ReviewsReview: A YEAR OF SPRINGS

Review: A YEAR OF SPRINGS

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Visual novels are wonderful at tackling taboo subjects in a matter-of-fact way. Yes, there are over-sexualised and bizarre moments, but there are also plots full of emotion that’ll touch your soul. A YEAR OF SPRINGS comprises three short tales that highlight friendships, romance, and the insecurities associated with the LBGTQ+ community. It’s wonderfully written, can be completed in a few hours, and will make you feel warm inside.

Developed by npckc and published by Ratalaika Games, this is a charming visual novel trilogy full of dialogue choices and intertwined friendships. You will enjoy; One Night, Hot Springs, Last day of Spring, and Spring leaves no Flowers. Each tale follows the life of either Haru, Erika, or Manami as they explore love, friendships, and wanting to belong.

A YEAR OF SPRINGS is unusually short.

I’ve delved into many visual novels and each time I review one, I leave hours to get through the text. Strangely, however, A YEAR OF SPRINGS is unusually short. I blasted through each main story in no time, and then enjoyed the bonus chapter that was unlocked. You may think four minuscule stories wouldn’t be enough, and perhaps I was left wanting. Yet, this wasn’t the case as the dialogue twists and turns and the relationships flow from one book to the next. Moreover, it was fascinating to see how each story relied on the other, and the development of the characters’ relationships.

Time to relax after a long day.

Three novels to devour.

One Night, Hot Springs focuses on Haru, a transgender Japanese woman who is invited to a spa day by Manami. Still legally considered a male, she must deal with the regulations imposed upon her while fighting her emotions. It allows you to see through the eyes of a transgender woman and the emotional ties that shackle them.

Last day of Spring picks up the tale a few months after the first instalment. Here Erika attempts to book a spa day for Haru’s birthday. However, unlike One Night, Hot Springs, the staff are not so accommodating to her gender, and this leads to many uncomfortable conversations. Haru wants to back out of the trip, but Erika won’t give up without a fight. The beautifully written script highlights the special bond between the two and how Haru’s comfort is placed before anything else.

Spring leaves no Flowers picks up approximately two months after Last day of Spring and focuses its time on Manami. After the group of friends go out for a meal, Manami’s boyfriend asks why he wasn’t told of Erika and Haru’s relationship. Manami didn’t know what he was saying and begins to see clues that perhaps her friends were dating. This forces her to question her understanding of relationships and friendship and steers the plot towards other areas of the LBGTQ+ community. It was an interesting twist on the trilogy and made for a fascinating final read.

Make sure to keep talking to your friends.

Wonderful characters and touching moments.

With three distinct novels all focusing on strong emotive plots, this could have been an overwhelming game. Fortunately, however, the beautiful touching moments and wonderful characters keep the story grounded. If you are ill-educated towards the LBGTQ+ movement, don’t let this put you off, though. You can still enjoy the setting, friendships, and dialogue that unravel without worrying about the subtle complexities. 

It’s a coming of age title that evolves across the trilogy. The developers have incorporated some hard-hitting moments that will resonate with many of its readers. Sadly, I never became emotionally attached to any of the protagonists, but I enjoyed it on a base level. Fortunately, though, the plots were interesting enough to keep me hooked.

A YEAR OF SPRINGS is wonderful to look at.

Many visual novels follow a similar and simple animation style. The still images and OTT facial expressions help to highlight the emotion in the text. A YEAR OF SPRINGS sticks to these tried and tested ways with its hand-drawn basic imagery. The use of soft lines and pastel tones present a calm and understated finish. Furthermore, there is a blend of melancholy and fun moments that support key points in each story.

The audio does wonders to highlight the Japanese roots and the emotional elements of each plot. I loved the blend of fast-paced and slower songs and the use of traditional Japanese instruments. Fortunately, the music didn’t distract you, nor did it detract from the text. No, it enhanced each moment, even if the changes in music were subtle. Sadly, there is a distinct lack of sound effects, and this was a shame. Sometimes less is more, but in this case, more would have been better.

Who could be ringing?

It’s easy to make each decision. 

I was shocked by the number of dialogue choices and subsequently, this is one visual novel that demands you stay alert. You’ll regularly flit through an array of options, but luckily the control system is straightforward. Like all visual novels, this utilises limited buttons, and this makes it easy to play.

I’m used to visual novels having several endings, but A YEAR OF SPRINGS takes the proverbial biscuit. Every story has a ridiculous amount of finales and this was both fantastic and fascinating. The developers have explored every avenue of each character and this leaves no stone unturned.

A YEAR OF SPRINGS won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. 

Visual novels divide people at the best of times, however, A YEAR OF SPRINGS will push people to breaking point. With an array of taboo subjects at its core, it can be a tough read. I loved its openness and frank approach and recommend you to buy it here! Take a journey with each of the protagonists while they fathom out what it means to love, to connect with others, and to belong. 

SUMMARY

A YEAR OF SPRINGS is a fantastic trilogy of short stories. Explore love, friendships, and the feeling of belonging in this LBGTQ+ positive game. It is beautifully presented with a lovely varied soundtrack.

+ Lovely pastel tones and hand-drawn images.
+ A varied soundtrack.
+ LBGTQ+ positive.
+ Interesting characters.
+ Three intertwined stories with a unique approach.
- It won't be for everyone.
- Shorter than its peers.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: Daniel@moviesgamesandtech.com

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Review: A YEAR OF SPRINGSA YEAR OF SPRINGS is a fantastic trilogy of short stories. Explore love, friendships, and the feeling of belonging in this LBGTQ+ positive game. It is beautifully presented with a lovely varied soundtrack. <br/> <br/> + Lovely pastel tones and hand-drawn images. <br/> + A varied soundtrack. <br/> + LBGTQ+ positive. <br/> + Interesting characters. <br/> + Three intertwined stories with a unique approach. <br/> - It won't be for everyone. <br/> - Shorter than its peers. <br/> <br/> (Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.) <br/>