This is an interesting little title for a number of reasons – mainly in that it combines a handful of mechanics that I really like, but don’t often see. I like the light-hearted elements of a good life sim. I enjoy Visual Novels and, like everyone else, I really like Persona 3 and 4’s social-link gameplay – where progress is governed by friendships.
Cherry Tree High manages to deftly combine all three elements into a charming little package – and more importantly, mixing the right weight of each element so that none are too overpowering… but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Cheery Tree High sees you take control of Miley – a high school student who wants to set up a Comedy Club. Only problem is, her life-long rival controls which clubs get approved and which don’t – and she’s not going to make it easy for her. Your mission then, is to find the requisite number of club members (that’s five in case you’re wondering) and you also have just a couple of months in which to reach your goal.
And so the game begins. Miley must wander her local town, befriending the locals with, ultimately, a view to recruiting them to the club. In order to do so you need to have reached a certain level of friendship with them – and to achieve that, you’re going to have to partake in a number of activities in order to boost your ‘skill’ in certain areas.
Reading magazines, playing games, reading books, doing your homework, cooking – all manner of things you can engage with in order to boost your ability in those areas, or rather, raise your knowledge so you can better charm prospective ‘friends’ and recruits. It’s a system not unlike that found in Persona – and anyone who’s enjoyed wandering the streets of Inaba will feel right at home at Cherry Tree!
All this is accompanied by Visual Novel style skits. Cherry Tree was originally Japanese of course – and with that comes the difficulties and pitfalls of cross-cultural humour translation – but hats off to the team at Nyu Media, who have obviously tried to inject it with their own humour, their own flavour and it works – being all at once funny, charming and light hearted.
Likewise, the characterisation is really well done – stronge personalities, some genuinely touching moments and some fun dialogue make this always compelling to play. I’ve played plenty of Visual Novels in the past where I’m barely reading anything anymore, just idly stabbing away at the button willing it all to end. Not so with Cherry Tree – no single element, character or conversation really out stays it’s welcome.
Overall the presentation is great – I really like the VN style character portraits, which perfectly compliment the beautiful, expressive sprite work. Having both work together simultaneously and overlaid onto some nicely drawn locations – make the game world a very pleasant, very colourful place to inhabit for the game’s duration. It’s fair to say Cherry Tree has a certain unique charisma to it, which makes for a distinctive, memorable experience.
Persona-similarities aside – Cherry Tree is unlike anything we’ve played before. Sweet, light-hearted, relatively short and bright and breezy in a pleasantly casual kind of way. A fun little game to play for a couple of afternoons for sure, and the perfect remedy for anyone looking for something with a little slice of quality, and a little change of pace.
Cherry Tree High Comedy Club is available to download from our store right here.