Back in 2021 I reviewed a rather well-made furry visual novel called Winds of Change, and I was immediately drawn in by its world building and characters. So, when the developer contacted me about reviewing their follow-up title, Komorebi, how could I possibly say no? I knew that one way or another, I’d be in for an experience.
Komorebi was developed and published by Klace, and released on July 27, 2023 on Steam.
A Fresh Start
Set in an alternate Earth’s Toronto, the world of Komorebi is one where, in addition to everyone being animal people, a phenomenon has started over the past few generations where around age 13 everyone receives a vision of the future that they relive every day for the rest of their lives. Well, almost everyone anyway. These visions can lead people to greatness, knowing their success is guaranteed, but there are just as many people with visions of grim futures who turn to anything to avoid it.
In the wake of the chaos these visions brought, a corporation called Argus arose that instituted a strict social scoring system to impose order. Obey the system and enjoy a life of stability. Ignore the system, and you’ll face increased scrutiny, jail time, or even exile from the city to live in the colonies as a “zero.”
You control Delta, who’s recently moved to Toronto to live with their friend Isaac and escape a previous troubled life. Compared to Klace’s previous game, Komorebi is FAR slower paced, more of a slice of life rather than a gripping drama, but there are still a few common threads. Visions of the future are once again a central plot point, but in an inversion, rather than being the only person with visions, here Delta is one of the few people without one.
There’s also the returning theme of corrupt leaders imposing their harsh order on downtrodden people. The zeroes who live outside the city are staging protests to demand access (and more importantly things like ID, food, and shelter), arguing that many of them were born outside the city and never had a choice. These protests, and how the main characters react to them, forms the core of the narrative.
That said, the main characters are all relatively stable. One of my complaints is that the stakes for the main characters are largely self-imposed. While they do put themselves at risk, their issue is purely from moral conviction, rather than being personally affected. It kinda creates this feeling that the narrative is happening around them, and indeed a fair chunk of the story has them essentially going about their lives as they wait for the plot to proceed.
This waiting also goes into what I was saying earlier with the story being slower-paced, but it might be fairer to say it’s back loaded. The story doesn’t really start ramping up until chapter three, which would be fine… if this wasn’t a four chapter game. Their distance from the problem also means a lack of important choices to make. You can decide how the rest of the cast sees Delta, but that’s about it. If you’re here to hang out with a pack of lovable dorks, then you’ll get plenty of time to get to know them all. But if you were expecting more action and suspense like Klace’s previous title, you might be a little bit disappointed.
Lastly for the complaints is the pink elephant in the room… Klace. No, not the developer. The character. See, one of the main characters you’ll find yourself hanging out with is named and modeled after the developer, a literal author-insert character, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take me out of the narrative a bit. Every time a choice came up surrounding them, it was twisted by the feeling that this was a person, not a character.
Though, to give them credit, Klace is a well developed character and if it weren’t for the name I’d probably consider them one of my favorites. They’re also pointedly not the solution to most of the problems that crop up, avoiding some of the worst author-insert tendencies. Still, it was a bit of a sour note and felt a bit gauche.
Now, as for the rest of the characters…I love them. Some did take a little bit to grow on me, some of the things they said could be a bit… uncomfortable during the whole “getting to know you” phase, but that passed all too quickly. They’re all queer, flirty furries, they’re all extraordinary in one way or another, and of course they all have their own tragic backstories. Over the course of the game you’ll have ample time to spend one on one with them, getting to know them and their history and, of course, having the option to date them. All of them, or none of them, if you wish. They’re flexible like that.
Also, in spite of my earlier complaints about the pacing, I was legitimately gripped by the narrative toward the end. Without spoiling too much, there are some fun meta-narrative things going on, and I’m always a sucker for those. I just really wish the plot was given more time to flourish. It feels kinda rushed in a way, and the ending still leaves a lot unexplained. I could easily see the ending being the midpoint of a larger story. Maybe it’ll turn out to be that way with his next game.
A Smaller Slice
As with Winds of Change, the backgrounds in Komorebi have this gorgeous oil painting look to them, though the character art this time around goes for a cel-shaded look with bright vibrant colors that really give this soft appearance and a definite contrast with the background. The music is also a huge part of the experience, with three different vocal tracks over the course of the game (and many more in the tie-in album). And of course I have to give it up for the professional voice cast who lent their talent to almost every line in the game, with comments from Delta being the only unvoiced lines.
Still, while what’s being presented is nice, I do have some issues with how it’s being presented, and how much. Each chapter has you going back to a menu of sorts where you select the next section you’d like to go to, rather than a more immersive system that takes you from place to place in-game. There’s also a distinct lack of characters and locations this time around. I believe there’s only seven other characters who have art and a voice, and maybe a little over 20 locations all told, even counting different shots of the same location.
In an early side conversation, one of the characters mentions the concept of a “bottle episode” in a TV series where all the action takes place in a single area without most of the cast, as a way to save money on the episode while they save their budget to make a bigger splash on the really pivotal ones. That’s quite possibly what’s going on here. But while it makes sense for a TV series to do so, it makes less sense when it’s a series of games that you buy individually. Especially when it’s the same cost as previous titles.
But to flip flop again, I know I wouldn’t be quite this hard on other games. I know I’ve played plenty of other visual novels with a similarly small number of important characters and/or unique locations, but at the same time I can’t help but compare it to Klace’s previous work. When I think of how many minor characters had voiced lines, the sheer breadth of locales you visited there, and compare it to what we have in Komorebi… can you blame me for feeling a little disappointed?
For the Fans
Putting an actual number to this is more difficult than for most games. I enjoyed my time with Komorebi, but was left disappointed at the same time. Everything I loved had some small detail to criticize, and every criticism I had was tied to something I loved.
Overall I would say it all depends on your perspective. Some people like the bottle episodes more than the season finales after all. If you prefer hanging out and getting to know people with a splash of sci-fi dystopian-ish intrigue to give them something to talk about, this will be right up your alley. If you’re here primarily for the sci-fi dystopia and seeing the characters bond over their shared struggle is just a bonus, you’ll probably find it a bit lacking.
Still, at the end of the day, if my main criticism is simply that I preferred the previous entry… that’s probably saying something.
Review copy provided by Klace for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.