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Gamertell Review: Fading Hearts for Windows, Mac and Linux

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Fading Hearts

Title: Fading Hearts
Price: $19.95
System(s): Windows PC (Also Mac and Linux)
Release Date: June 15, 2010
Publisher (Developer): Sakura River (Sakura River)
ESRB Rating: N/A, I’d say probably 12 and up, since there are two abusive relationships discussed in the game. No violence or verbal abuse is shown.
Pros: Beautiful character art, interesting use of books and manga, RPG elements added in, lots of secrets and twists, good mix of visual novel and simulation, multiple endings, good music, achievements to unlock and Alice and Mimi give hints as to what to different at the end for different endings.
Cons: A few minor spelling and grammar errors, “Call Friend” option will show up with no people to call. Sometimes a glitch keeps Alice’s image from showing up in the post-game review. Rainbow outline around the text box doesn’t seem to fit somehow. Need to play multiple times to understand the full story, which may annoy some people.
Overall Score: One thumb up, one thumb sideways; 88/100; B+; * * * 1/2 out of 5

Visual novels usually fall into two categories. One are strict visual novels, with images above and oodles of text. Players interact with the story only by choosing occasional responses, sometimes not even choosing responses at all. The other is a sort that can almost be considered an adventure game or simulation, tossing in other elements which effect what kind of interactions and endings you’ll see.

Sakura River’s first commercial visual novel, Fading Hearts, falls in with the later. It’s clearly a visual novel, but it’s also littered with simulation and RPG elements to help get the player more involved in the character’s lives.

Fading Hearts

Life, abusive relationships, manga, magical girls and shadow monsters.

Ryou, a Y2K orphan in Sorayama who also happens to be a high school student and well known computer technician, has a life that’s about to get complicated. He’s always been close with his two childhood friends, Claire and Rina. He’s had a crush on Claire, who has a boyfriend, and Rina has a crush on him.

He suddenly learns a number of things all at once. Claire’s boyfriend is reportedly abusing her. His otaku friend Alex is supposedly a womanizer. Rina’s suddenly ditching clubs and falling asleep in class. Not to mention there’s ordinary life and work to deal with as well. Ryou must build bonds and personal strength by interacting with his friends, so he can possibly find a happy ending for all of them.

Fading Hearts

Mesmerising, though glitches can be distracting

Fading Hearts is a balanced mix of visual novel and life simulation. You manage Ryou’s daily life, building up his personal strength and knowledge, by having him do things like spend time with friends, read books and manga, train, work for three different companies, visit locations and battle shadowy monsters. Depending on the choices you make during novel segments and the places you choose to visit, you can end up seeing different events and segments which make it easier to understand the whole story of Fading Hearts. There are many different events/dreams/endings/achievements you can trigger, many of which are contradictory. This gives the player lots of motivation to keep returning to the game to replay and see what hasn’t been learned yet. Thankfully, there are lots of save file slots, so you can make saves at crucial points and return if you see you aren’t heading towards the result you want. On the other hand, this may also frustrate some players, since you can’t play through Fading Hearts once and immediately make connections, or perhaps even read all the manga and unlock all the dreams.

The version I played was a patched, updated version with a rewrite patch applied. It added additional features like a rewritten script, scene viewers, at home email notifications and some assorted bugs and glitches. I’m unsure of how the script looked or things functioned before the patch, but the rewrite portion has yielded a decent script with fantasy elements. Dialogue is fairly realistic, with only a few spelling and grammar errors. The patched version also allowed the secret character Tracy to show up without issue, and achievements were easy to view and fairly easy to earn, provided you worked hard and followed hints from the post game guides Mimi and Alice as to what to possibly do on additional playthroughs.

I was distracted by the glitches that seemed to pop up throughout Fading Hearts. Trust me, you will encounter at least one. For example, during my first playthrough, the option to call someone started showing up in the Evening menu in early April, even when there was no one I could call, and never went away. This same glitch continued to occur and appear in all additional playthroughs. During my second playthrough, I decided to turn the Seen Messages Skip feature on, and began skipping. After I passed through the intro, I went into Preferences to turn it off, but found I couldn’t. I could just set it to stop skipping after choices and I’d have to wait until a choice game up for Skip Mode to end. Also,after my second playthrough ended Alice’s portrait mysteriously disappeared, but she was still assisting Mimi in giving post-game commentary. Thankfully, none of the glitches are game-breaking. They’re just minor, sometimes fleeting, distractions. An annoyance, but certainly not something that would deter someone from trying or buying the game.

