EDITOR’S NOTE: YES , for anyone still wondering, this was an April Fool’s Joke. But it’s fun to pretend AJT and his crew managed to do a complete 180 isn’t it?
So, last year I played a series of games from Dharker Studios; formerly AJ Tilley.com. To say I was harsh on those titles is putting it very nicely. The Sword of Asumi, Beach Bounce Episode 1 and 2, Divine Slice of Life and Highschool (Crossdressing) Romance, were all terrible by any standard of decent and all deserved the righteous, verbal ass-whooping they got. However, with a new year comes new opportunities, yes? Keeping that in mind, the reorganized Dharker decided to give Beach Bounce another go: promising a full rewrite of the story and correct all of the technical mistakes to improve the experience.
And while I can be a hard master, I do want to be a fair one as well. Again, Beach Bounce Episode 1 and 2 were easily among the worst visual novels I played last year. However, that doesn’t mean Tilley and his motley crew can’t learn from their mistakes. So let’s take a trip back to the beach and see if a second chance is all AJ Tilley needed.
The backstory for Beach Bounce hasn’t changed much from the original. After a falling out with his Father, Tomoyo Oshiro is invited to a beach resort by his Grandmother to work on her behalf while she is recuperating in the hospital. During his stay, he comes across several lovely women who gain an interest in him. From there, it’s sexy times for everyone!
In my original review, I noted several monologues that was just dumped into the story to say it had a story. The bulk of them have been removed entirely and Tomoyo’s backstory is instead hinted at through the game. This allows for a much more up-beat atmosphere in the game and narrow its focus on Tomoyo and the girls of the resort. I know that is something that will be a make or break for some visual novel fans, but the biggest issue with the original Beach Bounce is that it had an unwieldy plot. It ran five directions at once only to stop every now and then for an unpleasant sex scene. The remastered edition focuses everyone on a single direction and it allows the player to have much more fun with Tomoyo’s adventures.
Speaking of Tomoyo has been changed for the better this time around. Originally he was a literal empty space: an atypical, anime-styled protagonist who could serve as a surrogate for audience wish-fulfillment. Here, he’s much closer to Kirito from SAO or Ayato from The Asterisk War. a far more selfless and amicable: someone who understands he’s lucked into a rather fortune position due to an older person’s health and the natural charm and intellect to do everything required of him at the Beach Bounce. He’s far more admirable now and you can see why so many girls here are attracted to his kind, yet masculine presence.
As for the girls themselves the more ‘extreme’ parts of their natures have been removed. Sakura’s wild-child nature has been muted to something closer to a flower child, Mineko’s stuttering is thankfully gone and everyone else’s more positive traits have been boosted. While we don’t get too much in the way of backstory from the girls, they do keep things lively and move the plot forward. They are all also very cute with the exception of Rei, who still has something of a tsundere side to her. In fact, one of the better parts of the story was seeing Rei and Tomoyo’s relationship develop from her judging him harshly to growing warmer and more protective of Tomoyo.
It helps that the game never complicates itself with trying to force romance into the plot. While it does get heavier as it explores the true nature of the resort, the girls’ interest in Tomoyo is very universal and stays true to their characters. This leads to some very steamy scenes of each girl making a move on Tomoyo and it is a vast improvement of what we got the first time around. The scenes are very descriptive and allows the audience to indulge their own imaginations when it comes to the girls. It’s very well done and enjoyable to boot.
The key, however, will be your choices throughout the game. FINALLY, in an AJT/Dharker VN, your choices actually DO matter. And while it might be tempting to focuses on the cute girls, balancing your libido with proving yourself as a capable worker. While I don’t want to spoil too much of the story, it does its best to flesh out some of the storylines from the original that was not purged out. Yes, Grandma Umi is still sick and it’s a key to the entire story, but here we actually spend more time with her and the moment in question has proper build-up and atmosphere. It’s clear that it not only affects Tomoyo, but everyone at the resort.
I’m still a little on the fence about Nymph and Minami, however. Their storylines dive more into fantasy than the Slice-of-Life narrative that dominates most of the plot. It is better woven in here, however, so there are moments where both characters can be impractical. However, they both make up for it in their own ways in other scenes and they don’t take away nearly as much as they add to the overall cast. So, there will ultimately be those of you who like them in the story and some of you who won’t, but I’m willing to bet even the coldest of the cold will eventually be won over by how cute Minami is.
The new Beach Bounce is definitely catering to those who enjoy Slice-of-Life with cute girls and if that is your thing, you will definitely enjoy it. For those who are still on the fence, I will still recommend they try it and allow the story and fun characters to sweep them off their feet.
PRESENTATION & TECHNICAL
The Presentation hasn’t changed at all from the original. We get a few more backgrounds and different expressions and this allows for it to feel newer and more fresh. We also get several new Event Graphics that where not in the original game, including several fanservice CGs that, when connected with the improved writing, actually achieve a level of sexiness that shows incredible growth for the group. The soundtrack is still the same as well, and it remains the only area I didn’t care much for. However, instead of trying to rate it, I decided it would be much more fair to Tilley and his team to just mute it out. So, since I never really heard it, I cannot say it damaged my experience!
The Technical end is also improved. We finally got our Extras gallery and while Quick Save doesn’t work, there are plenty of save blocks for you to use. As I said before, your choices actually do matter here. So you’ll want to save as many times as you can to show the difference scene variations. Other than that, there may have been a few grammatical errors, but it wasn’t enough for me to notice. Plus, I’m hardly one to judge, am I right?
Overall, this section was okay. Not great, but okay.
If you had the original Beach Bounce, you can get the remastered version for free. For everyone else, it is $12.99. If you’re still on the fence, even after this review, it’s worth at least trying. And if nothing else, you’ll be supporting a passionate developer group and helping them grow as a team! It’s something we all need to do more of here in the EVN community.
I think the important thing to remember about this new version of Beach Bounce is that they actually tried. So much of my 2015 was demanding that AJT and his team actually try. They did and they showed marked improve all around. Your choices matter, the girls are cute, the story is narrowly focused to make it as fun as possible and even I felt a little somber when it went into darker territory. You don’t often have a chance to have fun in this medium, and I’m glad I could fully enjoy what Tilley had to offer. This isn’t EVN of the Year material yet, but it easily outshines some of my previous winners who were so focused on being dark and depressing, they forgot how to enjoy themselves and just have fun in a world that we would all want to be in.
Don’t be surprised if you see Tilley’s name show up at the end of the year, because these guys may be onto something.