Review written by Misya Danielle
Natural -Beyond Nature- is a thought provoking supernatural mystery visual novel about the impact humans have on nature and the impact nature has on humans, the visual novel focuses on the fate of two girls effected by nature in a supernatural way. The visual novel was developed by the increasingly popular visual novel developer Zeiva Inc, they are best known for their titles Voices From the Sea and Anicon- Animal Complex among numerous others. The visual novel was published by Zeiva Inc to their official website and to Steam in early December of 2016, you can purchase the visual novel digitally from Zeiva Inc’s official website or from the Steam Store page. On Steam the visual novel does not include any Steam achievements but there is a set of five collectible Steam trading cards. There is also a DLC for the ending theme priced at ninety nine cents in US currency.
The story takes place on a once lively island where numerous tragedies have taken place beginning with a long past man made disaster. On the island two young women affected by a childhood tragedy are cursed, intended as a gift the curse is keeping one of the two alive while taking away from the life of the other but time is running out for both of the young women. The protagonist Olea is the last hope for the two victims of fate but can Olea save both of them or will you have to choose to save only one of them? It is up to the player to play through and collect all of fragments to get the true ending, depending on your decision at the very beginning of the game you will meet either Llima or Flori and learn about the curse affecting the two girls. Llima is an incredibly straight forward and strong willed girl dressed in green while Flori is a very gentle and hard working girl dressed in warm colors. While the two girls are nearly opposites of each other they have been best friends since childhood and now suffer the same cruel fate. Going through the story multiple times lets you experience the story from different points of view and in a different way depending on the choices you make, it is also vital to play through again for more of the fragments that lead you to the true ending. The story is initially intriguing but can feel like it drags on due to requiring multiple play throughs for the true ending, while it may have been intended to add replay value it instead made it feel like a long dragged out experience. The experience would have been better if there were more changes to the story line based on choices and if the true ending could have been achieved by a certain set of choices rather than requiring more play throughs.
The gameplay is nothing particularly unique at its core, like most Zeiva Inc games it runs on flash player and uses a very basic system that is lacking in important features. Saving the game is made nearly useless as the two paths are very short and can be completed in less than an hour depending on how fast the player reads, there is also no sense in loading the save files of previous play throughs once you complete the play through since a new game in the Beyond Nature portion is required to obtain more of the fragments needed for the true ending. The visual novel does not include an auto skip feature like a majority of other visual novels and instead forces you to hold the button to skip dialogue, animations in the visual novel cannot be skipped making additional play throughs for the fragments feel even more tedious. The gameplay mechanics could have been much stronger than they were and it would have been better if their were auto skip options that work for both dialogue and animations, overall this is the weakest aspect of the visual novel.
The visuals are soft and colorful making the visual novel very pleasing to the eye but when you have already played so many other Zeiva Inc visual novels it starts to feel very generic. A majority of the characters in some way resemble characters from other Zeiva Inc titles or have similar color schemes, the art style is beautiful but the characters need more variety. Another thing that Zeiva Inc fans may notice is that many of the characters have a flat expression or empty eyes that seems almost depressed giving the characters less personality and making them feel very monotone, while many of their visual novels including this one are dark or tragic one would still expect a bit more expression. Each of the backgrounds are beautiful and full of soft tones, the only notable weakness when it comes to the backgrounds is that some backgrounds have too strong of lighting making the scene appear a little white washed. The most I can say for the animations is that they are incredibly basic which isn’t terrible but it also doesn’t improve the gameplay in any way. The graphics are the strongest point of the visual novel despite the few weaknesses present in the designs of the characters.
While the game features an interesting plot and beautiful graphics it is not quite worth the full price, I highly recommend getting the game during a sale. The first play through will be enjoyable but if you are a perfectionist and want to go for all of the endings it gets far too repetitive, this is definitely something to ponder about before purchasing this visual novel. The experience is lacking in a lot of aspects and certainly had a lot more potential but don’t let that scare you away, there are plenty of things about this visual novel that are interesting despite its flaws. I recommend playing the free visual novel Voices From the Sea first since it precedes this visual novel, while the two visual novels are not directly connected you will get some cameo appearances in Natural -Beyond Nature-. For those who have played Voices From the Sea it is very important to note that Natural -Beyond Nature- is not as light hearted , it features a much darker story filled with death and tragedy.
PROS (+): Intriguing story, Interesting Character Backgrounds, Beautiful Graphics, Enjoyable Soundtrack.
CONS (-): Incredibly Basic Gameplay Mechanics, Repetitive Gameplay Required for True Ending, Character Facial Expressions Lack Emotional Range.
SCORE – 7.0/10
This review is based on a purchased copy of Natural -Beyond Nature- on Steam.