Let me get this out of the way first of all: I am not a big fan of visual novels. Rare is the visual novel that can capture my attention and I know many others feel this way too. Katawa Shoujo recently released to much press attention for its touching stories and well-crafted characters, but the question arises as to whether you’re “playing a game” or “reading a story”. This distinction can make the difference between whether someone might want to get into one or not.
Christine Love understands this. Christine Love creates visual novels in the loosest sense. Yes, they are still visual novels and yes, there is an awful lot of reading, but Love’s VN’s have much more interaction than an average entry into this genre, a genre not often seen outside of the East.
Analogue: A Hate Story is a sequel (perhaps spiritual successor is more fitting) to Love’s first major game, Digital: A Love Story. In stark contrast to Digital, which had players working on old technology in the late 80s, Analogue has you working on a spaceship computer, communicating with a far bigger ship’s AI systems.
The story goes that you’ve been tasked with discovering what happened aboard a spaceship that was sent to set up a colony in space. Everything else is a mystery to you. After navigating your way through the command prompt-like computer at the beginning, you’re soon patched into communications with *Hyun-ae, an AI who seems all too willing to help you with your mission.
Throughout the course of your mission you’ll read many letters, diary entries and conversations between people that have been logged on the ship’s computer, and slowly, a clearer picture of the sort of life lived upon this ship forms. Love has gone to great effort to ensure that, while set in the future, her story is historically accurate, referencing a time in Korean history where women were greatly oppressed (their second names are stricken from family trees, their only purpose is to bear male heirs and serve their husbands and they all mostly accept this blindly).
Being a visual novel, there are of course romance options. Similar to Digital, Analogue has you romancing an AI if you so choose (though this time you’re aware that you’re speaking to an AI). While I only saw one ending, there were no H-scenes (sex scenes for the uninitiated) and the sauciest this VN gets is reading diary entries and letters between people speaking of their trysts and lusts.
Visual novels are a difficult genre to review, being generally very samey experiences, but that is why I am a fan of Love’s work. They’re unique and do things that no other VN I’ve played has done. The story is equal parts disturbing and mysterious with dashes of optimism scattered here and there. It’s an intriguing tale that I sat through in just one sitting. That being said, I did try and get a different ending but twice, I fell into the fail-state and got a game over. That got frustrating fast and so I decided I’d seen enough. The skip mode didn’t work when I had tried to skip over text I had already seen which only served to drive me away from a replay even further. Overall, however, I would suggest this to fans of Visual Novels and I would even urge newcomers to give it a try. It will inevitably not cater to everyone, but for those whose interests it does grab, it won’t let go until the very end.