I originally was thinking of making this a review post instead of a “Current Obsession”, but I prefer to review games when I’ve fully beat them. That said, it’s probably still going to sound like a review since I have mainly good things to say, but I digress. So, what is “Asagao Academy: Normal Boots Club” (or “Asagao Academy” for short)? It’s a anime-esque visual novel game similar to Japanese ones of the genre. The game was funded via Kickstarter and developed by Illus Seed, which was founded by Danielle Hargrave and Cara Hillstock. The game combines traditional Japanese visual novel tropes with the likenesses and personalities of web/YouTube video producers from the sites Normal Boots and Hidden Block.
The basic gist of the game is this: You play as a transfer student named Hana during her first year at the prestigious Asagao Academy. There, you meet your energetic roommate and quickly-made best friend Mai. However, you also run into the all-male members of a popular gaming club called Normal Boots and soon befriend them. Through a series of choices, you then get to decide which guy to pursue as you also practice for a gaming tournament to determine if you’ll join their club. There are good and bad choices, but it’s up to you to make the right ones to get both the guy and the club membership.
When this game was announced roughly two years ago, I was excited. By that point, I was (and still am) watching most of the Normal Boots crew and some of Hidden Block as well, so I was well-versed in their personalities and in-jokes. I’ve only completed two of the available paths so far, but I can already tell that the game’s team took great pains to capture each person’s personality pretty faithfully. The characters also have references to their real life counterparts, such as ProJared’s love of D&D, for example. The only thing really separating them from the real deal is their age (high school teenagers in-game) and their roles in the visual novel setting (the pretty one, the nerdy one, etc.). I love all the little references they added and have gotten a few chuckles from them both in the dialogue and background art.
You get your choice of all the boys in the picture above, namely ProJared, PeanutButterGamer (or PBG for short), Jirard (The Completionist), Continue? (specifically Paul), JonTron, Shane (from Did You Know Gaming?), and Satchbag (aka Satch). There are also a couple hidden routes that for the sake of spoilers I won’t divulge. These guys also kindly lent their voices to the game, as did the team from Hidden Block, in the form of a few audio clips. They add just the right amount of “character” to it, I feel. At any rate, there’s quite a lot of game here, with the first chapter serving as an intro and allowing you to choose your guy to pursue by the end, and each guy has three more chapters aside. Plus, as is the norm with this type of game, you can get various endings ranging from the best to the worst. You also slowly unlock scenes within each chapter, CG artwork and music as well to replay/peruse any time you want. Needless to say, I plan on 100% this game. I just can’t help myself.
As for complaints so far, I’ve found I’ve only had minor ones on the technical side of things. The first could be more my computer than the game, but I’ve noticed at times the audio clips will sometimes be choppy. The other noticeable thing would be occasional typos I’ve spotted. This IS a visual novel after all, so they do stand out. However, they haven’t be frequent enough to be bothersome and I’ve found myself caught up in the story enough to not care.
Overall, though, I would recommend “Asagao Academy” easily to fans of Normal Boots and Hidden Block (though it heavily leans towards the former, of course). I would also suggest people who like this style of game give it a shot. While some may not be fans of these guys, you don’t need to know who they are to enjoy the game. Sure, the names are odd and there are definitely references in there for fans, but I feel anyone could play this without having seen any videos of them. Of course, if you DON’T enjoy visual novels or games with a ton of reading, this won’t change your mind. But as a final incentive, the game is free! That’s right, you can easily download this game for Windows, Mac or Linux at no charge. So, all in all, I adore it. It’s a game with a good bit of replay-ability, nice artwork, likable characters, original music (that’s very soothing, by the way), and some fun writing. And for me, as a fan of these guys, it’s feels like a great tribute to them.