Jiangshi x Daoshi
It’s hard to believe that there was once a time when one could count the number of visual novels with English translations on one hand. Those days are thankfully behind us now, but with the flood of visual novels currently on the market, it can be easy to overlook some of the real gems. One of these gems is without a doubt Jiangshi x Daoshi, a visual novel developed by Dendo Denkido and published by Fruitbat Factory.
Jiangshi x Daoshi is an episodic visual novel where the first two episodes, Boy Meets Girl, and The Fable of the Fake Elixir were made available for free. These episodes introduce players to the two protagonists, an ex-assassin named Luan and a daoshi maiden named Ling Ling. These two run into each other when Ling Ling makes short work of the supernatural creatures she sees attacking Luan. She learns that Luan used to be a shaasu (assassin) and instead recruits him to become her student. Luan in turn is very impressed by the dao priest and agrees to join her even with the restriction that he is not allowed to kill anymore.
The story in Jiangshi x Daoshi is based heavily on Chinese folklore and legends, which is quite refreshing for a genre that all too often relies on Japanese schools or other common tropes. This does mean that a lot of terms that might not be familiar to Western players are regularly thrown about, but thankfully the game features a built-in dictionary. Simply hovering your mouse cursor over an unfamiliar term will reveal a pop-up with a description. Not all words have definitions and we would have liked it if it was more obvious which ones did, but it is a useful feature nonetheless.
Apart from the unique world and characters the thing that sets Jiangshi x Daoshi apart from the pack is how animated it is. It can almost be a little overwhelming at first, especially after years of playing visual novels with mostly static scenes, but really does give the game a unique look and feel. We are not talking Live2D or traditional animation either, but rather scenes that are packed with moving panels, sprites, words, or effects. There is barely a scene in Jiangshi x Daoshi without something happening, giving it a very dynamic look. To make things even more interesting the game isn’t afraid to mix up different art styles, throw in bizarre animations or make wacky in-jokes either. One word of caution, though, the game does contain a fair amount of violence, so it’s not uncommon to see blood. The Steam version had to be toned down a bit apparently, but a restoration patch is available as well as the unaltered version on itch.io.
The voice acting and sound effects of Jiangshi x Daoshi are a good match for the frenetic pace and over the top style of the game too. This is one of the first visual novels we’ve played with a soundtrack that has so many different genres. The music can change from one style to the next as scenes change and there are even a few tracks with lyrics to add to the chaos. Although the voice acting is not in English everything sounds decent. Jiangshi x Daoshi is a kinetic novel, so there are unfortunately no choices to make or ways to influence the story in any way. Player interaction is limited to clicking or pressing a button to advance the text in the game. This limits the replay value a bit but makes up for it with a unique and offbeat storyline.
Speaking of the story, we’ve already mentioned that the first and second episodes of Jiangshi x Daoshi are completely free, but a third episode titled “Lady Hexers” is also available as DLC. Episode one was a great introduction to Ling Ling and Luan while the second episode introduced the steel fan wielding Yen. All of the characters along with some new ones appear in episode three and it’s by far the most action-packed one yet. The episode starts with Ling Ling seeing an idol named Taomi Nyanyan on television and becoming suspicious that she might be a daoshi too. Ling Ling is not the only one interested in Taomi, though, and before long the group is involved with fights that could come straight out of Dragonball Z. Episode three is not only a lot longer than the first two episodes, but also more intense and features some interesting plot twists along the way. While the episode wraps up in a relatively satisfactory manner, it’s definitely not the end of the overall story.
Overall Jiangshi x Daoshi is a great kinetic novel that really stands out in a very crowded genre. It is clear to see that a lot of love has been poured into every single scene of the game and playing through it is quite intense. It’s not a game for people who love visual novels with branching storylines, but anyone who can appreciate an offbeat, action-packed title with unique characters and scenarios will love Jiangshi x Daoshi. The Lady Hexers episode continues and improves on the groundwork established by the first two episodes and comes highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed the free portion of the game.
*Review based on Episodes 1, 2, and 3.
- OS: Windows Vista/7/8/10
- Processor: Intel Pentium 2.4GHz or higher
- Memory: 4 MB RAM
- Graphics: 1280×720 Display or higher
- Sound Card: DirectSound compatible sound card