8.4

Figures of Happiness review
Very Happy

Summary:



I've taken quite a liking to the visual novel genre ever since I tried out Yume Miru Kusuri. What could easily have been passed off as an excuse to stream as many hentai CGs as possible (and it did quite a lot) also produced three compelling stories that grabbed my attention well. So then I decided to give Figures of Happiness a try, and honestly I think we may have another winner.

From the outset Figures is a lot more bright and cheerful. Everything from the landscapes to the people just has this vibrant colour scheme applied to them that really captures the attention. Character designs are quite striking, with fully fleshed out details in their appearance really building the characters. Typically everyone you meet in the game runs along the cute theme (even the guys) and that works nicely to compliment the overall feeling of the novel. Expressions are used quite effectively too, making it quite apparent when someone is happy, sad or shocked. You even get some more stylish facial expressions, so when someone is totally lost for words or ecstatic this really does come across.

Background scenes are wonderfully drawn up too. Typically the images form different parts of the city, so you get to visit locations such as the hospital room, the Blue Cosmos cafe and the station. The use of these images help enhance the events that occur despite sometimes lingering too long on looking at the sky, although it's worth noting that there is less emphasis on the backgrounds than in other novels, mainly due to the characters themselves taking up notably more screen room. Simply comparing an average screen from here to one from Yume Miru Musuri clearly shows the difference.

CG scenes are as beautiful as the rest of the novel. Some of the CGs felt a little pointless, like seeing Mio up close while walking her home didn't really feel much different from seeing her half-body artwork normally. Others held a lot more meaning though, like the tender Christmas kiss between Mio and Ryo (that would be you). I was a bit worried about how the novel would approach the sex scenes, especially given I was treated to one such sequence about 10 minutes in, but fortunately the actual images are quite soft in appearance and have been handled exceptionally. FoH doesn't overdo things either so it balances things out nicely.


Not everyday a dead girl comes along and ask for your life force.


The music used during the novel is suitably cheery and upbeat. It tends to pump out in the background perfectly matching up to the current event unfolding onscreen. The tone can be quite catchy and infectious at times, with a favourite being the energetic music that tends to play out during silly sequences.

Voice work is once again the original Japanese vocals retained from the initial Japanese release, and it works out well. The VAs manage to synch their own tone with that of the novel and give proceedings the energy needed to drive events forward (although there is one point where a dog's voice is so hilariously bad it generated a few laughs, this is a very rare circumstance). The ability to tweak volume and which voices are active (along with a few other sound options) really helps too, although I didn't find much need to meddle much there.

The story starts off very well. At first the events don't hold any real significance so it serves more as an introduction to the main characters (although still missing about half the significant cast) as well as setting the overall tone. Seemingly meaningless events like a waitress enquiring what it's like to be so in love, meeting with your girlfriend and a fairly intimate sequence early on play out, and while these don't hold much importance the characters are likeable enough to make these interactions likeable. Then when Minamo dies and her ghost asks for your life force so she can settle things left undone the story can truely progress.

In truth the story generally maintains its joyful mood throughout. Despite the fact that your character Ryo is now forced to exist outside of his own body as a ghost and the seemingly tragic circumstances surrounding the girls you know and meet the writers have crafted the story in a way that doesn't allow itself to sink too far into depressing tones. It's not as if the tale is emotionally dead though. Seeing Mio be emotionally torn apart at Ryo's hospital bedside holds some impact, as does Narumi's breakdown when an attempt to comfort Mio goes horribly wrong. It's more like the story tries to keep things to a lighter tone, so whereas you don't get the same deep level of writing as YMK you do get humourous well written scenes playing out.

Helping to lift the mood are the Silly SequencesTM, where progression doesn't really make much sense but I couldn't help but be amused at what was happening. When Ryo accidentally takes over a human body, seeing Kokoro's reaction as Ryo himself panics was brilliant. Sure it made little sense but it's sequences like this that contribute to the overall charm. This is also where the brilliant voicework just makes things even more silly and thus all the better. These events are seamlessly inserted into the overall plot so it all flows well into one another and these events do not suffocate the main story either.


Character interactions can be so wonderful.


