A Butterfly in the District of Dreams
When we meet Haruki, the protagonist of A Butterfly In The District of Dreams, his life has gotten somewhat off track. Instead of going to college, he spends his days visiting his sister, Anzu, who is confined to a hospital room due to her illness. This continues until his childhood friend, Ai Tsukibane, corners him about this habit and forces him to attend school again. Ai is the complete opposite of Haruki as she has always attained top grades, but the two has drifted apart as they grew older. As the two rekindle their friendship they miss the last train home for the day, but surprisingly enough another one arrives at the station. Faced with a choice of boarding this mysterious train or walking all the way home, the two take their chances, and end up in a strange place called Olive Village. Not only is this village unfamiliar to them, but it doesn’t even seem to be in the same reality as their own.
Taking a strange train to an alternate reality sound like the plot of a horror movie, but A Butterfly In The District of Dreams is the polar opposite. Haruki and Ai finds themselves in a bright, sunny village with a seemingly never-ending street of shops. They also encounter a girl named Yurika, who is the spitting image of Haruki’s sister. Instead of being an evil doppelganger, Yurika offers the duo lodging until they figure out a way to get home, provided they work part time at her cafe. It is in this cafe, Kockhouran, where most of the game takes place as Haruki comes to grips with his predicament. While Ai’s father is the president of a large enterprise, Haruki has very little to entice him back to the real world, apart from his sister. Complicating matters even further is the fact that both Ai and Yurika, along with a girl named Hiroku who they meet in the village, appear to have feelings for Hiraki.
ABITDoD was originally released in Japan in 2013 and while it has taken a couple of years, English fans can finally experience the game. While there can never be enough quality visual novels on Steam, there is no doubt that this one won’t appeal to everyone. Anyone looking for fan service is going to be a little disappointed and those drawn in by the mysterious sounding storyline might also feel a little duped. This is because the majority of the game plays out like a slice of life visual novel, which is a little at odds with the unusual circumstances of the protagonist. There is nothing wrong with this of course and despite the very slow pace the story is still interesting, but it is a little unexpected. In fact, the second half of the game also becomes a lot more lighthearted and features more humor than what the rather somber first half would have you believe.
Apart from a newfound ability to turn seeds into flowers simply by holding them nothing else really changes for Haruki in this new reality. He quickly settles into life at Kochouran and actually does well at his first part time job. Things are a little harder for Ai as she is not used to cooking and serving, but she doesn’t seem to be in any rush to return home either. The result is a very slow paced and relaxing visual novel that some players will find interesting while others might consider it a little boring.
Most of the story in ABITDoD takes place in the coffee shop where the characters work as well as live. The story occasionally strays out into the streets as well as a nearby shrine, but don’t expect any strange or mysterious locations. The story itself is fairly linear, but you do get the choose between multiple routes that lead to different endings. The routes are all focused around the three main heroines, so anyone interested in seeing the entire story will have to complete the game multiple times. This isn’t too hard though, and you can fast forward through text that you’ve already read in a previous playthrough to save some time. While the story didn’t exactly leave us on the edge of our seats, the slow pace of the game and the way that characters slowly settle into a routine at the coffee shop makes for a relaxing experience. There is the occasional “crisis” or misunderstanding that crop up, but these mostly consist of characters getting sick, getting into trouble or dealing with personal issues. Some of the stuff is a little questionable, such as one of the male characters slapping a much younger female employee as punishment for theft, but overall nothing too controversial ever happens. The fact that the protagonist can fall in love with a girl that could be the twin of his own sister is also a little sketchy might raise a few eyebrows though.
For a game that is a few years old already ABITDoD looks very decent. Initially the backgrounds are all filtered photographs, but as soon as the story shifts to Olive Village they are replaced by actual artwork. These look a lot nicer, but the amount of backgrounds are still fairly limited. The sprites fare a lot better with some nice 2D character designs for the entire cast. There are no animations, of course, but the characters are detailed and easy on the eyes. We are particularly fond of the audio as the game features full Japanese voice acting for the entire cast, apart from Haruki. The 18 tracks that make up the soundtrack are all also very good with some standout tracks like “Flower”, “Apricot”, “Olive” and “A Straight Detour”. Our favorite is the very catchy “Back Alley Waltz.”
Overall, we enjoyed our time with A Butterfly In The District of Dreams enough to complete it multiple times, but like we mentioned before, it is a rather niche title. The story does pick up towards the end and once you get to know the characters it is easy to get caught up in their stories, but the slow pace will definitely deter some players. The multiple routes and endings adds a lot of replay value to this title, which makes up for the fact that it is not as flashy or fast paced as other visual novels. Players who can appreciate good slice of life stories and has the perseverance to stick with it through the slower parts will find a charming title with endearing characters.
- OS: Windows XP
- Processor: 1.7 Ghz Intel or AMD Processor
- Memory: 512 MB RAM
- Graphics: OpenGL or DirectX Compatible Graphics Card
- DirectX: Version 9.0c
- Storage: 500 MB available space