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Update: It’s been a few weeks without an update to my blog. I’ve been very busy with work, including traveling out of state for work and I haven’t had time lately to write any new reviews. But I’m back. Today I’m reviewing Shira Oka 2nd Chances. I played this game last year and really enjoyed it. Let’s take a look at it together below!
Title: Shira Oka 2nd Chances
Publisher: Okashi Studios
Genre: Visual Novel with Dating Sim and Stat Raising Elements
Where to Buy: http://www.okashistudios.com/
Overall: 62/80 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”
Story: 10/10 Note: One really cool thing about this game is all the stuff it teaches you about Japan; there’s even a library where you can read about the different cultural terms that you encounter. It explains many of the holidays, traditions, beliefs, and cultural issues in the game. I thought this was really cool. It adds educational value to the game for younger players, or for anyone who wants to learn about Japan.
J-List is a peaceful island of Japanese pop culture for you
The story begins by showing that you have wasted your life and have amounted to nothing. Then an angel appears to you in a dream, a nightmare, you’re trapped in hell, but when you wake up, this angel is real and standing in your bedroom. She explains that you are being given a 2nd chance to make up for your mistakes in life. She says you’re being sent back to highschool and must help the other students in order to escape your miserable fate. Some of the students are deeply troubled while others are merely trying to follow their dreams. But whatever they’re going through, they need your help. The story is told through multiple play throughs where by you select a different student to help each time. After helping all of the students, you will unlock Kasumi’s route. If you try to get onto Kasumi’s route before completing the others, you will always reach a bad end – something I learned the hard way, and only discovered when I contacted the company for support. Which is a shame because Kasumi is my favorite character 🙂 Most of the routes and characters are really refreshing, with both touching moments, and comedy thrown in as well. The only route I really didn’t care for was Aya’s.
Gameplay: 8/10 The gameplay combines both visual novel and stat raising gameplay. You attend highschool and as your stats increase, there are new events and opportunities to get closer to the other students. You may find you fail at certain events in the beginning but are able to overcome them on subsequent playthroughs. You can also consult the angel or call a student on the phone to get tips on what you should do next if you ever get stuck. Calling the girls, taking them out on dates, or correctly responding to the dialogue choices through the game will determine which character’s route you “get on”. If you don’t get on any route you’ll be sent back to the beginning to try and try again.
The only thing I will criticize is lack of a skip function. That drove me completely mad. I don’t know if the game has since been patched to include one or not. But really being able to skip seen text is a MUST in these types of games arghhh……. and “Auto Play” is not the same as skip, because its still at a slow pace.
Now with the bad out of the way, let’s talk about the good, because there’s a TON of good going on in the gameplay. Things that make Shira Oka truly unique in the industry of visual novels. It’s almost ALWAYS a different game every time you play. There’s hundreds of random events which may or may not happen on a play through. I was in my 10th or even later play through before I saw certain events. Also new classes and subjects to train will open up as you advance.
Even if you get a bad ending (or a good ending for that matter), it’s not game over; you’re sent back with your enhanced stats and new dialogue choices open up, and it’s just a really refreshing and unique experience. It makes multiple play throughs amazingly fun.
There are tons of opportunities for player choice and interaction. It’s a very engaging visual novel. You don’t have to read too much before reaching another opportunity to interact which I really love about this game.
I’m deducting 2 points for the lack of a skip function. If it had that, It’d be a flawless 10/10 experience.
Characters: 10/10 I loved most of the characters in this novel. My favorite is poor Kasumi. After that, probably Yui. I also really liked Alice and Naoko. I can’t really get too much into describing the characters without spoiling too much of the game. Here is a VERY brief rundown.
Alice is a foreign exchange student who loves music.
Naoko is a very mature motherly figure who takes care of her little brother while her parents are working overseas. She loves to cook.
Aya is an obnoxious brat who loves anime and has a carefree outlook on life.
Rena is alot like the harry potter character, luna lovegood. She is very kind, quiet, and kinda strange. She loves the occult, and is very superstitious.
Suzu is a strange young girl who loves building and repairing things and running experiments
Kazuki is Naoko’s little brother and Suzu’s best friend. He has trouble making friends and is rather shy.
Hiroshi is a guy in your class that all the girls love and guys envy. He is both a friend and rival for you throughout the game. He’s also Rena’s brother.
Yui is a very sad and lonely girl without many friends. She gets very nervous talking to anyone so she avoids most of the other students. She loves flowers and cute things such as stuffed animals.
Kiku is an exemplary student with high grades, perfect manners, and active in many different clubs and sports. She’s a popular girl, but she also suffers from pressure and the high expectations that everyone puts on her.
Graphics: 6/10 – Let’s be real, the graphics are not great. This is an American made visual novel and it shows. Americans can “imitate” anime artwork, but they can’t quite get it right. However, the artwork is charming in it’s own way. There are different sprites for different expressions and events. There are also a fairly large number of CG events with more detailed artwork. The art and background environments are brightly colored and the chibi sprites when training look cute and seem to take inspiration from games such as Tokimeki Memorial.
Voice Acting: 2/10 – This is my main complaint with this game; my god…. the voice acting is beyond annoying. It is truly, truly awful. Horrendous….. It grates on my nerves so much that I almost wish it had no voice acting at all. I do give it 2 points because there are some vocal songs that are pretty. But nearly every single character’s speaking voice is cringe worthy.
Music: 10/10 The music in Shira Oka is really pretty and each of the characters sing their own song and the opening theme is catchy too. I enjoyed the sound track to this game quite a bit.
Replay Value: 10/10 You have to play all routes to unlock Kasumi’s route. The way the game sends you back with your stats in tact and the way the random events unfold and new activities appear on multiple playthroughs makes replaying this game a blast. The only small flaw is the lack of ability to skip previously read text. Which does admittedly get annoying. However, the fun things on each play through make this game worth playing over and over. You will see new things almost every time even if you’ve played the game a dozen or more times already. I think that’s really unique. I’ve not seen another novel that does that.
Overall: 62/80 78% C+ “Good Game For Girls”