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2012-05-27

Edelweiss Review

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Title: Edelweiss (エーデルワイス) 
Release date: 2006-12-15 (2008-07-10 in English; Version v2.0 in 2011-09-02)
Developer: Overdrive
English publisher: MangaGamer

Edelweiss is probably MangaGamer's most infamous title and for all the wrong reasons. It was the first title released by MG then still in its infancy stage. It's enough to say that the title was ushered out in a broken form. Localized by native Japanese speakers with not enough English skills it suffered from Blind Idiot Translation and tarnished MG's name for quite a while. Even when the company got their act together and started to produce adequate translations many people still felt distrustful due to this and other first efforts.

Fans demanded a retranslation for a long time and more than three years after the original release it finally happened. I haven't played more than an hour of the original as I felt no desire to ruin my first impression of the game and thus I heartily dove straight into this updated version. Let's see what it's all about...

The VN was translated by Kouryuu - MG's PR person and while he is a capable translator producing an easily readable work, he also left lots of grammatical mistakes inside. The ugly side of new Edelweiss is that it was poorly quality checked and every few sentences you will find missing letters, extra letters, wrong letters, repeated words and other mishaps. I realize that retranslation was a side project to MG in addition to various licenses, but they should have put more effort to clean it up. Oh, well, let's talk plot...
What gave it away?
Four idiot friends: Kazushi, Appo, Daigo and Pierre are transferring to an all-girl school that recently went co-ed. Their main reason for doing that is off course to get some chicks. Four virgins are desperate for some lay and are investing their hopes that girls in a secluded academy are as desperate for a fuck as their are. If it sounds silly to you, it is and it's supposed to be, but the game is deeper than that. Upon arriving to a secluded Eiden island friends should have realized that something isn't right from all those pentagrams painted everywhere and an overall strange atmosphere. Apparently the Eiden Academy was established for the study of alchemy. That should have been mentioned somewhere in the acceptance papers, but the brains of our boys hard pressed by the unreleased ejaculate haven't read further than "all-girls school". The year of adventures in a magical island start for our friends and maybe they can find love there too.

The eponymous edelweiss of the title is a white flower also known as Lion's Paw and it features heavily in the game as an alchemical catalyst. Strangely it's never actually named in the VN itself. The other important plot element is the legendary Philosopher's Stone that in-game has the properties of Unobtainium, MacGuffin and Deus Ex Machina rolled into one. It's poorly explained and features in some character routes as a cop out for the writer after the story hits the threshold of disbelief. On the other hand I have to applaud the research done into alchemy. Japanese just love to make some shit up for their fiction, thus it was a pleasant surprise that Overdrive got almost everything alchemy related right and uses the specific terms related to this field in their respective places. Not only that, but Ibuki-sensei gives a mostly correct lesson on Sacred Marriage and the three stages of refinement: Nigredo, Albedo, Rubedo (though only the third one is mentioned by name).
"I think I have found the Fountain of Life!"
Haruma Kazushi - our protagonist - is a funny lech, who is not very bright, but does the right thing in the end. He is not a very memorable or endearing protagonist and doesn't have much personality, but I found him serviceable as a main character and didn't hate him. His friends, though, I loved. They are total larger than life idiots with no common sense and their antics make up majority of the comedy in the game. There is a fifth male character Panchu that is not of the clique and actually doesn't have much to do in this VN. He is supposed to be a voice of reason for the idiots, but his position is too underfleshed to actually care about him. Yagami-sensei is a teacher that came to the island together with the boys and his character gets just the right amount of screentime to fulfill his role.

Aozora Hisae - the principal of the academy - gets the worst treatment though. She is supposed to be a very important character that enters the role of an anti-villain in all the routes but that of Ran's. However, she is underrepresented and has the worst character development with really unrealistic mood swings. Her Heel Face Turns are so unrealistic, that they leave a sour taste in the mouth. I suppose writers wanted to bring some tension into the story with her help, but failed epically.

