I've reviewed a decent number of OLEVNs on my blog since beginning. Most recently, it was Starlight Vega, what I expect to be the most popular yuri OLEVN of the year. But you may also recall that earlier in the year, I did a review of ebi-hime's Strawberry Vinegar, a yuri-ish title with a ton of sexy food pics.
Call me crazy, but as I was playing through Starlight Vega, I kept having moments that made me stop and think, "Hey, this reminds me of another game..." Now, none of this is meant to demonize either game, nor am I implying that anyone ripped anyone else off. Truth be told, it's me taking all my random whim thoughts and putting them in an essay-shaped object, just for the hell of it.
And so, I present to you today, an analysis of the similarities I found between Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar.
1. SV and SP
The simplest reasons are the easiest to start with.
Starlight Vega = SV. Strawberry Vinegar = SV.
Pretty sure I recall the devs talking about this on Twitter, too.
Also, both visual novels were published by Sekai Project, which is SP.
2. Similar stories and characters
You wouldn't think at first that the two games have much in common storywise, and I agree that they deviate quite heavily in the later halves of each game. But you start out from very similar points when playing either game: a demon girl love interest has appeared unexpectedly, she's very attached to the protagonist, and she has a habit of quietly casting spells to keep everyone else in the dark. I feel like little Licia could have one day grown up into Lyria (who have similar names, even!) without too much character differentiation. Rie and Aria I don't see as having nearly as much in common, but I feel like when it comes to the finer points of romance they're both a bit...well, slow, and that plays into their respective romantic arcs a lot. Also, Licia and Lyria both have sisters that take an obvious authority role and maintain that they know best for their sibling.
3. Similar randomness of bad endings
I love both games, but one issue I did have with each was the way the bad endings tended to work. They were a bit random, a bit out of nowhere, and a bit abrupt, and a number of them on each side involve a demon removing the protagonist's memories. If I recall, in one Strawberry Vinegar ending Rie even lampshades what a stupid way this is for her story to end. It's not enough to majorly detract from either game, but it is noticeable.
4. Both have piles of sweetness hiding in the back
Okay, it's rather more apparent that Strawberry Vinegar is going to be a very sweet game just by looking at the title screen. But Starlight Vega has a similar vein of happy sweetness in its character routes, one that might not be so obvious at first. I'll just come right out and say that the harem ending is full of this (no I will not spoil it for you).
So what's my point here?
I acknowledge that these are two very different games. One has a singular love interest and one has multiple; Strawberry Vinegar consistently keeps the focus on Rie and Licia while Starlight Vega gives greater focus to the demon world itself; the actual substance of the good endings is pretty different. But there are similarities enough for one to take notice, and I have to wonder if there's a reason behind it. There's a pretty big following for yuri visual novels right now, and more and more OLEVN titles are coming out with female casts and female relationships. As all of us visual novel writers continue to work in this culture, picking up influences here and there, it's probably inevitable that some of us end up on similar wavelengths.
And there's nothing wrong with similarities in works! It happens in every medium. Look at the case of Repo! The Genetic Opera vs. Repo Men. Look at the year that two movies about friends with benefits falling in love came out with almost identical plots. Nothing's taken away from either party, really; sometimes, it just happens.
I personally think quite highly of both Starlight Vega and Strawberry Vinegar, and I don't mean anything weird by drawing attention to all these things the two games have in common. I feel like, in the end, I may not even have much of a point...It was all just a completely random whim.
I'm sure good at endings.
Starlight Vega is available on Steam and itch.io. Strawberry Vinegar is also available on Steam and itch.io.
The opinions expressed in this article are my own. I was not compensated in any way for this article. The "Wrong End" image comes from Corpse Party.