Fading Hearts
Gameplay 8
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Fading Hearts was a pleasant surprise, more so when I discovered that it is not by a Japanese company. A nice combination of visual novel, dating sim and role playing that has plenty of things to discover. Definitely a title that you will want to complete more than once.

Gameplay: Much more to see and do than typical visual novels.
Graphics: Nice characters and backgrounds, pity about the monsters.
Sound: Very nice

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Fading Hearts

Developer: Sakura River Interactive | Publisher: Sakura River Interactive | Release Date: 2009 | Genre: Visual Novel | Website: Official Website | Format: CD-ROM / Digital Download

It is not often that I am surprised by a visual novel, well not in a good way in any case, but Fading Hearts definitely caught me off guard. It is a tale about Ryou, a seventeen year old high school student who is caught in a bit of a love triangle. Ryou is in love with his friend Claire, who unfortunately already has a boyfriend. In turn, his other friend Rina is in love with him but he cannot reciprocate her feelings because of his affection for Claire. This is all very ordinary until you mix in a mysterious park full of monsters, a magical girl, past lives and more.

The gameplay starts off pretty ordinary with Ryou spending his time at school or hanging out with his friends.  Then you discover that Ryou is actually a bit of a computer whizz and can make money by helping out companies online. This money can be used to buy books to improve his skills or manga which not only reveals a fascinating story but also bestows him with magical powers. Soon you find yourself having to balance money making with increasing your stats and managing your social life. Ryou receives a regular monthly income so you don’t have to work if you don’t want to and instead focus on other things but it might mean you won’t have enough cash for stuff like training weights or all the volumes of a particular manga.

Fading Hearts has multiple paths and endings, which means that to comprehend the full extent of what is going on, you are going to have to play the game more than once.  At first you might think it is just a simple visual novel where you have to woo the girls.

However, venture into the forest at night and some turn-based role playing game style battles await you. To survive these and discover the secret of the forest, you will need to arm yourself with some magical spells and train hard to increase your skills. You can of course ignore this part of the game completely but you will miss out on some interesting story elements and probably end up with an unhappy ending.

Fortunately, you have two characters, Alice and Mini who analyze your game upon completion and supply you with hints on what to do next time round. The game also has some built-in achievements for discovering certain plot elements. These, in conjunction with the interesting (if surreal) story made me replay the game until I got all of the achievements. The fact that I could fast forward through previously read dialogue helped a lot in later playthroughs though.

The artwork in the game is very nice and although there is only a limited amount of characters, they are drawn quite well. The monsters on the other hand look like hasty last minute additions and do not fit in with the overall art style at all. It really looks like the monster art was done by someone else entirely and then plastered with a heavy blur filter to hide their looks. The audio is also quite nice with some very fitting tunes but no voice acting.

The game is quite polished although I did discover a few glitches and spelling mistakes. Installing the patch cleaned things up a bit but there were still a few instances where the story didn’t quite line up as smoothly as it should have. I guess this is due to the branching paths that you can take but it is quite jarring. Overall, Fading Hearts is quite an impressive effort from a Canadian company and it certainly puts a lot of other visual novels to shame. It is refreshing to play a game in the genre that doesn’t use any adult content as a crutch for its poor plot.

System Requirements

    • OS: Windows Vista, 7
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz x86 processor
    • Memory: 512 MB RAM
    • Graphics: AMD Intergrated Graphics
    • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: Older Intel Integrated Graphics Chips are not supported
  • OS: Mac OS X 10.6+
  • Processor: 2.0 GHz x86 processor
  • Memory: 512 MB RAM
  • Graphics: AMD Intergrated Graphics
  • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz x86 processor
    • Memory: 512 MB RAM
    • Graphics: AMD Intergrated Graphics
    • Hard Drive: 300 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: Older Intel Integrated Graphics Chips are not supported

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