Ever 17 is a visual novel developed by the now defunct KID or Kindle Imagine Develop as a stand-alone part of their Infinity series. It was first released in 2002 on Dreamcast and PS2. In 2003 it received a Japanese PC release before finally being released in English by the also now defunct Hirameki International in 2005. Needless to say, official copies are nearly impossible to find at this point.
Aside from knowing that Ever 17 is an internet favorite, I didn’t really know what to expect diving into this. Something visual novels seem to lack is a good entry point for new fans. Part of my decision to read this is because I’ve been looking for such a title and I’ve read that this is a great place for someone new to start. Does Ever 17 deserve its status as an internet favorite? Or has it aged poorly? I had to know.
Ever 17 is one of those visual novels that seems to show up on everyone’s favorite list. That said, I didn’t really know much about it going in. The early part of jump between the perspective of a young boy with amnesia and a young college student. The two of them and several others are caught up in an accident while visiting an underwater theme park. It doesn’t take a genius to realize this is a very bad thing.
Trapped 100+ feet below the surface of the ocean this group of young people has to survive until help comes for them. They go about their days doing their best to pass the time without panicking. Most of the cast are surprisingly mature about the situation and it doesn’t take long to become suspicious of their motivations and the extensive knowledge some of them have about their underwater prison. Make no mistake, Ever 17 is not simply a survival story, it is also hard science fiction filled with mystery and intrigue.
Perspective is the name of the game here. Early on; basically right when things go wrong, the reader is given a choice to follow the perspective of either the younger kid with amnesia or to follow the perspective of the college student. Each has access to different routes and romances. The two perspectives have two routes each and one shared final route at the end which ties events together. This final route is only unlocked after you find the good end for the first four.
Choices are frequent but it is easy enough to find the route you want. I managed to avoid ever finding a bad end without intentionally looking for one. Some of the unlockable scenes can be a bit hard to find but everything relevant to the story is straightforward and obvious. Ever 17 uses both flags and points to determine routes and endings. Flags chose the route, while points are important for the ending. Missing or messing up a flag will result in a bad end. All bad endings take place at the end of the story so it’s a good idea to save frequently.
Once you have chosen a protagonist, the story progresses though a series of events that are similar between all of the routes. There is romance, drama and intrigue as well as a moderate dose of comedy as these people do their best to survive and keep their wits about them while waiting for a rescue. When the upper floors mysteriously begin flooding the cast of survivors are trapped in LeMU, an underwater theme park. Is it really an accident? Or something more?
Takeshi is a college student who came here on vacation with some friends. The young kid was waiting on a bench for… someone and does not remember who he is. Sora is a LeMU systems engineer who becomes the guide for the cast. You is a college freshmen who who works part time at LeMU, hoping to find clues about her missing father. Tsugumi is a suspicious young woman who knows her way around LeMU. Sara is a high school friend of You’s and is something of a genius hacker. Coco is an innocent young girl whom Takeshi first meets at the entrance of LeMU.
Not all of the characters get trapped in any given route, sometimes leaving their fate up to the imagination. What really sets this story apart is not the cast of characters but the philosophical and scientific pondering of the cast. There is quite a bit of science fiction at work here. Ever 17 explores everything from lost continents to 4th dimensional space to measuring the existence of a person.
The nuts and bolts are solid. Much of the science is plausible and based off either real theories or real mythology. Of course, there are several elements invented for the story but there is quite a bit for fans of hard science here. The opposite is also true however and I found myself made to feel stupid by this story on more than one occasion. It was never hard to follow but there is a laundry list of mysteries to solve on the side and bonus enjoyment to gain from understanding the logic behind the material instead of simply following the story. Good ends are also easier to find if you do understand the science.
