Exploring Visual Novels 8: Deardrops

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First released mid 2010 in Japan by Overdrive, Deardrops received a western release from MangaGamer in the early part of 2012.

Deardrops is a band story told in the same universe as KiraKira and Curtain Call. I greatly enjoyed my time with KiraKira so my expectations were pretty high going into this. How did it hold up to those expectations? Read on and I’ll tell you!

Eiji might act like an uncultured jerk, but hes not all bad.

Eiji might act like an uncultured jerk, but hes not all bad.

First Impression

I picked this up on the recommendations of two other visual novel loving bloggers, Silvachief and Manifest. This is my second Overdrive visual novel, so I had a decent idea of what I was getting into.

The first thing I noticed was the protagonist’s violin. This was pretty much hype in it’s purest form for me. I like rock and I like classical, even before this visual novel I’ve been a fan of bands that mix the two.

Riho is not one to mince words.

Riho is not one to mince words.

Structure

Deardrops is a fairly straightforward visual novel. There are four routes and all four are accessible from the start. Once you reach a specific point in the story it splits in one of four ways.

The bulk of Deardrops story is told in a single route, Riho’s route. Kanade’s route takes on some opposing themes and then Rimu and Yayoi are more side stories than full routes. I’ll get into that more when I talk about each heroine.

Yayoi loses herself a bit when it comes to the guitar. Miss a note in front of her and what are you? Shit, that's what.

Yayoi loses herself a bit when it comes to the guitar. Miss a note in front of her and what are you? Shit, that’s what.

Story

We start with Shoichi, a famous violinist returning to Japan after causing a scene in Germany and moving into a live house. His childhood friend works there and he knows her father. They let him stay in an old bus on top of their live house. After getting involved in a rock band because of a silly bet, Shoichi soon begins to study the guitar and earnest. It isn’t long before he has himself his own band and Deardrops is formed.

The story that follows is a fairly typical story of the struggles a new band faces. The first is simply being able to bring in enough costumers to fill the live house where he works. After Deardrops becomes an established band at their local live house the story splits to follow a romance with one of the four heroines.

No no, that isn't the kind of fame you want Riho.

No no, that isn’t the kind of fame you want Riho.

Riho

When it comes to Riho, she is either full on or full off, there is no in between. She is the type of person to devote herself to something 110% and when she gets involved with Deardrops as their vocalist, that is exactly how she handles it. Riho has an honest and somewhat naive personality. She is also a bit rough around the edges, but she has good heart.

Riho is the star of Deardrops. Out of all the heroines, she is the only one who follows the central storyline of the band to completion. Her story is passionate and focused on one thing, music. Her opinion on romance is that music come first and she holds to her values when they get challenged. Riho is the focal point of this band story, in the other routes it just doesn’t go much past earning a spot at the live house. Most of the cast get their resolution in this route. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that Riho is Deardrops. The rest of the routes are more like a nice little bonus or side story.

That underwear trick is old news, just close your eyes and pretend they aren't there at all.

That underwear trick is old news, just close your eyes and pretend they aren’t there at all.

Kanade

Kanade gets the most attention after Riho. Her mother was a singer and she always secretly admired her mothers talents, but is too afraid of getting in front of people to sing for herself. Well that changes when Riho falls sick and asks Kanade to fill in for her during one of her concerts. After Kanade’s performance with Deardrops, a start up talent agency takes an interest in her and she soon finds herself with a career as an idol.

Kanade’s route is filled with drama and it builds up the central storyline for the protagonist. The best part of this piece of the story is that we get to see a unique view of what happened between Soichi and his old career with the violin. The problem with Kanade’s route, is that it becomes plagued with extreme plot contrivances during the latter portion. Punches are pulled and emotions that should leave a meaningful impression are cheap and disposable instead. Kanade’s route is kind of like a limb bent backward at an awkward angle. It never completely breaks, and it still manages to tell a mostly competent story, but parts of it are cringe-worthy at best.

