Release Date: August 30, 2018 (North America)
Developer: OperHouse, D3Publisher
Publisher: Dogenzaka Lab, D3Publisher
Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch, Mobile (iOS and Android)
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Our heroine is entering her junior year of high school when she finds out she’ll be transferring to the famous Kirika Academy located in the city due to her father’s new job.
She is quite excited about starting her new school life, but she stumbles upon a secret nightclub that is being operated after school hours, and gets herself roped into working the kitchen…
As she grows closer to the other wait staff of the nightclub, she learns of their past, and finds herself becoming more and more involved in a complicated web of human relationships and romance…
ART AND MUSIC
Perhaps one of the pros that initially attracted me to Gakuen Club was the game’s artwork. These lovely character designs were done by the popular Japanese illustrator “Melo”. Her other famous works are Suuran Digit and Taishou x Alice. You can view the artist’s website here.
Fun Fact: Gakuen Club’s PS Vita version gets an awesome opening theme, with a song called “UNMASKED” performed by the artist, Mao Uzuki. You can listen to the track below, or watch the video here.
KENN “Minakawa Asahi” – Fuuto Asahina (Brothers Conflict), Yuuto Kujo (Beast Darling), Kintaro Katagiri (Yunohana Spring!), Totomaru Minowa (Kenka Banchou Otome)
Tsubasa Yonaga “Wataru Kagurazaka” – Hikaru Onigashima (Kenka Banchou Otome), Yakumo Tachibana (Vitamin X-Z)
Kensho Ono “Toma Sakai” – Hozumi Kohinata (Prince of Stride), Mict Haruno (Binary Star), Kurokono Tasuke (Gintama)
Mark Ishii “Yuya Yamaoka” – Lev Haiba (Haikyu), Chrono Shindou (Cardfight! Vanguard G)
Yuuichirou Umehara “Renji Kamiki” – Demento (Period Cube), Shingen Takeda (Ikemen Sengoku), Shinobu Kurosawa (Dynamic Chord)
Kosuke Toriumi “Saku Takizawa” – Hajime Saito (Hakuoki), Poyo-Poyo (Period Cube), John Watson (Code Realize), Shuu (Diabolik Lovers), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (Ikemen Sengoku), Kagiha/Lawrence (Psychedelica Series)
MAIN CHARACTERS (No Spoilers)
All the romanceable characters are shotas (laughs) so If you’re into this archetype, I believe this game is for you! Personally, I’m not into the whole “young love”, or the “innocent-high-school-trope” thing. I like my men more mature and older (Darling, don’t we all do?! *chuckles*) – So as far as the romance goes, it was a little hard for me to get really enthused by these characters.( ° ∀ ° )ﾉﾞ
I don’t think there’s a specific route order you have to follow, so, by all means, start with any character you like. If you want route recommendations, I suggest playing in this order: Wataru — Renji — Toma — Saku — Yuya — Asahi.
RENJI KAMIKI – a senior in Kirika Academy who’s also a talented young pianist.
I did Renji’s route first because he was the best looking of the bunch and the tallest! (kinda makes him look more mature than the other boys) lol (*/ω＼) Renji is the flirty, outgoing type. He’s the boy you’d want to introduce to your folks because you’d know they’ll instantly like him. In his story, he’s not only very popular among the girls in the academy but also with the secret nightclub’s VIP guests (mostly women). Although Renji stages beautiful piano performances in a professional manner, he felt as if his music lacked something very important – and this sometimes puts him in a foul mood. Playing his route will let you discover Renji’s struggles that haunted him all his life and kept him from expressing his true self through his music.
Renji’s route was okay, it started good, got a bit repetitive and boring in the middle, and ended in a rush. I may have enjoyed a few romantic scenes due to his flirty nature but overall, I thought Renji’s character was a little distant towards the heroine and I don’t think they really connected in his story.
WATARU KAGURAZAKA – A very cunning and clever freshman of Kirika Academy.
Wataru is the youngest member of Kirika Academy’s Secret Nightclub. He’s a cheerful character, who knows his own appeal and tends to use it at his advantage. He aims to become number one in the secret nightclub rankings to help him gain and achieve a personal wish. In his story, Wataru hits it off with Akane but then angst follows when his uncle forced him into an arranged marriage to gain company relations and to help their family business.(＃`Д´)
Wataru is the most shota of all the shotas in this game lol. His route wasn’t so bad although I didn’t really care much about it as it was plainly predictable from start to finish. His relationship with the heroine was good if you like the typical high school romance involving a young tsundere with a spunky attitude. His tiny squeaky voice didn’t help either and only got me more annoyed while going down his route. If anything, it made me feel like a cradle snatcher!
TOMA SAKAI – an unfriendly, handsome looking boy who’s frank remarks always stand out.
