System(s): Windows, Mac, Linux
Release Date: March 8, 2011
Publisher (Developer): Zeiva Inc (Zeiva Inc)
ESRB Rating: N/A, suggested rating is Ages 13+
Pros: Beautiful character art, intriguing storyline, relaxing soundtrack, nine endings, unlockable gallery and you can play mini-games to build Essi’s Psychokinesis, Clairvoyance and Telepathy stats. You can retry a mini-game if you fail it.
Cons: It’s a flash game, so you can’t save at anytime as in most visual novels. The script has some awkward phrasing at times and grammatical errors. It doesn’t explain how to play the mini-games to build Essi’s stats, though it is easy to figure out.
Overall Score: One thumb up and one thumb down, 77/100, C+, * * 1/2 out of 5
Zeiva Inc., and independent developer, has just taken the plunge and released X-Note, it’s first commercial game. The result is an mystery visual novel with dating sim elements and multiple endings that is reminiscent of Hanako’s Fatal Hearts, another supernatural, indie adventure. It’s an interesting and pretty initial endeavor, despite its flaws, and proves that Zeiva Inc. has a lot of potential.
Can X-Note and Xen Institute help Essi find out why her mother died?
When she was a little girl, Essi and her mother Emma were involved in a disaster, which only Essi survived. After it happened, she saw a little boy standing on the side who said, “This is the end. After this, it’ll all be over. He then jumped in a river and left.
Ten years later, and Essi is living a fairly normal life. She realized a few years ago that the necklace her mother left behind hides a USB drive with a locked X-note file on it, but has never been able to open it. She also has some supernatural abilities. On the way home from her normal junior high one day, she is confronted by a boy named Yuon. He knows about her gifts and tells her she’s needed at Xen Institute to help solve a murder and missing persons case. He also hints that she may be able to find out what’s in the X-Note if she attends. Once Essi learns her mother was one of the four Xen Institute founders, she finds a new reason to attend and explore the school.
So now, Essi has 30 days to attend Xen Institute, develop her special abilities, solve the school’s mysteries, unlock her mom’s X-Note folder and maybe even find love.
Pretty and simplistic, but sadly you can’t save.
Right from the start, X-Note hits you with beautiful character art, stylizedenvironments and a soothing soundtrack that perfectly suits this supernatural mystery and dating simulation. It’s a very pretty game, and quite stylish. I particularly liked the character art and CG images, as they almost have a watercolor feel to them. They’re quite memorable, and reminiscent of the art style used in Japanese visual novels and dating simulations. The backgrounds are also quite fitting, as they have quite a few special details, yet don’t detract from the character art. I especially liked the contrast between the Xen Institute school environments, which almost have a sterile and alien appearance, to that of the more bright, colorful and natural environments Essi passes through.
X-Note‘s pacing is also perfect. The 30 day timeline is just right for the mystery at hand. You don’t get too tied down and commited, but also don’t find you attention drifting. Plus, it’s the perfect length to encourage replays, so players will have no problem coming back to see each of the nine endings. It’s easy to sit down and play a chapter a day, or just plow through the multiple chapters in one sitting. Plus, the mini-games you can play to train Essi’s various psychic abilities can break up any monotony. They aren’t too difficult or engaging, but do require a bit of effort if you want to succeed.
Unfortunately, there are some issues with X-Note‘s script. While the tempo is great and the premise interesting, it could have used another reading before being put into the game. Some sentences sound awkward, and there are frequent grammar and syntax issues. For example, a sentence could have both past and present tenses in it, when only the past tense is appropriate for a situation. It isn’t too terrible a flaw, but it is noticeable. If you can make it through the free demo online without noticing it, then odds are it won’t bother you.
One downside of X-Note stems from the saving issue. That is, you can’t. After each chapter, players receive a password which can be then put into the game each time you start it to continue your progress. It can be quite frustrating, especially since X-Note is a simulation and visual novel game. You can’t save before certain decisions, so you can come back to choose a different path if you don’t like the immediate results. It’s a natural hazard of a Flash-based game though. You get the ability to play X-Note on any computer capable of handling Flash, but you lose a few of the niceties you’ve come to expect in a visual novel and simulation.
A brief, but elegant mystery and simulation.
Considering X-Note is Zeiva Inc.’s first commercial game, it really isn’t all that bad. There are some issues with the script, but the overall storyline is quite interesting. In addition, the character art and CG screens littered throughout the game are really quite striking. Even the stylized backgrounds, though simple, add to the overall ambiance of the game. It’s an ambitious first effort, even though the inability to save and the necessity of passwords to resume progress through the six chapters is a bit of a hassle. If you enjoy otome games or visual novels, it’s at least worth investigating the demo. At the very least, the game hints that Zeiva could be capable of great things in the future.
Normally, I don’t go into prices when reviewing games, but X-Note is an exception. While it does have its moments, the $15 price point is a bit daunting. This is especially true when you factor in the inability to save at any time, the need to keep track of passwords to record progress and a script that could probably have used one more good read or round of editing to weed out the awkwardness and occasional grammatical and syntax errors. Luckily, the online demo is a good indicator, so people can tell immediately if X-Note is or isn’t worth the price to them.