Sword of Asumi

Written by Tyrael

Sword of Asumi is an OELVN developed by AJTilley.com. Released early 2015, it is one of the young company’s already countless projects to be funded via Kickstarter. However, if some of the backers and Steam reviews are to be believed, the project had a lot of problems during development, which may have influenced the quality of the final product (spoiler: it did). As I have had first hand experience with some of this developer’s projects (including Divine Slice of Life and Highschool Romance), my expectations were rather low.

The game starts off rather well, introducing us to Asumi, a Black Hand Clan assassin who is sent to a high school focused on getting its students ready for combat, either as soldiers or tacticians. She is tasked with uncovering a mole that is hiding somewhere in the school, supposedly holding some kind of position of power. This person probably plans to do something big and evil, so her organization naturally responds by sending a trained assassin with poor social skills to uncover the truth. Her motivation in all of this is that she is trying to become a Justicar, which is something akin to a royal guard, or so the story tells us (it’s rather vague), which her superior tells her is only possible if she completes this mission. So, she sets out to find out more about mole knowing only the codename ‘Raven’.

Sword of Asumi Screen twoI said two cubes of sugar, dammit!

While this is all fine and dandy as far as an interesting premise goes, as it sounds rather refreshing compared to the average romantic comedy VN set in an average high school environment with average, trope-based characters, the execution turns out to be extremely lacking. This is not only apparent in the game’s art and music department, but foremost in the actual quality of the writing and the lack thereof.

The game is also incredibly short, clocking in at an impressive three hours, which is how long the game will roughly take to complete if you want to get all of the game’s 22 steam achievements. I’m not sure why you would be willing to put yourself through the same misery I have, but there you go. The game’s length aside, the art is also extremely limited, the game only having a handful of poses and expressions for each character and few CGs, most of them serving very little purpose besides cheap fanservice. This leaves the audience wanting more, especially when it comes to the combat scenes which, as it turns out, are quite boring when you don’t have some kind of CG to back them up. A lot of CGs also get recycled (likely due to budget issues, one would hope and/or assume), such as the final kissing scene of every romantic route, which is just slightly altered to represent the different character Asumi ends up with, or the changing scenes which, once again, serve little purpose outside of fanservice.

Sword of Asumi Screen fourLots of…. plot.

Short and limited are also adjectives that can be applied to the game’s music, which is actually quite fitting but ultimately forgettable. It should also be mentioned that there are several scenes which lack any kind of music, which would be fine if the game had voice acting, but it doesn’t. While this should probably be considered a good thing seeing the poor quality of the voice acting in AJTilley.com’s other release Divine Slice of Life, it makes very little sense from a design standpoint to not include any kind of music in said scenes. On a side note, the opening theme that plays while you’re in the main menu is of very poor quality, sound wise. Considering the fact that this is the first thing you’re greeted with when you start up the entire thing, it could actually be considered as a warning sign for things to come.

Now, onto the meat of this work: the writing. One could easily forgive AJTilley.com’s mistakes in other departments if this part of the VN were at least solid. Alas, it’s not. In fact, this is without a doubt their biggest failure. Although, you have to admit that it takes some genuine effort to screw everything up this badly. Not only is the plot extremely rushed (as I said, it takes about three hours to complete every single route), the romance half baked, and any sort of real character development thrown completely out of the window (you don’t seriously want us to believe Asumi went from a recluse to a social butterfly in one week, did you?), it’s also littered with tons of spelling, grammatical, and punctuation errors for the readers to enjoy. When talking about the latter, it’s easy to see what happened here. It was either written by someone who doesn’t know the first thing about how to write a decent sentence in English, or it was rushed in an attempt to cash in on poor people looking for good VNs on Steam along with the poor folks who funded this miserable attempt at an OELVN on Kickstarter. Anyways, having a capable person proofread their work was clearly too much for the geniuses over at AJTilley.com.

Sword of Asumi Screen oneWhat?

It should also be mentioned that Asumi might be the worst assassin ever. Sure, she may be great when it comes to combat, but when it comes to investigating her targets she is the absolute worst. Throughout the story she goes around asking everyone about this codename ‘Raven’, which should already be a giant red flag since his or her minions would be sure to hear about this and try to murder her (which totally never happens, talk about a buzzkill). Sadly, it is also really apparent who Raven is from the get go, since the game throws far too many clues at you at once, making the choice of who to go assassinate at the end of the game far easier than it’s supposed to be. The rest of the story could be summed up as generic high school schlock, but that might be giving it too much credit already. You go to school for a week in total, giving you the choice to attend one of two classes every day. The choice of class along goes along with the romantic developments of the game, which totally makes sense because being in the same class as someone for about a week is sure to make anyone fall madly in love with you, right? Needless to say, the actual romances are far too short to leave any kind of impact and feel like a rush job, just like the rest of this entire affair. It’s a shame, since the love interest’s personalities are all likeable, albeit a bit cliché. Alas, the game is far too short to give us any kind of time for a real romance to grow, so we just have to assume that Asumi is some kind of hot boy/girl magnet.

So, in the end we are left with a product with acceptable art and music along with an interesting premise it never really lives up to. Its writing is beyond awful and should never have been shipped without some kind of quality control first. If this was just a VN about Asumi’s job as an assassin, it would probably have worked a lot better, but right now it tries to do that and offer us romantic side plots at once, all in a one hour run-time. The final product was bound to end up half-baked at best with this kind of premise, even if the people behind it actually had some shred of talent in them. At this point in time, it’s safe to say that talent is the last thing anyone will accuse the team of having. Steer clear of this ‘VN’ at all costs.

