A more in-depth review of the game than mine which i borrowed from.
I see a lot of people asking what are the best video game plots around.
Usually I see people answer with Planescape:Torment, The Longest Journey, Grim Fandango etc. etc.
I have played them all plus more and while they are all great stories I have found something that I liked even more.
Some may be turned off by the mention of this term but the game I think to have one of the best stories is a visual novel.
I can already imagine the people closing this thread at the mention of this very term.
When most people think of visual novels they see Japanese porn games.
And I would agree to some extent they are correct.
The visual novel market is filled with games that are high in sexual content and are not that special story wise aside but there are some visual novels that do have good plots.
In my opinion YU-NO excels above all others.
So if you are still reading this let me tell you why.
For a video game there are many aspects that can help create a great story but the few that I will mention are;
The plot itself
YU-NO excels in all these aspects.
Before going into detail about these aspects here is a summary of the beginning of YU-NO.
The main character is a high school student named Takuya.
After three months of being reported missing from a cave-in, his father,Arima Kodai (a successful historian and researcher), is declared dead.
The whole town is shocked by his father's death. The only person who seems largely unaffected is Takuya himself who has always struggled to bond with his traditional and strict father, and lost his own mother at a very young age.
But while the young student may not outwardly show much in the way of emotion, his grades have begun to suffer, and his surrounding individuals at school have taken note of his inner struggles.
Summer vacation is nearing and Takuya finds himself questioning the circumstances of his father's sudden disappearance, feeling it was a typical dramatic ending as his father always seems to strive for, and having been left alone only to live with his stepmother, fills him with anger and frustration.
Aimlessly wandering the hallways at school and treading home to the all too quiet home, he suddenly finds a package left for him. The contents startle him. A letter. An unknown device consisting of mirrors.
The letter tells of a theory of alternate dimensions, gateways and usage of the alien device to bend time and space. While most of the information goes over Takuya's head, one thing clearly grips him; the letter is signed by his father. His mind races to resolve the mysterious revelation, could his father still be alive? How, and most importantly, where?
And now back to why I think it is above all others.
The plot in YU-NO is not easy to do well, it's massive in length (80+ hours) and deals with complicated subjects.
It's a sci-fi/mystery with parallel/time traveling.
Whenever confronting such subjects there is a fine balance between believable and nonsensical.
YU-NO handles the subject on parallel worlds and time traveling very well.
It introduces you to a well explained theory and even gives you the mathematical equations for authenticity.
It keeps this theory within strict boundaries so it does not fall into absurdity like a lot of poorly made sci-fi stories get caught in.
YU-NO is cerebral in the ways it challenges morals and logic.
Despite balancing the very delicate time travel aspect, it also goes into philosophies of religion, history and introduces both traditional and contemporary mythology in the form of unknown creatures and alien technology.
And yet even with all these elements where one slip could result in plot holes or irrational leaps of logic, the writing is always able to support the immense weight of the responsibilities it has to keep everything in balance.
Every mystery and every twist has an answer, and every answer reveals enough to satisfy the most skeptic of minds.
Ironically, while many games today struggle to establish a concise world and narrative through numerous sequels and merchandise, YU-NO changes its world in an instant multiple times, yet remains a much more complete entity.
YU-NO demands the fullest attention and requires some dedication, not through a steep learning curve or general difficulty, but to immerse yourself fully and feel the plight and troubles of the characters.
For those who truly sit down with it and let themselves be taken emotionally along the ride, it's one of the best crafted stories in game history and the true ending to the game is one of the most exhilarating and incredible experiences you will ever have while playing a video game.
A large portion of the 80+ hour game is made up of voiced dialogue and all through out the game it remains high in quality.
The cast of voice actors/actresses are all professionals who know what they are doing.
Most of the actors/actresses are well known in Japan and have played many roles in anime and video games.
Anime such as;
Yu Yu Hakusho, Sword Art Online, Oh My Goddess!, Ranma 1/2, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in a Shell, Sailor Moon, Claymore, Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Dragon Ball, Full Metal Alchemist, Excel Saga, Fruits Basket, Full Metal Panic, Bleach, and Pokemon.