Priorities

Priorities

Rimu

To call Rimu whimsical is to put it lightly. Rimu basically has the personality of a cat and is at her happiest when she is curled up on Soichi’s couch taking a nap. To put her personality into perspective, Rimu becomes text buddies with a famous rock star. When she learns who he is Rimu doesn’t think anything of it. Despite Rimu’s carefree attitude, she is smarter than she lets on. Her father was a famous rock star himself and Rimu claims that she started learning the drums from him at the age of three; however, despite her affection for her father he abandoned Rimu and her mother years ago and she suffers from his abandonment.

Rimu’s story is one of loneliness and learning to open up. I found it to be pretty good despite how short it was. Rimu was probably my favorite character in Deardrop‘s because she always managed to make me laugh. It’s a shame, but the protagonist back story is dropped entirely in this route. I love the way Rimu gives off an aura of being much smarter and more aware than she lets on. This is a good story, but also a simple one, short and sweet, but definitely worth reading.

Aww, it's okay Yayoi, your route wasn't THAT bad... Okay maybe it was, but your still cool in my book.

Aww, it’s okay Yayoi, your route wasn’t THAT bad… Okay maybe it was, but your still cool in my book.

Yayoi

Yayoi is first introduced as a guitar freak. When Soichi needs someone to teach him the ways of the guitar quickly, she is the only one up for the job. Yayoi’s passion for the guitar is something she can’t control. When Soichi misses a single cord she will fly off the hinges at him for it. The two characters have some great bonding early on, but once her roll as teacher is done she quickly fades into a background roll.

The romance with Yayoi is straightforward. Once her teaching role is through, the cast start treating Yayoi like some girl next door type instead of the master guitarist that we are told she is earlier. This effect is jarring in a nasty way and leaves her personality feeling broken into two unconnected pieces. Her romance is decent for what it is, but it feels completely disconnected from the rest of the band story. For better or worse, it could have been an entirely stand alone story as it doesn’t add anything to the overall narrative. Her ending feels rushed and makes for the poorest route in Deardrops. There are some enjoyable moments here for sure, but looking at the narrative as a whole, it just isn’t very good.

This is what music is really all about. Am I right?

This is what music is really all about. Am I right?

Music

If I start drooling please slap me. As I mentioned earlier, I love rock music with classical instruments. Riho’s route is the only route where you really get to hear this, but then Riho’s route is also most of what Deardrops brings to the table period. There are several great concert scenes in her route and they put the violin to work for a wonderful effect. We also get some cool covers, the first rock song Soichi learns is clearly Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. They don’t actually play it all out, but those cords are unmistakable. Again in Riho’s route, you will hear a cover of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven.

I absolutely adore the violin rock that gets played here. Noisy Sweet Home is my favorite track. It’s the ending theme for Riho’s route and that ending sequence… well I won’t spoil it, but it’s pretty awesome, so many wonderful emotions at once.

I don't care what instrument you play, facing down a storm to play your music is rock.

I don’t care what instrument you play, facing down a storm to play your music is rock.

There are twenty two background tracks and unlike KiraKira, you can play them inside Deardrops music player. The background music is pretty good and fits the various themes well. There are also seven tracks from Deardrops’s themselves. Most of the music they write is in Riho’s route, but the other two band members have such short routes that this isn’t an issue. At one point in the story a famous rock star does a cover of one of their song’s and that is included in the music player as well.

Kanade’s pop/idol music adds two more tracks. Sadly, her route has very few musical scenes and feels a bit stiff as a result. There is much telling and not enough singing. Riho get’s several really awesome concert scenes while Kanade really only has one, two if you count the time she fills in for Riho. Despite the many issues with her route the one music scene toward the end of it has a good emotional payout.

Woah! was Kirari always this cute?

Woah! was Kirari always this cute?

