Saturday, June 16, 2018

Rakuen (Review)

I don't usually post 'traditional' reviews on this blog, but I really wanted to share my thoughts on this game with you. I posted this review on Steam first, but felt it would be worth uploading here as well.

Rakuen is a beautiful adventure/puzzle game about a Boy and his Mom. The Boy has to stay in the hospital, but using a special storybook, his Mom shows him the way into the magical world of Morizora's Forest. This game is played from a top down perspective like an RPG Maker game.



Story:

I don't want to spoil anything, but I will offer a general overview: The hospitalized Boy visits Morizora's Forest in hopes of getting a wish from the forest guardian Morizora. But to get his wish, he needs to help the other patients resolve their problems by going through their history and finding out what led them to where they are. As a result, the story is filled to the brim with charming and interesting characters who you really get to know as you work to help them out. And of course, there are plenty of emotional moments. There are lines that'll make you laugh, and there are lines that'll hit you like a punch in the gut. If you're looking for a story with powerful emotions across the board, look no further.

Presentation:

Having heard Laura Shigihara's work in Plants vs. Zombies and To The Moon, I had lofty expectations for the soundtrack, but even those were surpassed. The soundtrack is filled to the brim with beautiful tracks, from atmospheric pieces to melodies that will get the most stoic people teary eyed. Not only are Laura's amazing vocals present, she has also brought in several guest vocalists who all perform their pieces admirably as well.

The visuals are also strong, with plenty of recognizable character designs and vibrant areas. The visuals and story work together in smart ways, too; the colors in the hospital are much more desaturated than the bright colors of Morizora's Forest, for example.

My only minor problem, if you can even call it that, is that some characters in Morizora's Forest don't have many character portraits. Tony Bear could have used maybe one more portrait, just to shake it up. Not a completely unique pose, just a few more facial expressions, like his human counterpart.


Gameplay:

Rakuen mostly revolves around exploration with some light puzzle solving. Fortunately, the puzzles generally tie into the story and history of the characters you are helping out. They are usually not very challenging but offer a nice change of pace. Some areas are reminiscent of classic RPG Maker horror games like Ib and The Crooked Man in how they require you to figure out the environment and its interacting pieces.



My one minor problem with the gameplay, I would say, is that the game asks if you want to look at or read something a bit too often. Sometimes you'll be looking at an item with two separate 'do you want to read it?' or 'do you want to look?' questions. I understand why this is - there are lots of things to read, and you don't want to accidentally read the same thing twice, but in that case it might have been better to separate it into two interactable items instead.

Conclusion: 


Rakuen is a beautiful game with amazing visuals and music as well as a powerful story, with plenty of fantastical and frightening places to explore. Any complaints I could have are too minor to make a difference. Recommended for everyone.

Try it here: https://store.steampowered.com/app/559210/Rakuen/

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