Hierofanía (released Feb. 2012) is a whimsical visual novel that stands out from the usual anime-inspired crowd, for all of the right reasons. It was its defined art style that drew me in first. The color palette that Ludeshka, the artist/writer/programmer, used gave the game a sickly feeling reminiscent of a Tim Burton film. A. Rothaus’ soundtrack worked beautifully with the fantasy setting, despite volume equalization issues from time to time.
The story is written in a way that allows you to experience the setting as you play, rather than relying on an unnecessary infodump. You play as Crocket, an idealistic knight with a thirst for adventure. She’s one of the last four who fights in the name of a deity, Utrecht, whose powers haven’t manifested in ten years. They have no magic to speak of, but she maintains her faith in the thought that some day, Utrecht’s powers may manifest again. When a stranger calls on the knights to help clear his name for a crime he didn’t commit, Crocket jumps at the chance for justice.
With seven endings – many of them varying a lot, there are plenty of choices to keep you entertained as you play. I’m not going to spoil anything, but the majority of them aren’t happy. It suits the plot, though. Depending on how you play, you can give Crocket a nice dose of reality to wake her up from her heroic dreams. Touches of humor keep the game from being overwhelmingly dark.
There was some roughness around the edges. The font couldn’t handle italics or the é in cliché very well. Some of the poses weren’t colored as crisp as the others. There were some parts that could have been smoothed over grammatically. All of my nitpicks felt minor in the bigger picture, however, and they didn’t ruin my reading experience.
The characters had wonderful designs. I really liked the EllsMiralls clerics. Douglas and Deedra’s outfits were as colorful as their personalities. Murphy, the Knight’s leader, looked haunting, yet wise. Gillan seemed like an old war hero. The dialogue exchanges between Kia, Gillan’s granddaughter, and Crocket were great. I got the perfect sense of their friendship and how they cared for one another. The characters had multiple pose changes for their expressions.
What I loved the most about this visual novel is that it reminded me of all of the visual novels that made me interested in English visual novels in the first place – the ones of 2007 and 2008, back when I first started this blog. It was refreshing to play through something this original, with its own unique edge and viewpoint far away from mainstream expectations. In a time where some people are worried about the quality of the EVN scene, we should all remember that there are stories like Hierofanía still being told.
Some of my favorite quotes from this were: “A conversation made up of stock questions and answers can’t really be a conversation. To me it’s polite noise.” and “I’m stronger than the lumberjacks, but weaker than the blacksmith.” That one made me laugh.
You can discuss Hierofanía here, and download it from its website here. You don’t want to miss this one. If you’d like to play a game from 2007 that’s similar in feeling (and was also an inspiration for Ludeshka) once you’re done, play Winter Shard. Hierofanía made me nostalgic in a good way. I’m happy I played it.