Kindred Spirits on the Roof is a visual novel that generated a bit of buzz based on the fact that it was a yuri visual novel getting released on Steam uncensored. To get something out of the way, this visual novel is barely an eroge. The reason it made it onto Steam is not because they have become more lax in their policies. It is instead, because this visual novel is already fairly tame to begin with, and the most explicit that the visual novel gets is having bare breasts. If Kindred Spirits were to get an ESRB rating, it probably would probably get an M rating anyway seeing as how the sex scenes this visual novel has is nothing worse than what you would see on TV.
Kindred Spirits is not something to go into if you are looking for a purely sexual visual novel. Kindred Spirits on the Roof, despite having sex scenes present, is probably the least dirty “eroge” I’ve ever played. There is far more of an emphasis on the actual character relationships and story than on these sex scenes, and none of them even become available until over 2/3s of the way through.
Additionally, the sex scenes I honestly found to be one of the least interesting parts. The problem with these scenes is simply that they are rather bland and benign. Each scene will last about maybe ten to twenty minutes if you are taking your time while reading, yet you will usually only have one image displayed with little changes. When compared to other eroge such as Nekopara or Negligee, which will include more changes in visuals and even some animation, this comes across as rather lackluster.
This could be glanced over if the writing and description for these scenes were effective, but Kindred Spirits unfortunately phones it in there as well. About fifty percent of the dialogue of every sex scene consists of someone either moaning, gasping, or breathing, which causes the scenes to drag on a lot longer than they should, especially if one is trying to listen to all of the voice acting. Secondly, these scenes just did not pack the emotional punch that they were going for.
Kindred Spirits was clearly trying to treat sex scenes as tender and emotional moments where a couple that has been developing over the course of the visual novel has their first time. Considering just how strong and endearing every character in this visual novel was, these scenes should have connected with me. Unfortunately, Kindred Spirits just dropped the ball on these scenes and I just felt kind of bored during them, which is not a good thing since these were some of the most of important parts of the visual novel. Also it loses points for not having a sex scene with Ano.
I must digress however, because Kindred Spirits is not a visual novel that deserves to be glossed over as just another perverted anime porn dating sim when it is pretty much the opposite. There is a prevalent meme in the otaku community stating that “yuri is the purest form of love.” Even being a lesbian myself, I can say that this phrase is rather misguided if taken seriously. The reason for this is because it’s based entirely on the basis of women being the purer sex and thus more women equals more purity; which is a very biased perspective to say the least.
Despite this, I cannot think of a better way to sum up Kindred Spirits other than with this phrase. If there was only one word that could be used to describe Kindred Spirits on the Roof, it would be “pure.” Kindred Spirits may be a yuri visual novel, but it does not feel like one. I don’t say this out of a dislike for the yuri genre by any means, it is quite the opposite actually. I instead say this because this visual novel felt so real to me, that it feels like a disservice to even label it in the first place. I don’t think I can say I’ve ever felt that way about any game or visual novel until now.
The story of Kindred Spirits is about Toomi Yuna, an introverted second year high school student at an all girls school. It starts off when Yuna is eating her lunch up on the roof of the school, where she usually eats to get away from the other students. This time, however, she realizes she can see and talk to the ghosts of two former students, Sachi and Megumi, who died while they were attending. Sachi was a third year student in the 1930s, while Megumi was a first year who attended in the 1980s.
Additionally, Sachi and Megumi were both lesbians who never got to realize their true feelings while they were alive. Sachi died while saving the girl she had a crush on from an accident, while Megumi caught glimpses of Sachi’s spirit and strained herself to see her despite her poor health, which eventually lead to her death. Upon her death, Megumi’s spirit appeared before Sachi on the roof of the school and Megumi’s first words to her was a confession of love. Unfortunately, despite the two of them finding love, they were still unable to pass on because they never had their first time and neither knows how two girls are supposed to have sex.
Since Yuna can actually interact with the world while they cannot, they ask her to assist them with their plan to help the school’s lesbian students develop their relationships so they can eventually see them have sex and learn from watching. Admittedly, there is a bit of a hole in the plan in that they expect the couples to have sex on school grounds seeing as how neither of the spirits can leave the school. Also it would probably just be easier to ask Yuna to look it up online, but I suppose it is not something that Yuna would want to see so I’m able to suspend my disbelief.
