- Genre : Romance, slice of life, Yuri, supernatural
- Length: (10 – 30 hours)
- Studio: Liar Soft
We’ve all been there. You’re just ambling along, enjoying your middle school life, being all eager and careless and happy when all the sudden, bam – you realize people can be sort of jerky. So, you put up your walls and vow not to make the same mistakes in high school. Determined to keep your head down and stay out of people’s way until you can graduate and move on. At least that was Yuna’s plan and it was coming along swimmingly until a pair of very energetic, and meddlesome ghosts happen to cross her path as she was just trying to enjoy her lunch on the school rooftop. Now, not only does an increasingly exasperated Yuna have to deal with a couple of clueless Yuri ghosts but just to get some peace she find herself compelled to stick her nose into other people’s business and help the hapless young ladies of Shirojo academy find love with each other. I hate it when that happens…
Here’s a very odd random fact about me. I tend to prefer my manga/anime yuri (not moe…) and my VNs yaoi. There’s a bunch of reasons for that, mainly though it’s just because I haven’t had a lot of luck with the Yuri Visual Novels. Either they were super short, visual novellas if you will, and often not that interesting, or they were plain old hentai without any real character development or storyline to speak of. Not saying there’s anything wrong with that, just that I prefer my hentai…hands free… As I’m expanding my repertoire, this bleak vision of Yuri VNs is slowly changing. And for a while there, the shining gold standard for what they could be was Kindred Spirits on the Roof.
First off let’s get the disclaimers out of the way. Although the great majority of the story is more concerned with the emotional and social aspect of Yuri relationships, the game does explore a little of the physical side and some scenes could be considered explicit (generally everything is kept above the belt). Moreover, if you’re new here – welcome! And also, Yuri means lesbians, so there’s that…
Let me say that I’m a fan of Liar Soft. Not the type of fan that knows things about the company, just the type of fan that’s played a few of their games and generally enjoys them quite a bit. They seem to put some emphasis on writing and have taken risks with very interesting narrative structure, grammatical styles and intricate storylines. Although their VNs are usually 18+, sexual content is almost always kept at a minimum and definitely not the point. Kindred Spirits is no exception, and a PG version could easily be made without losing too much, although I admit that I enjoyed the frank depiction of sapphic sexuality. I like the word Sapphic – I don’t get many occasions to use it.
In general, Kindered Spirits is a sweet, somewhat naïve, depiction of young love blossoming between teenage girls. The use of several couples with very different personalities and experiences was a nice way to get a more complete view and to give everyone a chance to find a favorite.
The innocent art style and casual romantic progression presents us with stories about love, community and acceptance rather than lurid tales of sex and to me, there was something very sexy about that. Maybe this is a more distinctly feminine way of looking at it, but all the little moments of anticipation, fear and excitement that surround actual romantic interludes count for just as much, if not even more, in creating an exciting fantasy.
I wish I could whole heartedly recommend this game to anyone interested in the genre. Really it does a lot of things right. But there are a few shortcomings I can’t completely ignore.
On a technical basis, it’s a fairly wall made game. Good looking, fantastically translated and easy to navigate. A new fully voiced version has been announced but the one I played was only partly so, and the voice acting was hit or miss. This is in part due to the fact that the voiced scenes were few and you often got to know a character quite well before you ever hear their voice. As such, I had already created and associated a voice in my head for these people, and hearing something completely different created an odd dissonance (like hearing yourself on tape) that was jarring for me.
The soundtrack is decent but repetitive. What bothered me personally is the actual construction. The few choices you do have, have close to zero impact on the story but merely serve to unlock extra optional scenes. Now this isn’t unusual for a liar soft game but it also means that you have to replay exact same days over and over to pick every option and unlock every scene. This can become rather boring and using the skip text option makes you feel like you’re pushing buttons just to push buttons. Moreover the extra scenes are often a previous scene from a different character’s PoV, which is great but the exact same dialogue you’ve just read doesn’t count as previously played so you either have to manually fast forward it and risk missing something or reread long swathes of conversation over and over again.
Finally, considering the length there aren’t that many CGs. What I found most annoying was that there’s no easy way to track progress. No idea how many extra scenes you may have missed and where. For a completionist, this is heck!
There are also some thematic aspects I should warn you about. First, this is exploring romances of underaged high school girls. When they are dating each other, I found no issue with it, but one of the relationships is between a teacher and a student, and that’s just a big bag ‘o nopes for me. I don’t care that the teacher looks younger and is smaller or that the student initiated it, it’s still a concept I find difficult to accept at its core and I just couldn’t enjoy it.
