Length: Short (1 – 2 hours)
Lewdness: 1/3 (A Few Light Kisses)
Summary: A free game created by Ebi-Hime, author of Asphyxia, The Way We ALL GO and Strawberry Vinegar, TSSofEB is a free yuri game created for a game jam.
As the saying goes, dead men tell no tales. They only leave tales behind.
Toma Andrews, aged 14, has always felt like an outsider. She enjoys spending time in graveyards, and feels more comfortable among the dead than the living.
That is, until Toma meets a strange girl in her local graveyard who might be a real ghost.
The girl asks Toma if she will stay for a while and listen to a story. A story about a girl called Emmeline Burns, who died a tragic death back in 1851.
Toma is compelled to listen, but at the same time, she feels uneasy. After all, what can she do? How could she ever hope to help somebody who has already died?
(Steam store page description)
Review: For a free visual novel that was produced in YuriJam 2015, The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns offers more than expected and is a short yet charming read.
I guess the first thing people will want to know is if the game includes choices. Well, TSSofEB is a kinetic novel so it actually does not. That’s potentially a deal breaker for some players / readers, but I digress.
In regards to the writing, I would say it isn’t quite as compelling or as poignant compared to that of Blackberry Honey and Asphyxia, in my opinion. However, I must emphasize once again that TSSofEB was created during YuriJam 2015, which meant the visual novel was created within a single month. It certainly has its moments and should still be considered fine writing, but it just falls a bit short in comparison. Be that as it may, it still holds ebi-hime’s distinct style which I’ve grown quite fond of.
Speaking of Asphyxia, the same artist behind the illustrations in that particular visual novel, SillySelly, returns and does yet another marvelous job as the characters look cute while wearing elaborate and intricate clothes. Apparently, since I’m reviewing this visual novel a few years after it was initially released, the artpieces (primarily the backgrounds, I’m assuming) have been updated since SillySelly was a bit discontent with how they were originally presented.
The soundtrack mostly consists of standalone piano music (the talented composer is TyberAlyx, by the way), but I would say the pieces set the mood quite well and provide zero sense of tonal dissonance. There aren’t many songs, but each one is important in establishing a melancholic (yet hopeful) sort of aesthetic. I really really like the main menu theme, “Little Flower!”
I would say that the UI is interesting yet overzealous. The in-game UI is some cute jewelery and frills to spice things up and the main menu UI makes you click on shelves, journals, etc. Navigating the main menu was a unique experience!
As for the yuri, well, there are a few instances, where girls kiss each other on the lips, face, and neck, strewn throughout the visual novel. As for what’s not shown on-screen, it’s implied that the girls do get a bit more steamy. Be that as it may, it’s a relatively chaste and “pure” game.
In short, The Sad Story of Emmeline Burns is a visual novel that’s about acceptance in regards to your identity and to bygone events. It’s also about being open and having enough courage to ask for help when you’re stuck in a rut and about making the most of your life. There are a lot of great themes to be explored in this game despite being somber and at times depressing, which is to be expected due to the title. But there’s still hope buried underneath this short visual novel, which is what makes TSSofEB worth considering.