Visual Novel: Shuffle! Essence+
Shuffle! was the first game to be released by visual novel company Navel. It was apparently popular enough to have 2 full length fandisk/sequels, a few shorter releases with short scenarios featuring characters from the franchise, and most importantly a remake containing a considerable amount of additional content.
I watched the Shuffle! anime (2005) on a friend’s recommendation years ago. Although I couldn’t remember much of it at all besides the setting and the fact I didn’t really like the ending much, I always had the visual novel as something which I might be interested in reading to see if the other characters routes were any better.
As you can probably tell from the title, this review is not about the English translated version of Shuffle! I ended up deciding to read the remake, Shuffle Essence+ in Japanese. While the original release of Shuffle! only had 5 routes, Shuffle Essence+ increases the amount of routes to 11.
Shuffle! is set in a world where, 10 years ago gates appeared connecting the human world to the respective worlds of the gods and devils (English version seems to use those terms so I’ll just go with that). So in the present, its normal to have gods and devils living alongside humans.
The main character is Tsuchimi Rin, an ordinary student. One day when he arrives at school, he finds that two girls he apparently played with 8 years previously have transferred into his class. The two girls are the princesses of the gods and devil races. That is when his school comedy life begins.
I really enjoyed all the routes from the original release (Nerine, Lisianthus, Kaede, Asa, Primula). They were all well-paced and short, with a very well executed and emotional climax.
The new routes added in Shuffle! Essence+ however, didn’t have the same impact at all. Ignoring Nadeshiko-sensei’s route which just branches off straight from the common route and ends straight after the h-scenes, the new routes were actually quite a bit longer the the original routes. The main problem with that was that they were paced completely differently, which gives a completely different impression, especially when comparing them to the original routes which were much better structured.
That isn’t to say that Shuffle Essence+ isn’t worth reading over the original though. I downloaded the English version and skipped through all the content to see what the differences were and there were additions to all of the original routes which were definitely worth it. And although it’s definitely true that I didn’t like the new routes anywhere near as much, they weren’t really bad. The heroines themselves were fine, just the story itself was disappointing compared to the other routes.
So I’d recommend Shuffle! as a general recommendation to anyone who is slightly interested (maybe try out the anime first though). Fortunately the best routes are all translated into English already. Unfortunately however, Mangagamer has taken Shuffle! off their site for whatever reason so you’d have to pirate it.
I did like Shuffle! though overall, and will be reading the fandisks at some point. (Probably sooner rather than later because I told myself that after I finish them my next Navel visual novel will be OreTsuba, which serves as a really good motivation.)
- Decent comedy during the common route.
- Really good execution in the character routes (original 5 heroines)
- Good amount of extra content.
- The new routes couldn’t live up to original routes.