Developer – ALICE IN DISSONANCE
Translator – Sekai Project
Length – 2-10 Hours[Review copy kindly provided by Sekai Project] [Sekai Project have had no input into the content of this review]
Christmas seems to be the season of visual novel releases this year with a number of recent completed translations. fault –milestone one- is the first project worked on by ALICE IN DISSONANCE, a group with the goal of combining western storytelling with eastern art. While I think the success of that particular goal is debatable, fault is one of the better short visual novels I’ve read in recent memory and certainly isn’t a bad addition to the current line-up of VNs available on Steam. Despite some issues with pacing, grammatical mistakes and inconsistent visuals, fault’s interesting concepts and endearing characters make it worth your time and earn it a tentative recommendation from The Geek Clinic.
Manakravte, the use of purified energy found coursing through the veins of the world and all living things, has characterized life in the Inner Pole for as long as anyone can remember. It has enriched every aspect of life, from creation to communication, and when the capital of Rughzenhaide, one of the region’s kingdoms, falls under attack, it allows the princess Selphine and her protector Ritona to escape with their lives intact. They are whisked away by Manastreams flowing underneath the soil and emerge in the last place they would have thought possible. The Outer Pole, the Godforsaken Continent, is a place where Mana has never been plentiful and people have had to struggle to merely survive. Using the mysterious discipline known as ‘science’ to harness what little Mana they can get their hands on, those of the Outer Pole have developed massive corporations and technology that the royal pair have never seen in their homeland. On the journey to return home, they meet a happy, bubbly girl by the name of Rune who agrees to show them around. The locals don’t trust Manakravters, however, and any caught in the Outer Pole risk suffering Manashock Syndrome.
I immediately found fault -milestone one- interesting because it takes the time to establish the importance of Mana and Manakravting before whisking its readers away to a setting where those ideas simply don’t apply. Rather than feeling like I had missed out, however, the contrast between the areas described earlier in the tale and the reality the characters faced kept me that much more intrigued by what was going on. What starts off with a grand premise and a great deal at stake becomes something smaller without losing its importance, which I thought was quite well done; there’s an emotional component to the lesser scale that allows you to connect with the characters that probably wouldn’t have worked its way into the production otherwise. My problem with the story itself is that, after having built up the problem to be faced and prepared the heroines to face it…it kind of just goes away by itself, and suddenly at that. The ending and epilogue are a tad too rushed for my liking. Additionally, the short length of the story itself means that it lacks the impact of a longer title, so while the experience itself is satisfying it fails to leave a lasting impression.
While it’s difficult to evaluate the quality of characterization in a visual novel of fault’s length, I can say that there was enough room left for future releases to develop the main characters and allow readers more of a chance to connect to them, which is something that didn’t happen for me in this first instalment. This is one of those times where character development has been set aside to focus on a story that will grip readers, which is only okay because there are sequels planned. Strangely enough, it was the side characters that were given the most time in the spotlight (no, that doesn’t make them main characters) this time around, and their personalities and motivations had been well developed by the end of the story, even if they felt a little contrived (only a little, mind). In any case, I felt that any of fault’s deficits in character development were made up for by the events surrounding those characters and keeping them on their toes, so there aren’t any major issues in this area.
fault’s technical aspects present us with a mixed bag. On one hand, the package itself is very well presented, with the UI, visuals and feel of the OST fitting together very well. On the other, character sprite and CG quality are a little variable and it’s very apparent which components have had more time put into them than others. Some characters have fantastic clothing designs and natural poses/expressions, while others come across as a little lacking in both departments. Either way, the art isn’t top-notch, high definition stuff like you may have seen in longer releases but it is easy on the eyes in its own stylized way. Having played the full release and not a beta version, I have to mention that a number of grammatical errors and typos were present. While there weren’t enough to ruin the experience, I noticed them in more scenes than not which isn’t really acceptable for a commercial product. Hopefully these issues will be fixed up in future patches, however, so I haven’t allowed them to affect my final score. The background music, while not something I would seek outside of the visual novel, fits each scene it is used in well and is pleasant to listen to, adding positively to the experience overall. It’s worth quickly noting that there is no voice acting, which is something of a shame, as it would have added another dimension to the characters that the story failed to develop.
Summary – All in all, fault –milestone one- makes for a satisfying and interesting experience but has little lasting impact. The story is intriguing and somewhat unique, if not to the same degree as other, bigger titles. While I may not be crying my praise from the rooftops I enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to the planned prequel and sequel visual novels. This is a story and setting that could do very well in episodic instalments that lead up to a massive finale, so I sincerely hope that we will see it develop over time.
Score: 7/10 – Enjoyable