Crescendo (PC) review
"At a glance, itís just another game for horny men when real women are unattainable. You would expect to play it with one hand on the mouse and the other ready for action because no one plays hentai games for the story. Thatís how the genre goes, isnít it? Normally it is, but not here."
For $50, any boy who wants to can screw Yuka Otowa. The boy picks the place. Will he choose the rooftop? The locker room? An empty classroom? If heís willing to pay, he can even spend an hour or two with her in a nearby hotel. As one of Yukaís classmates notes, thatís a bargain. She has full, beautiful lips, amazing eyes and short-cropped red hair that ends just above the shoulders, not to mention impossibly perky breasts. Sheís perfect. An angel.
Ryo Sasaki met Yuka when he began attending the school three years ago, just after his parents died tragically and his sister quit college to take a job and support the two of them. When his sister put her life on hold, he paid her back by just barely making it to the end of the school term. Heís in make-up classes and if he pulls his life together, he might just graduate.
Ryo and Yuka are the two stars of Crescendo. Everyone else is just a bit player, even the other four love interests with their lines and lines of dialogue and touching stories of their own. It wonít be the case for everyone, but for me the game can never be about anyone but Yuka and Ryo.
Crescendo affected me a great deal more than I anticipated. At a glance, itís just another game for horny men when real women are unattainable. You would expect to play it with one hand on the mouse and the other ready for action because no one plays hentai games for the story. Thatís how the genre goes, isnít it? Normally it is, but not here. Even though there are plenty of still frames depicting all of the gameís females in compromising positions with butts in the air or legs spread or tongues licking cock--all the vulgarity youíd expect--Crescendo offers something more: heart.
Part of that comes from Ryoís personality. Heís not the sort to pay Yuka or any other girl for sex. Heís a tough guy who also belongs to a literary club and reads fine literature like ďThe Book of Three.Ē He stands up for whatís right, even if heís not a scholar. Heís at times perceptive, he doesnít always have his penis on the brain and he doesnít repeat everything that others tell him as a question the way some hentai protagonists do. In short, heís pretty cool.
Yuka is another reason the game feels different. On the surface, sheís the school slut. You canít really say anything else of a girl who sells her body, but then again, you donít know Yuka. If you choose to explore choices that take you along her plot (and the game gives you more opportunities to direct the twisting plot than many of its contemporaries), youíll find all sorts of interesting details that gradually paint a much broader picture. At the end of the day, sheís still a fictional character brought to life only by words and cute artwork, but youíll feel like you know her on an intimate level. Itís more than just a sexual thing, and the game feels more rewarding as a result.
Perhaps the emotional connection wouldnít have been possible if some of the technical merits werenít handled so well. Crescendo is full of all sorts of surprises, though. When I first began playing, I was irritated to find that the text fills the whole window. Itís not restricted to just a frame along the bottom. To facilitate this surprising change, the developers let the background and character artwork fade behind each line of dialogue or exposition. If you want to see whatís going on behind, whether it be Yukaís mischievous smile as she shrugs back into a shirt when you find her banging a classmate, or a view of the sidewalk on the way home from a rough day at school, youíll have to bring up a pop-up menu and make that choice.
The decision to place text over images struck me as quite odd and I planned to complain about it when writing the review. Yet as I played, it bothered me less and less. I found that I would look at each new image when it first came on the screen and then I would let the words absorb my attention once more. The translation is honestly quite good. Sure, there were some amusing lines (like when Ryo and a girl are naked and he notes that her pants became harder, or when he encounters a bully who once ďbeat the sit out of himĒ) that obviously would have benefited from some tweaking, but on the whole I was quite satisfied with the localization.
Images and text also are accompanied by one of the most amazing soundtracks in the history of the genre. Though I typically find that hentai games have elevator music playing through the background, here I was pleased by elegant piano music that brings a new level of emotion to each scene. For the first time that I can recall, I actually paused while I was playing, just to listen through compositions to their conclusion. After finishing a trip through the game, I sometimes head to the sound area, just so I can listen again. Thereís some amazing piano work here, and youíll even hear some soothing flute renditions.
Ultimately, I could talk about each of the other girls, about what they like and donít, about their hopes and dreams and the interesting details about their past. Iíll spare you that, because Crescendo is about exploring that. Itís about getting to know each vibrant character and savoring the interactions. The emotional involvement is something youíll want to experience for yourself. Itís the gameís greatest asset and the one reason that this is a hentai game no fan should miss (especially when you can buy the game for $34.95, or $29.95 when you download it). That's a bargain.
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 25, 2007)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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