Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time is a colorful and quirky kinetic visual novel starring a cast of young social outcasts who are trying to win their way back into society despite their circumstances, it is the very first visual novel from indie developer Studio Beast to receive a Steam release. Since the developer had set their sights on reaching a much wider audience with this visual novel it is natively all ages. Although the plans to localize the visual novel and publish it to Steam were not dependent on it a Kickstarter project was started, the funding goal was reached and the acquired funds went towards making improvements, adding content, and covering the costs of localization. While the developer originally expected have the localization completed and published by the end of 2017 there were some delays. The visual novel was at long last published to Steam on April 24th of 2018 by Fruitbat Factory. The Steam release of Chuusotsu! 1st Graduation includes thirteen unlockable Steam Achievements and a set of seven collectible Steam trading cards that feature some of the visual novel’s vibrant character graphics.
Set in a world where a person’s worth in society is determined by the Authorization Seal distributed to them by the government, Chuusotsu! tellsthe story of a group of odd young girls who have not obtained Authorization Seals and have thus been labeled as failures in society. Among the cast of characters is the young girl named Marisugawa Arue who was unable to obtain her Authorization Seal due to some circumstances outside of her control, due to an illness she was unable to obtain education beyond middle school and has spent most of her time enjoying manga. Arue now dreams of being able to obtain a government job but without an Authorization Seal her dream is impossible, in order to fulfill her own dream she will be required to participate in a program that will grant her an Authorization Seal if she succeeds. The program will unfortunately require Arue to live under the same roof as an air-headed ex gang leader named Koiro and a crazy young girl named Arara. The three of them will be required to work together to clear challenges within a certain amount of time but with Arue’s lack of mental strength, Koiro’s air-headed personality, and Arara’s lack of interest in learning the task at hand proves to be incredibly difficult for the three young girls.
This is a kinetic visual novel meaning that the player can sit back and just enjoy clicking through the story and text. There are no decision to make and the visual novel isn’t long at all making it more of a casual experience, it would certainly be interesting to see how different decisions could impact the future of the three primary characters but the visual novel does not give us the luxury of being able to do so. The gameplay is incredibly and unispiringly simple but the visual novel has some redeeming qualities that do to a degree make up for this, one of these qualities is that while the visual novel appears adorable and fluffy on the outside the dystopian setting along with the way that the society stomps all over the dreams of the young girls in an attempt to create the perfect utopia adds a twist. Another redeeming quality of the visual novel is that many pieces of the plot and story are realistic in that we can see some of these things happening in society today, this adds greatly to the excitement felt when the characters succeed in any way and it makes it far easier to connect to the quirky characters on a more personal level despite their often over the top behaviors.
The graphics are charming and colorful though not particularly unique in any way but this balances out the dark background story and themes. The deceptively cute graphics add a unique twist to the overall tone of the visual novel, while this is not a new idea since this tactic has been used often in anime series such as Puella Magi Madoka Magica and to a degree in Shin Sekai Yori it certainly has a way of making things more interesting. The bright and colorful graphics are quick to pull you in while the dystopian story and many cleverly covered serious and dark undertones keep you interested. The colorful graphics are one of the visual novels strengths but were the story itself as cute and fluffy as the graphics I would have been immediately unimpressed. It takes a lot of hard work on the developers end to pull something like this off and they sure did.
If you are someone that enjoys a visual novel with serious undertones, cute graphics, and a quirky cast of characters trying to make it in society then this visual novel is for you. If you are expecting an all out cute story full of nothing but shenanigans and moe moments prepare to be disappointed, while there is plenty of that in the visual novel there are also many serious moments that will put the players knowledge of philosophy to the test and possibly leave you questioning what it truly means to live. Overall this is an enjoyable visual novel perfect for a variety of audiences but most of all to anyone who likes a deep thought provoking story.
PROS (+): Quirky Cast of Characters, Cleverly Covered Dystopian Story, Cute Graphics, Comical Moments
CONS (-): Lack of Multiple Endings, Characters Over the Top in Behavior
SCORE – 8.0/10
This review is based on a digital copy of Chuusostu! 1st Graduation: Time After Time on Steam provided by Fruitbat Factory.