There are five girls you can romance and get an ending with, plus a "no romance" ending if you reject the advances of all the girls, but the only way to get it is to deliberately strive for it. The game is awfully easy even without a walkthrough and to hook up with any girl is actually easier than to reach the end single. "No romance" is also bloody hilarious with Kazushi reworking a popular meme into "A man is fine too!". The negative aspect is, that I found common route to be just too long with respective heroine paths on the short side. Also, I felt that common route was too uneven and disjointed. Made up of disconnected fragments it creates a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere and makes it hard to actually care about the events happening therein. The girl routes though are mostly good and that is where the heart of the VN is. What was surprising - I didn't expect EW to be a nakige and though that it will be mostly comedy from beginning to the end. Apparently that is not so.
"Do you want from the left hand or from the right one?"
Aozora Haruka is the granddaughter of the principal and the most heavily featured girl in the promo material. She is in the centre of the cover, she dominates the OP and frankly her route answers most of the questions about the principals villainous tendencies, but I would hesitate to call her a canon girl as her path is not exceptional in any way. Haruka herself is a very cute girl with endearing naïvety, though that naïvety frequently stumbles on the threshold of disbelief, especially in sexual matters. Her dramatic event was well executed, but the resolution was not. I felt that Haruka's route employs the biggest deus ex machina of all the routes in order to give us happily ever after and it was not believable at all. The aforementioned Unobtainium is used here to the greatest effect and the explanation makes the least sense. I didn't hate the route, I didn't hate any of them, but frankly I thought that something that started quite promisingly fell flat toward the end.
Monkey ears
Ibuki Mei is Kazushi's homeroom and alchemy teacher. A very hot teacher, mind you. She is a very cheerful, always smiling person and a great educator... and she makes horrible puns. She also can't remember a single thing since before three years ago. That makes her uncertain about her own existence and she is always searching for meaning of her life. It was obvious from the start that the drama will result in you helping her to deal with her disconnection from the world. In my not so humble opinion, Mei's route contains the least amount of unbelievable asspulls out of them all and has the best pace. While some of you probably saw the truth about Mei-sensei miles away, my Wrong Genre Savvyness resulted in me being utterly wrong about the plot twist.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
"The shower in the dorm is clogged - I'll just wash myself here."
Thirdly I went after the resident "mermaid girl" - Hinata Mizuki. She is actually the very first girl you meet in the game... wearing the Eve costume. Haruma doesn't recognize her later, which is understandable, as he wasn't actually looking at her face during their first meeting :-) Mizuki at first gives him a cold shoulder and acts unfriendly, but later warms up to him. For me her route was opposite of Harukas - I disliked the presentation of drama, but liked the resolution. I honestly thought that drama was introduced very forcibly and unrealistically here. Every other heroine already had problems brewing in their lives. The appearance of Kazushi only served as a catalyst for them to reach the boiling point. Contrary to all that, Hinata's drama comes from completely external factors out of nowhere as lightning out of blue sky. Still, the ending was well formed though the writer couldn't stop from including a random asspull near the end (tears? seriously?). It is also one of the two routes that do not have an epilogue, I do not know why.
Mattresses are for sleeping, not sniffing.
Kamoike Ran is a money obsessed greedy girl, whose daily activities are composed of swindling dough out of unsuspecting victims. The arrival of the boys is like a money paradise to her as she starts selling dating services, peeping excursions and other things of questionable legality and ethicality. Her path also has virtually no drama and is basically comedy from beginning to the end. Comedy gold to be precise, as Ran is the funniest person of the cast and also the cutest. I just loved watching her antics and reactions to various insane situations that befell her in her route. This is the second of the two paths without an epilogue.
A cat is fine too!
Amamiya Natsume is an enigma. She is a mysterious, grouchy girl that appears to share an unknown connection with Kazushi. This is also the route that demonstrates the talent of the writer as it is the most fulfilling and fleshed out experience with incredible attention to details. Natsume is very cute and will definitely endear loli lovers as she is the youngest of the cast. Her drama and resolution are the best and though Unobtainium is still used to tie everything together, its use here is actually believable. At first the path is kind of strange, as we frequently interact with Natsume throughout the common route and Kazushi suddenly forgets her existence near the end of it, but as I said - details.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «

There are also two very interesting girls Sakura and Rin that do not have routes in the main game, but they feature as heroines in the fandisk "Eiden Fantasia" which is good news as Sakura is <3. I wonder if the fandisk assumes that the hilarious "no romance" ending is canon?..

It is clear that this is a game that has some city miles on it. Originally released in 2006 in Japan it shows it's age with its graphics. They are not bad and even have minimal animations, but even "Kira Kira", released a year later is clearly better looking. Another thing worth mentioning is Overdrive's trademark "monkey ears". They usually do not bother me and I didn't even notice them before when playing Kira Kira, but once they are pointed to you, you just cannot unsee them :-) It's still worth mentioning them if only because the game might uncomfortably remind you that Darwin was right.

The sound is very simplistic, which is shocking considering later music related games that hailed from Overdrive. There are only a handful of tunes and they are not that good, but at least one track happily reminded me of music from one of the best games ever made "The Operative: No One Lives Forever".
According to the words of great Max Hardcore: "Smoking pole might be addicting".
Since this is an eroge, it would be a capital offence not to mention sex scenes and they are just so-so. Majority of the scenes are sort of bland and unarousing and substantially differing in quality. Their amount variates from just one in Haruka / Natsume routes to whole four with Ran. Incidentally Ran's scenes are executed the best and are the only ones actually worth reading through. Graphically there are also noticeable differences: Natsume's scene appears to be drawn very amateurishly and not with the same standards as the other ones. All in all, H-content in Edelweiss is kind of a miss and not really deserving a mention.

In the end, Edelweiss is quite a fun visual novel that doesn't have much substance, but delivers many laugh out loud moments and has five heroines that all somehow manage to be likable. If you have some free time and want a bit of lighthearted fun with a sprinkle of drama on top, dive right in and you probably won't regret it.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Japanese site
Download an English trial version of the game
Buy a digital version of the game at MangaGamer
Buy a digital bundle containing "Edelweiss" and the fan-disk
Buy a Deluxe Set package edition that also includes a fandisk at: MangaGamer, J-list, Anime Corner Store, Rightstuf, Archonia.
Walkthrough

Final Verdict: 65%

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