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Hello Lady! Review – Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Hot



This is a condensed version of the full review which can be found on my Main Blog Here.

Genre – Superpowers, Action, Multiple Route Mystery.   Play Time – 50 hours.   Developer - Akatsuki WORKS.   Steam   VNDB


It Started With Fire


The quest for revenge is a time worn tale which has assumed many forms and is notoriously difficult to get right. It can be a struggle to get the audience to empathise with a character who is seeking revenge, especially when they start destroying the lives of others and potentially killing people. Hello Lady throws its hat into this complicated ring and presents its answer to this problem through a merger of mystery, romance and action. The version we have translated into English is the Complete Edition which includes the base game, the New Division fandisc and an extra final route. This package leads to some strange overall narrative quirks, but are its strengths enough to overcome them and craft a compelling tale of revenge? Let’s step into the shoes of Narita Shinri and find out.




A Game of Three Parts - Narratives and Themes


Despite being a merger of three separate sections (Original Game, New Division and the Final Route) written at different times there is a surprising level of cohesion between their overall narratives, but also some strange choices which lead to moments that don’t quite add up. Each part brings something unique to the table and explores the world or characters in order to create a complete experience for the player.


- The Original game -


This is the first section of the game which the player has access to and it is here they will spend the majority of their time. It follows a structure of sequentially unlocking routes in order to control the information given to the player and provide a sense of progression through the overarching mystery. However, this results in there being little sense of agency on the part of the player with the only freedom being given in the very beginning and even then only in the choice of two routes. As such it falls on the characters and plot to hold up the narrative and they succeed wonderfully. Narita Shinri’s pursuit of revenge and how it interacts with each of the heroines differently makes for a gripping tension as each brings a unique angle to his quest and calls it into question his motives. These dynamics are extended to the supporting cast with Narita having to dance around them in order to conceal his intent from them and enact his plans. This atmosphere between the characters is further enhanced by the mystery of the plot as the secrets of the school and of the world are slowly revealed and play on the sense that Narita is not in control of the situation.


- New Division -


New Division consists of two routes which are accessed entirely separately from the original game and as such have no build up to them as the player is suddenly thrust into the heart of the narrative. As you might expect this can be a bit disorienting, but it is mitigated by the routes making it clear when they take place in the timeline of Hello Lady.


The two routes added are for Kabutoyama Mitori and Hishia Mori who were previously minor characters and now step into the limelight. Mitori’s route is the stronger of the two with a heart wrenching story which not only expands the characters involved, but also the explains some unanswered questions and grows the world building in interesting ways. It is one of the best routes in the game and only held back by how it can only build on certain plot points and not conclude them. On the other hand Hashia’s route is more uneven. The opening parts of the route repeats information we already know or could infer as well as containting numerous information dumps about Hashia’s past with Narita. This leads to it feeling very front loaded with content and kills any forward momentum the route might have be able to develop. However, this is balanced out by an extremely impactful finale where all the build up is turned into payoff with Narita and Hashia having a joint fight which is not only a spectacle but also ties their character arcs together. An overall slow route filled with filler content is ultimately saved by Hello Lady’s distinctive ability to make every conflict engaging and tense.




- Final Route -


It is difficult to say much about this route without spoilers since it acts as a culmination of all the previous sections. What can be said is that it is a worthy finale for the whole game and wraps up everything from character arcs to stray plot points. It also understands that in order to be a send off for the game it needs to crank things up to eleven and it does so in a brilliant explosion of action with new enhanced powers for the entire cast. On top of this it gives much needed depth to the eleventh hour villain from the original game and turns them from a cardboard cut-out designed only to be beaten by the heroes into one of the most interesting characters who wonderfully ties Narita’s story together. Without this route Hello Lady would have been a much weaker experience and its presence more than makes up for the short comings of what came before.


Web Of Liars – Characters


The cast of Hello Lady covers a variety of roles effectively with characters switching positions between ally and enemy depending on the route and events. Their banter and tension does a great deal to sell the narrative and make each section of the game distinctive. However, they are not without flaws and there is a particularly glaring failure to be found.


