I was oddly surprised with Sakura Swim Club. Having never read ("played") a visual novel before I wasn't quite sure what I was in for. I had played some choose your own adventure style games like Appointment with F.E.A.R. in which you design your character and make choices throughout the story. Your choices in these games have immediate consequences and often lead to dead ends. There are no dead ends in this. It is truly just a graphic novel on your computer. Your choices are menial and make no real difference in the story line other than a few new lines immediately after your choice. So let's break it down. Oh, if you don't care about reviews and just want to see the boobs head over to Digital Cans.
Well, there are well drawn busty anime girls, that is the ultimate benefit to the visuals. You get to see about 20 images of our two sexy protagonists Mieko and Hiromi. Other than these shots the rest of the game is pretty lacking in the visuals department. There are about a half dozen backgrounds that are repeated throughout the story. They obviously could have expanded on the environments and background images. There is no animation of any kind. When you are talking the characters kind of fade out and fade in to a new position and that is the extent of it. Some panning across the screen or simply guiding the character across the screen would have been a bit exciting. The other odd part of the visual backgrounds is that there are no people in them. You end up talking to your teacher in class, but you don't see anyone in the empty classroom. I found that a bit odd. Were they too lazy to draw in classmates and a teacher?
Well you don't really play anything. There are under 20 "choices" that you get to make, but they do not change the story. They merely change a sentence or two after you make your choice. Your character, Kaede, immediately reconnects with the original plot no matter what choice you make. So essentially you click through the dialogue. I took my time, writing notes, taking screen shots etc for videos and finished this graphic novel in under 4 hours. It will probably take you a lot less. I believe if you just wanted to cruise through and see the boobs, you could probably rapid click this game in about a half hour. You could also just check out the boobs on my Digital Can's page.
The music in this game is pretty sucky. There are about a half dozen songs that loop during the chapters. They loop often though. Each song is about a minute long and does not loop very well. The songs feel like they were ripped from another game where they actually made sense and fit the mood of the game. In this novel they do very little to enhance the story. In fact they distract you from the story because they suck so much. On a different not, the sound effects and ambient noises are great. The water for the pool sounds great. The muddled hall conversations give the reader a feel of being in school. Not sure how they could do so well on one aspect and completely shit the bed on the other.
Story Line: 3/5
This is the part that blew me away. I was expecting some cheesy high school relationship banter and some silly hentai situations that result in people seeing each other naked. Well they have that in here, but they also have some really deep shit. We have a protagonist with a serious rift that has torn his relationship with his dad apart. A girl whose mom is suffering from cancer and another student that has been ostracized after her best friend was paralyzed in a drunk driving accident. Holy shit! I didn't see anything like that coming from previews that I saw. Thankfully the heavy story line is filled with bouncing breasts to ease the immensely depressing doses of sadness and struggle in this game.
At first I felt a bit shorted on the value of this game. Three hours of game play for more than $5 seemed like a rip. Then I remembered that this was a graphic novel and thought that I paid about the same price I would pay for a manga at a book store. I got shafted on the music and was disappointed by the lack direction that different choices took me. This could easily lead to great replay (reread) value and unlock more boobs. On the upside, the story was actually kind of serious, the sound effects were decent and the boobs were plentiful.