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2016-08-01

No One But You Review

Title: No One But You
Release date: 2016-01-19 (all-ages version)
2016-06-09 (18+ version)
Developer: Unwonted Studios
Publisher: Unwonted Studios & Sekai Project (all-ages version)
MangaGamer (18+ version)

I have thought long and hard what to say about "No One But You". NOBY was a high profile visual novel project which ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign. After asking for only 1300 dollars, the developers received more than 18000 green. The subsequent release of the game proved that more money is not always better, as the final product is hardly worth all the dough invested into it.

The production process was rife with controversy. Missed deadlines, dying and resurrecting website (which is dead again), artists going AWOL, poor communication and poor business decisions didn't endear the company or the game to the general public. It's funny that "Unwonted Studios" - the production company - was already putting the game for 50 % discount on Steam before the game was even finished. Despite assurances, the adult version of the game was horribly delayed due to the artist switcheroo, but the final nail in NOBY's coffin came when the adult version was finally released... but the patch to upgrade the Steam version was only issued to the KS backers, despite prior claims that everyone will have access to it. And lest we forget, the physical edition is still nowhere in sight, with the backers of that particular tier left floundering in shallow waters.
Dig deeper. I can still see the sky.
Despite mishaps the game currently holds a "Very Positive" rating on Steam, but if you dig deeper you will see that many people actually see "No One But You" very negatively with some calling it the worst visual novel they have ever played. So, what's my opinion about the game? Well, I consider NOBY to be a most perfect example of mediocrity I have seen in my life. Everything about it is so uninspiring and mediocre that I can only gather that the devs purposefully strived to that effect.

Mechanically NOBY has a very traditionalist approach to gameplay. A long common route lets you get acquainted with the characters; the choices you make result in a specific character route (there are 5 or rather 4 and half of those), and finally the last choice will net you a good or a bad ending. So far so good - it's a classical formula that worked for countless VNs before this one. What doesn't work is the writing. There were four scenarists working on NOBY, and I don't know which specific parts each of them has written, but jolly good did they manage to hammer one supremely boring, cliché ridden tale.
You get it, Hidey! She's a woman.
The game starts with our protagonist Naito Hideaki returning to his hometown after a long absence. Déjà vu. I have heard such a plot before. So, obviously he attends the school, meets some interesting people and eventually gets to have sex with a few of them (if you bought the adult version of the game or backed the Kickstarter). The parental units of all the characters are almost non-existent until the plot forces them to do something and the predictably badly written drama is galore.