Toma is a kuudere, he rarely talks and would only SIGH most of the time. In fact, you’ll hear him sighing all throughout the game (even in other routes). lol (っ´ω`)ﾉ Despite his unfriendly nature, he still remains close pals with his buddy Asahi Minakawa. In his story, Toma was revealed to be a child model who used to be really famous in the entertainment business – (this explains his very charming physical appearance). However, due to some internal family issues he’s been struggling with since childhood, he eventually developed health problems which lead him to quit his modeling career.
I never expected I’d enjoy Toma’s route but I actually found it surprisingly better than the others. Maybe it’s because I’m a total sucker for kuudere characters? haha It started really dull though but I’m glad it got better towards the ending. I liked his relationship with Akane and the way he opened up to her seemed very realistic, not to mention cute!
SAKU TAKIZAWA – bookworm, a man of few words who possess a unique mysterious personality.
Saku’s route was probably THE BEST one in Gakuen Club. Wow! This megane really got my full attention. uwu (*ﾉωﾉ) Saku maybe a man of few words but he is one attentive fella with very good listening skills. He offers logical advice to the nightclub’s VIP guests’ personal problems – this is one of the distinctive charms that draw people to him. In his route, it was revealed that Saku’s parents were famous movie stars (his dad a film director and mom, an actress). You’ll also get to discover how he’s raised all his life without receiving a single love from neither of them. SOB (╥_╥)
I find his story rather dark but very engaging at the same time. It started interesting enough to keep you going and ended with a great finish. Although going down his route was emotionally heartbreaking, his romantic events with the heroine never took a back seat and I enjoyed every scene they’ve had together including their cute exchanges in the library and their fluffy moments of confessing each other’s feelings during the school festival. All in all, this route was a perfect 10.
YUYA YAMAOKA – a handsome, hardworking senior in Kirika Academy with a concerning dark past.
Yuya was sort of a mysterious character at first. I’ve asked myself a couple of times, what’s so special about him? …and why is he even in the secret nightclub? To give you a non-spoiler answer; Unlike the other guys who are famous for their high status in society, Yuya is actually just an ordinary dude with a handsome face. lol He does have a dark secret up his sleeve which you’ll get to discover going down his route.
I have mixed feelings towards Yuya’s story. For the most part, it was all fluff fillers that aren’t even relevant. Yuya’s character was also very deviant compared to the other boys. He can be a jerk sometimes and annoyingly emo and I’m not even sure if his relationship with the heroine was genuine enough to last. haha! I did feel bad while reading his backstory (during his monologues) and I like how the VA Mark Ishii carried this character’s complex personality. It’s a shame he doesn’t have a lot of otome gigs!
ASAHI MINAKAWA – the son of the headmaster in Kirika Academy, who’s also in Akane’s class.
Asahi is the heir of the Minakawa Group, the powerful conglomerate that runs Kirika Academy. He is bright, energetic and of course very popular at school. Besides being the genki guy who won’t leave you alone, Asahi Minakawa is also dat-one-character who’s born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His route was mainly him struggling to keep up with his wealthy family’s high expectations.
I think playing Asahi’s route last, was a good choice since it contained most of the spoilers in Gakuen Club’s overall story. Other than that, his character development turned out very bland, dull, and somewhat predictable. The romance was there but because of Asahi’s jolly-ol’ personality, it felt a little forced, like there’s no motivation behind his feelings for Akane, at all. Also, His open-ended happy ending made me flip. (ﾒ` ﾛ ´)
AKANE KOIZUMI (You) – Main Heroine
Akane is your typical transparent heroine. There’s nothing special about her. She doesn’t have any likable trait whatsoever and was just blindly following and supporting most of the guys in their routes except maybe Saku and Toma’s, where her support actually made a significant turn on how their stories were concluded.
Well, I didn’t really have any high expectations from this game. I first played it on mobile, where I only did Toma’s route and got bored with it halfway through. Perhaps playing it on the Switch the second time around made all the difference? The game’s system was very comfortable whether you play it handheld or docked. I played it on tv while my console was docked, so this somehow prevented me from falling asleep! lmao.
The average playtime in completing one single route was a good 2-3 hours (auto mode), though it took me a week to finish this game as I keep putting it down (ーー;). Most of the routes were boring as hell except for maybe Saku and Toma’s. These were the only two routes I’ve enjoyed, Saku being my favorite. I liked how all of the routes focused on very human stories and events, instead of the usual superfluous fantasies in otoges. Don’t get me wrong, I still love those good ol’ reverse harem fictions, but this was a good change of pace.
Overall, Gakuen Club isn’t as bad as everyone assumed it to be. It had a couple of pros such Melo’s gorgeous art and not all the main characters sucked.^^
Do I recommend this game? Maybe, if it’s on sale. I’m pretty sure you’ll at least enjoy one route (Saku’s Route). Each of the character’s story does bring up realistic conflicts, which was a plus point to me. It’s a very simple high-school themed visual novel though, so don’t expect it to be mind-blowing or anything of the sort (chuckles).