White album 2 -Introductory chapter- review

Thank you, White Album 2, for reminding me just how much I love love triangles. Hmm… I’m craving musical drama right now. Maybe I’ll start Kirakira?

Note: White album 2 is written in a not-so-common way. Like the Ef series, this will be split into two parts. The first game, the Introductory chapter, is the one that I am reviewing today. The second game, the Closing chapter, has yet to be released.

Premise:

Under the falling snow, a love triangle blooms. Through friendship, through music, through an unrelenting bond with one another, everyone is hurt all the much more. Will you listen to it? The love that started with “White Album”.

Guh, that sounds like a commercial.

There are only 2 guys, Haruki and Takeya, left in the light music club. The others all left due to the fact that Takeya is an incurable womanizer. Since the two guys both play guitar and the school festival is only a month away, there was little hope of a club revival. However, after an impromptu performance, Haruki finds 2 two girls who just might be able to help the club give the performance.

Meh, that doesn’t carry the mood.

Through music, Haruki meets two girls, Setsuna and Kazusa. They-

Ahh… I give up.

Characters:

Kitahara Haruki:

A very nosy protagonist. He’s the class iincho, and many would say that he’s a bit TOO good at the job. In fact, if there’s any problem, he’ll be the first one to volunteer to try and fix it, and whenever he tries to help, he ends up becoming  the main organizer in the process. In his spare time, he is a part of the light music club, although he’s very clumsy when it comes to music.

Setsuna Ogiso is the school idol and well known to be an ojou-sama from a rich and rather strict family. However, she’s actually a down to earth older sister of a middle class family who loves karaoke.

Touma Kazusa is a coodere who sites next to Haruki. She’s a musical genius from a famous family who transferred into his part of the school after her personality got her kicked out of the musical department. She appears apathetic towards everything, except for Haruki, who is the receiving end of some anger on a regular basis.

Setsuna’s family.

Haruki’s friends.

There are a few other shown characters, but their roles are very minor.

Story:

The story is roughly split into two parts.  The first part is about how the three of them come together and prepare for the school festival. This has some quite hot blooded moments on Haruki’s part, and maintains a pretty light atmosphere. The second part of the story starts after the school festival, and continues all the way to the end. It focuses on the relationship between the three of them, and also launches full on into drama mode.

Because this is only the introductory chapter, the story isn’t all that long. It is also linear, though completing the game once unlocks a few more scenes with the heroines in third person. Although I wanted something a bit longer, I believe that, in this case, short and sweet was the way to go.

The slice of life was right up my alley (that doesn’t happen often), and I haven’t been this into a love triangle since…I can’t remember the last time that I was this into a love-triangle. The three characters compliment each other very well, though Kazusa captured all of my sympathy. The characters are layered, complex, and each given their chance to shine. The drama is well planned out and absolutely delicious.

The world isn’t ending, the setting isn’t fantastical, and the theme is the most cliched in human history. But the writer takes what’s there and created a fantastic atmosphere with an excellent pace. The simplest, smallest things carried so much meaning and emotion. Even a few words, let it be spoken by a character, thought by a character, sang by a character, had a strong impact. Small details are dispersed throughout the story, not really plot twists but still little treasures for the reader to discover.

I’m completely pumped for the Closing chapter now.

Art:

As always, Nakamura Takashi’s art is hit and miss. Some, such the above image, are quite nice. While others…well…

Let’s just say that it can be improved on and leave it at that, shall we?

The same problem plagues the background art.

Most of the backgrounds doesn’t match up to the quality of the above image, especially in event CGs, where the quality takes a nosedive.

There are many variations to the character CGs, with many poses, arm movements, and outfit changes. Because the second part of the story takes place after a time skip, this also means that all the art was drawn for this game and this game only, which feels quite luxurious. That doesn’t stop many images from being…odd, though.

For instance, one of Setsuna’s eyes look unnaturally higher than the other. There are also many other anatomy problems, though I’m sure the kick picture above is more than enough to demonstrate that. in the end, however, it’s still all up to persona preference, and I have to say that the good outweighs the bad, unlike certain other games that Nakamura Takashi has drawn for. Plus, it really grows on you.

Sound:

Being a story that was brought together by music, the emphasis on the sound is quite apparent. The soundtrack is quite extensive, padded up by all the classical pieces played by Kazusa on her piano. There’s a lot of attention to detail, with many tracks of the same piece of music, changing as the members practice with each other more. At many points in the story, the game automatically shifts to auto mode (which cannot be switched off) and matches the words to the music that is being played. This is also used when a character interrupts another, though the effect isn’t as nice.

This game pays a lot of homage to the original White album, mostly though covers and remixes of songs such as “White album”, “Powder snow”, “Sound of destiny”, and “Shin ai”. Most of these are remixes used for BGM, though some are covers sang by Setsuna. While I love her version of White album, I love Shin ai too much to accept her version (she’s lacking some passion). The opening, ending, and insert songs, however, wasn’t sang by the seiyuu.  The opening song, “Todokanai Koi” (届かない恋), and the ending song, “Twinkle snow” were both sang by Uehara Rena. Though my favorite song from the game, “After All -Tsuduru Omoi-” (After All -綴る想い-) was performed by Akari Tsuda.

