Released in January 2017, Love Ribbon is a yuri visual novel about taboo love between two sisters. What do I think of this daring visual novel?
Length: Short (3-5 hours)
Lewdness: 3/3 (Tasteful amount of nudity and several lesbian sex scenes – assuming you apply the uncensored patch)
Price: 9.99 USD (uncensored patch is free).
While incestuous love is a hard sell for some players, Love Ribbon is an emotional roller coaster with a heartwrenching story. So, in short, I personally believe that the game is worth the price despite its short length.
The main draw to the game is the aforementioned love between the main character, Iris, and her younger sister, Zoey. Now, I’m not saying that I support incest. But I am saying that I appreciate the game didn’t stray from the initial premises. Neither girl turned out to be secretly adopted. They weren’t step-sisters. There was no case of mistaken identity. The girls were blood-related sisters through and through. Love Ribbon promised forbidden love and it delivered.
Why is this important? Well, that’s because the levels of discrimination the couple faces are two-fold. Characters not only judge Iris and Zoey for being lesbians (to be fair, only one character outright reveals his dislike for homosexual relationships and he’s very much designed and written to be unlikable) but they also react negatively towards this incestual love.
The discrimination actually ends up resembling homophobia to a degree; people claim that their incestuous relationship is gross or try to be considerate with their words. It’s something to think about, perhaps. Then again, comparing incestual relationships to lesbian relationships is a difficult endeavor and I predict some of my readers will want to pretend I’m glutinous rice so they can pound me into mochi paste. It’s also possible that Razzart Visual just wanted to grab people’s attention with SISTERLY LOVE. That’s up for players to decide, I suppose.
Before I go any further, I’d like to talk about the characters.
Iris is the pink-haired goody-goody. A scholarship student who is currently aiming for a free ride, she actually has no idea about what she wants to do with her life. Iris is initially pleased to find out that she will be sharing an apartment with a younger sister she didn’t know she had. However, she wasn’t expecting Zoey to be so tall and calm…and rebellious.
Zoey is the aloof girl with raven-hair (and ear piercings). Unlike Iris, who has to study hard to maintain her grades, Zoey seems to have no trouble keeping her grades up even though she’s constantly skipping class. Is there a reason behind her frequent truancy and late-night outings?
And that’s about it! Well, that’s definitely not true, but these are the only characters who actually have in-game sprites. Some of these side characters are also rather important to the story, but I’ll refrain from elaborating on their roles to avoid spoilers. I will say that I resent most of them, however (I know they’re just characters but I just get so into visual novels…).
Your mileage may vary in regards to the validity of the statement, “opposites attract,” but having two characacters (with very different mindsets) abruptly meeting and interacting with each other is almost always a guarantee for conflict. This definitely applies to Iris and Zoey: the tension between the two is prominent from the very start. The two girls experience several hardships and issues before they finally start seeing each other as sisters, friends, and lovers.
It’s not an easy road by any means, however, and I was left feeling emotionally devastated in both routes (there is a bad end and a good end in this visual novel). There were just so many moments that left Iris and Zoey (and the player) feeling miserable. That being said, there are some genuinely happy moments, but I felt like they were just overshadowed by THE SADNESS. The upcoming free “DLC” that will be taking place after the canon ending should give players some closure and peace of mind, though!
Aside from the crushing moments (which is actually a testament to the strength of the writing, to be honest), the story itself was solid and I see no obvious issues with how it progressed and concluded. It is also fairly obvious which choices players should choose in order to access a particular ending, so it’s perfectly feasible to complete the game without using a guide! I know I made Love Ribbon sound like a depressing visual novel with minimal joy, but there are (a few) instances of humor that really made me chuckle.
As expected of the producer, Razzart Studio, the art is beautiful. Iris and Zoey both look pretty, in my opinion. There are a few images that I think could have been done better, but that’s just me nitpicking. I really do love how the CGs have a different feel compared to the character image spirtes. They were done with watercolors, perhaps? I’m not really that knowledgeable about art, sorry.
I think I have to mention that there’s an animation feature that pops up whenever the girls get INTIMATE. Just like in Negligee, we basically get to see porn (no censor, even) whenever Iris and Zoey get frisky with each other. And unlike in Negligee, the animation isn’t of low-resolution (and thus isn’t blurry). I’m happy to say there’s kissing in this game which is a huge plus in my book. We also get some buttstuff which is definitely something that isn’t seen too often in yuri games…and is something that pleases me greatly. ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)
The UI was minimalistic, which was nice for a change. Just a small textbox with zero hard outlines. No obstrusive menus that take up half the screen (and thus ruining players’ immersion) to be found here! Players get 48 save slots which is quite generous for a three-hour game. I found myself with a considerable amount of leftover save slots even after I went through both routes and saved at each decision point.
Considering that Razzart Visual apparently used a fair amount of free songs, the music was actually pretty good. The soundtrack not only included THE CLASSIC COMBO (yuri visual novels + sentimental piano music), but there were also songs that made use of other instruments and really suited the atmosphere of both the scenes and the visual novel.
There were no voices to be found, but is that really a demerit? I personally don’t think so. Especially if you consider that Love Ribbon is a short game that costs 10 USD. We gotta have reasonable expectations, people. Plenty of fine visual novels skimp on voices!
Love Ribbon focuses on a budding relationship between two sisters. If that prospect doesn’t scare you off, then I would recommend giving the visual novel a shot. It’s well written, looks beautiful, contains erotic scenes that are both animated and tastefully executed, and will not require a guide to navigate through (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt). While the game is indeed a little short, the pacing is fine and nothing feels rushed! For just 10 USD, Love Ribbon is a decent deal.
If the visual novel leaves you feeling overwhelmingly melancholic, fear not! There’s a planned free “DLC” that’s in the works and will possibly give players some additional closure and an even happier ending to balance out the suffering Iris and Zoey had to endure.
If you’re looking for another visual novel that was produced by Razzart Visual, then I would recommend trying Starlight Vega. While its price is around 50% more than that of Love Ribbon‘s, Starlight Vega offers 3 love interests, 8 different endings, and will take around 8 hours to complete (if you marathon through visual novels like me). The art in Starlight Vega, just like the illustrations in Love Ribbon, is gorgeous. Both games also deal with rather heavy concepts and themes that will leave you pondering about this and that for days on end (note: this is just personal experience speaking. Your mileage may vary).
If you’re looking to DOWNGRADE, then you can give Negligee a try. While the two games are similar in price, Negligee just feels more rushed and incomplete due to the how the majority of the game is set to start and finish over the course of a few days. And if you were interested in seeing animated sex scenes, well, the ones in Negligee are low-resolution (and censored) whereas the ones in Love Ribbon are clear, crisp, and uncensored. I will admit, however, that Negligee is a lot more light-hearted and is probably one of the funniest visual novels I’ve ever played.