Visual Novel Review: Oppaidius Summer Trouble!
We are nearing the five year anniversary of, unfortunately, one of the most influential English Visual Novels made: Sakura Spirit by Winged Cloud. The release of the game and subsequent hype fundamentally altered the course of VN development in the West as well as the business goals of then new publisher Sekai Project. Since then, other developers have tried their best to tap into the Softcore or ‘ecchi’ market in making a title that captured the attention of streamers and YouTube channels alike. However, they were rarely ‘good’: at least by the rigorous standards of VNs Now. This often breached the question by fans of the ecchi subgenre if I would ever find anything marketed in that way good and the answer was usually No, because Momma said don’t lie if you can help it.
That changed with Tomboys Need Love Too.
The release of Zetsubou’s teenage screed of love and hormones was enough to get me to change my mind to a degree. I’ve felt myself give games with ecchi content a chance when as I absolutely wouldn’t have five years ago: to the shock of my inner circle, especially. It has helped that some developers of these games, both on the softcore side and the hardcore side, have tried to do something other than pander to popular tropes of the subgenre…even though there is still money to be made with pandering.
One of the titles that ride that line is one we’ll be discussing today: Oppaidius Summer Trouble. Created by an Italian developer, the game is a tribute (homage?) to the Japanese sex comedy games and anime of the 80s and 90s. So, does it manage to deliver something interesting or does it just try to grind itself on the audience to distract from its lack of substance? There’s only one way to find out.
- Genre: Ecchi, Slice-of-Life, Absurdist(?)
- Release Date: December 10, 2018
- Developer: SbargiSoft
- Language: English, Italian, Japanese
- Platform: PC
- Website: Steam
Another summer closed in your room playing games… not this time…? An incredible girl rings at your door, changing your summer forever, or maybe your entire life! This will be just the beginning of a trip in the depths of his obsession for breasts, in a journey to return to the outside world and to emotions, kept dormant for maybe too long.
So, let’s talk about this game’s actual plot because that was handled pretty well. Essentially it’s about this nerdy shut-in who becomes infatuated with the literal Girl Next Door. What I liked about it taking this character route is that the main character is never presented as misunderstood or secretly the desire of the majority of the female population. He is a very normal man with a very normal problem. This grounds the main character with a goal the audience immediately gets and potential growth depending on the choices taken from here.
And if the game leaned in on this, it would even argue the game is good. The problem is that it never spends too much time fleshing out this aspect of the story, it could have been great in my opinion. Instead, it eventually shelves exploring the protagonist’s trying to get out of his own head with his infatuation with our main girl Serafina. Specifically, her insanely huge rack. This fits into its inspirations, to be sure. However, I feel like something truly interesting was lost in the mix here since said infatuation (and the accompanying rack) takes up the entire second act.
To be fair it does play into the main character’s arc since that is literally what he sees in her and in a genre that usually goes out of its way to hide or dismiss the protagonist’s attraction to a woman, that’s not the worst thing in the world. And it keeps the potential relationship between the main character and Serafina as grounded as the main arc. While the main character has, arguably, an ideal woman want to spend time with him, the sexual attraction is all going in one way for the most part. Serafina, on her end, has her own reasons for spending time with the protagonist and they are just as shallow. Neither see the other beyond the superficial, which means there is no reason to dig any deeper into said relationship.
The problem, and I will admit this is a particular one that may just be on my end, is that this leads to the characters remaining one-dimensional. While this story doesn’t need anything incredibly deep or complex to make it work, extending a few key scenes to allow both characters to show even the slightest different side to them would have gone a long way. It never feels like either move the needle on their own arcs. So when the story tells us they do, the decisions they both make feels hollow; even though I agree with them. There are more than enough scenes in the game that don’t go anywhere where this could have happened, so it does come down to a matter of rushing things to shove in as much fanservice as they could.
Speaking of the fanservice in this game, it’s a lot. A running gag (and I’ll be getting to this game’s humor shortly) is the main character’s obsession with Serafina’s breasts and the writers use that to justify orbiting as many gags as they can around them. This included breaking the fourth wall a few times by having them cover up the lower third text box or causing the game to glitch out. The first few times it happened I felt it conveyed the point. The fact that it kept happening after the fact dipped into the surreal and I didn’t know if they were still joking or if I was actually supposed to consider it a legit attempt at fanservice. And if you play the game, you’ll see what I mean.
