Indie Review Visual Novel

Zeta Wolf Chronicles – Kickstarter Preview

Our focus for the day is Zeta Wolf Chronicles, a visual novel being developed by AniClash Studios. I’m looking at the 3.1 version of the demo, released ahead of the Kickstarter which launched on the 28th of February 2023. In this title, an introverted boy tries to break free from his lonely life in his final high school year. It’s his last-ditch effort to make sure the best part of his young life doesn’t go to waste! And how does it go? Read on to find out.

Story

Our story envelops the daily life of Rayen Lycon, an 18-year-old boy who starts his third year with the goal of getting a girlfriend. All his focus is on this, to the point where he is willing to ignore all academics or athletics at school in favor of it.

On the first day of introducing the new students to school, Rayen manages to strike up a conversation with the most beautiful girl he has ever seen… One that ends shortly after an awkward compliment.

Irritated by his failure, Rayen goes home and contemplates why things never worked out for him. Is it his bad looks? Why have the various dating tips he has read over the years all gone for naught? Tired of his life, he goes to sleep early only to be awakened by the spirit of a mysterious woman. She gives him some tips on how to act going forward, like contacting people during lunch and methods on how to properly think ahead. Still confused from all that, Rayen wakes up the next day trying to understand what that woman was, and even more determined to get the girl he talked to.

With new confidence, Rayen ends up talking to the school counselor, who tries to guide him through understanding women. She tells him to at least try and write up a letter for some of the girls he could be interested in and not to put all his eggs in one basket. On top of this, a mysterious orange-haired girl appears to shake up his life. Her mission? To help him return to society as a functional member. Does her method of making him befriend one of four possible girls work? Choose your route and find out!

Overall, it’s a premise handled with a maturity I enjoyed. The game shows that there are some tips introverts can rely on to help them grow in society. But it also makes sure to show that a simple manipulative writer can be highly influential. A simple book with promises of results can leave teens feeling as if they are owed success if they follow everything. Our main character himself was one of those, but one who managed to grasp that reality after his first failure. It’s a good message for the audience as a whole, provided it maintains the course for the entire story. The developer mentioned that this is a story meant to be based on some real-life events, so hopefully, it helps inspire others who play.

Zeta Wolf Chronicles - Characters

Characters

Zeta Wolf Chronicles brings forth some interesting characters, only some of whom are explored a bit in the demo. This is only the start as well, seeing as the full game is expected to last about 25 hours on average with 4 routes.

Rayen is a good protagonist for the story presented. He is a very exaggerated example of a depressed loner stuck at home, with high hopes and desperation for girls. It might feel forced for some, but I see it as someone at their low point who can only go up from there. He also isn’t too bad at talking, seeing as his interactions with others come off as awkward, but never rude or inappropriate.

My favorite nomination for best character however goes to Lyca. She is the assistant of the mystical woman Rayen sees in his dreams and is assigned to help him. She is super honest and loves messing around with people, which is something I like seeing in stories. It feels like it brings some spice to the table. She also has an assistant of her own, Ferine. Those two together have good chemistry bouncing off each other. The dry and straight-to-the-point Ferine and the quirky and fun Lyca act together to help Rayen to connect with people.

As we don’t get all routes in the demo, we only see a little of Ravia. From what we can see, she is the strict captain of the girl’s track team, but she seems to have a deeper character beyond that. After briefly meeting her, we can see she’s focused on her goal of a college scholarship and pushes people away in order to spend her time meeting her parents’ expectations. But she’s beginning to wonder if this will make her happy and entertains thoughts of becoming “girlier”, instead of only focusing on her athletic record. I felt that is a solid start to her route. The brief glimpse that the demo gives us of what she is like underneath her rough attitude works well as a hook.

Zeta Wolf Chronicles - CG

Art & Crafts

As a whole, the character design is quite pretty, particularly the uniforms. Each girl has a bit of their personality shown in their outfits, be it an accessory or even a whole other uniform different from the norm. It also helps that all characters are explicitly said to be over 18, so it’s not that weird for them to look older than high school age. I even felt like they sounded a bit older than the usual characters in visual novels, which is a nice touch if it was planned.

The CGs are also an upgrade on the models seen in game, with different poses that help show more of the character’s personalities. There are almost 10 CGs that I’ve seen, but they are quite spread out over the length of the demo.

The backgrounds could be better. I felt they sometimes twitch for the duration of a character’s speech and that can be distracting when you notice it. That along with a huge amount of unnecessary cuts in scenes hinder the presentation slightly.

Zeta Wolf Chronicles - Converse

Gameplay

The gameplay itself seems like it tries to separate itself from being just a simple read-through, which I felt quite happy about at the start. The decision to add timed dialogue options is an appreciated one as that makes the gameplay more dynamic.

There’s also a mechanic related to insights. These are quick glimpses into other characters’ rationale you wouldn’t see outside of the moment the pop-up appears. As I mentioned in my Maid for Loving You review, I love games that make sure you have more than one perspective of a particular event or narrative.

Another gameplay portion I enjoyed in Zeta Wolf Chronicles was the converse events, which are moments where you can further talk with the characters in the scene to get to know them better. They’re not mandatory, as you can continue through them without interacting, but you also lose events and development of those involved if you do. I quite enjoyed how they were used, as even characters like Ferine and Lyca who don’t have routes, get to have two moments in the demo.

While minor for a normal playthrough, there is a point of criticism that will be of huge importance to anyone using a lot of saves to jump between. In this game, you only have a few save slots.

For a game that tries to use time-sensitive choices and missable insights, especially when you can only see one insight per scene if two pop up, save states are that are essential to help navigate the game. I see it as something that I hope to be fixed when the full game comes out. Even the skip button is also disabled for this version of the demo, so there will certainly be changes. 

Beyond the save issue, there are certainly some other minor details that need ironing out like some name display bugs I’ve seen, but that’s part of the point of demos anyway.

Verdict

Overall, Zeta Wolf Chronicles is a work in progress that has a lot of promise. I wouldn’t say the engine itself is fully ready and there are some problems here and there, but they’re not too prominent. The game’s premise and anti-harem approach to seeing a protagonist grow feels rare in the visual novel field. I would recommend playing this demo for anyone who wants to experience a story that focuses on realism more than wish fulfillment. 

Platforms: PC
Kickstarter Link: Click Here
Demo Link: Click Here

Want to see more Visual Novels? How about our review of Renai Karichaimashita: Koikari – Love For Hire?

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