…We need to have a talk about Anvils and why I hate them.
Look, I know for a fact I have a wide spectrum of readers here and that’s exactly what I want. What we believe about politics or religion shouldn’t be a factor in the games we like. The idea of it even being a factor is just ridiculous to me and, to be clear, I say that knowing what many of the people I cover believe about politics.
So, where do Anvils fit into that?
For the purposes of this website, an Anvil is a visual novel that’s focused on hammering the reader with its ideology and little else. That isn’t to say you can’t have politics in your game: that would be stupid. But if that’s ALL your game is about, then I don’t want to play it and I don’t care what side of the spectrum you’re on. It is the absolute laziest type of fiction to me and I have a very visceral reaction when I see it done.
This is all a very fancy way of saying I’m sorry if I start foaming at the mouth in this review. It isn’t my fault; it’s just what Always the Same Blue Sky did to me. Come on, I’ll explain a bit better within. And if you’re the type that cares, there are spoilers inside!
I cannot fully explain my problems with the story without spoilers: so prepare yourself for full-frontal spoilers people!
The story centers on an unnamed young man who enters a college in an unnamed Mediterranean town. On his first day, he meets Kira: a girl that immediately captures his heart and loins…mostly his loins. What follows is this most disjointed love story I have read so far. There is no sense of time or pacing in this story as events ramble out. This immediately cripples the story because there is nothing to ground the reader in. It’s just one minute walking through town, then back at school, then along the coast then BAM back at school and now you’re on the beach and I’m on a horse.
And believe it or not it is much messier than that.
Because there is no sense of time, there is little room to actually develop the characters. Our male ‘lead’s’ family and health issues are hinted at, but never really developed except to paint on a superfine coat of DEPTH. These things are immediately knocked away out of the sheer force of love inflicted upon him by Kira and yet we never know exactly WHAT attracted her to him.
Oh we hear plenty about how he was attracted to her. We never stop hearing it in fact since he’s the narrator of our little tale. The term ‘purple prose’ is often tossed around whenever someone uses something other than ‘said’ to describe a person speaking, but there are moments when it is used in right context and this is one of those moments. The prose here is just ridiculously flowery ranges from mild over-description such as;
She blinked as a breeze caught her hair. It whistled slightly as it traveled through the discordant buildings and passed us. Her eyes followed it and lingered in the direction it left and without turning back to face me she said in a half-whispered tone, ‘I should go’.
To, well, this reaction to seeing Kira for the first time:
I snapped out of autopilot as I hit unexpected turbulence but my hands missed the controls and I was left stunned. She was without a doubt the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. Flawlessly proportioned with an almost porcelain face, completely free of any imperfections. Although untanned, the colours of her hair gave the impression she had spent a lifetime bathing in the sun. Full of depth, it appeared radiant in the bright light that flooded through the window behind her. It provided the perfect frame for her piercing apple-green eyes, which penetrated through all pretense. She had uncontested access to my very core.
…Did the little English teacher in us all die a little inside reading that? Friend, I understand you want to get across how pretty this girl is, but you can do that in two sentences and have it sound much better than this. It’s a problem that can only be stamped out with time, but I hope the writer will seriously reconsider this style. It doesn’t draw people into the story; it just takes us out of it faster.
Their romantic life soon turns to Kira’s musings on the degradation of man and whatever potential subtlety that could have been used here is dropped as the chick goes from saccharine romantic fodder to misanthropic maniac in less than sixty seconds. You think I’m joking, don’t you? Here’s a bit from our precious little Kira to give you a taste of just how warped this all gets and I promise you it is in full context:
‘I don’t think there can ever be harmony on this planet with humans around. There will always be destruction until there is nothing left to destroy.’
Keep. This. In. Mind. I WANT you to remember that she said that very specifically early on in this game.
So we get a bit more of Kira being moody and then a beach date that honestly goes nowhere until Kira tries to steal your soul. Yup: she pulls a straight-up Shang Tsung on our hero until she decides to spare his pitiful life and hauls in the Anvils just in case we didn’t understand that whole ‘degradation of man’ thingy from earlier.
