Notch is a convoluted tale of love, death, and betrayal that has an interesting story to tell. Unfortunately this story is badly delivered and tries to be too complex for its own good, resulting in a disjointed mess of a visual novel.
Notch – The Innocent Luna was probably the worst visual novel I played in 2015, for a multitude of reasons.
The translation into English from Chinese is grammatically sound, however it’s extremely stilted, and tonally I can’t help but feel like it’s completely missed the mark. Not being able to understand Chinese, I wasn’t able to compare the original to the translation, so I don’t know if this was is a problem with the translation or the original text.
What is obvious in any language is that the story is all over the place. There is no introduction to the setting whatsoever, so that when concepts and characters are introduced later along the line they seem disconnected from anything that went previously.
The protagonist himself acts in completely unbelievable and implausible ways. At the beginning he has a family, but they are conveniently forgotten almost immediately. He’s happy to walk for miles through the forest, sleep there, and forage for generic ‘herbs’ to heal wounds. What era or area is this even supposed to be set in? He also generally acts like a terrible person, for instance deciding to jokingly scare a girl after she’s just been stalked by a supposed murderer?! I could go on with the completely random things he does. This guy’s life choices make absolutely no sense and I was bashing my head against the keyboard for most of it. The other characters fare no better. None of them have any sense of realism to the way they act which makes it incredibly hard to engage with the story.
On the other hand, I can tell that thought and creativity has gone into the story, and the idea of the Paradise of Illusions, the tragic love/hate story between two particular characters, a man’s twisted relationship with his sister, and more are all great. It’s got everything there for fans of horror and the supernatural, it’s just told so badly. It’s also got 14 different endings, including 10 bad ones, which is usually a huge plus for me in visual novels, but in this case it was an absolute chore to go through the game time after time.
I don’t usually talk about mechanics in visual novels unless they’re exceptionally bad or exceptionally good, and unfortunately in this case it’s the former. One thing that drove me absolutely crazy was the inability to skip through animation sequences. As I mentioned above, you’ll be doing a lot of skipping through previously read text if you want to get every ending, and the fact that every animation still runs at normal speed slows down this process hideously. Not to mention that the effects themselves look like they were made in Windows Live Movie Maker.
Finally, the art style for the girls is nice enough, but the character sprites for the men were blatantly done by a different artist and would look more at home in an otome game. The backgrounds also vary in quality from dodgily edited photos to genuinely pretty scenes, and there’s the same wildly differing quality to be found in the CGs. Like everything else in the game, it makes for a weird, disjointed mishmash.
In the end, all that I can say is that this game was a horribly frustrating experience and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this game.