It is rare for a visual novel to have a main cast this evenly strong and intriguing to watch dance around their scars and hopes. Narita is our protagonist and point of view character and epitomises the game’s standard of characters. He is a complicated and conflicted person who at once driven by his quest for revenge and his empathy for those around him. This conflict between his aims and the new companions he has found forms the strong backbone of each route's narrative and themes. It is also nice to have a protagonist who will get things done rather than waiting for the plot to move them forwards as can be found in many other visual novels.


Now lets address the elephant in the room, Saku. For the majority of the game she is a strong character and acts as a foil to Narita with her moral righteousness contrasting with his crookedness. They work well as a duo to highlight the flaws in each others approaches to life and their aims which adds to the already dynamic cast interactions. However, this all goes out of the window once the player enters Saku’s route. The game becomes obsessed with painting Saku as pure and true to the point at which they blast way anything previously interesting about her character and make her flawless. At one point it looked as if the game was going to have Saku be involved a moral complicated situation but it back peddles on this plot point and absolves her of any possible wrong doing. This is all before we reach the issue of how her power is a deus machina which could solve so many threats in the narrative if she decided to use it, but of course she does not so the plot can happen. Overall, this leaves a sour taste in the mouth and, while the final route does a lot to mitigate this damage to Saku’s character, it feels like there is a favouritism towards Saku over everyone else.




Superpowered Spectacle – Visuals, Audio and Technical


When it comes to the polish of the moment to moment gameplay, Hello Lady delivers some noticeable highs within a competently put together package. The game is not without flaws but it is clear the developers have an understanding of how to get the most out of their chosen medium.


Juggling the different tones and selling them through the visuals is a delicate affair and one which Hello Lady manages to thread nicely. By utilising a wide array of colours to complement the type of scene they are accompanying and makes it clear to the player what emotions they are trying to invoke. Bright colours and strong still poses show that you are in a slice of life or romance section, while darker colours and dynamic stances turn up the heat for an action or dramatic section. The art style itself is nothing you have not seen before and utilises a very standard anime aesthetic, but the developers are comfortable with it and know how to get the most out of it.


On the technical front, there are some nice touches which elevate the game and one very questionable choice. For the good features, there are changing title screens which switch every time you complete a major section of the game and give a sense of progress for the player. In addition, Hello Lady is a game which uses both NVL and ADV to their full effect alongside each other and this merger elevates scenes and the tone of the game. As for the big misstep, it takes the from of the choice system and how it add unnecessary confusion. The choices come in two forms, ones which directly increase a heroines affection and ones which increase or decrease Narita’s stance towards the school. Heroine affection choices are the most standard, pick the option your chosen heroine likes to gain points. This is made easier by the game including a little picture each heroine on the options they want picked. 


The issues begin to appear when you factor in the choices which effect Narita’s feelings towards the school. Some heroine routes require a certain stance towards the school by Narita while others do not care about it and there is no way to know outside of trial and error which ones want what stance. This leads to a lot of confusion for the player with them repeatedly having to go through the common route and test various combinations of choices to see what gets them on a route. As you can imagine this is a frustrating experience and not conducive to keeping the player engaged. To top it all off the routes do not in any way recognise the stance of Narita based on these choices and just focus on the heroine leading you to question why they even exist. 





Verdict –

While there is an unevenness to Hello Lady's quality, it is ultimately an extremely compelling package which keeps you engaged with revenge and mystery and plays on your feelings for its characters.


Pros -

+ A compelling overarching mystery and an emotive tale of revenge form an exceptionally strong narrative core.

+ Having proactive and morally questionable protagonist with a drive to get what he wants is a breath of fresh air.

+ The various and competing desires of the cast make for some tense and heart-warming moments.

+ Careful use of visuals and audio alongside an understanding of how to get the most out of the medium allow each scene to shine.


Cons -

- The quality of the narrative is uneven with some sections being stronger than others, which is not helped by the game being a messy merger of three different games.

- One of the most nonsensical choice systems in any visual novel.

- Saku is favoured too much by the writers to the point at which she barely has any flaws and is far too virtuous.
- Certain plot points are not developed properly or given space to breath, most noticeably the original game’s eleventh hour villain.

Edited by Pallas_Raven


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