ebi-hime, with the help of talented artist Melowbee and skilled composer Mock Off, has released a visual novel that’s about virtual idols, cosplaying, and friendship! What did The Lily Garden think about her latest release?
Length: Medium 8 – 12 hours (I took around 12 hours)
Lewdness: 1/3 – AIdol is intended to be playable by any and all ages and it does a fine job adhering to such expectations. The most you can expect are pecks on the cheek, blushing, hugs, and a little frontal nudity from a robot.
Price: $10.99 USD
Summary: A high school girl named Hana makes some new friends while trying to save her favourite virtual idol, Aiko.
Review: I can think of few all ages visual novels which can coherently convey what it means to love as well as AIdol. In a world where idols are all the rage and virtual divas such as Vocaloids are commonplace, players can definitely find themselves relating to Hana’s experiences and embracing this setting where virtual idols are beloved.
One of the strong points regarding ebi-hime’s writing is how relevant the themes and characters are to the modern Western audience. This can be observed in AIdol due to the quiet yet noticeable discussions regarding gender. These very delicate subjects are certainly not recent in origin and are obviously intentional in scope, of course. However, ebi-hime has demonstrated she is able to gracefully navigate and explore topics in a way which sets the standard high for other visual novels.
The way the main character, Hana, and other individuals are enthralled with virtual idols can also potentially resonate with players since there are, as mentioned earlier, people who are similarly captivated with idols and Vocaloids in real life. While the technology shown in AIdol is a bit beyond the scope and capabilities of modern science and programming, the arguments for and against the fascination regarding virtual idols should still sound very familiar to many players who have had to explain, to disbelieving friends and family members, why they love idol groups like Aqours despite never seeing them in person or why they adore Hatsune Miku even though she’s not really a person.
In short, AIdol is very much a progressive visual novel and I openly applaud the way ebi-hime handles such sensitive subjects without becoming preachy.
The visual novel, by the way, is not a kinetic novel, which means there are choices to be made and routes to be completed. There are a total of eight endings, but three endings don’t unlock any achievements upon completion (and thus can possibly be skipped – they’re essentially bad ends, for what it’s worth).
As for the other five endings, Hana becomes close friends with one out of the five friends she makes at the local convention, which is a two-day even that happens to occupy a considerable portion of the story. They all appreciate Hana and the player could certainly ship any of these characters with Hana, but the game keeps it intentionally vague.
Furthermore, they’re all really charming
love interests characters! Yasu is the ditzy yet kind boy who isn’t afraid to wear cute dresses and outfits, Makoto is actually adorable (and has an amazingly sharp tongue, which is a good thing in my book), Sadako is the graceful and loyal lolita, and Hotaru is the strong and beautiful lolita (fans of lolita fashion, rejoice). I’m personally not as taken with Yuko, who is a former schoolmate of Hana’s, but the fact remains that Hana befriends some lovely individuals and it’s very difficult to decide which pairing is OTP.
I’m not particularly gifted when it comes to describing illustrations and music, unfortunately, but I do think both aspects are very well-done. Melowbee and Mock Off did excellent work!
Now for the one minor downside. I found the decorated text box, while very pretty, lacked contrast which made reading narration and character dialogue more difficult than it should have been. ebi-hime had seemingly planned ahead for this and included a dark text box option, however, which is very considerate.
All in all, I think AIdol is definitely a visual novel worth purchasing and playing through. I mean, just look at the lovely triple pun in the title! With lovely visuals, an engaging story, and an emotionally charged soundtrack, the game doesn’t disappoint. The fact that ebi-hime once again has demonstrated that she’s socially conscious and can tactfully explore important topics is also a giant plus.