And video games;
Soul Calibur, Armored Core, Metal Gear Solid, Guilty Gear, Tales of Destiny, Tales of Symphonia.....pretty much most Tales of games, Disgaea, Xenogears, Xenosaga, Dead or Alive, Tekken, Grandia, Valkyrie Profile, Kingdom Hearts, Onimusha.
For a full list of the voice cast click on the link below.
Link to the voice cast
Unlike a lot of games where the voice acting is emotionless, awkward or not fitting with the character YU-NO nails the job.
Each character has a voice actor that fits in with their personality and looks.
Other than being professionals one of the reasons the voice acting works so well is because the dialogue is written with care.
In YU-NO, every spoken line has meaning, comes from something real and is never treated as a throwaway aspect.
And though the spoken lines are Japanese, the emotion of the delivery is universally understood, from the times of laughter to the times of deadly fear, the performers are able to communicate the intended message without any doubt.
At first look the characters seem rather cliched and you might be quick to compare them to their well know stereotypes.
But in a short period of time you realize the characters are well made with a good amount of depth and intelligence to them.
This is partly due to the well made script which creates convincing characters who are easy to relate to.
The main character in YU-NO is especially noteworthy of this.
Takuya leads a life of duality.
The exterior behavior, in which he shows little to no sign of pain or sorrow over the loss of his father, acting foolishly naive to the people around him and the inner dialogue, which shows his anger, frustration and intelligence.
The characters around Takuya are also more than what they seem. Double lives, hidden secrets, conspiracies, everything has more than one side to it.
This game was created on old hardware with a sound chip from the late 1980s so there is plenty of limitations for what can be done.
Despite this the music composer was able to create a large list of quality music.
His approach to music was with shocking amount of care and detail.
The soundtrack is not the kind that immediately kicks up to 5th gear and remains high in adrenaline and tempo, but rather one that always keeps the emotional background relevant and in place, telling a story in music as much as the game does in writing and speech.
To show what I am talking about here are some songs from the game.
I cannot show the whole list of music here as it contains 83 tracks that is 5 hours in length.
This music is composed from sound hardware that is older than the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo so I was quite surprised to see what the composer accomplished with the limitations in place and how well each song fits within the scenes being played out.
As I said before this game was made on old hardware. The PC-98 is computer from the mid to late 1980s.
There a various models of the PC-98 but most of the changes weren't great enough to effect the overall visuals aside from advancements in color display made in the earlier models.
The limitations of the hardware only allowed for 16 colors to be displayed at any time and despite that the artwork in YU-NO is full of detail.
The artists got past the color limitations by introducing dithering which really adds depth.
At the time of the late 1980s and early 1990s the display resolution of most console games were pretty low with an average resolution of around 256x224.
YU-NO blew past this with a resolution of 640x400 and the bump in resolution really shows in the amount of detail they can fit on screen.
There is a lot of variety in the artwork.
The backgrounds and locations are beautifully composed, showing the seaside town in both peace and unrest.
The sci-fi parts are also made more believable by the art making the unknown fit well within common place scenery.
The only nitpick I could find was some of the character art.
A lot of the character art is not the most original or realistic, with large busts and unhealthily slim waists being the standard template for most the women found in the game.
But they all feature unique personalities which are instantly recognizable in the art.
The romantic expressions, hair style and clothing is very well done and helps support the personalities displayed in voice and reading.
Another very important aspect to their design is the fact that they remain neutral enough to which that the parallels they showcase come off as believable and in character, and their actions never combat the way they look.
In pure comparison to other visual novels, they might not be the most attractive, but they are certainly among the more unique and definable.
Here is some of the artwork displayed in the game.
If you are interested in the game and want to watch it here is my YouTube playlist.
I currently have over 66 hours recorded and I am getting close to the end.
Also here is the first video just for people to get a taste of the game.
You could also try playing it yourself but the game can be a bit hard to get through without a walkthrough and even with the walkthrough it is pretty confusing.
Here is the walkthrough just to prove my point.