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Starry Sky ~In Spring~ Review

Starry Sky is the story of the only girl at Seigatsu Gakuen, a school that specializes in celestial topics such as astronomy, horoscopes, and other topics related to these fields. Since the schools inception, Seigatsu Gakuen was an all boys school, but recently they’ve opened the school to girls as well…Thus, our heroine joins the school’s astronomy section with her two childhood friends, Kanata and Suzuya. This is how she becomes the first, and only, girl of the school. 
As she enjoys peaceful, fun days with her two childhood friends at school, her class gets a transfer student, and little does the trio know at the time, but his appearance ushers in a change for the group. The half French-Japanese transfer student is none other than Yoh, a boy the protagonist knew from childhood. While his transferring to her class was pure coincidence, he instantly favors protag-chan and makes it no secret he is utterly infatuated with her. At first, Yoh is cold towards Kanata and Suzuya, but slowly he begins to become part of the group, and in the process inadvertently begins to change the relationship between protag-chan, Suzuya, and Kanata. Yes, sadly, their days of peaceful friendship are changing with Yoh’s appearance and feelings long felt begin to bubble to the surface.
The Starry Sky series features main characters based off of the astrological signs.  In Spring features Pisces (Kanata), Capricorn (Yoh), and Cancer (Suzuya).

Let’s start todays order of business with diving straight into my thoughts of the storyline. Now, I usually try not to start my reviews with the negatives of a visual novel, but in the case of In Spring, it cannot be helped considering how badly the story played out. Starry Sky ~In Spring~ managed to take a fairly straightforward genre (And one of the easiest to not fuck up utterly with), slice of life, and smash it into tiny little pieces with a hammer. In my opinion, because slice of life games deal with real life situations, and are thus constrained by what can happen in reality in order to weave a good story, character interaction, conflict, and drama is absolutely necessary in order to bring the reader in emotionally and engage them. While this is somewhat a necessity for just about any story of any genre, slice of life is absolutely built around it. Life isn’t all peaches and rainbows, and as human beings, almost all of us love seeing, or reading, a character we like be thrown into a tough situation and come out triumphantly. As the main character goes through his/her trials, so do we as the player and reader, and we come out of the situation closer and more emotionally invested in our character and the story.

Starry Sky ~In Spring~ had almost none of this. While the game might have been limited in what it could do due to budget and game length constraints, Honey Bee delivered a slice of life game devoid of what gives that genre life; Conflict. 99% of the game is spent on character interaction and banter. While I love character interaction, due to a lack of conflict to draw me in, the game and it’s conversations were immensely bland and boring. Nearly every day in the game is spent going to class, then having fun and friendly conversation. While I love that sort of thing in reality, it just doesn’t draw me in or evoke feelings in me in a story. The transition from friends to boyfriend/girlfriend between the guys and the main character was just as bland. Eventually one day the guy admits his feelings to the main character, and we have a short boring interlude of “but you’re my childhood friend” shit. Even the main characters inner monologue on her “dilemma” was normal and boring, and lacked any spark of life to get me into things. Honeybee could have done so much more with the unique and interesting school take of astronomy, but they didn’t. The telescope could have broken before an asteroid shower and the gang has to find a way to fix it or come up with another telescope in time. The horticulture department starts a “war” with the astronomy department. A cultural festival gone awry. The group goes on a field trip to a famous observatory but their bus/car breaks down and they are stuck in the middle of nowhere. Something. Anything longer than some 5 minute minor eyesore

Most of the games events take place on the rooftop of the school, where our characters go to stargaze, talk, and do their homework. These parts of the game entranced me, as much of these events went into brief detail about topics such as constellations, a constellations ruling planet, and their connecting astrological sign. These brief snippets of information were surprisingly accurate, and so I do have to give Honey Bee credit for actually researching all of this information when they probably could have skimmed it or not fact checked considering this is an otome game. The interaction between the three males was also slightly fun and entertaining, as each character had their own distinct personality lead by amazing voice actors. However, the character interaction between the males and the main character, and vice versa, was terrible considering how paper blank and dull the main character was. She felt like a useless fourth wheel considering how little she contributed to the character interaction, and conversation became lifeless once she opened her trap for one or two useless sentences that served no real purpose other than to have her say a couple lines.

