It’s been an interesting couple of days.
I had vaguely heard of a Kickstarter a while back, set to make a visual novel game with the characters being a group of Youtubers. Youtubers I watch, mind you, ones I’ve been a fan of for a while. I dig video game reviewers, especially funny ones, and it’s pretty rare for me to go my entire day without checking my feed at least once to see if any of them posted something. They’re my stress relievers, and I greatly appreciate the content they put out.
I didn’t really think much of the visual novel that was being presented as the product. It seemed a little strange, but everyone involved was on board and having fun with it, which felt like the most important aspect of it. If you’re going to involve real people with something like this, the real people better be involved. Either way, it was funded, and I promptly forgot all about it.
The game came out last week. Asagao Academy was presented completely free to play to anyone looking to romance some Youtubers. If it wasn’t free, I would’ve probably passed it up, but I felt like there was nothing to lose beyond probably feeling weird playing this. These guys are, for the most part, just a little younger than me (or maybe my age, I don’t even know), but it still really felt like it I wasn’t exactly a target audience here. I’m well past the age of fawning over Internet Celebs, but I knew I genuinely liked a lot of these guys (or at least the way they put themselves out there – I even sub to one of them on Twitch), and curiosity got the better of me. I downloaded it, assuming it wouldn’t take long for me to be weirded out and shut it off. I’ve written before how I do like Visual Novels, but I’ve never played one involving not only actual people, but actual people I watch.
Do you ever play a game that way exceeded your every expectation? A game that should’ve phoned it in but refused to despite the fact the premise is kind of hilarious? That’s this game. That’s this game in a nutshell. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but this game is stupidly charming.
The writing is excellent, weaving jokes fans would know, video game references, and decent attempts at dealing with serious subjects. The choice of making a named main character is excellent, because somehow it disconnected things just enough that I didn’t feel weird that these characters are based on actual people in a game that is 200% a romance game. The game is legitimately hard at points, so much so there was one route I had to spend a half hour trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. I have played my share of visual novels, and on it’s face, without associating it with anyone involved, I could still see myself enjoying it for what it is. Youtube is never mentioned beyond jokes from their videos. Wipe the odd names some of them have in game (I still find it hilarious the Youtuber PeanutButterGamer is always called by his YT name and not his real one), and you probably wouldn’t even know this game was about real Youtube gamers. The music and visuals involved is also completely on point, which just supports the story as a whole.
It’s quite the complete package.
What’s more, the actual people involved in the game has dispelled the weirdness further by playing it themselves. I’ve hit the point I don’t know what I like more, playing the game or watching them play the game. Almost all the ones I’ve seen started out with them laughing about the whole thing, only to see them legitimately start enjoying it on the merits of the story and the characterization, too. And let’s be real, I may be a pretty big fan of brutalmoose, and him blushing at points during his streams when he’s playing this is a little magical. Maybe that’s just because that would probably be my reaction (or maybe I’d be cackling at having the hardest route, like a certain person has been doing), who knows.
Either way, I went from assuming I’d only play a little to playing the whole thing and writing an entire guide for it. Since it’s been written, the traffic on my Tumblr has skyrocketed (especially since it was linked by the creators, thanks for that, Illus Seed). In a way, it gave me a somewhat unique ability to see even a small bit of the demographics. It’s been so interesting seeing who has been visiting just by the little bit of data StatCounter collects. People from all over the world are playing this thing. Judging by the people liking the guide, there’s a whole range of ages too. I’ve seen people admit they never heard of them but now watch their stuff. I don’t know if the intent was to also drag in more people to their channels as well as make something fun for the fans, but I would be curious to know if they’ll be seeing any kind of viewer uptick in the near future. For their sakes, because their actual video content really are good, I hope it’ll be a boon for them. The entire handling of this game has been damn impressive and everyone involved should be praised for it.
As for me? I went back and tipped them twenty dollars after it was all said and done, because it not only was fun but HEFTY – even more so than a lot of visual novels I’ve actually paid for. In an age where people phone in stuff when they know it doesn’t have to be super serious, Illus Seed put together something well written and enjoyable. There were still parts I felt like I wanted to die a little in embarrassment because I was playing it (there may have been a form fitting speedo involved), but for the most part, it was this weird, perfect mixture of fanservice and just legitimate good writing and well-crafted story lines for each route. They travel a lot of well-worn high school tropes, but they manage to make each one pretty interesting. I’m glad I caved and tried it.
You can download it yourself here if you’re curious yourself. Links to people involved are also on that page – you might want to take a gander at their work. 😉