The BGM was also really nice. It fit the atmosphere, it sounded refreshing. BUT. The problem was that I had played Toheart2. And this sounds EXACTLY like Toheart2’s BGM. It felt a bit too…weird, I suppose.

The voice acting was superb, and every character with a spoken line was voiced, even the protagonist. Kazusa’s voice was especially nice, I can find no faults with it. When she just sat there and cried…wow, that was heart wrenching.

System:

Very nice.

While the basic system itself was very simple, there were many small touches that made it great. Aside from the auto auto mode that I mentioned earlier, there were many other effects used to enhance the atmosphere. The blurring of the screen when the character cried, the extremely nice snow effects (the best I’ve ever seen, by the way, PLUS its speed changes according to the scene), the wide screen (with many size options),  the way that Haruki’s guitar shows up when he’s tuning., the little animated eye catches. It all works in harmony. One of the scenes, where Haruki is running through the city, is actually animated, which I thought was a touch too much.

I’m a tab disappointed after realizing that the PS3 remake of the original White album was actually animated (hair, limb, eye, and mouth movement) and that White album 2 would never be like that though.

And did I mention that I absolutely love the way that they show snow in this game? There’s a screencap of it a little earlier, but it does NOT do the snow justice. Yes, it’s a weird thing to focus on, I know, but at one point I actually felt like snow was falling in front of my eyes and blinked automatically. That’s how good it was.

Story:9×5=47.5/50

Art:8.5×3=25.5/30

Music: 9/10

Programming: 9/10

Total: 91/100 A

An epic love story that’s more like a movie than a visual novel with some really nice production values. White album 2 -IC- is definitely worth getting and spending a day with. Kazusa forever! I can’t wait for the Closing chapter, which probably won’t be linear, but hopefully just as good.

P.S.: Setsuna’s “Usotsuki” was creepy, enough to give Rena a run for her money. I love it.

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5 thoughts on “White album 2 -Introductory chapter- review

  1. Yeah you chinese readers are so lucky I want to play this too.I enjoyed the white album anime a little but I think the VNs are better,and I want to read another sory with a love triangle.

  2. I sure wish you had been able to write more detailed entries on exactly what happens in each heroine’s story.

    Is the game of the “1 game for the price of 2” persuasion, though? It seems that in order to make more profits while spending less time and money on development, this “episodic gaming” really just forces interested players to pay more for less content.

    I would agree that Takeshi Nakamura should not have been the sole artist for this game. Not only did he become a bottleneck for the production schedule, but his art also has some real issues when it’s on its own and doesn’t have to change in order to look similar to another artist’s work.

    This brings up the question of why Takeshi Nakumura was slated to work alone for this game. Takeshi Nakamura and Misato Mitsumi were a winning combination in Tenshi no inai 12-Gatsu, and his art in To Heart 2 was also good. On its own it looks worse than the art in the aforementioned games.

    Who are the voice actors for Setsuna and Kazusa? Do they do a better or worse job at singing than Aya Hirano and Nana Mizuki did? Those two are certainly the most famous singers of “White Album” and “Sound of Destiny.”

    • There isn’t anything that happens in each heroine’s story, technically, because this is linear. Plus, it’s a slice of life which builds up into a drama, and I don’t quite think that a story summary does much for it.

      I actually think that splitting this into two parts was a good idea, as putting the pre and post time skip stories together would have been quite jarring pacing wise. I’m a believer in quality over quantity, so I have to say that this is more than a money scheme. This introductory chapter is much stronger than the vast majority of other (and more branched/longer) games, and it’s worth getting this over other things.

      Takeshi Nakamura wasn’t originally slated to draw for this game. He saw the story, made some character sketches on his own spare time, the sketches ended up in front of the project managers/writers/whoever was in charge. And it was decided that he would draw for it. Too bad…Katawa Hisahi’s re-do of white album looks SO much better…

      I can’t seem to find their seiyuu, and as far as I can tell I’m not the only one with that problem. This contains my favorite version of White Album, and I prefer this new sound of destiny over that of the original recording for the game but not the remake for the anime. Kazusa’s seyuu never sang, so I don’t know about that. Anyway, it’s all on youtube, so you should listen for yourself.

      …every time I write a review I remember stuff that I should have put in later…

      • Hmm, so it was that linear? That reminds me of another game from the original White Album’s time period, called “With You ~ Mistume Teitai” which also came out in 1998, only featured two “winnable” girls, and was criticized for being quite linear, despite being highly anticipated.

        I’m still of the view that whomever it was who greenlighted Nakamura Takeshi’s sole illustration of the game made a mistake, especially how his work in Tenshi no inai 12-Gatsu or To Heart 2 looks so much better than this. Collaboration decreases the per-artist workload, prevents the “cloning blues,” and sometimes even improves the art!

        So Kazusa never sang, only played the saxophone and dressed in fanservice costumes? Too bad.

        Funny that you mention the White Album remake. Kawata Hisashi’s art has definitely changed over the years, but one thing that hasn’t improved is how Yuki and Rina both look too young for their supposed college age status (and don’t even get me started on Haruka or Mana). Yayoi’s story was the most intriguing to me in the anime and original game, but now that the PS3 versions all-ages only, it’s lost a great deal of the emotional tension.

        I really must wonder how both the WA2 girls ended up in the same hot spring with Haruki though . . .

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