Dead End Junction is a visual novel best described as a “digital dime novel” with a unique Japanese flair on the old Wild West days. It is written and directed by Hidume, exclusive member of 773 and the creator of the colorful and whimsical Cherry Tree High series. Published by Culture Select, Dead End Junction depicts an alternate universe of the Wild West days and one that addresses many social issues related to war. Divided into four unique episodes, the game is an intriguing modern twist on the traditional visual novel.
The game begins in the humble one-horse town of Cow Stone Bell and revolves around Josette, a spunky girl with wanderlust for adventure and excitement. After reading a delivered letter intended for her father, Josette gets her wish and journeys beyond the town to see the grand world outside of Cow Stone Bell. Josette learns much about herself as she matures through her struggles, friendships, tragedies and victories as the kinetic novel touches upon prevalent themes around the Civil War. Branded as a Japanese take of the Wild West days, Dead End Junction is a mix of comedy and adventure. Much like a comic book, the dialogue between characters is displayed to the left and right of the screen as they interact with one another.
There is no voice acting in the kinetic visual novel and this allows players to embrace the characters without any vocal cues. With so many visual novels employing the use of voices for their lead characters, Dead End Junction is imaginative and entertaining and one that thrives off the visual aesthetic and charm of its characters and background art. Less can be more and the developers made a wise and strategic decision to let the visual novel stand on its own without the need to deploy any wild western accents or cheesy voice casting.
Dead End Junction is a kinetic novel that ultimately left me wanting for more. At the start, I approached the game with cautious optimism and low expectations but was pleasantly surprised by its character-driven narrative, charm and comic book style visuals. The homage that it pays to classic tunes like “Home on the Range” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” is sure to put a smile on many faces for Wild West fans. With more than my fair share of cliché movies and cheesy titles with Wild West themes, Dead End Junction genuinely felt like a breath of fresh air. For the Wild West and visual novel fans out there, Dead End Junction is a fun and enjoyable ride not to be missed.
Second Thoughts (Misya Danielle):
Dead End Junction is a fun and adventurous kinetic visual novel that explores different aspects of the wild west. The game looks into a number of real world issues that took place in the wild west and some which continue today to some degree. Though the game depicts a lot of serious aspects of the wild west culture it does not fail to be a fun and humorous game at the same time. While the conversations and speech are very accurate to wild west culture there will be plenty of times that you might take notice of the cleverly placed references to modern culture. Many of the characters have unique personalities and they are presented in a way that is more realistic and natural rather than cliche and overdone. The lead character Josette is a rebellious girl who prefers a life of excitement and refuses to settle down or behave as those around her expect her to. Josette’s carefree and rowdy personality sets her apart from other visual novel heroines and adds significantly to the tone of the game. The relevant themes of the game and the unique yet realistic personalities of the characters are both strong points of the game.
The art is not as bright or colorful as the art in most other visual novels but it is detailed and fits the game’s themes perfectly. The character designs are often free of exaggerated traits but that is the reason they stand out from characters in most other visual novels. The scenery, buildings, and other parts of the backgrounds are very accurate to the look of the wild west. The style of the dialogue boxes gives the game a comic book appearance. All of the artistic aspects of the game blend well together to create a fun wild west style world that is full of life. Though the game does not have any choices to make or multiple endings it does not fail to be a fun and appealing game. I highly recommend Dead End Junction to visual novel fans who enjoy wild west themes or those who are just looking for a visual novel that stands out.
PROS: Detailed Art, Intriguing Narrative, Compelling Characters
CONS: Only Four Episodes
SCORE – 8.0/10
This review is based on a digital copy of Dead End Junction on Steam provided by Culture Select.