Visual novels have long been a niche genre in gaming. Much like other genres, strong storytelling and mixed with some unique mechanics can make for some truly memorable gaming experiences. Strawberry Vinegar quietly arrived on the Nintendo Switch hoping to draw new fans into the genre. Does this one deserve attention or is this one best left to ferment in the sun?
Sakuraba Rie is a cynical and grumpy girl
Given that the story is the focus here, we won’t spoil the story. Suffice it to say you play the role of a 9-year-old girl who much like Twitter, is filled with cynicism and negative emotions. Her love of cooking (especially baking) brings her reprieve from her demons… That is until an actual demon does show up with an insatiable appetite for food. Navigate the complex relationship between the two on your way to one of the 6 endings. While unique, is it engaging? That’s left to the reader. Unfortunately during our extended time, the story just didn’t sink its hooks in. The title even had the unfortunate effect of putting me to sleep a few times. That does not mean it is without its merits.
Visually, we have ourselves a visual novel
The hand-drawn characters are well-realised and add do an admirable job of creating a pseudo fantasy world that feels like it’s taking place next door. The little bits of animation does breathe some life into the proceedings, but at the end of the day, you will be reading while looking at some drawings. The images of food however cannot be understated. Every journey through the story inevitably leads to a trip to the kitchen. The idea of a visual cookbook may not be that crazy after witnessing the delicacies on display here.
Audio-wise, things get a bit weird. While the majority of the time the backing sound does an admirable job of conveying the environment and scenes on display, there are also large sections where the sound is absent altogether. This odd “choice” was jarring especially when it pulls you out of a moment that was just beautifully scored.
Replayability wise Strawberry Vinegar is a winner. The 6 unique endings will have avid readers revisiting the world more than a few times. The fact that most “choices” do have results also means each playthrough will offer new aspects to not only the story but in some cases character development. Priced at $9.99/£9.99 SV earns its value in that books inherently are meant to be enjoyed over and over. Add in the ability to actually see your choices play out to an extent and you have all the hallmarks of a solid entry into the Visual Novel genre.
Review code provided
Platform: Steam, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 05/06/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, RPG, Sim
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop