A nice mystery visual novel set in a Harry Potter-esque world.
Release: 2013-2015 (UNiSONSHIFT：Blossom)
Writers: Kazama Bonanza & Nishinomiya Yuuki
Neko – 1/5
Tsubaki – 1/5
Adelheid – 1/5
Fuuhito – 1/5
Rito – 1/5
Ushiyo – 4/5
Japanese difficulty: Easy
Ratings: VNDB (8.31); EGS (8.30)
I must confess that my initial impression of Tokeijikake no Ley Line has been somewhat mixed. There had been this sense of its main writer not being yet quite experienced enough to feel comfortable with his craft that I could not shake off despite thoroughly liking the premise — the dialogue and prose felt at times a little bit stilted, and the world did not appear to be exactly internally consistent (who on earth would allow for such a school to exist on the planet earth, much less attend it?). It didn’t help that the first installment of the trilogy is basically the first half of the common route that does not even set everything for the main story yet, much less offer anything conclusive.
Fortunately, despite the initial problems, the writing, especially dialogue, eventually gets better, and I soon fell in love with the characters, or more specifically, the relationship between the game’s cynical protagonist Koga and the always matter-of-fact heroine Ushiyo. The two pretty much single-handedly carried me through the first game, which, while offering a couple of crafty mysteries and one or two satisfying revelations, in the end is merely a string of set-pieces designed solely to familiarize the reader with the rules of the magical setting.
Meanwhile, the routes of the side-heroines feel not only almost randomly tacked on but were also quite obviously written by someone other than the original writer; they read like poorly-written fan-fiction rather than a legitimate part of the game, and are sometimes even inconsistent with its later revelations (a theme that will be true to all three games for all routes other than Ushiyo). They are all quite abysmal, and I’d recommend you either completely skip them, or skim through the text only for the ero scenes. Just don’t trust anything what’s written there — the hacks penning them are none the wiser about the game’s plot than you are.
In any case, things pick up in the second game as more interesting characters get introduced and both the mystery and the romance start moving forward. The first few chapters seem like random odd jobs again, but they’re actually all crafty foreshadowing for the grand twists to come. Actually, the clever foreshadowing where all twists are thoroughly surprising yet never come from nowhere is the point most commonly praised in Ley-Line games. My enjoyment of the story peaked near the end of the second game, the last few chapters of which are a rollercoaster of surprises. It ends on a really high note promising to answer all the remaining questions in the sequel, and then gives you the semi-catharsis to Koga-Ushiyo’s by now high-strung relationship after the credits, which incidentally proved to be one of the better romantic scenes I’ve read in a VN yet.
Interestingly enough, while many seem to love the third game the most, I personally found the whodunit part of the mystery (as opposed to “how” of the second game) a lot less interesting, and the whole plot of fighting the bad guys — while more action packed — kind of underwhelming. For one, the opposing party doesn’t really have all that strong a motivation to do what they’re doing, and, in fact, they turn out to be so incompetent you’d think they were sometimes sabotaging themselves on purpose. It’s kind of cool to see how the phenomenon of the “night world” had come to being, but the revelation certainly pales in comparison to understanding what it was about in the second game. In the end, I ended up enjoying the bits of romance scattered throughout the third game the most, while the main story turned out to be, while fun, a bit too predictable and by the book for my tastes — the famous clever foreshadowing not really shining through that much this time around.
All in all, while Tokeijikake no Ley Line has some problems with explaining its setting, doesn’t really offer the best of Japanese prose, and ends up kind of predictable in the end, it also offers one fascinating and very magical mystery to uncover and tasteful, heartwarming romance that doesn’t necessarily follow the usual tropes of visual novel writing (the relationships gets a bit complicated due to the antics of some very cheeky magical contraptions, heh). Moreover, the pacing is good, and character interactions — especially those of Koga and Ushiyo — never get old. If Harry Potter with an aloof tsundere version of Hermione as the main heroine sounds like something in your alley, you might want to check Tokeijikake no Ley Line out. It might not be a masterpiece, but it’s a good game, and I certainly don’t regret investing my time into it (just don’t dismiss it based on the first game alone).
|Beautiful character designs||A couple of things feel either inconsistent or under-explained in the setting|
|Plentiful CGs||The bad guys are way too silly and incompetent in the third game (guard your prisoners, you twats)|
|A couple of memorable music tracks||The story turns out to have been pretty simple in the end|
|Fantastic voice-acting, even for JP standards||Absolutely abysmal side-heroine routes; stay away for your own good|
|Interesting setting of magic and adventure||Some dialogue feels a bit stilted (Rui’s lousy insults can be particularly ugh sometimes)|
|Interesting, likable characters, especially Ushiyo|
|Engrossing plot full of twists and mystery|
|Good, fast pacing|
|Clever, meticulous foreshadowing|
|Tasteful, heartwarming, and relatively unconventional romance|
|Well-written ero scenes (Ushiyo)|