Magical Eyes - Red is for Anguish ReviewAmy Hazel
If you pull the trigger of a gun, knowing full well what it is capable of, that is one thing; pulling the trigger when you do not know what will happen is something of a different nature. Does that make the one who does not realize what they are doing more or less guilty than the one who fully understands? It may be hard to discern between the two at times, but the end result is always the same. The past can never be undone.
When people hear the word "Visual Novel" many will immediately picture an anime style text based game usually falling under the Otome category (Otome translating to "maiden game" and usually being a harem romance themed game targeted towards females). However, this is far from the case as visual novels have greatly expanded their reach both in theme and audience. Magical Eyes - Red is for Anguish, developed by Pomera Studios, is but one such example that explores a much darker, mystery atmosphere more than anything else.
Red is for Anguish is but chapter one of a series of games to be released involving confounding crimes and incidents that occur within a particular town. Despite a significantly growing crime rate made up of smaller misdemeanors, the townsfolk remain mostly unaware of what is occurring around them on a daily basis. However, one particularly violent crime has caught the attention of not only the police, but also of a group known as the Disobeyers. This group works covertly and from an outside viewpoint, all of its members appear just like any other citizen. However, those that know these individuals or perchance see them engaged in combat will notice they are anything but normal: psychic abilities, incredible combat prowess or even an impenetrable armored skeleton make up but a few of the abilities these talented individuals hold. These skills are not used for taking down mere inconveniences or petty thieves, but rather against something almost beyond human recognition - Variants. These variants are superhuman in their own right and will take a human or material vessel to exact their goals; oftentimes being born from an extreme outpouring of emotions such as a death of a loved one or extreme life change.
The crime that starts it all involved a simple shop owner who specialized in random knick-knacks and trinkets. After a brutal attack and lost him an arm and his shop torn to pieces, the only statement he gave police was that a Japanese doll in a kimono was behind everything. Likely the ramblings of a man still in shock over a traumatic experience - or so thought the police. However, there are those who could see the truth in his words... even if it was not the whole truth, and they knew a serious case was on their hands.
The visual novel involves numerous characters but the player will mostly see the story through the eyes of Yuu, a high schooler and elite member of the Disobeyers, and Chiharu, a classmate and close friend of Yuu. Although they make up two very different perspectives of the story, it grants an interesting view of both the business and personal side of all characters involved. From Pops, the disastrously horrific cook of a ramen shop called Noodle Graveyard (which also doubles as the headquarters of the local Disobeyers) to Yuu's coworkers and younger siblings who each have their own unique sparkle and personality, there is never a sense of dread or boredom when certain characters take the spotlight.
Unlike many visual novels that rely heavily on player choice to move the story in a certain direction, Red is for Anguish is more static. All players will reach the same end one way or another but hold the possibility of additional scenes and unlockables by excelling at a small quiz like section called Reasoning Mode. Gaining a perfect S-Rank score during each questioning period will not only help Yuu gain understanding of all the information he has discovered on the case but also serve as a way to show how much the player has paid attention to the story so far.
Without risking revealing too much, the story is really quite well done and has a good balance of mystery, suspense, action and humor to top it all off. In addition to that, the anime style artwork is truly exceptional and the soundtrack accompanying the game moves with the story with cinematic excellence. One aspect that I found particularly well done was the combat sequences - they were thrilling! The music swelled with the action; the words had an air of urgency, acceptance and even fear; and the characters and scenery changed every few screens really demonstrating what was occurring - for a visual novel made up of static images, it made it exceptionally easy to almost picture the excitement happening in live action.
Of course, Red is for Anguish did have some flaws; but overall they were fairly minor and did not detract from the overall experience. The writing was very good, albeit with some oddly placed humor at times, but there were a few detractors present mostly in the visual aspect of the words: one was that as scenes would change mid text, all text would disappear and reappear on the screen often adding additional lines which would cause me to re-read things I had already taken in; second was the symbol chosen to indicate the end of a text break - a small animated flower which constantly reminded me of a loading symbol you might find downloading something on a phone or a webpage. It might not sound like much but it was enough to deter my attention for seconds at a time throughout and was something I never did get used to. The only other issue I found was buried in another very strong quality of the game: the music. As I mentioned earlier, the music is phenomenal, but at times would almost carry on its theme just a bit too long and when it stopped fitting the mood of the text it would pull me away from the immersion. Even with these small issues, every other aspect of the game makes up for it in stride.
While the story takes place over the course of a week, the game only takes around 4-5 hours to complete on average. It is a supernatural mystery that will pull you into its clutches until its finale... and even then leave you wanting more. The second chapter, Indigo Blue Heaven, is still in development but surely already has plenty of fans eagerly awaiting its release. Available on Steam, it is well worth spending some time delving into the lives and mysteries of those who Disobey what ordinary humans can only attempt to rationalize.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
Just a happy-go-lucky girl working in the gaming industry and spending nearly all her spare time writing, recording music, working on cosplay, watching anime and horror movies, and trying not to obsess over getting that 100% completion rating on every game she touches.
About the Author: Amy Hazel
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