Platform: Windows, Mac
Release Date: June 20, 2012 (out now)
ESRB: N/A (T for Teen recommended)
This review is based on the Windows version of the game.
Visual novels made outside of Japan are usually unheard of. And even when we do see them, players of the genre typically dismiss them without a second thought. It’s usually due to misconceptions that non-Japanese visual novels can’t be any good. Katawa Shoujo is one example of an American-made visual novel that pushes aside that fallacy – though it’s obvious that it draws from how Japanese visual novels present themselves and still very much feels like one (not that it’s a bad thing!). Cinders, on the other hand, is something that’s completely different. That fact is especially evident in its art style, among other elements. Does that necessarily mean it is good and makes it a game worth checking out, however?
Cinders is based upon the fairytale of Cinderella. Our protagonist, Cinders, isn’t anything like the passive and dainty Cinderella we all imagine in our heads, though. Even though she is still practically held as a prisoner in her own home by her stepmother and stepsisters, Cinders is a strong, serious, brave, and adamant girl.
Throughout the story, you’ll help Cinders decide exactly how to escape from this lifestyle she’s had to endure for years. This means you don’t necessarily have to go to the ball, meet the prince, fall in love with each other, and live with him in his castle happily ever after. It’s a much more serious and deeper approach to this classic fairytale, and it’s what makes the title seem so intriguing. It doesn’t really try its absolute hardest to become a memorable and emotional tale, but it still is enjoyable.
What really makes Cinders worth checking out, especially for those who claim that visual novels have a minimal amount of interactivity, is its whopping amount of dialogue options. It boasts 120 decision points and over 300 options that will put you down an incredible variety of paths and will change what happens in your playthrough. An icon will also appear for events that are consequences from earlier ones where you made a decision. It’s extremely helpful for those who want to go through different playthroughs. Cinders made me very much surprised and pleased with its amount of interactivity.
The game also tackles endings in an interesting and unique way. There are four base ones, but depending on your actions, there are also variants in the endings themselves. For example, in the Traveler ending, there are several different characters who you may run away with. Those important decision points you settled on during your playthrough determine it all. The way the endings and paths are done in Cinders definitely add quite a bit of replayability.
What is probably my absolute favorite part of Cinders is its artwork, which is done by illustrator Gracjana Zielinska. There’s no denying that it’s all utterly gorgeous – from the backgrounds to the character portraits. And not just the artwork itself, but the character designs as well. While I do wish most of the women weren’t drawn so stereotypically “sexy” – with almond-shaped eyes and full, pouty lips – everything else about them and the other characters is done well. Cinders’ art style is without a doubt something different to see in a visual novel.
There are some dull patches to trudge through during playthroughs of Cinders and it is a wee bit longer than many other visual novels, so that may turn off some with shorter attention spans. There are a couple of noticeable typos I’ve seen as well. And the one big deciding factor that pushes you away from or pulls you into purchasing a game is its price; $23 for Cinders. It’s quite steep for a visual novel, but worth it if you’re into the genre.
Cinders could have a lot more put into it if it wants to be a masterpiece of a visual novel, but as it is now, it’s still good. The mature twist to the fairytale of Cinderella and the beautiful artwork will most likely grab in some of those looking for a different sort of visual novel. It even includes a little bit of romancing, which is always a treat if you’re a sucker for it like I am. I enjoyed my time with Cinders, and I hope you do, too, if you’re willing to take the plunge.
+ Unique method of doing endings/paths
+ Immense amount of dialogue options
+ Absolutely gorgeous artwork
- A few boring parts that are scattered throughout the story and annoying to trudge through
- High price point for a visual novel at $23
- Its premise may not appeal to many
Overall: 7.5 (out of 10)
While it doesn’t do too much to make itself the next great visual novel, Cinders is still worth a look to those that are fans of the genre.
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