Red Embrace: Hollywood (Visual Novel Review)

(NON-OTOME GAME REVIEW) – VISUAL NOVEL

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RED EMBRACE: HOLLYWOOD

Release Date: August 31, 2019 
Developers: Argent Games
Publishers: Argent Games
Platforms:  PC, Steam
ESRB Rating: R18 (Adult Only)

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So recently,  I felt really compelled on writing a review about this one game that kept me up till 3AM, for three weeks straight. You heard that right, folks! Three damn weeks! This visual novel has riled me up to the brim that I’ve almost succumbed to an unhealthy lifestyle of tardiness, missing some of my (IRL) early meetings and appointments at work (laughs hysterically). But enough about me and my bad habits as an irresponsible adultlet’s talk about the main highlight of this post instead: Red Embrace Hollywood.

Red Embrace Hollywood, is Argent Games’ recent vampire-themed visual novel that was released back in August of this year. It’s merely a self-insert visual novel, where the game puts you (the protagonist) in the heart of the story as a newly turned Vampire, in Los Angeles.

Fun fact: RE:Hollywood is the second game of the RE series. It’s predecessor,  “Red Embrace” was released last year, hitting the BL Visual Novel Market back on February 15, 2018.

 

Read the story synopsis here.
VOICED? NO

 

First of all, please head the warnings provided by the developers at the start of the game as they are there for a reason. 

Mature Content Description:
(The developers describe the content like this)

Violence: Graphic depictions (gunfights, fistfights, punching), text descriptions
Suicide: Graphic depictions, text descriptions
Drug and alcohol use: Graphic depictions, text descriptions
Sexual content: Graphic depictions, text descriptions
Sexual assault: Text descriptions (if player actively chooses responses implying it)
Emotional abuse: Text descriptions
PTSD: Graphic descriptions, text descriptions
Political content: Text descriptions

Additional Disclaimer: Please keep in mind that this game is not an otome game and is nowhere even near it and I am mainly reviewing this game as a visual novel, not as an otoge.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way. Let’s begin!

 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS
To be perfectly honest I went in and played this game blindly expecting just another vampire-romance visual novel. It wasn’t. God, no…it certainly wasn’t.

The game’s prologue definitely portrayed a mysterious ambiance that initially piqued my interest. As a matter of fact, it was kind of amazing how the story pulled me in right away before I was even able to pick a route. For an OELVN, I find this quite impressive.

They were definitely not kidding about the content warnings though ~ because the story itself gets really mature and dark. That said, If you’re someone who gets easily triggered or extremely uncomfortable with the topics above, this game is probably not your cup of tea.

 

ART AND MUSIC
The game’s art style is not your typical anime-esque VN art. Both the Sprites and CGs are more western-like, but my god, they are absolutely gorgeous! The play of dark and vibrant colors, the shading and the intricate designs of the character sprite’s clothing, it was definitely a sight for sore eyes. As someone who’s not really into the western-like art styles in OELVNs, this is really saying a lot! I mean, just look at this masterpiece below!

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The in-game experience of Red Embrace Hollywood also wouldn’t be the same without its lovely soundtrack. The unique BGM choices fit the game perfectly to a T.
RE:H’s music was brought to us by none other than the indie producer/composer “Murcielo”. Sadly, I couldn’t find any of the game’s BGM track’s in this artist’s site, I can only hope that Argent Games will release the soundtrack available for purchase pretty soon.

 

MAIN CHARACTERS AND ROUTES
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty stuff. I feel like the game’s routes and their respective dialogues were the crème de la crème in RE:H. Each character has their own distinctive personalities and I have to applaud the authors for writing them in an ambiguous way where they won’t reveal too much about a specific character unless you as the protagonist really wants to get to know them. That being said, your choices truly matter in this game.

All the characters are problematic. Please keep in mind that they are not your uwu prince-charming ikemen type who’s come to sweep you off your feet. No sir!

Rather, they were very realistic and dissecting them allows you, the player to draw your own conclusion and interpretation of their stories. We have Heath the romantic Iscari, Marcus the cryptic, cynical Golgotha and Randal the carefree Mavvar. Though despite these first-hand stereotypes given away at the beginning, there’s definitely more to them than meets the eye.

I won’t recommend any route orders, so play whichever route you feel like playing first. The game has three different character paths, each having four to five different endings. There are some endings that will only unlock if you meet certain conditions and requirements. For example, Markus’s “true” ending won’t unlock unless you finish his 3rd ending, Heath’s 4th and Randal’s 5th ending.