One of In Springs (few) positives is the simply gorgeous backgrounds, mainly the nighttime ones. Considering the setting of the game is the characters are at an academy for their esteemed astronomy curriculum, this was a big plus to the setting for the game as the night sky was given great detail, and the backgrounds just come alive due to this fact. I totally got into a star-gazing mood during the brief discussions of astronomy in the game to the backdrops. The rest of the artwork in the game was amazingly beautiful and vibrant, with other backgrounds being paid just as much detail; Several people fleshed out (Many of whom are the bachelors of the other Starry Sky games), as well as backdrops such as grass and trees are given loving attention as opposed to most visual novel CGs where backgrounds are given minimal detail to save on time, money, and put more emphasis on characters. My one big bitch though? The kiss scenes are almost all exactly alike, with the character against a white backdrop making a kissy face. If you’re going to go for the “all I see is you” imprint gig with them, at least put some sparkles and shit in there. This just makes me feel like they’re pulling me into the “white light” and I’m going to die with the last thing I ever see being a smoochy face.
Our main character, who I have deemed “protag-chan”, is your basic imprint character that is found in a lot of Visual Novels that focuses more on the users experience than the story and/or gameplay itself. As I have hoped to get across with my naming of her for the purpose of this review, she is pretty much utterly devoid of any personality or real character traits in order to make it easier for the reader to integrate into the character.  Because of that, there’s really nothing positive to say about protag-chan, just complaints. I’m not a big fan of imprint characters as is, since I like more story based VNs, and generally I feel these require a fleshed out, present main character to help bring the story to life, but protag-chan is probably the worst imprint character I’ve had the displeasure of being presented to assimilate with. She barely speaks, and when she does, it’s usually just to give a short line or two agreeing with one of the characters or, dully, teasing them. I’d probably get more excitement and better lines from a robot. It also really didn’t help me believe or connect with the game’s romance.
Kanata Nanami is the character representative of the Pisces astrological sign. Kanata was also my favorite, and first, route that I did in the game. Being a Pisces myself that tends to get along very well with other Pisces, I figured his character would be the one that I liked the most. Kanata fits the personality stereotype of Pisces very well; Deep down he is a very kind, sweet, generous, and emotional person who treasures and protects those dear to him to the best of his ability. He has a hard time showing weakness though or speaking his mind when it may negatively affect someone close to him, and hides behind a tough guy persona, being known in the school as one of the best fighters among the students. It is told to the reader very early on in the common route that Kanata suffers from an unnamed incurable disease that takes a toll on his strength and health, but because of Kanata’s personality as a Pisces, he does not like people bringing his sickness up and despises people pitying him or treating him as weak because of it. 
I got the feeling that a major reason Kanata constantly picks fights with people is to distract him from his sickness and allow him in part to deny it to himself; You can’t really call someone sick and weak if they kick your ass. Kanata’s route is also the only one with really any sort of drama in the game. I won’t go into too much detail, but basically Kanata starts a fight with a few other students and protag-chan stays to watch him kick all of their gluteus maximus’. In the other two routes, protag-chan runs off to find someone else, and thus basically misses the whole fight and drama that goes along with it for the most part. Kanata was the only character who came close to getting an emotional response out of me. He’s funny, hot, and cute, hehehehe~
Suzuya Tohzoki is the character representative of the Cancer astrological sign. Suzuya is the smart one out of the trio and tends to be the most level-headed, looking at situations logically as opposed to Kanata, who tends to dive into things without thinking since Pisces are creatures of emotion. Suzuya is extremely protective of Kanata due to being one of his best friends (protag-chan being the other) and because of his sickness. Suzuya is basically the “mom” of the group, and his cooking and cleaning skills are the envy (and crush) of every adult woman who works on campus. He will not hesitate to mediate and prevent confrontation, but he does back up Kanata when he gets into fights he cannot handle alone; Despite his looks, Suzuya is a competent fighter as well. Because of his calm demeanor, Suzuya gets along fairly well with Yoh despite Yoh not being fond of people; He starts off being wary of Suzuya, but respects him off the bat. 
Being as the characters of In Spring are true to their astrological stereotype, Suzuya becomes immensely possessive and jealous as protag-chan and his feelings come out of the woodwork, and escalates once they become an official couple.  He makes it a point to flaunt it to Yoh and Kanata, warning them that he will not hesitate to kick their asses if they even so much as touch her now. Like, if I remember right, he even tells Kanata he can’t even hug her even though they are all childhood friends. Those sexy blue eyes are but a trap…I could totally see Suzuya doing like a homicide/suicide if protag-chan ever tried to leave him…*coughs and slowly begins to walk away from Suzuya, then runs for the hills* It’s always the good looking, calm, and smart ones folks that are crazier than a coo-coos nest folks.

