Visual Novel Spotlight: Sunrider Academy

With a larger variety of games arriving on Steam, the good old time management sim is making a comeback, this time in the form of Sunrider Academy. While those who have jumped on the stat-raising giant Long Live The Queen might recognise the genre, Sunrider Academy brings the classic school dating sim back, with a few changes and larger focus on the characters.

 

Kayto Shields’ alternate universe life isn’t as glorious as his days as captain of the Sunrider, but AU Kayto has his own problems too. After becoming vice president of Sunrider Academy, he’s pushed into managing three problem clubs and must build them up to be befitting of the school. But while he needs to manage his time with the clubs, school life and other work, Kayto needs to figure out how to get a girlfriend. Luckily, all the club captains are completely available and might even be his type…

 

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It’s important to note that Sunrider Academy is a spin-off title, sister to a tactical RPG. Being a spin-off, the usual recommendation is to play some of the core game first. While you can go ahead and play Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius (free) to get to know everyone, it’s not required reading. Setting Sunrider Academy in an alternate universe lets anyone hop on this dating sim train, but it does have a fair share of jokes, references and events that you won’t get if you haven’t seen the other game. Apart from that, meeting the girls and dating them doesn’t need this extra knowledge, though it may help fill in a bit of the setting.

 

Sunrider Academy has a good grip on the “waifu simulator” genre to the point where it can easily be mistaken as a Japanese dating sim. It has everything you could expect, from a small range of girls with prominent features to cool music and smooth art. You still crunch numbers and meet girls randomly, hoping that with each scene of mild school shenanigans, you can grow closer and closer until you eventually get to fire your Vanguard. You deal with holidays and birthdays, buy gifts to please your romantic interest(s), go through their major drama arc, get advice on who likes you, and cram Intelligence activities the week before your exams. What I mean to say here is that Sunrider Academy feels a lot like a checklist.

 

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Even though Sunrider Academy was basically a two-person project (with music and extras from various resources) and must have been a stressful task for the team for something this huge and overall well-made, I can’t escape that it comes off as lacking, especially in the first 5–6 hours of the game. The heavy reliance on RNG accounts for most of it, but it’s also weird development decisions that pop up throughout the game. The interface is really fiddly, the dialogue a bit too “rough localised” in feel, the RNG  – which determines not only your stat rolls but if you run into a fair number of events – really out to kick your ass. The game offers difficulty levels to make rolls less punishing, but when you’re not reloading for something more favourable, you’re clicking through the week and hoping to trigger a scene you need to advance. Of course, this is half of what time management sims are, but when it comes to scenes in between this, Sunrider Academy tends to stick to fanservice, sudden drama or fairly mundane daily life scenes with a few jokes or references.

 

Thankfully, once you make it through four months or so of getting to know the girls enough, you can choose to jump into a route and have events occur a bit more regularly. Keeping yourself and your clubs afloat is still a task, but now you can fully enjoy the ups and downs of your chosen girlfriend. There’s also plenty of humour and cute moments to be had, and you can expect the game to hit everything you would expect in a dating sim, from cute dates to awkward situations to weird events to bed. It just doesn’t do anything particularly new with it all.

 

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Sunrider Academy is a lengthy dating sim that lets you experience a bit more romance and a bit less space lasers with the main cast of Sunrider. While the game gives you plenty to tackle with its stat system, it relies a bit too much on random number generation that can very easily become annoying for the first few hours of the game. Past that, it settles into something more enjoyable and basically everything you could expect from a  waifu simulator.

 

Sunrider Academy is available for Windows on Steam for £ 22.99 / $29.99. You can also play the core game, Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius, for free for Windows, Mac and Linux on Steam 

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