(Editor’s Note: What follows is the original review written for the first version the author played. Since then, one or more major critiques have been addressed by the developer. For a list of these, see “Addendums” below the original review score at the end of the article.)
There are two fascinating stories of love and devotion tied to Twilight Cherry (Out Now, $.99): one that’s inside the moe-style visual novel and one that surrounds the game’s own stormy release history. When it fell victim to the curse of Engrish the first time m-kz brought it to English-language App Stores last year, one fan – a fellow videogame dev, no less – saw a diamond in the rough and took up the task of editing its script. That the results hold great promise for the future of visual novels on iOS is patently clear, but something nevertheless went terribly awry during the formation of its most recent update and left the overhaul dogged by the ghost of its previous script. It’s a true Shakespearean tragedy in digital form. For the sake of the state of visual novels on iOS, let’s hope there’s a final act yet to be written.
Itself a tale of awkward adolescent romance through and through, Twilight Cherry plants the reader in the shoes of Seiya, a Japanese schoolboy who must choose between his longtime friend and a long-lost childhood crush who suddenly transfers in and rocks his world. Legend has it that if he hopes to find true, everlasting love, he must navigate his own emotional ambivalence and lay a smooch on one or the other beneath the week-long bloom of the local cherry blossom grove. Also, it just so happens that a day or two of that short season has been spent by the time Seiya realizes he’s in the middle of an emotional tug of war, and waiting until next year hardly seems an option. Nothing like a little pressure to make things interesting!
At its best moments the edited writing in Twilight Cherry is impeccably rich and I daresay publishing industry quality. Despite the fact that I’d never admit to picking up an anime or manga of this subject matter – much less one dished out with the moe art style’s characteristic giant bug eyes – the quality of the script edits carried me along. For just as long as the edited text lasted, that is. Alas, like the precious cherry blossoms, these moments are all too ephemeral in Version 1.1.0. The realization that something is terribly amiss doesn’t dawn on the reader all at once, but creeps up gradually during the visual novel’s first hour. When the script began slipping into gaffes like “I lived this town when I small,” I wondered at first whether the editor’s nigh-Shakespearean Dr. Jekyll had briefly given way to the Mr. Hyde of whoever penned Zero Wing‘s legendary intro. I found that the script quality only continued to nosedive, and when untranslated Japanese finally popped up in the middle of my English-language playthrough, I knew: this dish is still only half cooked.
While I found the first half of Twilight Cherry a gradual slide from the heights of excellent penmanship to the lows of full-on Engrish, its second half seemed to throw a bipolar fit between those extremes. Artful lines like “Hina’s reply hissed back, whipping the air” sprung up only a few screens away from awkward phrases like “…holded a cooking pot.” This could very well be a symptom specific to the path I took; as expected of a visual novel, the game offers numerous branching choices once the story begins picking up. Whereas the brushed up writing carries the reader over dull romance tropes early on, the underlying strength of the finale shines through the translation’s later awkwardness — helped in my playthrough by the fact that the script edits happily coincided with the very most compelling passages.
Twilight Cherry‘s script could still use some brushing up in terms of pure technical formatting too: sometimes lines are distributed awkwardly across its virtual pages, leaving the last word in a sentence or even a solitary end-quote hanging rather jarringly on the next screen. Moe fans who can’t help but plunge into this one will want to read the game’s Help screen for its various swipe controls, which, for their number and complexity, I found inferior to the more intuitive virtual buttons employed in ImageCircus’ Road to Emerald.
Even fans of this game’s visual style are sure to be disappointed with the fact that only Seiya’s two love interests are given full art treatment in addition to the wistfully drawn environment stills. The visual novel cycles through a number of background music tracks during its three to four hour play time, ranging from soft rock that struck me as a tad out of place to some really compelling tunes that croonfully accompany the crescendo of this tug-of-war romance, to wonderful effect. Various extras – an art gallery collection and the game’s soundtrack – unlock each time the player completes a new storyline path.
iFanzine Verdict: Visual novel fans who’ve tired of the typical writing level in this genre’s English-language iOS library will no doubt perk up at news of Twilight Cherry’s re-translation. Caution continues to be warranted, however: much more brushing up of the script will be needed before the goal of the script edit is fully realized. If your love of romance visual novels transcends the language barrier they’ve often run into on iOS, however, this is one worth checking into for the power of its underlying story relative to its rock-bottom price, and the fact that it’s received quality script editing at all.
Here’s to hoping the process of editing Twilight Cherry‘s script continues. If it does, and maintains the quality shown in the very best lines of the current script, it would be worthy of an additional star and deserving of a much wider audience.