The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns is a short, sweet and slightly gothic shoujo-ai visual novel available for free on Steam.
This story is a sad one, but it’s also sweet, touching, and uplifting all at once. Toma Andrews is a teenage girl with an affinity for graveyards, and while hanging out at one of her usual haunts she encounters another girl who may or may not be a ghost. The girl tells her a story about someone called Emmeline Burns who died back in 1851, but what does this all have to do with Toma?
While the story itself is fairly straightforward, it’s extremely well-written. I did spot a few typos here and there but they weren’t anything major, and it’s clearly written by someone with a good grasp of the English language, something I unfortunately find lacking in many visual novels. Occasionally bordering on saccharine, this tale of love between teenage girls has heart to it and fleshes out its characters well. At around one hour of playtime it cuts out any fluff, making sure every line is relevant, and the emotional tale brought a lump to my throat without veering into overly depressing territory.
Apart from the writing, another standout is the visuals. The art is gorgeous, using a palette of pale pastels and light, airy shades, and the sprites have a delicate porcelain doll look to them. The words “sugary gothic” popped into my head as I was playing, and it’s an aesthetic and atmosphere I enjoyed immensely. (Also, if that turns into some kind of sub-genre of VN I totally copyright the label!)
The music is lovely and atmospheric, however the sound effects are a letdown. The wind sound was loud and crackling, and the looping in the rain track is painfully obvious. It was really jarring to hear these and made me hurry through the sections they cropped up in so that I didn’t have to listen to them anymore. Replacing these with something softer or even just removing them altogether would be an improvement.
The pretty artwork and feminine themes of the game do lend this visual novel a somewhat “girly” atmosphere, however I wouldn’t let that put you off if you are male as its content can speak to anyone regardless of gender.
The sound effects aside, I have nothing but good things to say about my experience with this game, and the fact that it’s free is an added bonus. Developer ebi-hime has a few other games up on Steam but this was the first I’d tried of theirs. I’m now very much looking forward to playing more from them.