This review has been edited from its original posting.
Had this in my Steam library for a little while, and finally got around to playing it. I read it over the course of two nights; only the fact that I had to wake up for work stopped me from finishing the whole thing in one sitting.
....Dear goodness, this game.
In the future, a red star appears in the sky, and according to scientists, it signifies the end of the world. Wars and terrorist attacks break out in the aftermath, wiping out nearly half of Earth's population. Finally, the World Integrated Government is formed to stop further loss of life and to create a plan to save humanity. This plan comes in the form of the Felix, a genetically engineered human with superior intelligence and bodies that don't age past the early twenties. 3000 of these beings are created, and the most intelligent of them, a girl named Sion, comes up with the Earth Evacuation Project, a series of colony ships that will take all of mankind into space to find a new planet.
99 years later, Earth's extinction is almost at hand. The last of the colony ships will soon depart, and Sion's role is nearly complete; however, she still has work left to do, and anti-evacuaters and fanatics post a constant threat to her. To protect her, Warrant Officer Ryou Haruna is hired as her guard. It's a strange assignment, to say the least, for Sion refuses to leave her room for any reason. Not to mention that he knows his commanding officer from the past, and the maid acts like she knows him from somewhere even though they've never met. And just who is this mysterious Sion, the savior of Earth?
And what follows is a very deep story, full of mystery and sadness. The plot can basically be divided into two parts, and while I won't say what those parts are to avoid spoilers, each part is strong. They move a bit slowly, particularly the second half, but it kind of fits. As you can tell from the premise, the characters are all fully aware that the world is ending, and the game is basically a journey to the end that everyone is waiting for.
Speaking of the characters, they're all well-developed for such a short game. Lavie, your partner in guarding Sion; Inaba, your commanding officer; Elica, a maid who personally cares for Sion; Maya, a persistent reporter...all of them are well-developed, and all of them have vital parts in the story. And no character is what they appear to be at first glance; everyone has hidden depths that will surprise you.
The artwork deserves a mention, or rather, a lot of mentions. It is amazingly well-done; it's obvious that a lot of attention to detail was paid here. The game doesn't use the traditional sprites of most visual novels; it's all CGs, and the high quality of the art makes it work well. The only issue I could speak of is the scene and art transitions. They only really use a white fade for scene transitions; it kind of puts me off for some reason. It feels like every scene might be the end of the game. And sometimes the character artwork is a bit slow to update for the next piece of dialogue. I admit, though, that this may have been a hardware issue; I had troubles playing the opening video. So I'm not sure how much of this complaint is true and how much is just related to this computer.
But the minor complaint I have regarding the transitions is just that, minor. Other than that, I can't come up with a whole lot of criticism. There's just too much to like here. Maybe I'm just saying that because I enjoy sad stories...and to be fair, this is a really sad story. You can kind of tell where it's going, and the ending was no surprise to me at all. But it was heartwrenching, humorous, and touching all at once, and damn if it isn't a good journey getting there.
I haven't mentioned it yet, but eden* is a kinetic novel, which is basically a visual novel minus the choices. A lot of kinetic novels tend to be short, and eden* is among them. I'm a fairly quick reader, but I would say I finished it in about five hours, maybe give or take a bit. But even for a slower reader, it wouldn't take that long. And since there's only one path to take, there's not a whole lot of replayability, unless you truly enjoy rereading stories like I do.
The price tag of $20.00 originally put me off, since I am rather poor. In fact, my original review of this game had a big long paragraph on how I wasn't a fan of that price. But the more I pondered it, the more I realized that it really was fair. This game has a much higher production quality than a lot of games I've seen, and were it a full visual novel with routes and everything, it probably would have hit around $30.00. Grisaia no Kajitsu, for example, is $39.99 and also has very good production quality. Mangagamer is also trying to use the sales of eden* to fund another visual novel by the same developer, which probably factored into the decision on the price at least a little bit. So with all of that in mind, I can't keep my original position on the price being too high. I can understand it being a bit steep for those without much cash to spare, but I think it's worth it.
All in all...this is a wonderful game and I am hard pressed to come up with much criticism for it. Just go try it out. That is all.
eden* is available on Steam. eden* Plus+ Mosaic is available from Mangagamer.com.
Final verdict: An amazing experience from start to finish, with superb story and characters, eden* is a sad and overwhelming journey that will probably tear your heart out and rip it to shreds...but you'll love it all the same.
eden* and eden* Plus+ Mosaic are developed by minori and distributed in English by Mangagamer. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this review.