The focus of the story lies in Mio and Minamo. At first Mio looks to be a selfish bitch (put bluntly) while Minamo is an energetic dimwit, but as the story moves on you start to see other sides of both girls. Mio is a hard worker who deeply cares about Ryo but often falls victim to her own stubborn attitude. She tends to go overboard in arguments and then deeply regrets it later. She has a fair amount of troubles in life and seeing her visit Ryo daily wishing for him to return to her is quite moving. There's a lot of depth to this girl that isn't apparent when you first meet her, so the writers do an excellent job of fleshing out her character.

Minamo spends much of her time acting as a scatterbrain, managing to lose focus of things around her all too easily. She does have her own problems (not the lest getting herself killed). Her inability to confess her feelings to a boy she likes is the catalyst that causes the whole saga, and when Ryo finally catches up to her he finds out just what trouble she's been having doing just that. The interactions here jump between fear of rejection and selfish desire, although I must admit it's hard to feel sorry for her considering she put you in that position and won't stop to even listen to you. Her role is what allows the story to drive forward as it does though and seeing her flit between feelings as she does makes for a solid character.

There is a wealth of supporting characters, and storyline focus can easily switch to these girls depending on your choices. Miss Death plays a prominent role regardless, acting as a death goddess that has come for Minamo's soul and helps you out. She acts as the story's guiding figure, as no doubt Ryo would be lost without her. Other characters importance varies depending on the route you take.

Kokoro is a hyperactive girl also vying for the attentions of the boy Minamo likes, which often causes the two to clash. Although an annoying brat this works in the story's favour in causing sparks to fly. While Kokoro's role at first seems fairly insignificant this does change, especially in the latter half, and really I don't think the tale would have been as good without her. Her energetic contributions are very welcome.

There are other characters that ultimately play less important roles unless you chase after their ending. Narumi may be Minamo's best friend early on, but she doesn't appear much later on when the focus is not on her. Mao lends a supporting role to her sister Mio but won't go beyond that. Chase after their endings and you'll see sides of them you never expected and gives them much deeper personalities.

In fact, the only character I felt truely pointless was Izumi. Even at first I felt she was terribly out of place. Everyone else had a reason to be involved. Narumi was Minamo's friend, Mao is Mio's sister, Kokoro was after the same guy as Minamo and Miss Death was trying to collect Minamo's soul. By comparison Izumi has no relation at all and seems forced into proceedings. It doesn't help that she just appears and disappears several times during the first half. Even in the second half, where even the minor characters usually receive major development, Izumi's scenes felt shallow and rushed. Her troubled past is barely mentioned and I felt nothing for her or her situation.

Decision points aren't as frequent as expected but they certainly provide a challenge. Hitting the basic endings is no problem, but grabbing the alternate endings is a lot more challenging. It's not as straightforward as just pleasing the target girl. Sometimes you need to be considering other factors, and this makes it a joy to work through to unlock the various routes and CGs. A wealth of save slots and a skip option (well, fast forward option) helps in this regard too.


Guess I need to open some more events.


FoH isn't without flaws though. Typically there aren't actual separate routes in the novel, or at least not nearly as diverse and fleshed out as others such as Fate/Stay Night. The first half of the novel plays out in a very similar fashion, with only minor event differences occurring depending on the choices you make. The second half (if you meet the conditions for it - it's actually possible for the novel to end there) varies a bit more depending on choices but it still ends up leaving a bit of deja vu lingering. The main path does manage to last quite a while though and the skip option always exists, so really this is just a nitpick.

The novel boasts an impressive number of endings. Mio and Minamo are the main girls and have several endings to both, while endings also possible for a number of the supporting female cast too. Some of them seem to end a bit too abruptly though, with the epilogue scenes not even making it past five minutes. Others are better played out - especially the main endings for Mio and Minamo that really hammer home that sometimes you can't have things both ways and that painful decisions have to be made at times.

The usual extras are present in here. A CG gallery is here and the sex sequences can be replayed after seeing them. Music tracks can be played too, although oddly this is done in the CG gallery. I wish this had been done as a separate screen. You can also tweak a variety of options, like switching between full screen and window view modes, choosing what voices to hear and setting skip options.

Figures of Happiness is a very nice addition to the visual novel genre. The story is light hearted and interesting, which is further boosted by a wonderful colourful cast of characters. Mix in beautiful visuals, a great soundtrack and a decision branching system so diverse and challenging and you have a wonderful package that should be on the list of anyone interested in the genre.

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