What is this?
Student Union is an upcoming Original English Language visual novel (OELVN), which at the time of writing is about to start gathering funds via Kickstarter. This is a write up of my thoughts and impressions after playing the demo, rather than a review.
Lane Fox is a student in his final year of high school. Due to his circumstances, he needs money to get by. He’s tried to get part-time jobs in a number of places, but they’re all too far away or don’t need the help. Fortunately the new assistant principal steps in – he suggests getting a group of students together and forming a student union. This isn’t your typical student union – it would be a group that supports the school functions, such as staffing the library and organizing events. More importantly, it would be a paid position, if minimum wage. Win, win – Lane gets paid and the school gets some cheap labor, right? If only it were that simple.
This student union is a new idea by a new member of staff. Not everyone is on board and some conditions are set – most importantly that the group needs at least five members. Lane has to recruit members for a group that would essentially be working as the school’s lackeys. Not the most appealing thing to put on a recruitment ad. A number of issues appear along the way too. Rivalries, fights, teenage drama, and people generally making this an even more difficult task. That’s not all though…
The school appears to be your average modern school if a bit run down. Funding problems are mentioned, thus the need for cheap labor. There’s much more going on though, which the demo only starts to show. Talk of strange noises coming from certain rooms and dangerous secrets that certain people are hiding.
On the first impression, the story for Student Union didn’t really grip me. It seemed to be a fairly standard school life story, with some characters being quirky in a funny way. I thought it may have turned into a light-hearted story with plenty of humor. This impression soon changed. As the mystery elements were introduced, the suspense started to build up and kept me wanting to find out more. Darker and violent elements shocked me and I learned that this visual novel was more than it appeared. The characters were interesting and made me feel a real dislike or annoyance in certain cases, which seems to be the intended effect. By the end of my hour-long playthrough, I found myself disappointed there wasn’t more and that itself is a good endorsement.
Student Union calls itself a choice-driven visual novel. Even in this short demo, there are a good number of choices. These have led to talking to or spending time with different people. This bodes well for the full game and its replayability. There are plans for choices to remain important and to have at least 10 unique endings in the final version of the game, with a number of potential romance options.
The fairly standard set of visual novel options are available. Saving, loading, reading the backlog text, hiding the dialog box, auto, skip, and so on. The only thing which really stood out here is an option for lines to be voiced through text to speech. While sounding unnatural, it’s a nice option for accessibility purposes. I did have issues getting it to work consistently though, but this is a very early demo.
This is quite a good looking visual novel. The sprites look better than those in many indie visual novel projects and CGs look even better. The backgrounds are fairly detailed too. Animations are used to good effect too, with sprites moving around and closer or further away from the player, eyes shifting about to follow events or to indicate feelings and extra touches like little sparkles surrounding a player to show their excitement. It’s worth noting that the user interface is quite nicely designed too.
I enjoyed the background music. There’s certainly a wide range in the tone of music used, which fits the game, as it represents both the lighter side of talking about classes with friends and the scenes which come closer to horror mystery. I did come across what seemed to be an issue with the music looping on occasion, but again – this is a very early demo.
There is currently no voice acting, but there may be some limited lines depending on stretch goals. It is the final stretch goal though, which the team described as ‘a shot at the moon’. It’s not likely, but it’s possible. Personally, I can live without it.
In the final version, promises have been made for over 30 backgrounds, over 50 CGs, and over 50 original music tracks. Some of that music can be experienced now via SoundCloud.
As mentioned earlier, I found myself disappointed there wasn’t more. It’s no real surprise that I’m recommending backing Student Union on Kickstarter and checking out the demo. It’s one that I enjoyed and would love to see continued. Considering the ambitious plans, this visual novel will need quite a bit of funding to succeed. Hopefully, they can find enough support and make the game as they want to. As this is just a demo, we cannot outright recommend the full visual novel itself, but we say say this;
STUDENT UNION IS (TENTATIVELY) RECOMMENDED
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A gamer since the days of Amstrad and DOS and someone who has dabbled in a variety of professions. He enjoys a wide variety of genres, but has been focusing on visual novels and virtual reality in recent years. Head Editor of NookGaming. Follow him and the website on @NookSite.