It’s Gonna Be A What?
I’ll be the first to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong as a game designer with mixing genres together, so long as the end result is something that the player can enjoy and appreciate. In some instances, you’ll end up with something that finds itself fitting well together. Other times you will find yourself with an end result that is more akin to oil and water.
Published by Sekai Project and developed by 773, Cherry Tree High Girls’ Fight (abbreviated as CTHGF from hereon out) tries to mix together Japanese-style visual novels and a card battling game. Suffice it to say, it’s something that could have used a little more thought and care than what was presented. It released on Steam Greenlight exclusively for Windows on June 13, 2016 at a price point of $12.99.
When it comes to visual novels, there is a level of imagination involved. I do recognize that some people are more concerned with an engaging story instead of interesting visuals, and this is not a strength of CTHGF in the realm of combat. The anime art style is perfectly serviceable in the realm of a visual novel, and it’s one of the game’s few strengths. However, it falls absolutely flat the moment you enter the ring.
You’re presented with an energy bar, round counter, move cards, and the fighters. Functionally speaking, it does what it needs to do, but having static semi-moving images isn’t particularly engaging when your fighters are the focal point here. Sure, there are the usual sound effects and visual effects as you attack, but those visual effects are minimal at best and don’t do a very good job in keeping the player invested. However, the music is decent and isn’t distracting. It’s high energy, but average at best.
The game puts you in the shoes of a new instructor at the titular school that is tasked with coaching one of the many teams of girls on campus. You choose between three girls with varying attributes and strengths and put them through the wringer to prepare for fights against other teams. Since you are their coach, you are tasked with making sure they are ready to take on their fellow opponents. However, a lot of characters are very paint-by-numbers in regards to character attributes, and not a lot of them really express any interesting personality or dialogue.
The game is primarily split into two sections that are sectioned throughout the school week. During the first four days of the week, you will find yourself training your fighters to prepare yourself for the coming matchup at the end. This is where you will buff their stats and give them new moves as you continue to train them. There is also an element of emotional management here, but this is rather bare bones as well. You can pep talk them once a day as well as let them rest, but your time is better spent buffing stats as often as you can. Training sections are short but are just as important as the match.
Once you finish your training for the week, you will finally enter a fight. This is where the mechanics of the game starts to take a bit of a dive. You and your opponent will each be given a hand of five cards that are related to different attacks and defenses. Combat simply boils down to having a better card than your opponent and hoping that the luck of the draw didn’t put you in a bad position. Deck building is nonexistent, and strategizing can prove to be difficult due to the lack of depth here. Some hands will put you out in front, and others will swing in your opponent’s direction. Skill is not as effective here as it would be in other card-based games. Say what you will about Hearthstone‘s setup, but it at least gives the player the chance to get a feel for the game and do as much work on their strategy/deck building as they need to. I’m also fine with games that don’t hold your hand, so long as the player can learn from their mistakes. Not so here, and it suffers as a result.
Looking at this game as it stands, CTHGF is kind of an interesting beast. From one perspective, you have an interesting way to put a twist on the visual novel genre. However, that twist needs to come with a little bit of cohesive gameplay that complements the visual novel, rather than be a chore. I’m not going fault them for at least giving this a try, but I think it would have been beneficial for 773 to go back to the drawing board on this one. It’s a premise that was worth exploring, but the execution of the concept was less than stellar. If you’re interested in giving it a look, a sale would be the best way to try it. Otherwise, approach with caution.
~ Final Score: 5/10 ~
Review copy provided by Sekai Project for PC. Screenshots both taken by reviewer and courtesy of Sekai Project.