In 2014, Georgina Bensley of Hanako Games announced the start of a new sub-brand of games, Hanabira. These games are produced by Hanako Games but written by someone else. The first of these games is Sword Daughter, a visual novel adaptation of a Choose Your Own Adventure style book written by Rhondi Vilott and published in 1984.
Our protagonist is Tyrna, a young redhead with a fiery temper and an affinity for battle. She trains daily to maintain her skill at swordsmanship and, along with her father and a group of caravaners, is on her way to the Warrior Games to prove her worth. But trouble strikes them on the road - a band of orcs attacks, killing Tyrna's father and kidnapping the caravaners. Tyrna herself barely manages to survive the encounter safely, and is found afterwards by Gavin, an elvin Ranger. He insists that Tyrna isn't safe and should go back home, but Tyrna is consumed by a desire to avenge her father and save the caravaners.
From here, you must choose what Tyrna will do. There are a myriad of choices to make, all of which branch the story off in some way. Having that much power to choose your path is nice, although sometimes the choices tend to lead in unexpected directions, and sometimes different choices will end up having consequences that don't make a lot of sense. For example, at one point you are attacked by a pack of wild dogs and are given a choice between charging them and slipping away before they notice you. You are told that charging the dogs could be dangerous. But fighting back against the dogs works and allows you to continue the game. Trying to slip away from the dogs results in them noticing you anyway, and even though the fight goes roughly the same for the most part, you somehow end up getting thrown from your horse and the game ends with you too injured to continue on your quest.
But the world you're given to explore is quite interesting, despite how easy getting kicked out of it can be; I definitely wouldn't mind seeing more. The art is beautifully done, especially the background art for areas in the mountains, and the sprites look quite nice. There is a noticeable tendency to reuse certain CGs, and some of the repeated ones don't match with all the scenes they're in. It makes me think budget issues, but to be fair, Hanako Games has other, bigger stuff in development right now, and I wouldn't blame them for putting more of their budget towards those bigger projects. (Like the awesome-looking Black Closet!)
The game itself is very short; I got 100% completion in roughly three hours. (I am an extremely fast reader, though.) There are a total of twenty-two endings, and to make finding them easier, the game includes a section map that allows you to reload from any scene in the game and marks any choices you haven't explored. This is a really nice touch that made going back to find new scenes and dialogue options a lot less tedious than it might have been otherwise.
As for the characters, there aren't a whole lot of them outside of Tyrna and Gavin. Tyrna is interesting enough; a girl who wields a sword in this kind of fantasy world is a sharp contrast, though the game doesn't touch on it much. Her glaring flaw is her tendency to ramble on about how she thinks she's falling in love with Gavin...even though she's only known him for a few hours. This coming from a girl who insisted to her father that she was solely focused on swordplay. I guess Gavin is just that pretty. Or maybe it's just that he too says he loves Tyrna and keeps trying to take her home. Again, these two have only known each other for a few hours. But hey, there are all kinds of love...
All in all, we have a good little game here. The writing and art are enough to keep you engaged in the world, and there are plenty of story paths to explore. I might have liked to see a longer storyline, or a little less talk about the sudden wonders of true love. But still, Sword Daughter was an enjoyable experience, and I look forward to seeing what else Hanabira ends up producing.
Sword Daughter is available on Steam or directly from the developer.
Final verdict: Despite some missteps in character personalities and an overall feeling of wanting more from the story, Sword Daughter is an enjoyable experience, and the art and world design in particular do a lot to make the game fun.
Sword Daughter is written by Rhondi Vilott, illustrated by Kim Sokol and Iacocca Khen, and developed by Hanako Games. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.