Recently finished Utawarerumono: Prelude to the Fallen, the visual novel/SRPG, and it was personally one of the best games I've played on the Vita.I'm currently doing Mask of Deception so pls use spoilers for the other games in the series.
>Summary from vndb
Hakuowlo, a man who wakes up in a tiny backwoods village near the mountains with heavy injuries, no memory, and a mask he cannot remove. After being nursed back to health by Eruruu, the girl who found him lying at the point of death in the forest, he starts to view the village as his new home. But when an oppressive ruler threatens the peaceful life of Hakuowlo and his newfound friends and family, they find themselves hurtled towards war, chaos, and a destiny far greater than any of them imagined.
I'll start with the general pro's
I listened to the original OST and it captured the world's atmosphere and brought you in, almost like telling a story near a fire. I would highly recommend keeping the original soundtrack here. The remake artwork was well done and, in my opinion, better than the original.
They had an all-star cast for voice actors and you can tell no expense was spared with it. Every line is voice acted and these guys know how to act. The voice actors, in combination with the music, can evoke emotions out of you as well. The translations are also well done, I had no issue with them. I actually liked their translations for some of the honorifics.
Amnesia can be risky as a poor writer can make it feel like a cheap and meaningless way of building a story. In Utawarerumono, the protagonist is not just facing amnesia - the world he is in doesn't seem to make sense to himself either. For instance, the girls he meets that tend to his wounds have tails and fluffy ears, something he feels must be a costume which isn't. Not just that, he wakes up with a mask that cannot be removed no matter what he does. You are in the same boat as him, but at the same time, you constantly find yourself asking the question: "Where the hell am I, and who am I?". The best part is, the more you people you meet and understand about the world, the more pieces you are given to these puzzles. The pacing for unfurling the mystery is perfect as well, you're never felt wanting the story to go in a certain direction or another. The questions are given small answers that lead to an incredible payoff in the end. It's a legendary story, in every respect of the word.
This is one vast world and I loved the hometown that Hakuowlo wakes up in. You are welcomed by sincere, kind village people. This is one of the few games where I felt an attachment to the village at the start. Normally in games with an adventure, it's hard to grow an attachment to your starting area because thats what it is: a place to leave quickly and move forward. You shed tears, become a pillar for the village, and an essential member. I won't give spoilers, but I will at least tell you that the VNDB summary only tells maybe the first few hours of the game. The reality is this story is a grand journey, spanning many cultures and countries. But, despite that, I still view that village as my hometown. This is in part related to the amnesia, but because the world is so foreign, you want to know as much as you can about the world and no detail feels wasted or pointless as a result. In fact, you grow respect for each of their cultures.
The characters in the story have a lot of depth as well. These characters are not just people who are introduced, then become a party member and no longer have a say in anything like typical rpgs. When they join you, its because you are truly their friend or have gained their respect or trust. As such, they will have a lot of events and conversations with you. Almost all the characters have a meaningful inner battle they themselves are facing. Some games, especially silent protagonist games, you solve their problems by just standing there. Here, you become a friend by taking decisive action. Nothing is wrapped up easily and you have to earn their trust and become a friend worth dying for. In some cases, the characters just show such unbelievable kindness towards you that you can't help but care for them. This aspect makes the characters so unforgettable and the moments you share with them can easily bring you to tears as a result. I won't lie, I choked up myself more than I can count and had tears flowing throughout.
Theres also something I have to add here: The type of relationships you have are wide and varied. In some cases, you are an older brother, a best friend, a lover, a son, a leader, an uncle, a father figure, etc. The list goes on. This variety is outstanding and I can't think of a game that had this happen.
>Oh shit! moments
This game had a surprising amount of "oh shit!" moments when something unexpectedly either gory or fucked up happens. If I could compare this to another visual novel - Muv-Luv and Umineko come to mind especially. Those 2 games had an incredible amount of moments when you are shocked by what happens. Utawarerumono had a fair amount of this, and I love this.
<Lack of sex scenes
Its understandable, given that this is a vita port. While I usually don't care too much about sex scenes, I think the story needed them in certain cases. I did Muv-Luv also on the vita and didn't like the censorship for the H-scenes as well, but I love playing on the vita so much that I can forgive both cases. I ended up going to the PC version and seeing the uncensored scenes myself - which there aren't that many, maybe 5-6, of which I think 3 would have been important to know details.
<Gameplay could be harder
The game is an SRPG and the gameplay was pretty fun. However, I had it set on hard difficulty and it was slightly challenging in the beginning but nearing the midway point to the end, it was not that hard. If there was a nightmare mode or making enemies stronger or more intelligent, that would be better. While I never felt like it was a complete blowout, I never had to retry a mission after around the second half of the game which should not have been the case for the "Hard" mode.
Its hard to review without giving spoilers, but this was one of the most memorable games I've played and its left an impact on me. For anyone that's played the trails series, its given me much of the same vibes and I'm glad I picked this game up. This is a must play on the vita if you haven't already.