Pastry Lovers is a colorful and light hearted visual novel that blends otome elements and stat-raising elements into a story about making and eating delicious looking pastries. The visual novel was developed by Chinese game developer Cheng Guang, this is the first of their visual novels to be published on Steam and it is the most whimsical and lighthearted of all of their titles. Pastry Lovers was published to Steam by Forever Entertainment S.A. In late July of 2017 and is currently only available in English and simplified Chinese with no voice acting for either language. The visual novel includes a total of seven unlockable Steam achievements and a set of six collectible Steam trading cards.
The visual novel is set in a fictional location known as Carseland Kingdom, a place where the art of making pastries belongs to those of the upper class. The sixteen year old orphan named Sakura has long dreamed of becoming a pastry chef despite the fact that she is at a social disadvantage, on her sixteenth birthday it was revealed that her natural talent with making pastries may be related to her parents and that they may be out there somewhere. She hears about enrollment at the prestigious St. Patras College and attempts to obtain a scholarship offered to only those who receive the highest possible score on the entrance exams. She is successful in entering the college and begins her journey towards becoming a true pastry chef at the prestigious college, things will be difficult as she tries to fit in as one of very few students who does not hail from a wealthy family and even more difficult is the fact that she was not educated previously as the other students were. Students who do not maintain a certain level of success will be removed from the college, does Sakura have what it takes to stay in? It is up to you to decide if she succeeds or not by increasing her stats and helping her bond with other students, you can guide the aspiring pastry chef to one of over ten different endings and help her discover her origins.
The gameplay mechanics are more advanced than that of most other visual novels, there is a stat building aspect to the visual novel and a bonding system both of which are point based. Stats can be increased by partaking in certain activities such as attending elective courses or studying at the library, stat building is an important part of both the gameplay and story as there are stat requirements in order to continue attending the college. Stats can also be increased by purchasing and following a pet, these are fairy-like creatures that increase your stats by feeding you a morning meal of your choice. Your bonds with other characters can be increased by making certain decisions during an event or by giving the character you want to bond with a cake that they enjoy. There will be points in the story where you will be required to increase your favor with a specified character in order to continue attending the college, by the end of the story you must meet the requirements to choose one of the love interests and determine where Sakura’s path as a pastry chef goes. Each of the love interests will require a specified minimum number of points into one of the stats and a minimum number of points into their favor. Favor with non love interest characters can impact the outcome of certain events or even bring about new events, its good to try and bond as much as you can with townsfolk, teachers, and other students to get as much help as you can.
The quality of translation is severely lacking and has not been improved nearly as much as it should have been. There are so many poorly translated pieces of dialogue that it just doesn’t come together smoothly and much of the error lies with the translation of objects and terms that originate from Japanese culture, many of the Japanese terms that were not properly translated from Chinese to English come across rather strange such as the “string of balls” for the term Dango. There were many times where issues with sentence structure occurred, another common occurrence was the mixing up of past and present tense words such as make and made. This is honestly some of the worst translating I have ever seen in a visual novel but it sure gave me a lot of good laughs. I have never been so glad to play a visual novel that has no voice acting, it would have been awkward to hear Sakura saying something like “I’m going to made a cake” or worse. Honestly, the visual novel has been out long enough that the translation should have been mostly fixed by now. It is truly sad that the developer has pretty much abandoned any effort of fixing the visual novel, it has so much wasted potential. I hope that as demand increases for improvements to the visual novel’s translation that they might eventually be willing to do so.
While a majority of the graphics are absolutely beautiful there are plenty of issues in this aspect of the visual novel as well. It is obvious right away that some of the characters are in a completely different art style, this takes away from the immersion but also just looks very odd. The developer pretty much attempted to fix any differences in art style by using blur to blend the stylistically different characters with the surroundings, this really didn’t fix the issue though. Sakura and her love interests all look great but other characters such as the baker from Sakura’s home town just don’t belong in the game. As you play through the game it also becomes obvious that at some point the developer got lazy and started to use stock images, this also breaks the immersion because these stock images do not fit in with all of the gorgeous anime style backgrounds. The stock images were also blurred in a similar fashion to the artistically different characters, which once again doesn’t fix the problem. This visual novel had the potential to be much stronger visually if the developer would have just put more effort into it, its not all bad but it certainly could have been far better.
As it stands now with a terrible translation and stock images slapped in among the many beautiful backgrounds this is more of a visual novel that you would buy for laughs over the quality, don’t get me wrong the overall gameplay is great and it is great to have so many possible endings but it all could have been better. It feels like the developer had a great idea going and put a lot of effort in to start with then lost enthusiasm along the way and got lazy. If you can live with the poor translation and look past the few scenes where they obviously used the stock images it is at its core an enjoyable game. The bonding and stat building systems are great, the images of pastries are adorable, the designs of the pets are cute, plenty of the backgrounds are stunning, and there is sure to be at least one of the several love interest that the player will enjoy.
PROS (+): Vibrant and Colorful Graphics, Cute Story, Stat Building System, Bonding System, Relaxing Soundtrack, Many Endings.
CONS (-): Severe Errors in Translation, Stock Images Used, Varying Graphic Styles of Characters.
SCORE – 7.0/10
This review is based on a purchased copy of Pastry Lovers on Steam.