Title: Love At First Sight
Publisher: Sekai Project
Developer: Creepy Cute
Release Date: May 18th, 2015
Visual novels are an interesting lot, and cover genres as wide and varied as romance, mystery, horror, and more. The game I will be reviewing today fits firmly into the first of those categories as a typical game in which a boy meets a girl, they awkwardly get to know one another, then begin dating after a period of prolonged blushing and hand holding. The key difference that sets Love at First Sight apart from other visual novels about faceless teenage boys pursuing teenage girls is the fact that the girl in question here is a cyclops.
Above you see Sachi, Love at First Sight’s sole heroine and focus of the novel’s story of bullying, romance, and just how cute girls with a single, oversized eye can be. The game begins simply enough, with the protagonist talking to his two friends about some of their high school’s more oddball inhabitants. This leads him to discover Sachi eating by herself in the stairwell that connects the school’s third floor to the roof. Feeling bad that Sachi seems to have no friends and is always by herself, out protagonist goes out of this way to hang out with her and get to know Sachi despite how odd she looks on the outside. Through this lens we learn that Sachi has been bullied by a classmate of hers for some time, and how she has never done anything about the matter simply because she doesn’t have the courage to stand up for herself.
If all of this sounds familiar it might be because this is literally the plot of every movie, book, or game that uses bullying as a plot device ever. Despite the fact that Sachi is very clearly either not human or at least different from other people, her condition is never used to any degree beyond her being bullied for looking odd. The problem with this is that this story could have been told with any number of female characters and no way plays up just what makes its heroine so unique in the first place. Indeed, Sachi could have been a goth girl, nerd, or any number of other things that might make a person an outcast in high school and the story would not have changed in the least. This makes Sachi an interchangeable piece in a forgettable plot that even those new to the medium of visual novels will likely soon forget in favor of more substantive tales. In all, though Sachi is a cute and likable character though she is also as hopelessly generic as the story spun around her. She is forever doomed to be forgotten like so many other heroines from low budget efforts similar in scope to this one.
The music in Love At First Sight suffers from a lack of quality too. The visual novel’s soundtrack consists a few generic tunes, looped into eternity, that the game’s composers slapped together and called it a day. These generic tones are so dull and unimaginative I sometimes actually forget that Love at First Sight had a soundtrack at all. It may sound like hyperbole, but it isn’t. This game’s soundtrack is that bad. While the story is carried, in part, by how lovable Sachi can be at times, the music has no such charm and exists only as something to prevent there from being a silent void surrounding the reader as they delve deeper into the visual novel’s story.
What is worthy of praise, however, is Love at First Sight’s art. Everything from the characters, to the backgrounds, and even into the interface itself, which adorably sports a band-aid as a title card for each characters’ name, there is a certain level of charm in the artist’s work that is both a bit creepy looking and incredibly endearing at the same time. Sachi herself is extremely emotive and even though her character isn’t all that interesting at times, I still found myself caring immensely about her plight due in no small part to the rather sad look she constantly sports in her one big eye. For a low budget indie game like this, the art is certainly better and more interesting than most you will find in the genre. The artist who crafted Love at First Sight is certainly talented and I hope that in time their writing skills will improve. If that happens, I think we might see a very impressive follow-up sometime in the near future.
The only other issue I have with Love at first Sight is the fact that it is clocks in at about three hours long and features no alternate paths or special bonuses to keep players engaged beyond the credits sequence. For nearly ten dollars, this is just inexcusable. While I understand just how difficult a visual novel can be to make and then translate, experiences this short should not be so expensive, especially for a download only game. If Love at First Sight were either twice as long or cost half as much, it would be an excellent addition to the libraries of anyone interested in a cutesy love story. But, as it stands, I cannot recommend picking this one up unless it is on sale.
For these reasons, Love at First Sight gets a 6.8 out of ten.
In parting, I offer you a brief explanation of just why a character like Sachi exists. In Japan in the last few years a sub-genre has emerged that portrays traditional monsters, such as those found in RPGs like Final Fantasy or tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons, as cute girls. While this falls directly into the Moe’ anthropomorphism trend of the last decade or so, monster girls, as they are most often called in the West, have found a niche for themselves that many similar sub-genre have not. This has led to several mainstream manga, including the immensely popular Everyday Monster Girl series and lesser titles such as A Centaur’s Life and Dr. Hitomi’s Monster Infirmary, to head westward and, in the case of the first title I mentioned, even garner a TV anime adaption as well. Sachi fits squarely into this tradition and milks the concept for all it is worth, playing up both her strange appearance and rather sad circumstances that stem from them to appear as cute as possible to readers. And hey, it works!
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