This game has a good spoilerless review (1) and several mentions on reddit (2 3 4 5) that all claim the game to be a "legendary" eroge renowned for its metafiction-heavy plot" "sometimes seen as a predecessor to games like Ever17" and to have "exciting plot", "saddest and most beautiful H-scene" resulting in being "emotional during reading it". So my only question at this point is "ARE YOU FREAKING BLIND, PEOPLE?!"
Game is ridiculously boring and has NO appeal points besides quirky composition. Composition is ok since there are two stories plus some kind of diary. First it's needed to reach main endings in both of stories, then diary entries get revealed one by one, and finally you need to return to both stories and see the rest of opened endings. Now for the disadvantages:
- Characters aren't voiced and have zero appeal. They aren't developed at all.
- Protagonist "N" is not described at all, he persists being a stub of a character
- There is no story in the game and that's why nothing really to spoiler. In the first game we just get to know who actually is "X" and in the second story nothing really happens at all, just winter suddenly comes, and everyone is free. All we get is seeing all the three absolutely not interesting girls endings which are supposed to be main reason I wasted 7 hours of my life on it. Nothing is explained!
- Routes themselves are absolutely stupid. Basically from 23 endings about 20 are the same bad ones resulting in being stabbed or hit in the head or loosing memory. Why do I have to read the absolutely same endings for 20 times in order only to rarely get some hint out of them? Is it a game for M?
- The horrible system does not let customize practically anything.
- The horrible game engine pours tonns of garbage together with the text. I made over 100 substitutions and it still littered the screen with all kind of nonsense every now and then.
- There are literally just 10 CG in the game, plus some 20 HCG. Any PC98 game wound beat that many times over without demanding so sit and read nonsense for 7 hours straight.
- The backgrounds in the game take just 1/3 of the screen space. Is that even normal? I felt like sitting in a very small cage the whole game.
- There are only one-two variations of sprites for each heroine. This is so stupid that I really thought that Hinata was pregnant till the very end of the game - her only sprite is THAT ridiculous.
- It would be too cruel to criticize the game for having zero voicing at this point. But the game even does not have substantial sound and BGM support! All those few existing tracks were really irritating after seven hours of playing.
- Why is this game even described as metafiction-heavy? There aren't any references to external sources, it's nothing but a fluke.
- I see no way to play this game without a walkthrough since in many places it's needed to enter specific phrases in Japanese manually to see certain ending. It's ok with just "suki" or "aishiteru", but you need to guess 19 (!) numbers of the safe combination with only vague tips and finally once you need to enter "yumenoe" which I've no idea where it comes from at all.
This review would be much milder if the reviews weren't so obnoxiously praising. It's not a bad game if you like mystery games with complex structure. There was never with so complex structure before, so it's a great example for all future ambitious games. But trying to compare Shoin with Ever17 is comparing an inventive doujin-ish B class game with an AAA title, totally unfair. Shoin can be called a girigiri masterpiece only because it brings new features, but not because it's an organic amusing game.