 

spoilersss

 

MARKUS

House: Golgotha
Allegiance: ???

  • I wear my sunglasses at night so I can, so I can… 🎵
  • cryptic, cynical
  • lives in a sex shop

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I started with Markus’s route first because I find his black wavy locks sexy af! Yes, I am typically shallow like that 😆 (laughs).  ~Markus is a man of contradictions. His cynical personality makes it difficult for others to read or understand him. Thus, making other vampires question his true allegiance or wonder where he truly stands in the ongoing (vampire) war.

Right off the bat, I was instantaneously pulled into Markus’s dark humor and his oblique insights. It was quite charming so to speak. Whether it was his playful dark musings or his cryptic dialogue that drew me in, I feel like I was able to connect with this character on a deeper level and I really love it when a certain game gives you that feeling.

***Some Spoilers Below

Depending on the choices you make, Markus can also come as strongly asexual. Even if he has deeper feelings for you, he just couldn’t care about sex in a relationship and he believes that the best “love” that suits him greatly (towards you) is loving you from a distance. To be honest, the scene where he tells you this, broke my heart but what’s funny is that I actually enjoyed the emotional outburst. 💔😅

 

HEATH

House: Iscari
Allegiance: L.A. Iscari

  • romantic, soft
  • mommy issues
  • runs a bar called ‘Saturnalia’

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I played Heath’s route second because his interactions with you in Markus’s route gives off this foreboding, eerie feeling of uncertainty. Plus, there were a couple of red flags about him that was foreshadowed from the jump. This all the more piqued my curiosity for this character. I was seriously getting some yandere vibes off him from the get-go so I was expecting some yandere-ish turn of events… Only to find out that he’s not yandere… but way worse (depending on how you look at it).

***Some Spoilers Below

Heath is quite an interesting character study. Although the game was clear that none of the love interests are, how should I say… “healthy”, I believe Heath was the most unstable of them all and not in a destructively crazy & disturbing kind of fashion. Heath is seriously in dire need of emotional/mental help and I believe that he was looking to get this from you, and expected you to save him from his trauma and misery. This character was emotionally draining and again I am so thankful that the writers never held back in portraying him this way. I think this character was written to make you feel heavily forlorn and somewhat uncomfortable and boi does this route deliver that to your doorstep!

Ngl, I really liked this route so much but I can’t deny that his endings made me feel really depressed. 😥

 

RANDAL

House: Mavvar
Allegiance: Mavvar Rebels

  • Mavvar house leader
  • loud, follows no rules
  • doodle artist

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I went in for Randal last since his character design was my least favorite, unfortunately.

Randal, the fierce leader of the Mavvar house believes that the vampires in LA should be able to embrace their own freedom and no one should put any rules in their necks. Almost all the Mavvar vampires respect him and stay loyal only to him.

At first, I didn’t like the Mavvars as I personally don’t like loud, rowdy, rebellious groups in general, so this house already turned me off from the start. However, playing this path totally changed my entire impression about their faction and it was so refreshing to see Randal turning out as not the stereotype character I deemed him to be.

Honestly, for a minute, I thought that Randal’s route was the closest to getting me into some type of a “not-so-bitter ending” in the romance category but nope! His route was downright sad that I even shed a few tears after unlocking his special ending.

 

GAMEPLAY AND MECHANICS
It was pretty fascinating to be able to pick your gender and customize your own character at the start of the game. For a visual novel, with a self-insert protagonist, the customization part was a breath of fresh air.

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The CGs basically change the MC’s appearance too, depending on how you customized your avatar.

I played the game both in my PC and Macbook. It lagged a few times on my PC especially in certain parts where it needed to show a CG but it ran pristinely well on my Macbook, so I believe this is more of a hardware issue on my end lol (my macbook obviously had better specs 😂 rofl) rather than specific game bugs which I believe devs already got rid of at launch.

 

TRAILER 

 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS ( ◡‿◡ )
Vampire lores are pretty tricky to establish in forms of western fiction and entertainment. So really, these stories are either a hit or a miss for me. Admittedly, I am a sucker for the genre, so I tend to give them a chance, though if it’s not of Anne Rice’ standard, I usually sweep them under the rug. It’s quite surprising how Red Embrace: Hollywood’s enigmatic introduction stood out to me after only an hour of playing it… before I knew it, I was hooked! 

Gameplay-wise, It literally took me 25-30 hours (in a span of three weeks) to unlock most of the juicy parts in RE:H, and I haven’t fully completed the game yet to a 100%. With all three routes having 4-5 different endings, plus two common route endings, the game gives you a whopping total of 15 glorious, bone-breaking conclusions.

