particular route, it is about the game as a whole and the experiences that you go through to complete the game.
I hope everyone enjoy the ride and I hope Aedes and Aero will allow me to post more reviews on this blog again since I am too lazy to maintain my own. Let me close this review with my favorite screen shot from the game: