Hoshizora no Memoria is a game that many visual novel fans praise. It has an interesting plot device revolving around the mysteries of stars in the sky, and it takes us as readers on a journey of discovery and self-reflection. Combine that with a diverse cast of characters and a beautiful setting filled with rich backdrops and an amazing soundtrack, and you are left with the ingredients for a game that can stand above the rest. But even with all of these elements, does it really live up to the hype? In the end, does Hoshizora no Memoria deliver?
Right away as we load up the game, we are thrust right into the action. Our protagonist You is found reminiscing about a girl he used to know in his past. Due to family circumstances he was forced to move away, and as such he lost contact with her, one of his only friends whom he enjoyed spending so much time with. Feeling somewhat nostalgic, he decides to return to their original meeting spot at a lookout in town upon returning home after so many years. There he meets a mysterious grim reaper whose identity is unknown. Who or where is the girl from his past? Who is the mysterious grim reaper? Our protagonist’s sanity is put into question, and bit by bit the mystery begins to unfold. Hoshizora does an amazing job at diving readers right into the action they want most. Mystery, suspense, and a spine chilling soundtrack start this game off on the right foot. Often times I found myself wanting to read more every single time I put the game down just so I could get my fill. Excellent plot elements and unanswered questions kept me wanting more, and in the end I was given a common route that I enjoyed immensely. While there were characters I didn’t like as I continued playing the game, this was to be expected. Even with some minor nitpicks here and there, this visual novel made me want more and it started off very strong. With such a great start, what could possibly go wrong?
Enter the routes. My goodness, the routes of Hoshizora no Memoria. These are the bread and butter of the game, the turning point that makes or breaks this visual novel. Hoshizora’s routes are by far the worst routes I have ever read in any visual novel.
I am absolutely awestruck that a game with such a stellar common route could produce such atrocities. Not a single route, save for a few elements in certain ones, offers any sort of meaningful value. At the end of the day, I am left with a very poor taste in my mouth, and because of this, the game loses so many points in my book. The first problem that many of the routes in Hoshizora no Memoria face is that they are required to read in order to get to the true route of the game. Now normally this isn’t that big of a problem when it comes to visual novels, but when your routes completely shaft every other character when you are in them, it defeats the purpose of presenting a mystery at the beginning of the game. Is the girl from You’s past even important as you go down each route? No, she isn’t. Are the grim reaper’s (now known as Mare) origins ever expanded on in any way during these routes? Of course not. She disappears for the rest of the game, very rarely popping up in each girl’s route in order to “reap” their problems away, but even then no questions are answered as to who she is. What is the point of having a true route if you are going to completely ignore any of the elements presented at the beginning of the novel, more so elements that are presented before the opening video of the game itself?
Let’s compare Hoshizora no Memoria to Little Busters. You see, these two games aren’t that much different in terms of how they are structured. Each one has an overarching story that presents itself at the beginning of the visual novel, and only by completing all of the heroine’s routes in the game are you given the answers you seek. In Little Busters, readers know that Riki and Rin are the main characters of the game and that their growth as individuals are the focus of the game. Throughout the novel, we are shown how each of them develop, and by the end of it all they become the central focus of the game’s plot.
In Hoshizora, none of that even exists. We are given a story at the beginning of the game, yet it’s as if the writers themselves had no idea which character should be the main focus. Yume was completely ignored, and Mare herself didn’t even have a route. Again, if you are going to have a true route and force readers to read through every other one in the game, at least make sure they understand the importance of the overarching story.
Regardless of your opinions on how well Little Busters performed the above example, at least it knew what it was doing from the get go. It’s a travesty to see such poor writing being done in a visual novel that had so much potential with how it presented itself at the beginning of the game. Who is the girl from your past? Who is Mare? All of these questions that drive the novel from the very beginning become lost as you progress in the game, and by the time you reach the end, you are left with a poor presentation that leaves you wanting more. Mare’s route is non-existent, and Yume (the girl from your past) is a self-centered, egotistical woman who refuses to acknowledge you as a human being with feelings.
At the end of the day, Favorite’s game falls short in so many ways. Which leads me to my second point about the routes in Hoshizora no Memoria. One of the biggest problems each of the routes face is the copious amounts of forced drama. Now I understand that in most moege, drama tends to be forced. Even games like Grisaia no Kajitsu, a visual novel that is highly praised by the community, has its moments of forced drama. The difference here though is that Hoshizora’s drama is one of the most pathetic story writing examples I have ever witnessed. Not only do each of the route’s fail to deliver in so many ways, they also drag the game down immensely. Take Asuho’s route for example. The childhood friend seems like someone who may have a route that can’t be screwed up, right? Absolutely not.
Halfway through her painstakingly piss poor route, we are presented with drama that is so left field, it felt like someone drove a semi-truck right over my face. You see, unlike certain visual novels which hint at plot elements throughout the game, Asuho’s plot element is thrust at us in the blink of an eye. It’s as if someone took a bowling ball around a dining room table and dropped it right smack in the center of everything, essentially ruining all of the food you prepared for the large party you had planned later that evening. You see, Asuho can’t hear out of her left ear. Apparently, this dramatic plot twist is enough for her to make her feel that you are a terrible human being. Because of this, she is no longer good enough to be your girlfriend. She breaks up with you and boards the train to depression town. For the remainder of the route, the protagonist is forced to stand there like a bumbling idiot trying to figure out what the hell just happened. In the end, you are left with little to no answers about what matters most.