Yuna initially does not want to help them, but she ends up going along with it anyway until she becomes more dedicated to it. The premise may not sound like much on its own, but it is the execution that is amazing. Over the course of the visual novel, you will see several romances, all of which feel distinct, compelling, and emotional. There was not a single character in this visual novel that I did not like or that was not well developed, and the romances for the visual novel’s side characters felt more compelling and real than the main romances of a lot of other games.
Aside from Sachi and Megumi’s relationship, there are six romances in the visual novel, all of which feel distinct and like they could have been their own game. Among these romances include relationships between a 1st years and 3rd year, an upbeat genki girl and introverted, shy pessimist, a scatterbrained rocker and strict disciplinary club leader, and even a student and teacher (albeit a teacher who is 23 while the student is 18, and the student is taller than the teacher). Anyone who is tired of all lesbian romances being the typical “forbidden love” stories will be glad to see new ideas here.
That is not to say that homophobia is not a major plot element however, as it still has its place in the plot. For instance, one of the couples needs to keep their relationship a secret because one of them has traditionalist, homophobic parents. However, the main conflict of their relationship is not keeping it a secret, but more so how the two are so opposite in nature that they can often clash. Specifically they have rules set up to ensure no one finds out about them, and they clash over how strict those rules are. One is frustrated by how the other keeps trying to push the boundaries of the rules despite the obvious risk, while the other is frustrated by how cold the other acts in regards to the rules and how she can’t be a bit more lax. It is a situation where there isn’t one single person who is at fault, but it is easy to understand the position of both of them.
Homophobia plays just enough of a role in the plot as it needs to; it exists in all the realistic areas, but it is not so prevalent that it comes across as preachy. Surprisingly, there were a few moments in the plot where it felt sort of downplayed, and even one obvious instance of it that is completely ignored. The one that comes to mind is when two students kiss on stage after a song performance. The principal sees them and scolds them as if the two of them kissing in front of an audience made them delinquents, and even was considering expelling one of them. Yes I know that typically, even heterosexual couples are not allowed to show public displays of affection in school, and that would make sense since public displays of affection are typically frowned upon in Japan, but it is hard to think that is the reason when the fact that they were both girls is cited specifically. This ends up especially jarring since both students come to the conclusion that they were out of line and got caught up in the heat of the moment, and no one even mentions the possibility of homophobia despite it being the obvious cause.
Additionally, the main character, Yuna, had some attitudes during certain parts that could almost be construed as homophobic without context. She never expresses disapproval to relationships between two girls, but she tends to act contemptuous towards them early on and is made uncomfortable at the thought of any of these couples having sex. I may not be attracted to men, but I’m not going to feel too uncomfortable at the thought of a straight couple or two guys having sex. If this was a case where any of them went into detail about sex in uncomfortable detail, the reaction would make sense, but all that happens is that the ghosts say two of them had sex without any details.
This actually makes the story much more interesting though, and it made the story feel even more real to me. The reason for this is because, her reactions seem to resemble those of people who know there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, but have had it engrained into their subconscious that it is weird or odd due to the environment they were raised in. I know this from experience considering that my father has very progressive beliefs, yet he still has a hard time fully adjusting the fact that I am transgender even two years after I came out to him. I will even say that seeing Yuna develop over the course of the visual novel while trying to figure out what she really believed helped me understand this position a little bit better in real life.
The character cast is, without a doubt, this visual novel’s greatest strength. There are a total of sixteen characters presented in this visual novel, and there was not a single one that I didn’t like; just some that I liked more than others. Picking a favorite character out of this cast is a legitimate challenge for me, but it comes down to either Ano or Hina. Ano, one of the few people Yuna regularly talks to at the start of the visual novel, is a lively otaku and gamer surrogate who has a habit of forgetting to bring things but also knows more than she lets on. My only complaint is that she is not given as much screen time as the rest of the cast and thus not as developed.
Hina is Yuna’s childhood friend who is very close to Yuna to the point that I thought they were sisters initially. She is an athletic type that is also cute, thus described as “hercutelean” (a portmanteau of cute and herculean if you couldn’t tell) with a large appetite. She is the silent type who frequently responds to others with just “mm,” but never comes across as rude or antisocial. What is so great about her specifically is how they managed to make her seem cute and endearing without resorting to any typical moe tropes or clichés.