You see, Kira is an ocean spirit that was tasked with protecting the seas of the world and its creatures. However, as she watched mankind destroy what she tried to protect, she grew insane in her desire to try and figure out why mankind would be so gosh darn mean to nature. She was then allowed to become human, but in order to stay human she had to feed an ancient god a human soul every lunar cycle.
Okay princess: hold the damn phone.
For those of you outside of agriculture, a ‘lunar cycle’ refers to the moon’s rotation around the Earth. That process takes roughly a month and she’s been alive for ‘millennia’ with no clear answer on just how long these human sacrifices have been happening. With all of that, and excuse my language, but just how long has this crazy bitch been murdering people?
Just in case you’re shocked I called a female character a bitch, allow me to restate the reason why. This game has a central character that has killed hundreds, if not thousands of people via soul extraction and yet we’re supposed to sympathize with HER because really it was mankind’s fault she want a little crazy since they were trying to destroy her home and she just needed a little love to sort her out.
Did you think this through? Did you fully understand the implications of tying your environmentalist theme to a character who can only exist through mass murder. Or was your anvil so precious to you that you just had to drop it in as hard as possible?
And what makes all of this about ten times worse is that we end on the sappiest, most insulting note possible. We end this tale with Kira being returned to the Spirit World with the idiot eulogizing her role as a protector of the oceans. So apparently her attempt to murder you isn’t enough to clue you in of just how freaking dangerous she is eh? Still hoping there’s an outside chance you can tap that huh?
This story is awful. And not awful in Nowhere Safe terms; it is pretentiously awful. The story is honestly trying to say something about ecological policy and the redemptive power of love. And maybe it would’ve had a chance if it was something more than just HUMAN BAD, NATURE GOOD. It was agonizing to sit through this.
….SO HOW OLD ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BE AGAIN?
PRESENTATION & GAMEPLAY
The artwork is…meh. The backgrounds are a little sloppy but they do convey the type of atmosphere that is often hammered through the prose fairly well. It is a very vibrant world and a lot of care was given to minor details that bring everything together like Kira’s bracelet or the how a beach looks at sunset.
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Kira herself. As the only actual sprite here, she just looks off. There is no real proportion to her body with her head being a bit larger than the rest of her body, yet her breasts somehow larger than her head when she’s not in her school uniform. Speaking off, they’re in a Western college; why is she in a Japanese school uniform? And really beyond the proportions and the clothing, she doesn’t look old enough to be in college. Hell, she doesn’t look old enough to be in high school. Finally the color palette used for her clashes with the watercolor backgrounds. It isn’t the worst thing 5evar, but with so much going into everything else, it is noticeably bad.
As for gameplay it is pretty much non-existent. This is a Kinetic Novel and your only really choice is to pick your name. From my understanding there are two versions of the game: one in HD and one with normal proportions. Take my advice: go without the HD. Due to the color scheme and size of the text, a lot of the menus are unreadable which makes maneuvering a chore.
SERIOUSLY, I WANT TO SEE SOME ID. YOU ARE NOT OLD ENOUGH FOR COLLEGE.
As bad as the story was, at least it had the good sense to keep short. Always the Same Blue Sky can be wrapped up within thirty minutes. It’s hardly worth the nominal $4.00 fee I had to pay, but if you are interested in this particular writer’s work it would be a good donation to his cause. As for this particular game’s replay value? It’s non-existent my friends. You probably figured it out just from my rant on the Story.
I think I understand the plan behind this game, but it just didn’t come together well. I can even admit that some can overlook the writing and character flaws and even find the offbeat romantic notes a bit touching. But, when your main theme tries to justify a serial killer by using environmentalism, you’ve got a problem. And at the end of the day Kira looking like a tween doesn’t help matter at all , which puts the final bullet into this one.
And that, my friends, is the quintessential anvil. All we have to take away is what we were supposed to and that is what the author thinks on ecological policies. Now go ahead and shake off the pain: it could’ve been much worse.