The Cherry Tree High Duo Reviews

Laugh, and the world will ignore you.

Intro Intro:

If you ever wanted to hear my opinions - wait, come back.

If you have a desire to hear my opinions (and this is how you write the same sentence twice) about obscure video games and visual novels... wrong statement. If you don't want to hear my opinions on video games, then I feel bad for you. What's wrong with me? Did I insult you? Did I slap your ma? What can I say - the bitch had it coming.

Awkward segway from domestic abuse: Hey, a review of two things! I wrote these initially with no intention of publishing them, but then I realised that everything I had to say was so important that they deserved to be shown to the world without any quality control whatsoever. You think that's sarcasm? Fuck you. Get out of here before I make you into your mother. Still here? Yes, good, because that was sarcasm, and I was just pruning the leaves from the olive tree to extract the ripe juices. You're the juice. Feel good about that, won't you?


Cherry Tree High Comedy Club:

Why I read it:

A visual novel that was on the PC Gamer 10 Visual Novels for Beginners. I wasn't that much of a newfag, having my own sources and all (Reddit and the chans immediately come to mind), though it was manageable enough so that even if the lady who wrote it was off her ass, I wouldn't lose too much out of the experience.

What I felt:

Originally I thought I would be watching a cringe compilation due to the sheer Japanese-ness of the thing, which I thought would pander to otaku (which I'm not, though that's my personal "I'm not racist, but"), though ended up being very tame in its content, being authentically Japanese (speaking from a white guy perspective) and even having a character who makes fun of otaku by obsessing over Japanese culture due to naivety. And she's a girl. A girl! And she's Canadian! Fuck Gibraltar - we need more cutie-pie trash babies like her in our media. She's a bit young for me, so I guess I should have masturbated more as a teenager.

Anyway, it turned out to be, and I'll say this because this is how I feel and I don't have anything better to describe it with, really really sweet. Not the kind of sweet you would get after playing one of Newground's legendary Meet and Fuck games, or even a game where you meet women without fucking them, but instead sweet as in the realisation that there are entire personalities and stories and friendships to be discovered simply by talking with people and taking an interest of them. It's not Persona, but if you can imagine Persona having done a strip tease, taken off all of its funeral clothes, and then having you come in right before it was about to bare the naughty bits, then it would be a bit like this novel.

It's a dating sim for platonic people and though the friendships are shallow and you only learn a little bit about each person, it still has enough joy and legitimate charm (and not the fake, fleeting charm that you would find in most stereotypically charming properties) to be worth the three hours you put into it, in addition to its gameplay being nerve-wracking if you're trying to optimise it for the best ending. And I assure you, when you get to know the characters, you will want them all with you at the end.

What I learned:

Talking to people is easy, and it brings good things. Apparently this universal lesson has slipped me by and I needed to read something that draws weebs to it like cool guys are drawn to me. Gentlemen. Bonne nuit.

Cherry Tree High I! My! Girls!

Why I watched it:

Well, PC Gamer had a list of visual novels for newfags (paraphrased), and though I wasn't and am not a newfag, I still gave it a chance. Gateway series are gateways for a reason - they happen to be both accessible and of incredible quality, and is a low-risk recommendation for newcomers to get into without needing to know a lot of the deep tropes of the medium. So it's a bit like recommending Kirby 64 instead of Deus Ex for a video game newcomer. While Deus Ex is indeed a very good game even if you know nothing about video games, the brilliance of it only shines through after you've been a gamer for a very long time, and can be fully appreciated after you've seen almost everything that video games have to offer in ways of interactivity, aesthetics, mechanics, and story.

Although, this barely matters because this VN wasn't on that list. Its mother is, and that's why I played Cherry Tree High Comedy Club. This is the sequel, and as such I thought "gee bibbery I liked this so let's see if I like that", so I gave it a read.

What I felt:

It wasn't bad. And of course I have to suffix that phrase with "it wasn't great, either".

Let me be honest, as that is who I am. The first game was just that - a game. It had solid game mechanics that made it meaningful to try to talk to the characters and get to know them. It had a catalyst which provided a solid, steady plot, and a constant source of engagement through a deadline and mechanics which made you think carefully about what you had to do from day-to-day. It was a great hybrid between a visual novel and a casual game engaging to everybody, and I'd recommend it to anybody who likes slice-of-life VNs or even just time management games.

I guess this review proves that it's helpful to have examples from the game in order to actually talk about the game, as otherwise you're just spitting out-of-context terms at a document and hoping that your audience "geddsit". I guess I'll have to experiment with a "how it works" section later on, so I can further flesh out my examples.

