The flow of visual novel titles keeps running as Japan continues dishing them out towards the West. As another addition to the otome genre, Norn9: Var Commons was released for the PlayStation Vita on November 3rd in North America and will soon be released in Europe. As another game that’s based solely on the romance side of life, albeit in a more fantasy setting such as Corpse Party or Code:Realize, it also delves into matters of insecurities, humour, fears, and friendship.
Norn9: Var Commons: Playstation Vita
Publisher: Aksys Games
Release Date: 3 Nov, 2015
Price: £28:99 [Disclosure Game Copy provided by Publisher]
The story for Var Commons is a little hard to follow at the beginning, as it follows some random character travelling through time, but soon becomes easier once you take the role of the female protagonist in this otome. As the game primarily takes place on an airship, players will be able to play any of the three women interacting with many bachelors scattered across the flying environment. With three different protagonists to choose from, it gives the player options and a ton of replay value for the title, which isn’t offered much or explored in other visual novel titles. Each have their own personality and different interactions with one another, and explores their deeper fears and insecurities.
As usual, gameplay within visual novels like Norn9 are little to none, with just little interactions involving two choices. These choices revolve around getting to know the preferences of each male on the airship that the protagonist is able to interact/fall in love with. After listening to them and getting to know their life and inner insecurities, the player will have to remember all of this and be able to answer that particular male correctly in order to progress through the story and end off happily with them. The deepening relationship between whoever the player has chosen is quite endearing, as each try to help one another feel comfortable with themselves and to drop their fears.
The environment within this airship floating in the sky is great. The feeling of isolation is evident as the walls within the ship separate many of the inhabitants and creates an interesting plot revolving around the sparse amount of trust the inhabitants have for one another. I couldn’t help but feel, though, as if this set up could have be open for a little more gameplay interactivity. Although sometimes gimmicky, walking around the ship with a character and accessing items or pieces of artwork could have really brought up the quality of the game. That little bit of extra interactivity can bring it a long way, even if there’s a lack of action.
While the game goes over a pretty and philosophical plot, the translation doesn’t really deserve any praise. Although mistakes are riddled throughout the dialogue, including spelling errors and mistranslations, the emotions can be well understood and perceived by the player. So while this does make up for the minor editing, it still feels like there wasn’t much attention to detail in the dialogue, therefore bringing about the idea that this game is just apart of the flood of other visual novels pouring into the West and rushed through.
The drawing for Norn9 is fantastic and depicts all the characters emotions and scenery in breathtaking quality. Players will really appreciate the style along with how well they’ll get absorbed into the story because of it. Not only are the visuals beautifully drawn, but the soundtrack behind the game is also well composed. Compared to many of the visual novels that have come over it would have to be stated that it is the best of them. It captures the atmosphere perfectly in whatever situation, instantly noting any change in tone according to the shift in soundtrack.
The Trophies are pretty simple like most visual novels; they typically involve completing the story, finishing each love interest with a happy ending, or getting the true path. There are also items called stills in the game that revolve around extra images and artwork, unlocked as the player progresses. Not only that, but extra scenes can be unlocked, although there are no special circumstances in order to unlock these, making it feel as though it’s just provided upon completion of the main plot.
In conclusion, Norn9: Var Commons is a decent visual novel in the market at the moment. However, with better editing, more gameplay elements, and a little more focus on character development — rather than the relationship between the love interest — it could have brought the game up there with titles such as Code:Realize and Steins;Gate. It has a ton of replay value, which is good, along with beautiful artwork, music, and relationships amongst the couples.