Snow Drop review
Out In The Cold
Peach Princess is a company that sees merit in bringing titles of the visual novel genre to an English speaking audience, and having experienced some enjoyable novels of this nature it's easy to see the appeal of such a marketing move. You have some wonderful novels to enjoy, and you also have some outright terrible ones. Snow Drop is unfortunately one of the latter. It starts off promising but it screams so much of unfulfilled potential and poor execution that it misses the mark by miles.
The novel starts off on a positive note, in that it actually looks quite nice. A lot of what you're looking at is typical VN fare but at least it's executed competently enough. The 640x480 resolution is a little downer but you can't help but appreciate the visual flair.
Despite being locked to a ski resort for most of the story there is a fair few locations to visit and thus scenary to admire, like the ski slopes, the gondola, the cabin, woods and the hot springs. Each area does look quite nice too, and a suitable change in lighting to reflect changes in the time of day. It's all wonderfully put together and does give the impression of a ski break for the characters.
Character art is more hit and miss. On the plus side each person is detailed well enough, with a number of outfit choices and will show numerous expressions such as shock or joy. The boldness and colour depth done in the rest of the visuals carries over to here too. However, every person (outside of CG scenes) is locked to a single pose. Honami spends almost the entire trip in some kind of defensive position, and just how long is Keika intending to keep her hand hovering in the air? Given the genre I'm not expecting full-blown animation, but I do expect people to change their pose occasionally. Sometimes their body posture just makes no sense in given circumstances.
CG scenes offer a more detailed interpretation of certain events. The more sedate of these can involve things like Keika using you to get rid of unwanted attention or a snowmobile drive down the mountain at high speed. These scenes are used for the sex situations, for where the usual style wouldn't be of much use. Generally these artworks are wonderfully created and share the same vibrancy and detail the rest of the novel enjoys. There are a lot of these too and working to unlock them may well serve as a draw.
The text display can be a little weird at times. Set the message display speed to anything other than fastest and you'll find that the spacing gets distorted. Sometimes letters will be crushed into each other, or letters spaced too far apart. At the fastest message speed this doesn't happen, but it does negate the point of offering different display speeds.
The music itself is quite fitting to proceedings. Most of it is quite cherry in nature, with upbeat tunes to compliment the feel-good development of the plot. There is also a distinctive sorrowful tune used during sad events that strikes a chord and works nicely. The opening song is also quite wonderful, and although I felt it was not as impressive as others I've heard it did seem quite suitable and good on its own merits.
The novel is full voice acted aside from the protagonist, and this is great too. The VAs clearly put a great deal of effort in and the results show in the way characters express themselves vocally. It's Japanese audio only, but it helps to set the scene and at no point did I find issue with any voicework.
So far so good, and even the story progression starts off well enough. You play as Minoru a college kid whose parents decided to have a second honeymoon and leave him to have a ski holiday with his friends. Such caring responsible parents, eh? Minoru is not alone for the trip, as you have his two friends Keika (the token sex crazed girl) and Kyouka (the token childhood friend), and then there is your sister Honami (the token loli sister - WHO IS TOTALLY OVER 18 BECAUSE PEACH PRINCESS SAID SO).
Well, predictable character types itself is not a bad thing and Snow Drop certainly goes well at first. Generally I found any interaction scene I had with a girl was all too brief (I'd get talking to one and then they would soon disappear for one reason or another) but it was interesting to see the playful times each of them shared. I was looking forward to seeing the story develop further, but that's where the rather significant problems start showing up.
The novel is spread out over 5 game days, and the first four days mostly seem to follow the same basic relationships. Keika keeps making advances on Minoru, Kyouka gets into fights with you, Shikuka plays the shy maid role. It's nice to see the different girls having fun and enjoying the break, and nothing ever seems to go anywhere even when at first it seems like it might do. These scenes aren't even long enough to actual develop anything meaningful, which is another major flaw. The pacing is pretty bad, where events are finished before anything significant actually happens.
The fifth day is where the story actual does go somewhere, though this does depend on whether you have met the conditions for it. Fail to meet those conditions and the story just ends on a rather boring note with your trip back to your parents and absolutely no satisfactory conclusion with any of the girls.
The 'true' fifth day generally depends on set actions in the fourth day. Having picked to focus on Kyouka's endings on my initial playthrough I made all the right choices... and still felt unsatisfied. I was greeted with an extended day five and a few more events (that gave me more CGs for my collection) but the end result felt so mundane that I couldn't believe it. Not that the novel provided much build up in the first place, but the level of storytelling wasn't any higher than what I'd seen in the rest of the novel. I even ended up skipping part of it for fear that I might fall asleep trying to pay attention, which shows just how badly it missed the mark.
There are other large scale blunders in here though. The various sex scenes designed to sell to the adult audience felt utterly pointless at times and completely lacking in substance. One instance has Minoru accidentally coming across another couple in the woods at it, but there was no real meaning to this and it was over very quickly, leaving me to question why they bothered with such a scene. Even Minoru's sexual encounters with the main girls seems largely without reason and are equally over before you realise that they've ended.
Perhaps the biggest nail in the coffin here are the decision points. You have a number of times where you have to decide where to go, which determines which characters you'll meet. The problem is that there is never any indication of who is where, so meeting up with specific characters involves a complete trail and error method of saving, picking a random location and reloading if you don't get who you want. Granted that the reload trick is commonplace for a visual novel, but you normally get some kind of hint as to what choices do what. Here it's totally obscure.
Even worse are the conditions to unlock the true fourth and fifth days. To reach these (and therefore obtain endings that are slightly better than the default poor ending) you have to visit specific events through the first three days. The problem is that there is no hint whatsoever of what events are needed, and missing one can screw things up. In the end hitting the true end path will likely require the assistance of a guide, which is a poor showing.
Almost as a final insult is the overall length of the novel. It's the kind of novel you can start and finish in the same day without skipping, which pales drastically in comparison to other stellar entries in the genre. Again, everything goes finishes too quickly and before you know it you're back at the main menu without really taking much from the story. There are alternate endings and some stubborn CGs to unlock, but with a decision point system as obscure as this one it seems unlikely someone would want to.
There are a few extras in the package, which basically are the CG gallery, event viewer and music player, where different elements are unlocked in the main game and viewed/listend to in these modes.
It started off well enough, but the flaws of Snow Drop are really quite massive and work to destroy the quality of the novel. The presentation and beginning are nice but when everything is rushed through in a small timespan with obscure choices then that doesn't mean much. Seek out a different entry in the genre and get a better experience than what this one offers.
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