When a game is already $5 and is 50% off, all I really need is a spark of interest in it to pick it up and give it a bit of a whirl. Especially when it is a visual novel that looks gorgeous and had pretty positive feedback. But to make an already short review shorter, the game left me dissatisfied with the other aspect of being a visual novel, the writing.
Shan Gui (Sweet Osmanthus) Review
Platforms: PC(Reviewed), Mac, Linux
Developer/Publisher: Magenta Factory
Shan Gui centers around a college age Chinese girl who is spending a summer’s day visiting the Purple Mountains she visited in her youth. Eventually meeting a younger girl who guides her through the gorgeous area, while helping her uncover details about her past and come to peace with aspects naturally revealed during the story. It is generally sweet, but I feel its length did hurt it a bit, as the story wraps up very quickly and didn’t leave much of an impact on me as it does end a bit oddly. That said, appreciating a story is far easier if it is well written, and this Chinese visual novel is nothing short of embarrassing with its grammatical errors, and is hardly that engaging when you come across one every forty or so lines. Never before have I wanted to extract a game’s script, play teacher and edit it, and then email my corrections to the creators so they could implement the changes in a patch.
It is incredibly concerning when you realize how the game is gradually getting more and more languages added to it, with another English translation coming, but the fact that three people worked on translating this game and came up with this is just embarrassing. It only distracts the player from the story and can ruin otherwise very charming moment by throwing in something that would upset me even if it was written by a middle schooler. I doubt there are more than ten thousand words, maybe only five thousand, so something this slapdash and downright lazy overwhelms whatever pleasantries mixed with very well done prompts to Wikipedia when certain aspects are brought up in the story, providing an unobtrusive edutainment angle, which I am nothing but in favor of.
The game is also very pretty. As the three characters shown all look great, and the coloring of them is nothing shy of wonderful. The incredibly detailed backgrounds do look as if they are lifted from photos, but hardly look out of place next to the main characters, and transition well to and from the CGs the game bolsters, which can thankfully be viewed at one’s leisure. I will criticize the decision to make the main character as well endowed as she is, along with sounding fairly unemotional throughout the entire game, but those are pretty minor issues that only occurred to me when I began pondering what else beyond the translation irked me so much about the game.
I often like to play games long after they received patches that will remain with them until the end of time as opposed to when they first come out and are littered with issues, but what was shown in Shan Gui should never be deemed acceptable for any fully released product. I can understand the difficulties of translating a massive text heavy RPG, but when one with a solid grasp of the English language could easily rewrite your entire game in an afternoon, there is no excuse. It is beautiful and I would likely recommend the game after a proper translation, but for now, I can only recommend that this title is ignored. If it does get a better translation, add another three points to the score, or something.