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Koi wa Sotto Saku Hana no you ni

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Clephas

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A few words before I get into this...

As my previous post spells out, I will no longer be doing the VN of the Month column, and this VN was the one that was the straw that broke the camel's back.  That said, it isn't like I didn't enjoy what I played of it once I got past the sticking points (date scenes).  If anything, this game is a definite increase over the quality seen in Ensemble's works since Gokigen Naname blew me away. 

That said, when it comes down to it, this game is SOL all the way.  The protagonist is the son of the owner of a small but stylish restaurant cafe and what amounts to the assistant cook.  He has a firm grasp on what he wants out of life (to become a fully accredited cook), and he is also very responsible and good-hearted in general. 

The common route is basically one typical harem-building element after another, ranging from meeting a girl who constantly gives off 'I'm sickly but trying to hide it poorly' vibes (the protagonist doesn't notice, of course) to a seemingly strong-willed and free-spirited oneesama who shows off her fragile side at odd times.  By the time it was over, even though it wasn't really long, I was so happy that I wanted to thank the  magic bunnies for releasing me from that cliched hell. 

It needs to be said that there are too many heroines in this game, and Ensemble's current art team has such a limited range of facial designs that I honestly found it hard to tell the 'normal heroine' trio (Iori, Sanae, and Misato) apart from visuals at times.   This was one of the reasons that my first impression of the game was blandness, despite the characters having dynamically different personalities, for the most part.

Before I go any further, I'll say that the paths I played were the omake Nazuna path and Youko's path.  This was because those were the only heroines I became interested in during the common route, which is probably the best reason possible.

Youko's path is surprisingly long (it looks like the short common route is compensated for by longer and more complex heroine routes), and it is pretty emotional.  While there were some definite moments where I winced at the predictability of certain events, I did manage to enjoy it to the end... which brings up the ending, which is actually excellent, because it is a 'four years down the road' ending that sees Youko having grown past her hangups and living happily with the protagonist... a definite benefit of an epilogue that goes forward significantly in time.

Nazuna's path is an omake path, but it shouldn't have been.  Nazuna is probably the cutest character in the game (other than possibly baby Minamo or a certain character who pops up in Youko's epilogue), and she is a rare yamato nadeshiko type to boot.  However, she is cursed with an omake path that is short, feels forced, and ends without an epilogue.  The decision not to make Nazuna a central heroine was a horrible one, and it isn't one I'm going to forgive anytime soon, lol.

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