Highway Blossoms
Gameplay 9
Graphics 8
Sound 9

Join Amber as she goes from driving slowly towards a music festival while coming to terms with the death of her grandfather, to joining up with a ditzy treasure hunter named Marina. Highway Blossoms is a great yuri kinetic novel with a refreshing setting, awesome characters and a very compelling story. It’s a little on the short side, but should definitely not be missed by fans of the genre.

Gameplay: No choices to make, but the story is superb.

Graphics: Plenty of backgrounds and great character designs.

Sound: Excellent voice acting and a pretty great soundtrack too

Summary 8.7 Outstanding
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Highway Blossoms

Developer: AlienWorks | Publisher: Sekai Project | Release Date: 2016 | Genre: Casual / Visual Novel / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam / Denpasoft

Highway Blossoms opens with a girl named Amber driving her motorhome along a lonely stretch of desert road. We learn that she recently lost her grandfather, the person who raised her and meant the most to her in the world. It is clear that Amber hasn’t yet come to terms with this loss, which is why she is driving the motorhome that she inherited from him while listening to his music tapes. Amber is startled when she sees a young girl on the side of the road next to a broken down car. Not willing to leave the girl to her fate out in the middle of nowhere Amber turns around and agrees to give the hitchhiker a lift to the nearest gas station. Little does she know that the girl, named Marina, is not just going to take her on a wild adventure, but also crawl deep into her broken heart.

Highway Blossoms is a visual novel from AlienWorks that is refreshing in a number of ways. For one, it is a Western visual novel that doesn’t pretend to be a Japanese one, but instead features a uniquely American Southwest setting. The first half of the story features Amber and Marina getting caught up in a treasure hunt that is sweeping the nation, while the second delves into more personal matters. Since the game is a kinetic novel, which means there are no choices to make, we don’t want to spoil too much about the story, but suffice to say it is very good. That is not to say that it is without cliches or tropes, but the writing is so good that it is impossible not to get swept up in the adventure and drama that the characters experience.

In addition to Amber and Marina, the game also features a cast of other characters. A few of them only pop up once, but then there is the treasure hunting trio, Joseph, Tess and Mariah, who serve as rivals. The scenes with them are quite entertaining and Mariah in particular is interesting enough that we would not have minded some DLC from her perspective. We have to mention that Highway Blossoms is a yuri visual novel, but instead of making it the entire focus of the game, this element is just a natural part of it, which is quite cool. This means that the love story does not feel as forced as other visual novels and there is no fan service that pops up at awkward times to break the immersion. The game still as explicit adult content, but this is optional and available as a separate, free DLC. Even these scenes, when enabled, are done in a tasteful manner and doesn’t feel out of place. It is of course entirely possible to play the game without these scenes, but they do add to the story.

Although Highway Blossoms is a kinetic novel, it does reward players with some neat extras upon completion. In addition to the obligatory gallery where you can view all of the CG, you can also enable “Goofball” mode when starting a new game. This gives you the option of playing the game in “easy” mode, which sums up the entire story in less than a minute. It really is quite funny and features a surprise cameo from a character who is never seen in the normal mode. “Extreme” mode does the opposite and requires you to actually wait for the characters to reach their various destinations before you can continue with the story. This is indicated by a countdown timer on the screen and since the whole story is about a long road trip this mode is only for players who are very determined and patient enough to get the final Steam achievement. Playing with goofball mode enabled also adds a couple of very funny lines of dialog to the story, which makes things even more humorous.

As with a lot of visuals novels these days, Highway Blossoms makes use of the Ren’Py engine. It features 1080p visuals with hand painted vistas of the actual landmarks that are described in the game. Since the characters make quite a few stops on their journey, it means that there is no shortage of interesting backgrounds in the game. The character sprites look great too and they all feature plenty of expressions to convey their emotions. Even the minor characters, who would typically appear as faceless or not depicted at all in other visual novels, get their own unique sprites in this game. Apart from playing the game in all of its full-screen glory, it can also be played in 720p windowed mode as well as 540p windowed mode. The version of the game that is reviewed here has been remastered from the original release, which means the artwork has been touched up and looks great.

The audio in Highway Blossoms is another very pleasant surprise. Everyone knows that roadtrips and good music goes hand in hand, so it is good to see that this wasn’t overlooked in the game. Amber tries to cope with her loss by listening to the obscure music tapes that her grandfather loved, which means the soundtrack isn’t your typical upbeat visual novel fare. Instead, there are tracks by Able Kirby, Smoke Thief, Jake Abernathie and a few others. Overall, the soundtrack is really good and it is also available to purchase as DLC for those who want to listen to it outside of the game. When it comes to sound effects, Highway Blossoms feature a decent amount of them along with enough ambient sounds to make the static gameworld feel more alive.

A special mention should go to the voice acting, which was added when the game got remastered. Everything is now fully voiced in English and the cast does a remarkable job. Katie Dagnen in particular does a stellar job voicing Amber and manages to perfectly capture the pain, frustration and conflicted feelings of her character as well as her more tender side. She doesn’t hold back when it comes to certain lines in the goofball mode either, which had us laughing out loud.

Overall, Highway Blossoms is an outstanding visual novel and one that everyone should read, even if they are not necessarily fans of the yuri genre. It features great characters, a refreshing setting and a story that easily draws you in. In addition to some tender moments that might leave some players wiping away a few tears, the game also has lots of humor. One scene in particular where a certain character is thrown around the inside of an RV traveling at high speed doesn’t just feature funny dialog, but also great animations, despite the limitations of Ren’Py.

About the only criticisms that we have of Highway Blossoms is that it is only about six hours long, which means it can be completed in a day. The story wraps up very neatly and the other modes are worth checking out, but we still wished that there was more. Some players might also find the lack of choices too limiting, but even without any interaction the story held our attention right to the end. There are plenty of great visual novels to choose from and a lot of them have yuri content, but in our opinion, Highway Blossoms is amongst the best and should not be missed.

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: 680 MB available space
  • OS: Windows Vista or above
  • Memory: 1024 MB RAM
  • Graphics: 1920 x 1080 display
  • Storage: 680 MB available space
  • OS: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
  • Processor: Core 2 Duo or newer
  • Memory: 1024 MB RAM
  • Graphics: Any OpenGL graphics card capable of running Mac OS X 10.6 or later
  • Storage: 680 MB available space
  • OS: Mac OS X 10.7 or later
  • Memory: 2048 MB RAM
  • Storage: 680 MB available space
  • OS: Any distribution built for x86 or x64 processors
  • Processor: 1 GHz Intel or AMD Processor
  • Memory: 1024 MB RAM
  • Graphics: OpenGL compatible graphics card
  • Storage: 680 MB available space
  • Processor: 64-bit processor
  • Memory: 4096 MB RAM
  • Graphics: 1920 x 1080 display
  • Storage: 680 MB available space

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