What would you do if you, tied to the fates of four other strangers, suddenly received a massive amount of power? With no direction given to you, what would you use it for? How would others like you use it? Would you be a hero? A villain? A power broker? Would you build yourself a kingdom? That's what the visual novel Coμ asks.
Coµ follows Akihito and his "Coµ": a group a people with the power to control a giant supernatural being. While he never knew these people prior to their connection to their creature (known as an Avatar), they are permanently tied to one another's fates through the creature. Through the story they learn the nature of this relationship and how they must work together while also learning that the world isn't quite as safe as it was before.
There are five routes in this visual novel, but as I'll get to later that's not exactly saying much.
In an interesting flip from Ayakashibito, Coµ ends on a very high note. The final route merges the conflicts of previous stories and finally gets around to answering questions that it postulated as earlier as an hour into the story. It's quite epic and the whole arc of the true route comes across very well, if a bit obvious near the end. It manages to weave in one or two curve ball revelations that might catch a unobservant reader off-guard if they aren't careful.
Coµ is probably one of the better written VNs I've played to date. While a good deal of this probably goes to the translator, there's a certain elegance to the writing that does shine through consistently. It's soft-spoken and quiet when it needs to be, but also forcible and in-your-face when you expect that it should be.
Generally I can't vouch for the actual Japanese being spoken, but it's just the inflections I'm talking about here. The actors brought an excellent amount of experience and emotion to the table that did end up leaving me impressed. It was very high-grade work even when compared to some of the better VNs I've played to date.
This is subjective, but I've got to put it out there. The characters are hit-and-miss. Personally I had issues with the majority of the cast. While the main character did well, his co-stars in this outing left something to be desired. Benio is decent, Mayuki is okay, Haru is forgettable, Izawa is entertaining but suffers from the worf effect regularly, and Hinaori (i.e. the most important character) is sidelined for the first forty hours of the story. It's something of a disappointment really, especially after Ayakashibito had such a strong supporting cast.
Much like Cross Channel, I get the feeling that some of the subtext and mythology of Comµ gets lost in the translation. Things that are comprehensively important to Japanese culture make sense to the Japanese, but when you translate them and show them to an American, things aren't going to work quite as well. I feel like some of the metaphors and writing of Coµ suffer from that, though I'd need to ask a Japanese fan to be sure.
Ayakashibito spoiled me. Plot threads in it didn't just suddenly drop without a word. If you were playing Tonya's route, you heard about Touka's plot resolving. It was very well choreographed and it all worked together well. Coµ is not that. The stories are disjointed, plot threads are dropped when they aren't relevant to the current route, and the only exception is the true route, which tries to tie it all together.
Still, that means that it happens in 4/5 of the routes of the story. It's kinda annoying, particularly after I played such an antithesis to that style of writing.
Let's be clear about this, the true route is great. The problem with the true route is that it takes clearing the other four routes to get to it. The other four routes are meh.
Let me say that again, the other four routes are meh. It's just true. Ostensibly an enforced playing order like this is to make sure you get all the information you need to before you proceed on to the last route, but it doesn't feel like it's very relevant in coµ. You'll spend like 30 hours reading your way through the other routes to get to the better true route when it feels like we could just cut out the middleman and shave some 15 hours off easily.
As much as I liked Coµ's final hours, I can't deny that it doesn't have the same caliber of writing and cohesiveness as Akabeisoft2's G-senjou and Sharin no Kuni. At the same time it does put up a decent fight.
The first half of the story is a bit of a drag and a lot of your enjoyment during it is going to bank on how much you enjoy the characters. This is due to how lackluster the supporting cast's routes can be in comparison to the true route. This is a whole lot of "Your Mileage May Vary", but that's exactly why it's a proceed with caution.
If you're looking for another Akatsuki Works project in the same vein as G-senjou, Coµ isn't bad in the slightest. It's a good attempt at a plot-heavy visual novel with a lot of the same things that made other Akatsuki/Akabeisoft VNs work very well, but it has issues with being as thoroughly excellent as them.
It's a good action story with some great moments, so if you want that, you're probably set. If you're looking for the next god-tier VN, you might not want to get your hopes up quite yet.
This review was created with Talk Amongst Yourselves' official review format.
This review is part of my video game review series. I will be running it parallel to my Anime Marathon series. You'll be able to find all my video game reviews on Dex's Corner using the tag "Game Review". You can also find visual novel related material under the tag "Visual Novel".
You can find all my posts on Dex's Corner.