Bittersweet but Beautiful
In Crescendo by D.O. (Kana), Ryo Sasaki suddenly finds himself having to deal with his own feelings and those of others around him in the short time before graduation.
Having lost his parents in a road accident some years previous, Ryo spends his school days gazing blankly out of windows or sleeping, existing in his own little world away from the troubles of life. Aloof and distant, he doesn't communicate with his classmates because he doesn't see a point in doing so. They wouldn't understand him anyway, so why complicate things? Although he has warmed considerably to his fellow literature club members, he remains quiet and is not averse to throwing smart, sarcastic comments at them when he feels they're warranted. Still, Ryo is essentially a good, principled and very straightforward person, something that certain others appreciate and admire. Five girls in particular know Ryo better than anyone else, and as the game progresses Ryo begins to understand them better too. A main character that isn't spineless and/or completely stupid is a huge draw.
Looking like something out of a shoujo anime, the character designs are unique and quite beautiful, with huge, expressive eyes and meticulously detailed hair. The color palate is somewhat muted, reflecting perfectly the melancholy and often sad nature of the game. Backgrounds are a mixed bag; some - like the street to Ryo's house - are beautiful, soaked in evening sun, others are fairly barren and uninspired. The soundtrack is tremendous, featuring a plethora of beautiful piano tracks that capture the mood of the game perfectly.
Crescendo is your standard multi-choice visual novel, albeit one that is told from a third-person perspective. So we get "Ryo feels sad" or "Kaho doesn't know what she should do", for example. This allows the narration to explore the feelings of every character in depth, as opposed to simply having the main character interpret them. And there is no fluff contained herein; the writing is of such quality that each character is brought to life so vividly that their pain and happiness and fears and hopes become almost too real. Crescendo is a very text-heavy game, told partly through flashbacks that help define events and relationships that exist in the present. Yet it rarely drags or contains passages that aren't necessary to develop the characters, even if it's simply small talk between them.
The game has perfectly pitched difficulty. Decisions are logical but require thought; so while the game isn't a breeze it won't have players banging their heads on a desk in frustration. There is more than one ending for each of the five girls though, meaning that their CG gallery will not be complete after a single play through their path. H-scenes are detailed and feel much like a natural progression of events and relationships. They occur less frequently than in some recent games, but the wait is more than worth it.
Crescendo can always evoke aching melancholy, through visuals, sound and words. The game is such a rich experience that highlights the emotional power bishoujo games can posses, and on several occasions tears will be shed, of both happiness and sadness. A truly wonderful, intelligent piece of adult entertainment, Crescendo is special and shouldn't be missed.
Proving that art can exist in the game industry
I don't get it... I really don't get it...
I consider myself to be one of the biggest perverts in existence. I watch tentacle-rape hentai on a daily basis. I laughed at the finale of Stepmother's Sin. I play bishoujo games regularly and generally don't mind the girls going into various acts of violation and humiliation.
So how come watching a rape scene in Crescendo felt like getting hit by a car in the solar plexus?
The answer is simple. You care for the characters. You connect with them on a very deep level. You get the feeling that you are talking to real people with emotions, not lifeless pixels on screen that exist merely to be masturbation fodder.
Lots of things contribute to this. The excellent voice acting, some of the best I've listened to, the moody music, the incredible writing, the graphics that, while not the best in field, really fit the game.
The only other game that has managed to make me care for the characters was Kana: Little Sister, which was made by the same company. It's ironic that a company that calls itself "Digital Objects" manages to make so realistic and life-like character. And they manage to do it only with text and stationary graphics.
I won't go into any more details, as the previous reviewer covered me completely, but I will say this...
Crescendo is not just a game, it's a masterpiece.