Aster review

Technically, summer vacation has started for me. So, unless my summer courses kill me or something, I should be able to post on a more regular basis, maybe even… *gasp, blog anime….

Aster is the latest game released by Rusk, a company which, since then, seems to have disappeared off the radar. Which is rather unfortunate, since Aster isn’t bad at all.

Premise (stolen from VNDB, as always):

Aster tells the story of four young men, which lives are connected by one incident.

It all begins with Hiro Sakaki. He is a high school student, and enjoys his life with his old friends, Saki and Saya, twin sisters.
Under the summer sun, their relationships change little by little… “There is no miracle but hope…”.

Story:

There is one thing I have to say outright: the structure of the story is convoluted. What you have to understand is that most of the slice-of-life is rather boring, and the story doesn’t get interesting until the drama sets in. Unfortunately, we’re treated to a rather long prologue from one protagonists’ view, where the (oh so predictable) drama starts off 2 minutes before the prologue ends (when I say predictable, I mean predictable. The moment it started raining you just KNOW there was going to be a car accident… sigh…). Now, if this led to the meat of the story, that would have been great, unfortunately Aster has multiple protagonists, AND it’s linear, AND all the stories are in approximately the same time frame covering some of the same events. Unlike an integrated story a-la Katahane, the writers did this:

Prologue

Once completed, the following are unlocked and can be accessed from the main menu:

Haruna, Hina, Miyuki

Once completed the following are unlocked:

Saki

Once completed the following are unlocked:

Haruna after, Hina after, Miyuki after

Once completed the following are unlocked:

Saki after

Once completed the following is unlocked:

Aster

Do you see the problem here? The prologue, Saki, Saki after, and Aster are parts of the SAME story, but it’s cut into four pieces, forcing the flow of the story to grind to a halt. I especially don’t understand why the stories are split into the normal paths and the after paths. Yes yes, there is more romance and h-scenes and that stuff in the after stories, but the drama and the plot relate back. One of the stories end with a freaking wedding, and then to slap some kind of drama after that just feels forced. They didn’t need to add in hollow closure in two parts, just combine the stories and leave all the closure until the end!

ARG!

Other than that though, the story is rather good and even made me cry. There is a huge cast of characters which all relate to each other, sometimes in surprising ways (around 1/3 of them don’t actually do anything, but still). It’s not that long either (although I did skip a sizeable chunk of the slice-of-life).

Characters:

There are four protagonists. Sakaki Hiro (loves cooking, but has no friends), Kyouji Yanagi (antisocial, is a a co-worker of Hiro, since his sister and brother-in-law owns the restaurant where they all work), Masato Odamaki (the brother of Hina, who’s dating Kyouji, and lives in the same building as the girlfriend of of Miyuki’s tutor), and Mutsuki Hagiwara (goes to the same school as Hiro, and is the kendo rival of Odamaki).

…You can tell that the relationship charts are rather complicated with this one. Good luck keeping track with all the character relations.

Yuzuki Saya is a neighbour of Hiro and one of his only friends. She is absolutely smitten for the moron, is soft spoken, polite, good at cooking, and all around classic childhood friend.

Yuzuki Saki is the other childhhood friend and Saya’s twin. It’s rather obvious than she likes Hiro too, but she pretends that’s not true for Hiro and Saya’s sake. She’s more of a tomboy and is in the Kendo club. In my mind, she’s the most sympathetic and likeable character in the entire story. I have a thing for younger sisters who don’t get her way, I know…. That’s why I also liked the imouto route in Moshiraba so much too… Anyway, being voiced by Aoba Ringo definitely helped, not to mention her story is seriously the most interesting out of all the heroines.

Yamabuki Miyuki is the demure and shy iinchou of Masato. Her mother is rather sickly, but she tries her best in her everyday situations, even though she doesn’t really have a strong presence. I thought that her route was rather lackluster, for the same reason that I disliked Moe’s route in Da Capo. I mean, crippling depressing doesn’t just go away that easily! I do like her after story though, as it was rather tear-jerking.

Himenagi Haruna is the go-at-her-own-pace airhead model sempai all rolled into one. I thought that her route was the least interesting.

Odamaki Hina is the other imouto in the story, although of course, since there are multiple protagonists, she has a romantic relation with someone OTHER than her actual brother. Hina’s cheerful and bright, but a little spoiled. Her route wasn’t bad.

Art:

Despite being released… holy flying cow 2007 was FIVE years ago…. sigh… the art has aged rather well. Some of the characters look disproportionally small, but I like the coloring and the backgrounds don’t look cheap. I don’t deny that seeing the CGs a few years ago is the main reason I set out to play this now. The only problem I have is that most of the art is done by Asaba Yuu, but Haruna and Miyuki is drawn by another artist whose style I don’t like as much.

Music:

Cheesy graphics in the opening aside, I rather like the music in this game. There are some jazzier pieces and piano which set it apart from the standard fare.

I still have my slightly irrational hatred of Izumi Maki/Yanase Natsumi, which isn’t helped by the fact that I just don’t like Saya’s character, but Aoba Ringo did a great job and I don’t have complaints about the other seiyuu.

 

Programming:

Standard fare.

Story:7/10

Art: 9/10

Music: 9/10

Programming: 7/10

Gut feelings: 8/10

The writers set out to make a story where everything ties together, and the complex character relations certainly reflect that. Everything DOES come together, despite the tedious story structure. And if you’re looking for a short, dramatic story set in winter, this is one of the better ones out there.

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7 thoughts on “Aster review

  1. I remember seeing this in 2007 (November right)? Of course I couldn’t read so I looked at CGs, nice to see your review of it.

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