Art

The goofy ears are gone! I actually kind of liked those, but I think I like this cleaner look better than KiraKira‘s more cartoony display. There are 91 pieces of unique art in the gallery. Unlike KiraKira, Deardrops doesn’t change location much. Much of the story takes place in or around the same place and that can make Deardrops feel a bit stiff at times, but event sequences are often enough in most of the routes that this never bothered me that much. Kanade’s route was worst of it. Sometimes her route goes long periods of time without much change in scenery at all.

Much of Deardrops is told through sprites over backgrounds. The sprites only have a few variations and some characters feel like they needed more to fully express their personalities. This reuse of material is more noticeable in some routes than others. Kanade is again probably the worst offender.

This about sums up my general feelings as well.

This about sums up my general feelings as well.

Voice Acting

Riho really steals the show, her vocals are great both when she sings and just in general dialog. I am not 100% on this, but I believe she is voiced by Yui Kano. Some of you may know her as Edy Nelson from Valkyria Chronicles.(If I am correct anyway, but I think I am.) She just runs away with this role and wish I could find more of her work. Riho basically makes Deardrops what it is and Riho’s character wouldn’t be the same without this voice backing it up.

The rest of the acting is solid. I would credit more of the actors, but hunting them down is a royal pain. Gonda, the band’s bass player, is another excellent character with a great acting job. His explosions of anger add a dose of personality that stop this story from feeling too much like a harem. His wisecracks about life are also pretty great. Everyone in Deardrops is voiced except the protagonist and it’s an all star performance.

There is only one futon remaining...

There is only one futon remaining…

Gameplay

Deardrops uses a straightforward point system when you earn points up until a specific point. Once you make it onto one of the routes, the rest of the visual novel is completely without choice.

The only other gameplay at stake here is in the form of unlockables. Gallery images, erotic scenes and music, all the basic stuff and nothing else.

Okay, I will admit, that is pretty hot.

Okay, I will admit, that is pretty hot.

Excessively Romantic Content

Most of what you will find here is fairly vanilla. There is a love confession and then they go get it on. If you’ve played an eroge before you have seen this. The artwork is well done for these scenes and they are on the more tame side for what they are, but for the most part they don’t add or detract much from the overall experience. I’d also say they are an overall step down from KiraKira despite the sexier artwork.

There is one exception or rather two, both of Riho’s scenes are a bit more creative than the rest. After one love making session, Riho writes my favorite Deardrops songs(My Sweet Home which I mentioned above). Riho’s scenes are both creative and fit naturally into the story. Maybe you are already picking up on a theme here, but I’ll spell it out anyway: The best of everything in Deardrops is basically found in Riho’s route.

EatO the MeatO!

EatO the MeatO!

Localization

I found Deardrops to be clean and easy to read. I had read that it was pretty wonky in a few other reviews so that is what I had been expecting, but I didn’t really have any slowdowns with this text at all. If it had typos or grammar issues I didn’t catch them.

Some things are left untranslated and a PDF is included to explain their meaning for anyone who might not know. For my own part, I didn’t open that PDF even once, but some of the notable stuff would things like keeping honorifics in Japanese as well as other common Japanese things that don’t easily translate in Japanese. I know what all of those meant and so this kind of localization makes for the most natural type of reading for someone like me.

And you should probably come out to hear it for yourself.

And you should probably come out to hear it for yourself.

Overall Value

Deardrops was a good experience. Most of the routes were a bit of a letdown, but so much passion comes out in Riho’s route alone that I just don’t even care about the things lacking in the rest. The obvious question is going to be which is better? This or KiraKira? My honest answer is that they are both worth playing. Deardrops story is more compact and does many of the same things that KiraKira managed in less time. Overall I would say that Riho’s route is better than anything from KiraKira and manages to condense that experience into a smaller package while also bringing some new things to the table. In the end, if you want a good band story, you can’t go wrong here.