As a slightly more capricious preference. I also really disliked the main couple. SLIGHT SPOILER KINDA…
As Yuna, you play a helpful, slightly aloof but very capable girl who’s a little exhausted by all this romance nonsense. One of the rare relationships you do have is with your younger neighbor Hina. Right from the beginning, this relationship is portrayed as something parental. Yuna, cooks dinner for Hina and makes her school lunches. She frets about nutritional content. She makes sure Hina dresses warmly enough, nags her to do her homework and just generally mothers her. It’s completely one way. Yuna never seeks out Hina for help or advice, it’s always the younger girl who goes to her for comfort and reassurance. So when Yuna suddenly started having romantic feelings for her charge I was not on board.
See, I had been playing as Yuna so I kinda saw Hina as my kid as well. The moment Yuna started showing actual signs of jealousy over Hina, I was like: reign it in girl… this is NOT cool. I could never quite accept it. If I had my way it was team Ano 100%.
SPOILERS ARE OVER!!! Some things also worked out impressively well. The entire gay ghosts wanna watch girls get it on premise was shaky at best but Sacchi and Megumi themselves were very likable. By mid game Megumi somewhat candidly recalls her last minutes of life in her first year of high school, as her devastated mother is desperately trying to give her some comfort. There’s something shattering about how casually she talks about it and the moment haunted me (heh) for a long time.
Matsury and Miyu have been in a committed relationship for years and are running up against common problems that tend to affect most couples at some point. The tensions brought on by the clash of very different personalities as well as different levels of sexual appetite are handled deftly and discussed honestly in a way that’s just about unique to the medium. After all, we are far more interested by the courtship than the boring old relationship, so games almost exclusively focus on the wooing of new lovers.
Although, I’m pretty much alone in this, I adored Youka. She’s the eager puppy dog archetype and I almost never see female versions. I loves me a silly deredere and I was utterly charmed. Also, she was pretty much exactly how I am when I get a crush. True story, I was discussing this game with a fellow blogger and I mentioned how much I loved Youka. They let me know they weren’t a fan before I got the chance to explain that it was because I identified so much with her…
Then, there’s the puzzle that is Maki. Well she’s a puzzle for me. I don’t like the kiddie types. Both lollies and shotas tend to get on my nerves, make me super uncomfortable in romantic contexts or just plain bore me in other situations. Sometimes all of the above at once. So I approached Maki’s character (the one on the couch with the pigtails) with a whole lot of doubt and prejudice. But man, this ball of unmitigated adorableness just stole my heart. I really loved her and enjoyed her storyline. Didn’t even cringe once. I really don’t know what witchery she used to enthrall me so but good work! Writing this type of character is very difficult so clearly, there were some talented authors involved.
Finally there are the aspects that are just ok. There are no actual routes, you simply follow the various couples through intertwining vignettes. I did find the lack of actual romance a little disappointing. Most stories (except for the established couple) amount to one girl realizing her feelings, struggling with them for a long time, getting up the nerve to tell her crush, one kissy scene and one sexy scene – kkthxby. Maki and Miki have a bit of a longer courtship but it’s still no actual dating, more like getting to know each other as friends and the all the sudden – well kissy and sexy. I would have enjoyed a few more moments, such as finding the perfect gift for your girlfriend or taking her out for a special evening. Arguably, maybe I’m just too lazy for coming up with my own romantic ideas and wanted to steal some… In any case, it did make the different couples feel like they were all having surprisingly similar experiences which takes away from the whole point of having such different couples to begin with.
WTL;IDNYFNR (that means: Way Too Long; I Don’t Blame You For Not Reading…)
Kindred Spirits on the Roof is not the perfect game. It’s not the best Yuri work out there. It has some obvious flaws that could really irritate people. But it also has a lot of strengths and if nothing else, it will give you a taste of the potential for these stories in visual novels.
Favorite character: Youka – I already told you!
What this VN taught me: no one cares about your preferences as much as you do (or at least the shouldn’t…)
Booze takes a lot of time and effort if you’re going to do a good job with it
Suggested drink: a Pink Lily
- Every time Megumi threatens to curse someone – take a sip
- Every time we are reminded the ghosts can’t go somewhere – take a sip
- Every time we are introduced to a new girl – take a sip
- Every time Yuna cooks – have a snack
- Every time you get a sexy scene – fan yourself
- Every time Nena is sleepy – take a sip
- Every time Youka talks about rock – take a sip
- Every time Hina is popular – take a sip
- Every time Ano is the best – cheer