Yoh Tomoe is the character representative of the Capricorn astrological sign. Yoh is half French-Japanese. His route was my least favorite and the route I really started just clicking to be over with. Not only was it the most snooze worthy, but Yoh’s personality just totally annoyed and aggravated me. When he was very young, Yoh was picked on constantly by the neighborhood kids due to his lineage, and because of this, Yoh grew up to be extremely anti-social and hating people to a point. He met protag-chan during this time, and she was the only one who did not look at his lineage negatively (She found it fascinating), and even stuck up for him against the bullies. Shortly after they met in childhood, Yoh moved to France with his parents, and so he and protag-chan never saw each other again until he came to the academy. Despite the fact that it had been what I estimate to be around a decade since they last saw each other, the instant Yoh sees protag-chan, he becomes annoyingly clingy and obsessive. 
He frequently mocks Kanata and Suzuya, picking fights with Kanata at pretty much every interaction, calling him “delinquent-kun”. To boot, he is all over protag-chan like a fat kid on cake, constantly saying stuff like he is going to someday make her his wife and does your stereotypical French swooning. He’s the worst damn type of Capricorn; A stuck up asshole who thinks they’re God’s gift to Earth and can win any woman over by kissing some hands, batting some eyelashes, and complimenting at every turn to the point you want to vomit and tell them to get their nose out of your ass. I like gentlemen but christ, theres a fine line between brown nosing for nookie and telling/complimenting someone you like how you feel about them. Go serenade the panties off some other chika, cause I am imprint-chan and I want to take your mouth shut Yoh-Kun. Just be eye candy and shut the hell up.  > : ( 
This game left me severely disappointed. I originally decided to give the game a try because of the raving reviews for it by several otome reviewers, and I’m sad to say that my experience with it wasn’t anywhere close; I actually had to force myself to finish this game just so I could review it. It got to the point where I stopped really paying attention 90% of the time and clicked to finish things up because the conversations between the protagonist and her man were so bland I couldn’t stay 100% focused on the game. This was a first for me. I can kind of see where a lot of otome players probably found this enjoyable, but I didn’t. It hit way too many peeves and problems with me, and it probably has to do with the fact that I like some kind of substance to my VNs.
I cannot recommend this game to anyone, at all. It was seriously like a nukige without the sex. You know what a nukige is without the sex? A shitty game with a shitty plot. This game was missing a key element that is, in my opinion, required to make any slice of life game, especially school setting ones, interesting at all; Drama and emotionally engaging material. Despite that, if the sequels or fandisks are ever translated (I won’t waste my time on importing/reading the JP ones), I may give them a try since VNDB says they are far longer than In Spring and thus MIGHT address my issues with In Spring. This was Honeybees first production and with the success this game had in Japan they were able to expand the series, but I’ve read good, short VNs (*cough* Saya no Uta *cough*) and this wasn’t one. This game had potential on a lot of fronts but fell short, very, very short. If you’re looking for a mindless otome game that focuses on pretty much nothing but the imprint romance angle, you might like In Spring, but I feel like it fell short even on the romance end, which was the games main focus. I could have written more for this review, but just ugh…I think I’ve made my point.

Final Score: 40%The only things that saved this VN from getting an even worse score was: Gorgeous, crisp art, excellent voice acting, interesting romancable childhood friend characters that wern’t stereotypical, all three males had a different, unique personality, beautiful backgrounds, each characters personality was based off their astrological sign, game had scenes telling about astrological bodies such as planets (And was accurate about it), and fitting music. OP had a good beat and instrumentals. HUGE potential with the astrological angle.Cons:Worst blank, lifeless protagonist I’ve ever come across, even for a game made for “imprinting”. Took boring to a new degree. Almost no story, terrible “slice of life”, and almost no drama which is a staple and a need to keep school “slice of life” stories interesting at all. What “drama” there was was boring and didn’t catch my attention at all. Romance was terrible and unbelievable. Yoh was annoyingly obsessive. Vocals in OP was terrible and ruined a good rock beat. Failed to get me emotionally engaged at all. Faceless protag. While fitting, music wasn’t particularly memorable and I think there were only 3-4 different tracks. Fell short on well…Pretty much everything.Release Info:Japanese Only release with an English-TL patchVN by Honeybee with Fan-TL patch by OGE12+ Visual Novel

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