Fading Hearts

A mystery that takes multiple playthroughs to solve

Fading Hearts does have minor issues. You may see one or two teeny bugs, like the phone call message, but none effect gameplay or enjoyment of the adventure. It has an interesting story to tell, which can be as realistic, convoluted or outlandish as you want it to be. You can go through one playthrough, just managing a normal social life and saving Claire from an abusive relationship. You can go through another, searching for truth behind the magical girl Mystica. Or, you could just sit and read manga every day. It’s up to you, and all actions will lead towards new experiences and greater understandings of the world within Fading Hearts. For Sakura River’s first game, it’s a fairly well-crafted endeavor.

Site [Fading Hearts]

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  • VN player X

    Is this review completely impartial? It feels impossible that anyone who isn't either bribed or a friend of the maker would write such a positive review of that trainwreck.

    The writing was horrible, the characters paper-flat, the graphics scarce and the gameplay uninspired. As a fan of Kaze-Hime's art, I was personally utterly and throughoughly disappointed with this game, and Sakura-River even had to bring the price down because the reception was overall extremely negative. 88% for that game? You must be kidding me.

  • Jenni Lada

    Did you play the original game or the new patched release? The patched release featured a complete rewrite of the storyline. Also, while it may seem a bit disjointed the first playthrough, on subsequent playthroughs, things start to tie together. Especially if you take the time to read all of the manga, then perhaps go back to the options menu to real all of the dreams you've encountered.

    A few more CG scenes would have been nice, but the character art for all characters looked good, and the backgrounds looked realistic as well.

    Gameplay was typical for a visual novel, or visual novel with simulation elements. Especially the stat building portions. It wasn't too different from the kind used in games like Re: Alistair or Cute Knight.

    I'm surprised you'd think that about the review. I did a google search after reading your comment and found two other video game websites which reviewed Fading Hearts, it seems to have received a general review window of 80-90/100.
    http://www.rpgfan.com/reviews/Fading_Hearts/index.html
    http://www.levelfortytwo.com/2009/12/fading-hearts-review/

    Also, I've never met the people at Sakura River. I don't know any of them, and hadn't even heard of the company or its game before now.

  • Purple Rose

    You know, just because you don't like a game doesn't make it a bad game and anyone who likes it biased. I liked it (got it from Amaranth) and I never heard of it before. Fading Hearts reminded me a little of Da Capo and other Japanese VNs. Perhaps you're just unfamiliar with visual novel game play in general?

    I can see the simulation stat building part being a little similar to Cute Knight.

  • Watermia

    I am on agreement with VN player X.

    Btw, I'm also Kaze-Hime's fan. I also likes to play VN, and have played both professional and amateurs VN. And this game unfortunately was some of the worst I have played so far.

    I have no qualms with the graphic or the music, which I thought was good. (Though I agree it lacks CG for a commercial game) But that all won't matter in VN, if the story sucks so much! Fading Hearts has some of the most pretentious writing ever. Plot is unnessarily convoluted. Too many flashbacks and character doing things that don't make sense! Plot twist felt forced and was there for the sake of plot twist with no real thought or coherent writing.

    I really find it hard to believe that it's getting high score. (Especially in RPGfan where it gaves some of my favorite RPG average score while calling Fading Hearts some of the best VN. I can't trust this site creditability thanks to that.)

  • Jenni Lada

    Hi Watermia – Here's my thinking and what I discovered after playing it five times before writing the review.

    If you take the time to replay and make sure to pay attention to the dreams and books, things really start making sense. (It'd be huge spoilers if I pointed out *why* it starts making sense.)

    It all starts once you notice the parallels between the dreams, manga and reality.The correlations between the characters. Look at how things can be fitted together. The dreams and manga, if taken at more than face value, can even explain why things in Sorayama are the way that they are.