I’m not sure how one would restrain themselves in this situation. However, it’s worth noting for as titillating as 90s ecchi could be, it still preferred to show its female characters as ‘sexy’ while making the main character the butt of the humor. Things have flipped in modern anime, but if you go look up the Golden Boy anime, you can see a lot of inspiration taken from that: almost directly in a few scenes. Here the consistent gag is, ‘She’s got HUGE TITS.’ Thank you. I notice.
This could also be more tied to local Italian humor that just doesn’t translate well to the West. Most of the jokes simply didn’t translate well. These factors keep me from giving it a full recommendation because, well, if the comedy in your ‘sex comedy’ doesn’t really work, all you have is the main character’s arc. And while it is nice in its own way, it is just enough to keep this game from cratering itself completely. A little more patience and, oddly enough, restraint could have easily made for a different result with this story. For what we got? It’s not bad, but it isn’t anything to write home about.
PRESENTATION & TECHNICAL
The art is….special, isn’t it? For those who aren’t familiar with the style, it looks to be based on traditional European comic artwork with some liberties taken.The designs are purposely exaggerated and I can see it turning off a few potential readers based on that alone. For most people who are already interested in this subgenre, that makes it more of an adjustment than anything to those who might be interested because I’ve seen people die on the hill defending this. However, if you’re put on the fence by looking at some of the promo images, that is completely understandable because the Presentation, as a whole, doesn’t really meld.
I think that’s because there is so little background art. Most of the time, the audience is dealing with a small insert of where the scene is supposed to be and a textured background. This is done to try and emulate the video games of the era. YU-NO, The Silver Case and Planetarian show off the idea fairly well. However, these textured backgrounds fit the mood of their games and are subtle enough to add a frame to the scene without pulling your eye away from the art and character to build the world. In other words, it wasn’t this garish mess. This neon-tinted veil usually clashes with all of the other artwork to the point where even a mild change to a full screen Event CG can give the eyes a much need break. They either needed to go with full backgrounds or pick a subtle way to add textures. What we have now isn’t a good compromise.
The music is also different. It does grow on you a bit better than the artwork, but it never feels like a natural compliment to what is going on in the story. There were, in fact, a few times I outright muted the soundtrack so that I could get through the game. On their own, the tracks do sound find. And the music used for the conclusion and epilogue of the game finally meshes with the rest of the presentation: giving us a solid note to close the story out on from an aesthetic POV. Something was just missing here in execution.
Technically speaking there has been some issues, but it seems that most of the bugs and glitches have been squashed now. One interesting addition is the poker mini-game: yeah. The game is essentially a mix-and-match game with you matching up different poker hands to earn points. The goal is to gain enough points to unlock a secret penultimate scene. There is ‘implied’ sex with the scene, but other than there there is no replay value in it so I’m going to leave it there.
Other than that, I didn’t have any serious technical issues. And considering there are two other QTE-based mini-games in this one, that’s saying something.
Oppaidius is available on Steam for $6.99 and it has three endings that I know off. While there are some slight variations in the endings I’ve found, the main goal doesn’t change.It took me roughly eight hours to complete the game and, after that, I wasn’t interested in picking it up again. Chances are, you’ll get everything you need in a single playthrough of this one.
Oppaidius Summer Trouble isn’t interested in going too far outside of its comfort zone and I cannot fault them too harshly for it. The game closes with a bittersweet ending that, while feeling a bit unearned, is probably the most ideal way any story with this buildup deserves. The sexual fanservices aspects are pulled off well enough. It feels like the developers really wanted to put their best foot forward here and make a product that was a good representation of the media they enjoyed in the past, if not good outright.
The problem is that those same passionate developers left well enough alone with a decent idea. A little bit more time digging just underneath the surface of either Serafina or the protagonist gives the game a much needed audience investment. For what we get, the protagonist’s could have easily (as joked about in the game) imagined a girl that would help lead him to the same conclusions and resolutions about his life that Serafina did. And Serafina could have easily made her endgame decision by having heartbreaking conversations with a mop for everything the protagonist brought to their plot. Instead, they played it safe and delivered a functional but ultimately pedestrian game with issues in narrative typical for the subgenre.
I don’t want to sound crass here because, again, I’m just glad that we are starting to get ecchi projects in the West that aren’t total crap. This is absolutely a half glass full scenario and I hope it means good thing for the rest of the ecchi flood heading back into tide. But, you’ll be lucky if anything stands out about the title a few days after you finish it: completely its life cycle as a mildly interesting, vanilla distraction until the audience sails along.
Oppaidius Summer Trouble isn’t bad: especially for ecchi. However, it’s static characters, questionable presentation decisions and unfortunate language barrier keeps the game at par.