This is the sequel to that, and is a visual novel. They removed the gameplay. I can understand why this would piss a lot of fans off - the gameplay happened to be really, really, good. It wasn't contrived at all, and made your relationships with the characters meaningful. Now that it's gone, you're forced to rely on the strength of the dialogue and the story in order to grow attached to them, as opposed to the innate attachment from getting to know them as part of a game. So I My Girls kind of shot itself in the foot on that front - they gave up a steady source of engagement in exchange for branching out with multiple storylines and topics.

It didn't work. The storylines you get across the novel are shallow, and the themes they bring up are very basic things like "trust your friends" and "follow your dreams", and they seemed to have phoned in these lessons compared to the first game. The lessons the novel wants to teach stop short before they actually get into the nitty-gritty of them, only engaging them at surface level and never diving deeper.

You can't recycle the themes from the first games, which are "it's important to meet people halfway" and "understanding who they are can improve your own life", because worked as part of a game where you had to actually earn your relationships and not just bear witness to them. The visual novel really weakens those themes because there's nothing to work for. If the characters don't naturally grow as part of a story, as they don't here due to virtue of you already knowing them, then it's not engaging at all.

The characters don't develop, instead having you continue to confirm the type of people who they are - which you would have learned to a much greater extent in the first game. Their storylines are very slice-of-life, which takes away a lot of the drama you had to deal with in the first game. Actually, all of the drama. You're watching things happen, being brought up and then quickly resolved without getting too deep into anything or having any engagement with the characters. I don't think I got into the story so much as I was simply watching it happen.

This wouldn't be a bad thing if the novel wasn't so damn short. You can get through it in a few hours, which was true of the game, but the game had replay value as you try to optimise your route so as to get to know everybody and learn more about them, creating a positive feedback loop where the game serves the player. I call this a visual novel out of simplicity. It's technically a kinetic novel, which means there are no deviations, no player-chosen routes, and it's linear. It has no replay value, because I wouldn't want to read it again.

Generally a novel has a lot it wants to talk about and uses as much time as it needs to meet that goal. Here we have a character-driven story where we don't spend much time at all with the characters, a story that never has revelations with the themes it wants to go into, and a slice-of-life story that takes place within a single month. All of these issues could have been resolved if the novel had the length to dive deeper into what it's getting at, but its so damn short that it feels the need to rush through the story, and there isn't even much of a story to rush through!

Isn't a sequel supposed to use the original as a launching pad to get into what it really wanted to do in the first place, but couldn't because of budget restrictions or time limitations or whatever? Because this is a sequel that doesn't seem to have much ambition at all. It isn't a better introduction to the characters than the game made, there were more unique themes in the game, and it had gameplay which actually mattered - and I'm repeating myself here, so I don't think I need to drill in the points any longer.

Is there a saving grace? Well, yes, actually - a lot. It happens to be one of the funniest novels I've ever read, the characterisation is sharp and didn't lose anything from the first game, the new characters fit in well without suffering from "remember the new girl?" syndrome, and it's still entertaining, despite not having anything revolutionary going for it, and knows its audience very well without pandering to them. I appreciate a self-aware novel that doesn't try to capitalise on the people who read it.

I would read this if you enjoyed the first game and want to see more of the characters - and after having played the first game, I would reckon that you very much would like to see the characters. I would not recommend this game if you expect a visual novel that's actually deep or engaging or will change your life; Katawa Shoujo is still my first-pick for that. It's funny without being stupid, and fuck, if I enjoyed Lucky Star then who am I to be Mr. Highbrow? Just don't read this before you play the sequel - it'll ruin all of the character development of the original.

What I learned:

Sometimes the best option is to stick to one thing and do it really well than it is to do a lot of things really poorly. Being a jack-of-all-trades works only if you have the time to go into detail on everything you want to talk about, otherwise it ends up shallow.

Despite my focus on education and artistry and having themes that can change lives, sometimes all a person needs is to have a good time, enjoy a lot of jokes, and understand why those jokes work. The ones in this novel does because they're saucy without being vulgar, the characters play off of each others personalities, and it doesn't fall into the same flat characters/fanservice traps that a lot of anime does.

Every cute anime girl you ever see will be far too young for you, and you will wonder if everybody is secretly fetishising teenagers, and we're all not bullshitting every day. You will then realise that most media focuses on young people, because everybody secretly wants to be young, and that this is simply our expression and appreciation of days gone by. Young people also spend more recklessly than older folks, so yay, manipulative marketing!

Amane reminds me of a girl in high school who never took our friendship seriously and decided to eventually blow me off, despite me really having liked her and having a lot in common with her, so you'll also understand that some relationships and never meant to be. But that's just me.

Sometimes it's necessary to remove features from a game in order to branch out, but only if you do things with those branches. If you remove the core gameplay, I expect you to replace it with something else, like a better game or deeper themes or a big dancing bear in a fez. You'll just disappoint more people if you don't.

What it means to be human: Froghand.

Today's page was updated on August 2, 2016!

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