Visual Novel Spotlight: Koenchu!

Yet another Steam Greenlight title sneaks its way into the spotlight, this time it’s voice actor-centered visual novel Koenchu! The Tale of the Voice Actress ~You, The Sky, and That Summer~. To save breath, you can just call it Koenchu. Seven girls await your advances as you learn the ropes in voice acting school.

 

Souta Uehara is your average teenage protagonist – the kind of guy who can’t think straight if there are boobs in the room. Despite this, he enrolls in a technical school which teaches students the ins and outs of voice acting, a particularly hard career to pursue and one full of women. During his time in class, he meets a number of girls who he can get along well with or fight over everything with. And when his class needs to pull together to act out a play, Souta needs to keep his relationships in check or risk not progressing in his chosen career.

 

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Right away, Koenchu looks like a pretty great deal, with a main story that lasts several hours with several branches for several characters in addition to an animated opening, unlockable scenes, unlockable games and hours of radio music and chatter. You can select to read the game in Japanese, English or Spanish, can listen to audio in Japanese or English, and comb the game for hidden achievements and scenes. But after the initial impression goes into actually playing the game, things change.

 

The game about voice acting is indeed fully voice acted, bringing an astounding amount of people together to lend their voices to the range of main and background characters. The localised release contains voice tracks for the Japanese version as well as an English version, although you can’t switch between voice tracks in the middle of a game. Reserving comments about a language I don’t speak, the English voice cast does a great job handling the script, though having Apphia Yu, Michelle Rojas (both lending their talents to FUNimation dubs) and Britt Myer (just an all-round adorable VA) handle most of the characters works out well. It’s something to take note of not just because it’s rare to say “that was a good dub” but because Koenchu’s script is riddled with problems.

 

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When it comes down to it, Koenchu feels like a pretty amateur work, and not just because of the localisation. Much of the game is true to what Slice of Life really is, taking you through daily classes, lots of stretching and awkward situations that aren’t as funny as they are just kind of… overdone. There’s nothing too refreshing about the story, and interacting with characters doesn’t give you much to think about. On a whole there’s not much to think about, really. The game seems to be enthusiastic about its focus on voice acting but doesn’t want to exclude anyone, so when you’re given a quiz about anime and voice actors, it’ll ask you about capital cities and world trivia, and maybe sometimes anime.

 

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What brings it down further is the translation. While not as bad as other in-house efforts, the script has a noticeable amount of errors, and when it’s error-free it’s mostly awkwardly worded. The English voice cast puts a great amount of effort in to helping you enjoy the game anyway, but then there are points where text hasn’t been translated in the main script, in addition to the fact that none of the unlocked extra stories have been translated, instead displaying “DUMMY” (“dummy text”, presumably) for multiple screens. “But Shadow, maybe it’s endlessly pretty,” you may say. And while the filtered backgrounds are fine and sprites are cool and shiny, it really doesn’t distract from what’s going on.

 

To somewhat save the game, Sekai Project – an English production company that is also bringing Narcissu and World End Economica to Steam – has jumped in, saying that an editing overhaul of the script can happen with a Steam release. The group suggests that subtitles can be added in for the radio recordings, as well as translations for extra scenes and a translation for the interface. After that, Koenchu can be a fine game to play with your brain off.

 

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The 2011 English release of Koenchu! Tale of the Voice Actress has some great ideas and ambitions with its topic, dual voice options and various unlockables but seals itself away in an awkward and incomplete translation of an average story. The prospect of re-releasing it on Steam means the game may improve quite a bit, but at the end of the day it’s the kind of visual novel where you sit back and enjoy wherever it goes.

 

Koenchu! The Tale of the Voice Actress is available through DLsite and MangaGamer for $15.47–$8.97 (or £9–£5). You can also vote for the game on Steam Greenlight to allow Sekai Project to fix its more problem areas and give it a proper English release.

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