Circus Reviews - Those Without Names
I didn't know this until recently, but NaNoReNo is a thing. For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo (National Novelist Writer's Month) is a yearly event in November in which people try to write a novel in a month. NaNoReNo is basically the visual novel version of that. In my travels around the Lemma Soft Forums, I came across one of the games from this year's event, Those Without Names. The story follows a young girl named...Eight. Well, that isn't her real name, but it's the only name she can remember. She is nearly alone in a strange world that consists only of a building, a hill, and Planet Earth in the sky. Soon after waking up, she meets a boy she recognizes as her brother, but she can't remember his name either. The siblings agree to try and figure out the mystery of where they are together. Are they simply trapped in a long dream, or is there something more to this mysterious world?
There are only four characters in the game. Apart from Eight and Zero, there's Thirteen, a boy Zero has befriended, and Seven, a kind older woman who introduces Eight to the world. All four characters are fleshed out reasonably well. Eight and Zero are the ones we see the most of, and their story is well done. The dialogue feels realistic, and the close sibling bond is wonderfully portrayed. Thirteen and Seven are interesting characters in their own rights, but they also don't have sprites due to time constraints. The developer has released official sketches of their appearances but has said that they don't plan to add sprites in, since the game was only meant to be worked on in one month and they feel like adding content after the fact would be cheating. I respect and understand the developer's decision there, but the lack of sprites for half the characters kind of bothers me. It may be a minor, quality of life complaint, but it felt a bit jarring not being able to see two of the characters. The story comes slowly, since a big part of the game involves Eight gradually regaining her lost memories. Over time, you learn about the past that Eight and Zero share, and ultimately you learn what the world is. There's enough foreshadowing to guess at the reveal before you get there, but the tale leading up to it is quietly heartbreaking. At times it feels a little rushed, particularly in the middle, and not all of the endings have the same amount of closure. Without wishing to spoil how the plot goes, it winds up being quite a familiar plot in the end. Nonetheless, I found each path satisfying.
I have to congratulate the developer for making such a game in only a month. Writing, coding, artwork, music, and everything else it takes to make a visual novel, alone and in one month? I definitely couldn't do that. I have no real complaints about the artwork and music; they all fit the aesthetic very well. And I'm aware that my issues with story and characterization likely would have been fixed had the developer had more time to work on them. Overall, we have a short but (bitter)sweet game that, at its heart, is about siblings being together, trying to protect each other, and figuring themselves and each other out. I enjoyed Those Without Names, and I'm interested to see if this developer will end up producing anything more.
Those Without Names is available for free download on the Lemma Soft Forums. Final verdict: Though it shows its rushed production time at various parts throughout the story, Those Without Names is a sweet and tragic tale about the strength of a sibling bond, and is a great accomplishment for its creator. Those Without Names is developed by yuucie. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I was not compensated for this review in any way.