Released in 2007 by Pajamas Soft, ピアノの森の満開の下 (under the blossoming forest of piano), is a cute little story about love set in Japan a few decades ago.
Ryutaro cares about his younger sister Sakuno more than anything else in the world. But, she has an incurable sickness eating away at her. When the doctor announces that she only has a week left to live, he takes her to a sanitarium with some mysterious tickets, seeing it as her last hope. Upon arriving at the secluded building, tucked away in the mountains, they are greeted by Konohana, the nurse in charge and the only human nearby. With only seven days left, just what can happen? Just what can be done?
Sakuno dies. I’m telling you this because she dies in the first scene and nothing you do will be able to change that. However, the writer uses some pretty interesting writing to work with that. In the first 2 days at the sanitarium, the mood is actually pretty light, with no shortage of comedy. The atmosphere the game gives is also worthy of praise, full of emotion, bittersweet flashbacks and constant growth of character, though it could have gone without some of the more fanservicy events. As Sakuno’s health deteriorates, the mood gets consistently darker, with small hints at what is really happening to the characters and their world. There is only one achievable ending on the first play through, but after that there are 2 more unlockable endings, adding up to an explanation of the mysteries surrounding the sanitarium, with no shortage of surprise to the reader (remember, every little detail adds to the truth).
However, there were flaws. The fact that it could have been better with less h-scenes is one, but I think that the most important thing is the fact that it lacks a certain something. The story is cute, it’s romantic, it’s bittersweet, it makes you go “awww….”, but it’s missing that one vital little spark of emotion that brings the reader to tears. This was quite a pity too, because I thought it really had nakige potential. However, all siscons will find this story to be satisfying and filled with moe and bittersweet tears (the protagonist is a siscon, in every sense of the word, you will not understand until you’ve completed more than one ending though).
Siscon, through and through. He can also play the piano and is kind to people despite having a perverted side. But other than that? Siscon, through and through.Kamimori Sakuno (Seiyuu: Sakakibara Yui)
The sickly younger sister. She loves to sing and play the piano, but often can’t due to her illness. However, she has extraordinary motor skills and hand-eye coordination, and would have been an excellent athlete if she had a healthy body. Because of her illness, she hasn’t developed physically as much as she should have (though she’s at least 17). She is well mannered, hard working, and well meaning at all times, and of course, she loves her brother.
Konohana (Seiyuu: Sakakibara Yui)
The mysterious woman in charge of the sanitarium. For some odd reason, it seems like she knows everything and can do everything. She can predict the weather, cook delicious food, appear and disappear without a sound or effort, and can be summoned with with a hand bell, no matter the distance, within minutes. She also knows just about everything there is to know involving Sakuno’s illness, and is a gentle, caring, and overall soothing person.
3 words: creepy as hell. Master (whose full name is a pain to remember) is a cat who can understand human speech. Konohana describes him as the master of the sanitarium, though at first, no one knows why…
Sakakibara Yui voices both Sakuno and Konohana, and she does a great job at it. Both voices fit so well, and I didn’t even consider the possibility of them having the same seiyuu until I saw the credits. She also sings both the opening song and the insert song, which I don’t love as much. The opening song has a great first 20 seconds, but the rest of it is really generic. The insert song is much better in composition, though the voice she uses is her squeaky acting voice.
The title has piano in it, and certainly, many of the pieces contain piano. I especially like track 11: “scattered cherry blossoms”, though all the piano tracks are good. The same can’t be said for the more comedic (and more generic) tracks, however, and I have to say there was some wasted potential there.
The character art is kind of doujin and cheap looking.
Unfortunately, it seems like this kind of discrepancy continues throughout the whole game… However, the character art IS cute, and it is pretty good once you get used to it…Could have been much better though. The event CGs are inconsistent and the nurse outfit is hideous.
The menu is simple, but well designed. It is semi transparent, so whatever screen you were on will show through somewhat, like the text box.
This is the “appreciation” menu. Here, you can play music, l0ok at CG, review certain scenes, etc. However, this game has a little extra involving Sakakibara Yui.
You can see the sketches she drew while going through the game along with a full interview. I’m a big fan of her, so this is a really nice bonus for me. Of course, I was pleasantly surprised at how good her drawings were (she could have made it as an artist if she wanted to).
The in game system was pretty nice too. It was subtle, non-intrusive, and overall fit the gentle atmosphere nicely. During important scenes, there was this special panning effect which I especially liked, and of course, the cherry blossom petals falling down were nicely done, unlike certain other game which I shall not name.
Overall, a nice, short, little story you can finish in a single afternoon. Could it have been better? Yes. But if you want a short story with nice art, great music, and a touching story, there are few better than this.