Heart of the Woods
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

An engaging storyline that reads like a modern day fairytale, beautiful artwork by Rosuuri, and a stellar soundtrack makes Heart of the Woods a must-have visual novel. As long as you are not scared away by yuri content, this visual novel has plenty to offer with great characters, sweet romances and a plot that isn’t afraid to take a few dark twists. Overall, this is one of the best western visual novels on the market and one that will be hard to beat by the competition.

Gameplay: Very few choices, but the gripping story makes up for this.

Graphics: Stellar artwork by the very talented Rosuuri.

Sound: No voice acting, but the soundtrack is great

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Heart of the Woods

Developer: Studio Élan | Publisher: Sekai Project | Release Date: 2019 | Genre: Visual Novel / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

When Tara Bryck, star of the “Taranormal” vlog channel, receives an invitation to the remote village of Eysenfeld, she jumps at the chance to go investigate the paranormal happenings that is said to occur there. Maddie Raines, her best friend and the poor person who is responsible for handling pretty much all of the business, management and editing aspects of the channel, is a bit more skeptical about the trip. However, a fan of the channel named Morgan has promised them that it would be worth their while, so the duo make the trip to the remote village in the hopes that they will catch something supernatural on camera. For Tara it is just another trip and the opportunity to bask in the adoration of a fan, but for Maddie it is something more. After years of putting Tara ahead of herself, she has decided to walk away from the show and follow her own path, which is something that slowly drives a wedge between the two friends. It also doesn’t help that Tara begins to shut Maddie out after growing closer to Morgan, or that Maddie discovers conclusive proof of the paranormal in the form of a ghost, only to fall in love with the beautiful spirit.

Although Heart of the Woods might sound like a light and funny fantasy yuri visual novel, and indeed starts out that way, it slowly begins to take a darker turn the longer you play. This makes it feel like a modern day fairy tale, but if you want to reach the happy ending, then you are going to have to make the right choices along the way. This isn’t too hard, though, as you are only presented with something like three choices in the whole game. However, don’t let the lack of choices deter you from experiencing this visual novel as you will be missing out on one hell of a story.

There isn’t much that we can say about the storyline as we don’t want to ruin any surprises, but suffice to say that it is very good. There isn’t a huge cast of characters, but this doesn’t hamper the story in any way. In fact, the game even manages to work two romantic relationships into the story, instead of just one. In addition, you’ll also experience the story through the eyes of more than one character, which is another neat touch. This means that while everything plays out in the remote town and surrounding forest, it never feels boring or like nothing interesting is happening. Instead, the pace picks up quite quickly and towards the end things become particularly nail biting. Studio Élan has really done a fantastic job with creating characters who you can relate to or emphasize with as they encounter some extraordinary things and deal with very stressful situations.

Since Heart of the Woods is a yuri visual novel, it means that there are some inevitable romance scenes between the characters. Fortunately, none of these feel forced or out of the blue, which is something that quite a few titles struggle with. Instead, these scenes make sense within the context of the story and will definitely please fans of the genre. It is also no secret that Heart of the Woods feature an optional patch to restore the adult content that has been cut from the Steam version of the game. This patch is completely free and enables quite a few sex scenes that occur over the course of the story. While these scenes feature full, uncensored nudity, they are done quite tastefully and never feel like blatant fan service. Although these scenes tend to favor one couple more than the other, there is a good reason for this.

As good as the story of Heart of the Woods is, and it is very good, the art steals the show. All the character and CG art were done by an artist named Rosuuri and if you are not familiar with her work, then you have been missing out. Seriously, just go check out her website to see what we mean. The art in Heart of the Woods is amongst the most beautiful and detailed that we have seen in a western visual novel, so it is great to see that the game features a CG viewer. In fact, it even has a guest art gallery, which is something that we haven’t seen before in a visual novel. Even the backgrounds in Heart of the Woods are pretty good, but don’t expect much in the way of animations.

Unfortunately, Heart of the Woods lacks any form of voice acting, which is a pity. There is an option to enable self-voicing, but we suggest leaving this disabled unless you genuinely need it. One thing that Heart of the Woods certainly doesn’t lake is a great soundtrack. Without exaggerating, it is one of those rare visual novels where it would be hard for us to pick a favorite tune because there are simply so many good ones. Thankfully, the game also has a “Music Room” where players can listen to all of the tunes and see who composed the tracks. The game doesn’t skimp on sound effects either, which makes it easier to get sucked into the writing.

Along with the usual visual novel settings, such as text speed, and sound as well as music volume settings, Heart of the Woods also features a few accessibility options. These range from the aforementioned self-voicing to audio cues to image descriptions and screenshake. We also like that all of the characters have their own unique color for their text, which makes it easy to keep track of who is talking. The interface is clean and uncluttered while making it easy to save, load, view the story history, skip text and access the options menu with ease. During out first playthrough we noticed a few typos in the story, but these were quickly addressed by the developers in a patch.

Yuri visual novels are obviously not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are a fan of the genre, then you will not want to miss out on this one. Even if you don’t have much experience with yuri titles, we would still recommend this one as the story is great and the romances just feel like a natural part of the tale instead of something that has been tacked on. Overall, there is very little to fault about Heart of the Woods and it has definitely joined the ranks of our favorite western visual novels.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP
  • Processor: 1 GHz Intel or AMD Processor
  • Memory: 1024 MB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL or DirectX Compatible Graphics Card
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • OS: MacOS
  • Processor: 1.2 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1920 x 1080
  • Storage: 2 GB available space
  • OS: Linux
  • Processor: 1.8 GHz Pentium 4
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: 1920 x 1080
  • Storage: 2 GB available space

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