I could continue to mention more and more fascinating quirks about each character, such as Youka appearing to be a careless idiot on the outside but being passionate and caring on the inside, Aki appearing to be a cold and strict disciplinary guardian but shows that she also has a fun side and has her reasons for caring about the rules, and how Nena appears to simply not care about anything because she’s so tired all the time but is surprisingly observant and resourceful, but that would make this take even longer then. What should be mentioned, however, is just how intricate character relations are. If one views every scene in the visual novel, they will see that almost every character has some interactions with other characters, which shows great attention to detail.
Unfortunately, the large amount of development that each character gets has an adverse effect on the visual novel’s pacing. The general flow of the visual novel’s plot follows a pattern where you will see a bunch of scenes in the main plot, through the perspective of Yuna or the spirits, until it decides you get to go back and re-watch these scenes through the perspective of other characters. While these scenes are enjoyable on their own and add a lot of insight to the plot, it would have been much better if they were woven into the plot as it occurs normally rather than piled on you at scheduled intervals.
This was not that much of a problem at first, but over the course of the visual novel it became more and more egregious as you were stopped in increasingly tense moments in the plot. The worst part was when the visual novel left you with a major twist that leaves you wanting to know what happens next, only to make you wait until you go back and rewatch the scenes. There is absolutely no logical reason to have a cliffhanger in the middle of a game when you have already bought the full product. While I dislike cliffhanger endings in general, it at least makes sense when view from a marketing standpoint to get the viewer to want to see the next installment. In the middle of a complete product, however, this does nothing but drag the pace of the visual novel to a screeching halt, and ensure that you are not as interested in the extra scenes when you watch them, but will also not be hyped up for the main plot once you can finally resume.
Lastly, after the thirty hour main story, there are more unlockable extra scenes from various parts of the plot that add an additional ten hours. I was more satisfied with the way these scenes were handled since you see them after the main plot is already over and still get to see more detail about the characters. However, I still cannot help but feel that the order you unlock them in is rather awkward since you will be frequently jumping back in forth in time to different spots on the calendar, which can come across as jarring. Hell the second to last unlockable scene takes place before any other event in the visual novel, while the last takes place at the very end.
Since I have talked enough about the story, it is finally time to touch on the presentation and interface. It should be fairly obvious by now that Kindred Spirits on the Roof is a visual novel, which means no gameplay other than reading, selecting scenes you want to view, and occasionally making choices. The choices do not have any effect on the main plot and the only difference they make is that they allow you to unlock more extra scenes at the end. Seeing as how it is easy to just skip through the text, answer the question, then skip through the rest, it kind of defeats the point of having choices in the first place.
Interface wise, the visual novel is effective in that it has the usual features like being able to skip through text you already read, save at any time, and scroll back through previous text. What was a real lifesaver, however, was the fact that the visual novel autosaves whatever text you have read so that you will not need to re-read any text if it crashes on you and you will still skip right to where you left off. Considering that this visual novel had a habit of freezing up any time I left it idle for too long, this was a vital addition.
The art style is very nice and well drawn. I especially like the designs of all the characters. They all have an anime style, but their designs are still in the realms of reality (with the exception of Ano’s absurdly long hair) yet still have a look that I can best describe as “cool.” Nothing feels exaggerated but everything looks nice. I do also remember some scenes that have made especially good use of sound effects. The soundtrack contains some really nice songs, but they unfortunately get repetitive considering you have the same six or so tracks being re-used ad nasuem. The most egregious example was the track “Milestone,” the obligatory sad, emotional track. Not only is this playing during about 50% of the scenes near the end of the visual novel, but it was also used in the more emotional yet happy scenes where it didn’t fit. The most jarring example is how it plays on the last ending screen the visual novel gives when you have seen every scene.
When all is said and done, none of the visual novel’s flaws kept me from enjoying the it though. The worst I can say was that there were some parts that were underwhelming or that could have been better, but nothing I would say was bad. Regardless of the small amount of flaws it has, it is a must read for just about any visual novel fan, or any fans of not just yuri romance, but for romance in general. This visual novel was absolutely incredible and I am infinitely grateful I got the chance to read it. Kindred Spirits on the Roof is $35.00 on Steam, and is absolutely worth it in both the quality and the quantity of the content. Hell you should probably get the complete collection bundle on the Steam page that includes the radio dramas. Granted I haven’t listened to those yet, but it is a pretty good value considering each of the four volumes cost $10.00 individually (except the fourth which is $16.00) so you’d be saving quite a bit of money by getting them and the visual novel in one bundle.
There is not much else for me to say about Kindred Spirits on the Roof, other than that it is a necessary experience for any yuri fan, and is still highly recommended even if you are not.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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