Developer: Key, Visual Arts, Amaterasu Translations
Release Date: June 24, 2011
Genres: Action, Fantasy, Romance, Tragedy
Rating: All Ages
Rewrite is set in the fictional city Kazamatsuri where treeplanting and afforestation have caused the city to become overgrown with trees and flowers in much the same way that other cities are filled by buildings. However, while most of the city appears to be rural, there are many traditional city elements as well. While set in a modern setting, the city also gives off a strange sense of nostalgia. The basis of the story is set in a high school setting. The first half of Rewrite primarily consists of the characters interacting in many everyday, enjoyable scenes. The latter half, however, is more serious, emotional, and carries a sense of mystery to the plot.
As indicated by the title, rewriting is the theme of the game’s scenario. The tagline for the game is, “Could it possibly be rewritten, that fate of hers?”
Fairly high on my summer bucket list was a goal to try out Rewrite, a visual novel by the acclaimed Key which I knew almost nothing about before starting. At the time of writing, I’ve finished just Kotori’s route, and I still feel like I know nearly nothing – like I’ve barely scratched the surface of anything. I’m a bit too impatient to smash through the other routes before writing something up, so instead of an overall, spoiler-free review of what I think of the game in general, I’ll be making a series of posts more similar to the episodic impressions we mainly do on AAB. So this will be a coverage of Rewrite on a route-by-route basis as I play through it, and that means it will be full of two things: spoilers, and my ignorance. Shake it now, baby now~
I think the common route did fairly well in slowly building things up before the true plot lines emerged in the character routes – there was a nice combination of comedy, slice of life, mystery and the supernatural. At some points during my playthrough, I did begin to think that it was too long and drawn-out – so I was actually quite pleased whenever Kotarou stumbled upon something creepy in the forest or somehow accessed the alternate dimension where time seems to be still and the sky is always grey. It hits really hard that the common route masks up the real, darker reality behind Kazamatsuri, which we were only given glimpses into through the alternate dimension, with its robed figures and black dog familiars. I also found it quite sad that, for all the comedy and happy moments Kotarou shared with the five girls, each of them was hiding something about their true occupation and role in the events within the city. I know Kotarou himself was also hiding Rewrite and Aurora from them, and they probably did it to protect Kotarou (who had no need or reason to know), but it’s bittersweet that all the girls in the Occult Club participated in the way they did with a hell of a lot more knowledge than they let on.
There were two main aspects that made the common route for me, and even when I skip through it again when getting to the other character routes, I’ll watch out for these. The first one is Yoshino. He’s absolutely hilarious, and I loved the bromance – I think I’m never going to tire of his delinquent antics, and every chance I get I pick the option that will result in Kotarou messing with Yoshino the most. To my knowledge he’s just a normal human, so it’s a pity he won’t be involved too much in the character routes because he can be a real bro at times. Even something like Chibimoth is already god knows how many Yoshinos strong. Anyway, the second is Lucia’s reactions whenever Kotarou does something perverted – her cries of “Tennouji Kotarooooooooooooooou!!!” are incredibly cute. She’s a better tsundere than Chihaya is, I would think. While plate licking is… somewhat of a strange thing to include, that’s pretty much the boundary for any sort of ecchi content. Rewrite is an all-ages game, so it’s pretty mild on this sort of thing – in the common route, the most we got in terms of CG images was a glimpse of Akane’s panties as she fiddled around with her computer. And even then that was only once.
Key likes putting in these small minigames into their visual novels that spice things up a bit – Little Busters! had that baseball minigame, and there was another scenario among others where you had to throw Rin up a multi-storey building using Masato and Kengo. In Rewrite it’s Mappie, an interactive map app that Kotarou uses to interact with various people, places and objects in Kazamatsuri. While it was an interesting gimmick to begin with (the movement inertia was a nice touch) it began to get slightly tedious as Kotarou kept using it throughout the common route. I can only think of one moment where I was in genuine approval of Mappie, and that was when Kotarou and Yoshino were pulled into the alternate dimension through their school. The endless corridors on Mappie really highlighted that sinking feeling that something wasn’t right – it was how I realized Kotarou had entered the dimension to begin with.
Kazamatsuri is a city that has really taken to heart the threat of global warming to the Earth – alongside Kagari’s appearance this setting might be a little social comment on Key’s part towards what’s happening in real life. This setting’s also allowed for many beautiful CG illustrations which Key haven’t held back on! However, at the same time they made it very clear that there were two sides to the coin – that the forest held many dark secrets that were better off left untouched. And in the end, the forest became the source of a lot of Kotarou’s troubles. This echoes the stark disparity between the common route and character routes, marked (in Kotori’s route at least) by the arrival of Kagari. Although things did get darker somewhat, as Kotarou uncovered more and more secrets – Inoue’s disappearance and the revelation of her fate was pretty much the turning point in Kotori’s route. In this sense, the common route slowly blends Kotarou’s everyday life with the mysteries of the plot without scaring you too much, paving the way for more development during the character routes. While the latter are bound to end up as a better story overall, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the common route either – the character routes could never present a lifestyle that was as warm and soft. Just like Kotori.