The choices throughout are fairly counterintuitive - during my first playthrough I tried to get Chinatsu, but ended up with Ryo instead. Yes, there is a vaguely gay pairing with him, if you fail to catch the interest of any other girl, but the game shies away from confirming how close they get and dances around the issue. Sure, they do end up kissing, but I need a bigger clue-by-four to appreciate ending. Not to mention, what was the deal with Ryo anyway? He had problems with his parents, was lonely and had no friends, and thus latched onto our protagonist? That's it? Lame. This half-route fails to invoke much emotional response and obviously it was just hastily written as a side deal, in order to fill the blank when Hideaki fails to get any pussy.
I would like to see Mars.
Chinatsu (a name I will always associate with "Suika") is probably supposed to be the main heroine, as her face was plastered all over the promotional materials, but she's actually probably the least involved in the plot. Hideaki meets her on a bridge while going to school and they quickly become friends. Chinatsu can frequently be met on that same bridge, so that you might even start thinking she's a troll - the truth is a bit different though. Chinatsu has very little characterisation before the big reveal at the end and it's really hard to feel for her due to sporadic interaction between her and out protagonist. She has only one ending and no sex scenes even in the adult version of the novel.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
Fuckin' fujoshi.
Megumi is an actual main heroine, despite not being portrayed in the promo materials as much as Chinatsu. She is a bubbly energetic girl, who has a knack of pulling other people into her own pace and, due to her meddling nature, she has a heavy presence in all of the routes. She's also a massive pervert. I actually liked Megumi a lot - her devil-may-care attitude and cloudcuckoolander tendencies endeared her to me; if only her route was not so unrealistic, we would have been golden. Seriously, Megumi's route purposefully creates DRAMA out of the ass in order to induce tension. Sadly, the scenario cannot survive the clash with my suspension of disbelief.
» Click to show Spoiler - click again to hide... «
That pose seems somewhat weird to me.
Shiro is a quiet white-haired girl living in Hideaki's neighbourhood. She likes to spend the breaks between lessons on the roof, where she plays her guitar for a select audience of exactly two. She has a bit of a low-esteem and when Megumi shows interest in Hideaki, she decides to give up without a fight. That shows her to be slow on the uptake when it comes to romance, but I came to expect this sort of nonsense in romantic VNs, so it didn't bother me too much. The drama in her route is forced by introducing yakuza (*sigh* of course, as if Mr. Evil McVillain was not enough). The scenario is handled very poorly and everyone and their mother-in-law are dropping idiot balls hither and thither. Hideaki is the greatest offender and should be given an Academy Award for playing a simpering fool.
Cold...
Yui is a girl, who has lived in Germany for a long time and recently returned to Japan. She drives everyone away from her with hostile attitude and it takes a real dedication from Hideaki to thaw her a little. Frankly, I didn't understand her route at all. I suppose that the author of this route intended to impart some lessons about low-self esteem and social alienation, but failed. Yui's is undoubtedly the worst route and one you should spare yourself from reading. If poorly articulated anvils won't kill you, then poorly placed deus ex memories of childhood surely will.

All in all, the writing in "No One But You" routes is trite, unbelievable and glued piecemeal from other better visual novels. It's like the authors digested all the English translated Japanese nakige visual novels and then presented the final product to us. Sadly, we all know what is the final product of digesting something. Not that I say that the game is complete shit, but it's so unremarkable, that I forgot many of the plot points just a few days after playing it. You know what's the worst thing? The writing in the common route is... perfectly OK. It will never win any writing rewards, but the slice of everyday life scenes of Hideaki interacting with his classmates are pretty well done, not to mention that I found the humour to be spot-on. It's sad that the writers couldn't keep the same level of writing competence during the character routes.
An obviously different artist.
Graphically NOBY does not look bad, but you can only call it a good looking game at first glance. The sprites and non-H CGs actually look pretty swell, but the backgrounds are incredibly simplistic, full of sharp edges and strange proportions. Five artists worked on the backgrounds alone, and in order to equalise their drawing styles and to hide the obvious amateurish production, the developers made a "bright" decision to bloom the shit out of the backgrounds and call it a day. As a consequence, all the BGs look like Christmas come early with J. J. Abrams serving as the decorator.

While talking about graphics, the infamous adult patch should also be mentioned. Due to the regular CG artist scadoodling out of the production, "Unwonted Studios" had to look for a different artist to draw the H-content. Unluckily, the replacement was not a very good artist, to understate the matter. Not only the H-scenes are obviously drawn in a very different style, but they are fucking ugly to look at and it kills any eroticism found in the game.
Awww... that's cute.
There was a brief speculation that the VN will eventually receive a voice acting DLC, but the company eventually backed out of that endeavour. It's obvious they just wanted to be done with NOBY as quickly as possible and go away to actively work on other projects. As for the soundtrack... it's completely mediocre and unmemorable - there is nothing more to say here.

To sum up, "No One But You" is an overpriced, overfunded mediocrity, which not even the producer had much faith in (hence the frequent discounts). It has mediocre art and mediocre storytelling. Some of the game's faults can be attributed to its director, who was just finishing high school during the KS campaign. I imagine he read a few Japanese VNs, had lots of rose coloured enthusiasm and no unique ideas. The result is predictable.

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official Unwonted Studios site
Buy the all-ages edition of the game on Steam or Humble Store
Buy the 18+ edition of the game on MangaGamer
Walkthrough

Final Verdict: 50 %

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