10 thoughts on “Exploring Visual Novels 8: Deardrops

  1. Well done. I like your Deardrops review. Good introduction and characters description. Better game summary. Nice images selection fit your review. Some eechi images here and there make reader drooling for play it without reveal much of game.
    In fact, I will buy and download it next time.
    Thanks mate for mention me in your review this time.

  2. Thanks for the mention =) I think I agree with most of your points in this, though my own opinions of Deardrops are a little blurred by nostalgia (which may be why I also liked Kanade’s route).
    You’re completely right in saying that Riho -is- Deardrops – without her the rest of the VN just wouldn’t stand up at all. I’d say that her and Eiji were my favorite characters.
    My favorite track was Melody of Hope, but My Sweet Home (which is translated as Noisy Sweet Home on my copy) comes in at a close second, with the others all falling under “alright”. The violin + rock combo is one of my favorite, there needs to be more of that out there XD
    If you’re interested in playing the rest of the Overdrive titles, I quite liked Dengeki Stryker (though you may want to wait for the upcoming Chou Dengeki Stryker expansion). There’s also Edelweiss…but that was almost painful to play and doesn’t merit a recommendation.
    I think there’s a good chance that the Kira Kira Vs. Deardrops crossover will be getting a translation, so i’m looking forward to that =)

  3. I am pretty much sold on playing anything from Overdrive that Mangagamer brings over, it’s just a matter of time. Dengeki Stryker looks awesome and I’ve heard mixed things about Edelweiss, but I know there are a few people out there who think it’s pretty awesome. It looks like it is more on the silly side, but I might be okay with that. I actually already own all this stuff so I’ll get to it eventually.

    What I really want right now is a good nakige or even an utsuge, something tragic. Kanade’s route almost went there, but then all punches were pulled and I was left a bit disappointed. I probably won’t have time for another visual novel until after otakon so I haven’t really decided what to play next. I might just ask for recommendations once I get back.

    • I’ve just discovered that my list of VNs that i’ve finished is surprisingly devoid of dedicated nakige. The one that probably comes closest is Clannad which I would probably give a 7 or 8 out of ten, but on VNDB it has a stunning 8.95 average. The alternate-ending-sequel to Clannad, Tomoyo After, is also pretty good if you can get past the inital 30 minutes or so of H-scenes.
      Little Busters! had me going a little bit in some places, and it gets a solid 9 or 9.5 in my books. Also by Key though, so perhaps playing their earlier work first would be better.
      Finally, Katawa Shoujo has some nakige moments and hits around 8 in my opinion.
      I know you said you were thinking about asking when you go back, but I couldn’t resist XD

  4. I really liked your review, but I think I can’t let the grammar mistake part slip.
    I don’t mean to criticize or anything like that – I’m not even native speaker myself, but I do think that there were some really annoying typos. It might be because I’m not a native so because of this I have to read more carefully and a little bit slower, though. Not that it matters to much though, just saying.

    [SPOILER ALERT!!]
    Also, I’d like to ask: Is there anybody here, who remembers Shoichi starting to play the violin during their concerts? I thought it would be some big twist in the plot or some big announcement or something like that, but it somehow avoided my attention, or I just somehow skipped it, I don’t know.
    But it felt strange, when they were playing during the Festival, and he was playing the violin… It felt off, the change was sudden or it just wasn’t said directly? :O

    I really liked your review though, and I can totally agree with you! 🙂

    • I assume you are asking about Riho’s route? I think Shoichi first started playing his violin in concert when everyone showed up for the audition, but I’m honestly not sure off the top of my head. I remember it being a cool event the first time it happens, but now that you are asking me where that was located in the story I’m not sure.

      • Yeah, Riho’s route…
        It was like… he played it at the audition since he didn’t have much of a chance. But I thought it would be a bigger event, since it was kind of surprising.
        But whatever, their music still rocks! :3 With the violin parts especially.

  5. Spot ON review. Riho is by far the best route, save it for last or will be a pain in the ass watch all endings.

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