With visual novels becoming easier and easier to make these days, there are many creatives who put their stories out there through this format. As one might expect, this inevitably leads to the good ones being all the more difficult to find. While Perfect Gold is certainly no diamond in the rough, it does hold the slight glimmer of its namesake as it stands from the pack with its sincerity.
Perfect Gold is a story about first love, the common fear, reflection, and forgiveness. These ideas are all explored over the game’s strange and ill-considered chapter setup. Of course, chapters are a normal thing in any story, but Perfect Gold takes this a step further and uses each chapter transition to switch viewpoints. Be it through switching character perspective, or by jumping forward and back through different points in time. On paper, this idea is not so bad, it allows for important information to be given when necessary and it gives more insight into the lives of our characters during the main narrative. The problems arise in where exactly these transitions are placed throughout the story.
I counted far too many occasions in which a scene has its tension completely deflated because the story decided to cut to a scene in the past or present. Oftentimes, these transitions are entirely unrelated to the scenes that had been cut away from, and they usually take their sweet time with these scenes as well. By the time we do return to the tense scene we just left, it’s been so long that I’m left with far less reason to care. When I hit the halfway point of the game’s story, it was something that I just accepted as an inevitability whenever things began to heat up.
The worst part about this is that Perfect Gold’s story is ultimately a very, very simple one that didn’t even need these weird transitions and skips in order to tell it. It feels as if story beats were decided well in advance of its continuity, forcing many scenarios to awkwardly be retrofitted into a pre-existing scenario. I don’t know if that’s really the case or not, but that’s how it comes across.
Of course, the “novel” part of a Visual Novel is just one aspect of how a story in this format is told. When it comes to looks and sound, Perfect Gold rests much more comfortably. Visually, it’s not particularly stunning. I never found myself stopping to gawk at its plentiful CGs, nor did I find its character portraits or background drawings to be of exceptional quality. But it’s good enough, nothing looks poor or out of place, and the aforementioned CGs make the more tender moments of the story feel all the more endearing thanks to its still-expressive drawings. The drawings will not blow you away, but nor will they ever feel as though they drag the story down.
Coupling the acceptably decent artwork is acceptably decent audio. From start to finish, Perfect Gold is fully voice acted, with every single line – besides inner monologuing – being voiced. For a relatively inexpensive visual novel, I was rather impressed by the voice work done for this game. The main characters and some important side characters do a generally good job throughout. Though, the same cannot be said for unnamed one-off characters, who appear far too frequently to not be bothered by. No one gives a robotic or lifeless performance, but lines are overacted so frequently that they inadvertently strip some scenes of their life and make them come off as comedic instead. This issue also spills over into the main characters on occasion. Overall, the voice work is less consistent than the artwork, but I think the game is better off with it than without.
This is not the case for the music, however. It fits the mood and doesn’t detract from the overall experience, but much of it came off as the same sort of you’d hear in freeware Visual Novels, rather than compositions that wordlessly express the emotions of the story. Given the care taken in the rest of Perfect Gold’s audiovisual qualities, the music falling so short of other elements is disappointing.
These aforementioned elements are meant to prop up the main pairing of this visual novel: main characters Audrey Clary and Marion LaRue. I’ll just say it outright, their dynamic is easily the best part about this story. Audrey is a skilled, somewhat recluse girl that opens up to the outgoing, rough and tumble Marion LaRue who comes from the countryside. They both have their conflicts and opinions based on their wildly different worldviews and experiences, but come to rely on each other with each trial they overcome. It’s somewhat trite and nothing you haven’t seen before, but is executed just well enough to say it’s worth sitting through. It’s wholesome, tender, and surprisingly natural to boot.
Their relationship is rather clumsy in how it’s told, thanks to the aforementioned use of the game’s frequent time jumps and perspective shifts that it just loves to throw at you. From the word go, the game wants you to know that they’re really into each other, but then it suddenly jumps to nearly two years later, and suddenly that’s not the case anymore. I think it really would have served the emotional payoffs much better if the story were told in a linear order, but that’s far from the case. As a result, I’m left being told to care about many of the story’s events in retrospect, which holds back the emotive appeal considerably. Still, at the end of day, their relationship holds strong even through the bizarre structural choices of the narrative.
Worldbuilding with Card Pyramids
The world of Perfect Gold and its politics permeates through much of the motivations of the main characters. Like a lot of good things in this story, it’s divulged in a way that feels confused and lost in what it’s trying to do. There’s a lot of throwaway terminology made to make this by-the-numbers setting seem more interesting than it truly is. I get that this is probably done with the intention of enlivening the world, but the story hops around different points in time where that terminology suddenly becomes irrelevant to the scene at hand. As a result, remembering which is which and what’s important to the protagonists feels like untangling a gordian knot of what is an ultimately basic setting with basic problems.
Making things worse in this respect is that “tell, don’t show” is Perfect Gold’s M.O when it comes to establishing almost anything, be it character motivations or the mechanical functions of the world. This ends up being a big problem when both of the main character’s respective motivations are partly fueled by this sterile approach to storytelling. We’re told that healers are looked down upon by alchemists, but are only ever shown this in one scene which featured characters who only appeared once. Even then, Audrey, who is motivated to heal people isn’t actually bothered by this when it does happen. After that, this kind of thing never occurs again. It’s hard to feel invested in these kinds of things when I rarely, if ever, get to feel these things out through the actions of the characters.
Perfect Gold, much like youthful romance, is an unfocused, flawed declaration of love. Maybe that’s why, in spite of its many storytelling problems, I still found myself endeared to it. It helps that it didn’t ask for much of my time either. At roughly 3 hours long, Perfect Gold is a breezy experience that wraps up before you know it. You don’t even have to stick around for much longer to see everything on offer either.
You have seen this exact story done before, and done better elsewhere, but I think this is worth a look anyway. For all its faults, it has the heart necessary to carry its romance to a decently satisfying finish line.
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Many thanks go to Yangyang Mobile for a PC review code for this title.
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A hobbyist who took up the pen to write about their favorite pastime: games. While a lover of many genres, Isaiah Parker specializes in Platformers, RPGs, and competitive multiplayer titles. The easiest way into his heart is to have great core gameplay mechanics. Self-proclaimed world’s biggest Sonic fan. Follow him @ZinogreVolt