OK, let me start this review by admitting that I do NOT approve of the developer’s method of distributing the game, despite the reasons presented for why it was done being very reasonable. See, this game is being distributed in a system where the prologue and the first chapter of each story route are free, but the full main story route beyond that is DLC (and, on release, only one story is available). Frankly, I find this a very dumb way of doing things because it isn’t a complete experience for those who just want a free game without the DLC (which begs the question of why the game is free if you can’t get a complete experience in the free form), yet not all of the routes are available when the game is released to allow the audience to pick the option they want. I appreciate that the developers (if their response to a negative review is true) opted for this method to allow them to finish developing the rest of the story routes due to their funding running out and the fact that it was apparently Valve’s idea means that I can’t get angry at them (Valve, not so much), but, quite frankly, my viewpoint is that, if you’re releasing a visual novel, you either release it as a full product (I’m not too fussed if it is a free game or not) or, if you really must use this method, have a complete self-contained route which does not require purchasing any of the routes to go through. This method of doing things is just dumb and it shot my enthusiasm for covering the game so completely that I would have completely refused to cover it had it not been for the fact that I did a retrospective article last week and every other game available that came out this week was one I wasn’t interested in covering.
So, with my back against the wall, I sat down with Mystic Destinies (the full title’s far too long for me to want to type out for more than just the title of this article!) and gave it a shot. And, honestly, I can see potential in the finished game, despite my personal dislike of how the game has been released. There’s something here which could be actually pretty good in its full form, but, in its free form, doesn’t do enough to warrant getting.
The story of the game is hardly going to win awards for originality, focusing on you playing as a student who joins a school and finds herself having to learn magic with the help of a partner to prevent her causing damage to anyone else. There’s a few details which I’m not going to reveal in this review which make it a little more interesting, but, at its core, you’re looking at something which is basically Harry Potter with dating game elements and, to an extent, a bit of World of Darkness mixed into it. Not the worst core for a game, admittedly, but the story will probably be the thing which makes or breaks this game for you due to the fact that this sort of story isn’t exactly offering anything new. I will admit that it is nice to see a visual novel where the protagonist has an actual reason to start getting into a relationship with a potential love interest which ISN’T based purely on romantic dialogue, though, so there’s some interesting breaks from convention, even in this early stage of the visual novel. I’m a little bit annoyed that the free game ends without any story concluding, since it would be nice to have a conclusion of sorts in the free version of the game rather than a cliffhanger, but some people will have no problems with that, so I’m not going to make too big a fuss over it. I do feel that there’s not a huge amount of choices presented in the free game, but, considering there’s technically five stories that spin off from one prologue and you get a sneak peak into all of the stories (with Shou being the only available full story at the minute, though you do get the first chapter of his story for free), I will put some of it down to how little of the story is presented. There is definitely a lot of story planned, though: twelve chapters are part of Shou’s full story, so I’m going to guess that the same amount of chapters will apply to all of the other stories upon their releases. If so, then I can definitely say that this is a visual novel with a VERY large scope to it, with 61 chapters (including the prologue) to it overall!
The presentation of Mystic Destinies…I am not going to lie, if I could recommend something purely based on the artwork and music choices, this game would probably be getting a huge one. The art style is very unique, having a more realistic look to the people compared to most of the visual novels I have read in the past, but still having anime aesthetics (blue hair springs to mind) that makes the fantasy elements believable (although it does arguably beg the question of how someone could think that there was no fantasy world if they’d seen people with natural purple hair, but hey, acceptable breaks from reality and all that!). The music is also great, enhancing the mood of every scene very well without dominating the proceedings or distracting from the core game. If nothing else, the effort that was put into making this game is undeniable, because this is probably one of the best looking visual novels I’ve ever seen!
Being honest, if the full version of this visual novel was what had been released or there was a complete standalone story for the free version of the game, I’d be enthusiastically recommending it, because the artwork is great and the story, while not exactly breaking any new ground, is interesting enough to make me interested to see where the story goes from here. Unfortunately, the free version of the game as it stands is just too minimal to really make it worth playing in and of itself. I would certainly suggest keeping an eye on this game and coming back to it when all of the stories have been released if you’re into visual novels, since I get the feeling that there’s an excellent one to be found in this when it is completed and I definitely would like to experience the whole visual novel myself, but, if you just want a free game to play, then this simply lacks enough story to make it worth the look into, which is a big problem when you consider that visual novels live and die by the strengths of their story!
Some people say that you should view the free version of the game as more of a demo for what the full game is going for, so I’ll conclude my review by saying that you should give this a try if you’re interested in it, are OK with paying for the full stories in the game and have no problems with the distribution method. I will keep an eye on this game and I fully intend to re-review it once the full game has been released, so, whatever you take from this review, don’t let it be that this game is badly made or that the story is bad, because, honestly, the only thing that is getting a big negative reception from me is how the game is being distributed and the fact that it gives so little in the free version that it’s hard to really recommend it as a free game. The experience in and of itself, however, is genuinely good enough that I do actually WANT to recommend the visual novel and only can’t do so because I’m judging the free game for this series and, like I’ve said, there’s not a lot of reasons to play it as a free game.