There are 28 tracks, most of which are simple electronic beats. There are also a few pretty piano pieces and one lullaby sung by a few different characters. The quality of the music tracks are neither amazing nor are they bad. There is not much variety between tracks but the music is never grating or out of place and the musical themes play well with the rest of the story. There was one piece I found exceptional titled “Karma”. Karma is the song that plays during the title screen and during a few of the more emotional moments of the visual novel.
The music is not the most memorable aspect of Ever 17 but it fits well in any given scene. The track playing always matches the mood. When something goes wrong the music becomes eerie with a pulsing bass and when time is of the essence the tempo picks up and the drums kick in. In the more romantic scenes the music becomes light and happy. Ever 17 is also good at shutting off the music entirely when silence is more powerful. The power here is in the directing. This isn’t a soundtrack I would want to listen to on its own but it never grew old during my time in LeMU.
By my count Ever 17 boasts an impressive 97 pieces of event artwork. The event scenes look great and provide a sense of immersion. Special credit should be given for never breaking perspective. This is the not the most action packed visual novel around so much of the magic in these event scenes is subtle. The attention to detail helps build up the atmosphere and give the characters more expression. The emotional scenes are where Ever 17‘s art really shines and in the end that is what most people will remember it for I think.
The sprites are less impressive but they are expressive enough to fill in the gaps between events. There are a few spites that are rarely used and look a bit awkward, and a few situations where a common sprite is used and feels awkward but overall the sprites do their job well. There is usually an event scene when added emotion is needed so the somewhat lacking sprites don’t really hold Ever 17 back much at all.
Some of the characters make unbelievable noises when they are supposedly crying or laughing. The audio quality also pops a bit when the characters laugh loudly or wail. The male actors are noticeably worse than the heroines. The kid in particular has a few awful moments but to the creator’s credit the small bouts of bad acting are always cut short.
Despite my few complaints, the majority of the vocals are solid. The expression of the vocals are well matched with the rest of the visual novel and shine in the more tender touching moments of the story. Just like with the artwork, Ever 17 will be remember for its high points. The lows are not memorable enough to hang onto for long.
First, I want to point out that Ever 17 is not an eroge at all. If you are here for the graphic sex you will be disappointed, there is none. Like many visual novels, the only game-play mechanic involves directing the narrative with dialog choices. Earning points with the heroine whose route you want to follow should be obvious enough. The only tricky thing is that some of the flags are not obvious. There are only a few flags in each route and not all of them are straightforward but there are only two routes per perspective so it won’t be too hard to find the ending you want without needing a guide. The trickiest bit is probably figuring out which heroines have a route in which perspective but it should only take one play through of either perspective to find that answer.
There are a few situations where you are a given a choice of searching different areas in whatever order you choose. I am not sure if choosing to look in the area with the heroine whose route you wish to follow gives you points in those situations or not. Ultimately it didn’t seem to matter which order I explored LeMU when given the chance. Overall there are a decent number of choices to be made but they follow a logical enough structure that no guide should be needed.
This visual novel is practically impossible to find an official copy for but it does have one. The translation is solid with a few minor typos here and there. Most of them I only noticed because I was looking for errors. The dialog flows well and the many technical explanations and bits of science are well done. Ever 17 can be a bit confusing but the localization is not at fault.
Of note the creators like to mess with English for names and some of the jokes. You for example introduces herself in English by saying “I am you”. LeMU itself has sectors named in German and signs on doors are also in German. In fact the name of the abbreviation LeMU is for a German name.
Ever 17 is a must read for science fiction fans and anime fans alike. I’ve been impressed by my time spent with Ever 17 and can honestly say its now one of my favorite pieces of science fiction. I appreciate the way the science is used to add meaning to the story without becoming too silly or breaking consistency. More importantly this is an emotional story despite all the science and should appeal to a broad audience. Where Ever 17 really shines is in the way all the nerdy details come together in the final route. None of the science is wasted and the many pieces of bonus mystery material will leave readers questioning the events of Ever 17 long after they finish reading it. On a final note, I am still trying to figure out who kicked the can…