The vampire politics that was introduced in the game was none other than a plot device that gets the story moving forward. The true main highlight of RE:H was the story’s fleshed out and uniquely made characters that will outright throw you into a frenzy of reality-checks one after another.

The writing most of all for Red Embrace: Hollywood was top notch. Clearly one of the best I’ve read this year who’s not afraid to explore on the darker side of reality. At its core, I believe the game was meant to be played with an open mind ~where it basically forces players to take a gander on the hard aspects of life. Yes, it is grim, very edgy with lots of triggers and it is meant to make you feel you uncomfortable and glum.

On the not-so-gloomy side of things though, the game gets you to think & reflect (deeply) and lets you into lots of thought processing afterwards. Ha! Not all visual novels give you that sort of impact so this one is a major plus in my book.

I really like this game to heart but that’s also because I believe I was the target audience for it. Mind you, this game does not promise any kind of happy nor bittersweet endings that will satisfy your vampire-romance thirst. No, this isn’t Twilight and No, this isn’t Diabolik Lovers…lol Nope! 😂

Do I recommend this game? YES 
While I do love me some fluffy dark fantasy stories to escape reality from time to time, I am equally impressed with visual novels that possess certain dark lamentations that don’t hold back in presenting you the most abhorrent actualities in life. To me, playing RE:H is like taking multiple shots of Jameson in one night. You know it’s gonna get you f*cked up the morning after, but you do it anyway, because heck! You just can’t say no to good-quality whiskey! (laughs)

 

CHLO’S RATING: 7/10


a game copy was provided by the publisher _ developer for this review


 

WILL: A Wonderful World Review (Nintendo Switch)

(Non-Otome Game Review) Visual Novel

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WILL: A WONDERFUL WORLD

Release Date:  October 18, 2018 (North America)
Developers: 4Door Games, WMY Studio
Publishers:  WMY Studio, CIRCLE Ent.
Platforms:  PC, Nintendo Switch
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

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GAME PREMISE

(Nintendo Eshop)
There is an urban legend…
Write down your troubles on a note and pray. A god shall hear your story as relayed.
People who believe in the legend live all over this world, in every shape and form. They write and pray to the gods, seeking help for their troubles.

A quiet nerd stuck in a hopeless crush.
An impoverished artist contemplating suicide.
A rookie police officer hoping for his first big case.
A young woman desperately chasing her dream.
Even a stray cat who would be satisfied with just some food to eat.

What would the world be like if such a god exists with the power to alter the fate of those that believe in this urban legend? What if, you are that god?

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First Impressions

One day you wake up as a young goddess called, Myth who apparently lost all her memories. Clueless as to who you are and what’s going on, another god, Will, who takes the form of a dog fills you in with the deets. You learn that your job is to fix the problems of those (humans) who write you letters asking for aid.

As you go along the story, you’ll also get to discover the rules and limitations of your power when bending the fates and destinies of your mortal ‘clients’Aight! This should be fun!

 

MECHANICS: Puzzles and Problem Solving

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You’ll spend most of your time reading letters for the entirety of the game while thinking of ways to alter each situation that’ll give you the best possible outcome. To do this, you’ll either switch or re-arrange sections/portions of texts from one letter to another; by doing this (with your so-called magic pen), you’re changing the fates of the main characters giving them better end results.

You’re also given two options on how you want to play the game at the start. The Normal Mode gives you hints and clues in solving puzzles while Lunatic Mode doesn’t.

 

ART AND MUSIC

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Although it’s not the shoujotype art, I normally crave for in visual novels (laughs), the artwork was nonetheless, fantastic for this game. I personally love the character designs and thought they were absolutely adorable, esp. my sons Jimmy and officer Chang. ( ´ ▽ ` )

The carefully curated bgms, blended perfectly to the game’s well-crafted atmosphere.  I liked how each main characters have their own theme and while they’re not fully voiced, the game added pre-lap dialogues for each main cast, so you can hear them talk before you read their letters. The OP song, “Ω2πⱯ” was also one of my personal favorites as it did a great job laying out the game’s enigmatic vibe.

You can purchase the game’s complete soundtrack here.

 

MAIN CHARACTERS

Besides the two gods, Will and Myth who are in complete control of how each scenario move forward, you’ll also be following the lives of these main characters, all of which have very interesting story arcs.

