Ascendant Hearts Review

ADVENTURE, ROMANCE, AND COMEDY

Ascendant Hearts (which got its start on Kickstarter) is a visual novel developed and published by Visualnoveler, an independent outfit based in Taiwan. Despite its humble origins, this title succeeds in everything it sets out to do: it tells a compelling story, offers the player various choices and endings, mocks clichés while employing them (successfully pulling off a parody), and is somehow both sexy and hilarious at the same time.

HAYATO'S CHOICES

You play as Hayato, a male who wakes up in an RPG world with amnesia. This creates a playful tone, as you possess the self-awareness to understand the stereotypes to expect from the genre, yet your unfamiliarity with this particular world (and your lack of memory of the world you come from) turns you into a bit of a bumbling fool. But you'll enjoy it — trust me.

As a woman, I would have preferred the option to play as female. I was also a little disappointed with the heteronormative structure but was able to look past it. Ascendant Hearts could definitely benefit from more inclusive choices for the player, to be sure, but this likely won't be a problem for most people.

ART TO MAKE YOU DROOL AND WRITING TO MAKE YOU FEEL

The gameplay consists of beautiful albeit static backgrounds, with text and characters overlaid in the foreground. Each new "slide" usually results in minor changes to the foreground, such as a change in facial expression, or a new overlay. Although there’s not much diversity in places, characters, or other visual elements, the foreground/background differentials are effective enough that what you're looking at won't seem limiting, boring, or repetitive. Meanwhile, the music and sound effects complement the content in an unobtrusive, fitting way.

You will require an imagination to enjoy Ascendant Hearts, since it often describes things in text that you will not see portrayed. This was executed competently, as you are given just enough visuals to satisfy — but not coddle — your mind's eye. The writing is rich and descriptive without being dense or tedious, helping paint a picture for you.

Speaking of pictures — the art is drool-worthy, if you like an anime style. The art and the writing are the two pillars that hold up this visual novel. If either one had not been tastefully, competently executed, then the gameplay would cause the player to lose interest. With both aspects carefully tended to, my eyes never glazed over, it never felt slow, I was able to care about the characters, and I was filled with suspense the entire time.

BUT… IS IT TOO SWEET?

If you're wondering if Ascendant Hearts is all fluff and no substance, my answer is that, surprisingly, it's not. Generally, I am turned off by overly-dramatic hysterics and incoherent plots that are prevalent in the anime genre, so I was prepared to have to white-knuckle through it.

To my relief, instead of a cringe-worthy mess, I found a coherent plot, believable characters and situations, and only enough drama necessary to poke fun at the genre. Considering I'm a hardcore classical literature nerd, with a scientifically-oriented mind, the fact that this novel succeeds for me says something about their skill in transcending the genre. I am sure I am nowhere near the intended targeted demographic, and yet Ascendant Hearts wins in my books.

PRACTICAL MATTERS

To get down to the nitty-gritty: What do you get for your money here? Since this is an interactive game, there are multiple paths with multiple endings, dependent upon the choices you make. One playthrough took me about four hours to complete. From my understanding, there are probably three different endings, so that should total about twelve hours of easy, hilarious, romantic content. (By the way, there is nothing X-rated included here, in case you were wondering. There are erotic images and themes, but nothing explicit.)

You receive badges as well as unlock images for the gallery for exploring different paths, so the replayability is decent if either of those matter to you. As for myself, the pure fun that Ascendant Hearts provides will be enough for me to return to it whenever I need a good laugh or a light-hearted adventure.

8

The Verdict: Excellent

This light-hearted visual novel is the equivalent of indulging in a giant piece of chocolate cake. You know it's not what your doctor would recommend; it's mostly empty calories. But nevertheless, it looks amazing, the rush from the sugar is pleasing, and you enjoy every single bite.

Tiffany Lillie
Written by
January 23, 2018
Published in Adventure

Tiffany is a gamer who appreciates having her mind stimulated. Her favorite games achieve this by telling great stories, presenting challenging puzzles, or by allowing her to be creative. She's a total sucker for games that allow her to customize things, although even she will admit there should be limits.

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