Pick up Sword of Asumi on Steam!

Our Score:
  • Tyrael's Review

Summary

Pros:

+ Art is fairly good

+ Fitting music

+ Interesting premise

Cons:

- Feels rushed

- Extremely short

- Barely any character development

- Pointless and unrealistic romance options

- Zero quality control, littered with errors

- Bad writing all around, story lacks real impact

- Female protagonist is used for shameless fanservice

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About the author

Tyrael

6 Comments

  • My goodness. If you give a 2/10 to this, then what are you gonna give “Written in the sky”? Oh right, you’re never gonna review that. Do you feel like most OELVN developers seem like bandwagoners? Because I do.

    PS: Reviewing “Written in the sky” could be hilarious… or nefarious for you. But still.

    • Well, Written in the Sky is free, while this is 9 dollars (!) on steam so there’s that… But I’ll consider it!

      I wouldn’t necessarily say that most OELVN developers are bandwagoners because I see a lot of really good and interesting works getting greenlit on steam, but I would agree that most of them ultimately end up being rather crappy. I especially dislike cheap looking H scenes in an effort to draw in the hentai crowd…

      • “I especially dislike cheap looking H scenes in an effort to draw in the hentai crowd”… ha ha ha, just you wait to play Written in the Sky. 😉

        There’s gotta be some degree of bandwagoning since VNs are a growing market in the West and people hearken to that to earn some bucks, I have yet to find a OELVN that matches the quality and care that most Japanese ones have, except the rare one such as Katawa Shoujo. Let’s see if “No one but you” lives up to the hype.

        And yes a Japanese VN may be bog-standard and with troped characters, but in all certainty there’s a good route thrown in or some aspect of the game that really shines. Except for nukiges maybe, but that’s not my ground.

  • The average better known JVN takes x4-x8 times as long as most EVN release windows however even the longer EVN title production times are fraught with part time contribution. With many of the various recent kickstarters containing teams of 10 or more people to make up for individual lack of time. In the end most teams are playing a catch up game and are not yet financially sustainable to switch to full time development nor support the average salary. Along with artists have very variable rates if they are good already they generally know and charge comparable. Many Evn teams share writers as the writing average salary is pretty bad only have to go to lemmasoft to see the regular rates. Due to a lack of reviews in VN in generals(not that their are not any) its hard to get a clear image of what works. Then we deal with vn fan audience and those that read adventure western titles.
    We has an audience are particular bad at thinking hours vs money as a $6.99 priced game can be an hour long, this one is 3 hours long, I’ve seen $5 at 50 minutes on well received titles. This is a rush towards the bottom of the barrel with prices. The only JVN’s we ever really get are of course the most popular ones cause they release a heck of a lot more then we do currently. I’m not sure if this is accurate for every 1000 jvn there are 50 evn. Though even those relatively unknown ones to us charge x6-8 times the rate in a relatively closed market in comparison. A JVN can be 2 hours for $30.
    In order for most of the most notorious vns to work you need an artist/writer coming together on common terms and working very closely together. This doesn’t occur often or doesn’t happen in the most ideal of ways.

    • Now the strange thing is – how are prices higher on the JVN market if the supply is so much more abundant? There’s something inherently wrong with how we make VNs. What would that be? Why is it that our VNs are sold for much less, have scarce content and can’t sustain a market? There questions are only half rhetorical, as I’d like to hear your opinions on how we could improve our scene as a whole.

      • Prices are higher and bought higher because they are treated like loved merchandise the same way someone pays 60-200 dollars for a figure of an anime they enjoy. They meet the developer face to face at a opening event or convention in most cases but not all. VN’s are substantially more mainstream in the pc market then it is over here and despite being a singular country there are still probably more people purchasing them over there then on steam for example. Our openness with appreciating anime style or ecchi or even adult tolerance levels are quite different and whilst we internationally potentially make a great audience. We have less hubs for development or smaller ones/i.e no centralization. We are also less likely to meet a comrade in arms for developement at a covention or have less game developers at them or very few at all. So its harder for us to meet someone we can work with on exceptionally close terms. So even our close working teams for Evn’s have people worlds apart with different times of days or lifestyles. We end up trying to make do generally with less then perfect situations and problems can arise along the way. We get odd situations where maybe the writer works x5 times as quick as an artist or a within a team of writers one person has loads of time and the rest don’t we end up walking into team politics of buisness which can blow a studio up even after a good title. Even a well received VN isn’t enough to pay people at what you’d call an average income rate with one of our best known evn’s studios blowing up as a result of that. The JVN vn dev scene mostly starts out of collaborators more then anything with people that were already mostly doing just that before. Where as most of the better succeeding studios over here are commercial contract based cause its just quicker that’s means its a “job” to someone rather then something they bonded over and wanted to do together. So we get “I can do that for money” over ” I’d loved to do this, its my favorite genre, your a great person to work with we really meet eye to eye” Whilst we can still meet those kind of later people it takes a lot longer for us to find the right person.

        I could go on and on but I feel I’d lose focus 😀 without doing this verbally somewhere:D

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