  • Alicia
  • Carlos
  • Chang Gyeong-Ming
  • Jimmy
  • (Lieutenant) Kang Baek-Ya
  • Li Wen
  • Park Sang-gun
  • Spottie
  • Wen Zhaoren

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(Note: More characters unlock as you progress in the story)

 

Rewriting One’s Fate Affects Another

‘Deduce and Decide’ ~ these are the most crucial points of the gameplay as your decisions either make or break the character’s goal, endgame or even fate ~ Who would’ve thought playing god can be so difficult!

It’s also fun to see how every story is somewhat interwoven and connected with another as you later on, progress through its overarching plot. Ever heard of the butterfly effectThis game is kind of like that.

 

When I say ‘dark’… I mean it.

All of the main characters have their own unhappy (sometimes distressing) stories to tell that bring up different real-life issues. At first, the themes were rather minor and almost trivial. Issues that were presented in the beginning can come up as simple as helping a boy impress a girl at school to aiding a police officer make the best out of his first day on duty.

But as the letters pile up, you’ll eventually come across more serious problems which can sometimes lead to a crippling life or death predicament. Be warned, the stories get dark, pretty fast!

That said, this game is not for everyone. There were a few scenarios that tackled very sensitive subjects such as suicide, sex trafficking, mental illness, and child abuse. If these issues make you feel uncomfortable, you may need to think twice before picking this one up as the darker themes can be a little too much (for the faint of heart)

I personally, felt really uneasy going through Alicia’s arc in the beginning. This character cannot catch a break at all, and her route was becoming harder to swallow each episode.

But here’s one of the game’s major pros: These (sensitive) issues were dealt oh so well that it even took me by surprise! I was really impressed by how each of them ended up with a positive turn around. I’ve also enjoyed how the writers added humor to some of the depressing scenes. Most of the characters go waayyy deeper than I expected, they’re not boring so to speak and their development was really something to look forward to.

 

SYSTEM AND LOCALIZATION

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I bought the Nintendo Switch copy of the game. The only problem I’ve had with it, the first time it came out in the e-shop was that it wouldn’t let me play on “docked mode” and the game will only load if you’re playing it hand-held. Thankfully, the developers fixed this bug a couple of days after its release and you should now be able to switch on either mode with no issues. The game also crashed twice for me, but thanks to its auto save mode, none of my progress were deleted.

The localization was pretty good. I only noticed this one menial, funny typo that irregularly came up near the end of the game (where the word “dice” became “die” 😂 lol) ~ but I don’t think this will, by any chance, hinder your progress. Although WILL was published by Circle Entertainment, it was Sekai Project who provided its English translations. *tips hat to SP* ヽ( ̄ω ̄)

The N.Switch System was very straightforward and easy to navigate. While Nintendo doesn’t offer trophy systems, the game conveniently enough has its own achievement section for players who want to complete it by 100%.

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It also offers a Dictionary section where you can read and view the vocabulary terms that were used in the game. Some entries come with illustrations, such as the example above. Look at that cute Ser Spotty plushie!

 

TRAILER

 

 

OVERALL THOUGHTS?

It took me a decent 20-25 hours to beat the entire game as there were a couple of instances where I had to go back and unlock other endings to see if the story branches out differently. Some of the puzzles can get a bit difficult and exhausting near the end that it certainly requires a lot of patience if you’re planning to clear this one out by a hundred percent (that means getting all the endings, completing all dictionary entries and collecting all the CGs).

Take note that in this visual novel, giving the characters a “good ending” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the “best” for them.

WILL: A Wonderful World is not your average visual novel. Its unconventional mechanism of moving sections of texts from one story to another was quite engaging. I had fun experimenting on the countless possible outcomes for each of the in-game characters. Their stories were really good and the main casts’ development was immensely defined, they grow on you.

I should warn you though; the game gets aggressively heavy in tone as you progress. While I don’t really mind the hefty timbre of angst and sadness some story presented, I don’t think you should be playing this one blindly if you’re someone who’s easily triggered with the issues mentioned above.

Do I recommend this game? YES
If you’re a visual novel junkie like me, this game is an absolute gem and seriously a must-buy! I haven’t played a VN this interesting not to mention, emotionally heartrending in years. To me, WILL: A Wonderful World, was such a memorable experience, one that sticks to you like glue. I bought the digital copy of the game ($15.00) during its debut in the eshop and now that they’re releasing a physical version, I pre-ordered it again for the reason that it’s definitely one for the shelves and worth the collection.

I recommend picking this one up along with your fav. box of dark chocolates for the experience.😉

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CHLO’S RATING: 7/10