YU-NO Switch Review: A Classic Visual Novel Remade

The godfather of modern visual novels

YU-NO is all about the butterfly effect, how small decisions shape our future, so let’s start with a little history about this classic game and how it helped shape the future of visual novels. Originally released in 1996 on the Japanese PC-98 home computer as an adult game then ported to the Saturn as an 18. It was the first game to feature a web of multiple routes depending on in game choices and many credit it with developing character archetypes we call stereotypes today. This remake features all new artwork created by the character designer of Ar Tonelico including new outfits for characters to bring YU-NO to the modern age and shake it’s 90s retro aesthetic.

The new artwork looks fantastic.

You play as Takuya Arima, a super perverted high school student known as the walking libido at school. He receives a letter from his recently deceased father tangling him in a mystery across time and space.

I was originally put off by reading about the sheer amount of lude fan service in YU-NO and you are greeted by a good deal of it, but honestly it doesn’t get in the way of this great game and there really isn’t an overwhelming amount of it other than Takuya perving over every girl every time you see them (you can skip this by just not selecting to look at their boobs, skirt or underwear but I found it silly and funny. You might also have some embarrassing explaining to do if someone walks in or peers over your shoulder at the wrong time, “I’m researching the history of video games, honest!”

Not a good time to be playing docked.

On the subject of fan service, it can be taken in a few ways, some people love it (otherwise it wouldn’t be there in the first place), some are put off by it, then others, myself included, find it hilarious. Such as the protagonists home room teacher; who the hell asks male high school students what’s in fashion and expects a sensible response, of course they’re going to tell you to wear tight clothes, mini skirts and thongs, you silly moo. Sometimes the fan service is a tad weird such as an interrogation during a sex scene (there aren’t many sex scenes and they aren’t explicit almost more implied than actually seen or spoken of, there are quite a lot of panty, bum and clevage shots though).

More pantsu

Takuya’s father has died and left him a strange tablet, leading Takuya down a mysterious path to discover the secret of the celestials, however depending on which route you take you might not even realise that on your first playthrough as YU-NO takes a very slice of life approach.

It’s a bit like groundhog Day really but you relive two days.

In YU-NO you spend a lot of time clicking about aimlessly traveling around various locations trying to discover what random event will progress the story. There’s a very handy skip function to speed this aimless searching up though that can auto skip any previously read text. Eventually I realised there’s a fantastic feature, while you’re pointing and clicking away if you have ‘hint feature’ set on and you don’t select anything, a sidebar pops up with all the locations that’ll progress the story complete with the colour code for each route. That really sped things up, completely stopping the random time wasting and even pops up when an item can be found or used.

With the complicated branching story the colour coding is a godsend.

The story has a ridiculous amount of branches so to keep track of them there’s the A.D.M.S, within this you can also use jewels to make saves that you can jump back to while keeping all your items, a handy feature thanks to the tablet Takuya’s father left him. The game can branch based on where you go and what items you use.

That’s only with 49% of the branches seen.

This was probably the first visual novel to let you select so many different objects in a scene but YU-NO really shows its age with mostly straightforward comments about the objects, though a few made me laugh.

Takuya does that a lot.

The dialogue is so dragged out it takes about 4 lines of text just to answer a phone. Even just the prologue was uber long, I actually found this a positive rather than negative as everything is extremely fleshed out and detailed despite having the pace of an old age pensioner tortoise with a peg leg and arthritis. What all this detail also means is there’s an awful lot of entertaining banter between the protagonist and the other characters, my favourite being when he drools over Mio’s body and she shuts him down hard, or his internal conflict as he perves over his stepmother.

Yep, that’s Takuya’s stepmother.

The scenery looks quite nice in this remake. All the characters look a million times better in my humble opinion than the 90s-tastic original with a very smooth and beautiful art style. 

So which one’s the fat one?

YU-NO is fully voice acted in Japanese, other than the protagonists’ inner thoughts and some minor text. There is a remixed soundtrack but you can change it to the original if you prefer, both I found fairly similar and fine. The soundtrack added tension and suspense when the situation called for it and was chilled in more relaxing scenes adding nicely to the atmosphere.

Will there be another hyperstone heist?

If you’re a fan of visual novels in general and in particular Steins;Gate then YU-NO is an absolute must play and I couldn’t recommend this remastered piece of history any more. Plus as an added bonus it holds up very well by today’s standards and will take a good 30 hours to complete, yes it’s a little overtop with the fan service but just see the humour in it and don’t take it seriously then you’re left with a visual novel containing more detail than most modern examples with a story that develops a little slower and is a little less grandiose than many others but is still extremely interesting.

Will you unlock the mystery?

YU-NO: A girl who chants love at the bound if this world is available now both physically and digitally on the eShop for £44.99/$49.99/€49.99. A huge thank you to Spike Chunsoft for providing the review code.

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