But the train wreck doesn’t stop there. Even Asuho doesn’t do the forced drama element justice. Isuzu, one of the worst visual novel heroines of all time, refuses to even open up to you as a friend. Despite how many favors you end up doing for her and despite how many times you sacrifice your own time for her happiness, she refuses to even acknowledge who you are. Isuzu is the most ungrateful little crybaby who complains that because she can’t see the stars from the southern hemisphere, her life is a living wreck. Even after you reopen the observatory for viewing night stars and take her to a live show, she refuses to open up to you and instead whines for the rest of the route. Poor character development ruined this route.
Now I must digress, because Komomo’s route (the next girl on the list) actually does a good job in terms of spicing up the story in Hoshizora no Memoria. The issue here is that her route does something many visual novels should avoid at all costs. Perhaps one of this visual novel’s biggest flaws is the amount of repetition used. You see, this game suffers from a disease I like to call the “repetition plague.” Often times throughout the novel, readers will find themselves being exposed to this disease, which in the long run ruins the enjoyment and integrity of this novel. Ignoring Chinami’s introduction scene with repeated “onii-chan” garble, one of the most prominent examples of this problem presents itself in Komomo’s route. An entire 1/3 of her route is dedicated to repeating the same thing over and over again, with absolutely no advancement in the plot. She wakes up, reminisces about a dream she keeps having, and continues to do the same routine over and over again. Our protagonist You refuses to confront her about the problem, and instead (like almost every protagonist in every moege) decides to wait until the exact right moment, where he gives a giant speech about how much he cares for her.
What does this do? Of course it instantly makes her fall in love with him. It doesn’t help that we are constantly reminded about Komomo’s tsundere tendencies, and while this may be appealing to a lot of visual novel fans, spending a copious amount of time reiterating that point is not needed. It’s like that friend who keeps repeating the same joke over and over again until you get sick of it. Repetition is a predictable and shallow plot element in this visual novel, and ruins the overall pace of the entire game. Kosame’s route? Forget it. It’s the exact same story as Komomo’s, once again falling for the repetition trap.
Another example of repetition? How about when we have a time jump in Yume’s route? Initially, I thought my game was broken and that I had to restart due to a bug. For 30 straight minutes (mind you 30 straight minutes of English reading), I was forced to reread the exact same dialogue with no change whatsoever. Perhaps the writers ran out of ideas to extend the game, or maybe this truly is a disease that Favorite suffers from. Regardless of the reason, one thing is certain – it’s a distraction and ruins the flow of the overall novel. As for Chinami’s route, this clearly was meant to appeal to siscon fans. As annoying as her character is however, Chinami had a heartfelt route because it focused on You’s family. I enjoyed this route because it shed some light on his past and how his mother and father met each other. We understand why he and Chinami are not related, and the amount of touching moments in this route really pulled on my emotional heartstrings. However, it still fell short and led me straight into Yume’s route, by far the worst of them all.
Yume, the girl the readers have been waiting for this entire time. This is the girl who we kept wondering about. It’s the girl who clearly has all of the answers as to who Mare is. After all the buildup, after all the tension, and after all the reading we are finally presented with this character. What do we get? A painstakingly ignorant girl who suffers from star cancer. A Deus ex Machina route that completely leaves the reader confused as your mom and dead father fix all of your problems and cure Yume of her disease. The end. Pack up and go home, unless of course you want an additional loli H-scene with Mare, because her route is non-existent anyways.
Hoshizora no Memoria is a visual novel that started off so strong. We are given a mystery that drives the beginning of the game and makes us wonder what sorts of surprises this world has to offer. With its incredible soundtrack and jaw dropping backdrops, the game focuses on the protagonist and his struggles with reality. He questions his sanity, and we are slowly introduced to the world around him as he does so. We are left with a kick-off that drives this game down the path of success, but in the end, the story dips and everything heads straight for a cliff. The routes in this game ruin everything, and while the common route is still a joy to read to this day, the game overall is horrible. Plot holes, poor writing, and bad routes ruin this game, and as such, I tend to leave it on the shelf.
Submission by: OriginalRen
+ An introduction which starts this game off on the right foot. The mystery and suspense surrounding the protagonist and the initial characters is a huge plus.
+ An amazing soundtrack filled with eerie, yet soothing musical scores. Hoshizora no Memoria does a fantastic job when it comes to setting the tone of a scene with its musical choices.
+ A common route that is a joy to play. Learning about astrology is interesting and it makes for a unique story that is rich in history and intrigue.
- Character routes. The biggest problem with this game, routes very rarely contribute to the overall story and often times distract the reader from the initial mystery at the beginning of the game.
- Plot holes. Yume's route leaves the reader utterly confused, and while this may be a result of lost translation, it still gives them a bad taste in their mouth.
- Character shafting. For a game that is meant to center around the protagonist and his mysterious past, Hoshizora no Memoria does a very poor job at making sure this remains relevant thanks to the copious amounts of attention drawn elsewhere in a route.