This week we have a special treat, a first look at Queen’s Gambit by Voltage USA. For those who don’t know, these are games designed to an American base. What does this mean? Usually stories unique to Japan are adapted to America, and some brand new releases made just for us exist. But how well does the company hold up? It’s rare for there to be US inspired games with dating! We have harlequin novels, cheesy teen books, even some games but in general we always tend to fall behind. Can this game catch the interest of both the romantic US genre, and the anime fandom the company bases it’s original games off of? I’m here to give a first look and help you decide.
Well, I have access to two route prologues: Joao and Emmett. Emmett looks like a cutie so I want to try him more, but let’s start with Joao to see what kind of surprises he has in store!
I can say for certain this game is very unique. First off, congratulations Voltage! Nobody is a pastry chef! No, instead the main character is a member of an Organization who do covert operations. From the prologue alone it’s hard to completely grasp their entire goal or what they want, but they’re basically good guys doing shady business for a high stakes game. You can feel right away how American the influence is and never once did I think, this is not how an American would be behave.
The main character, you can once again name her, has a really interesting personality. And for once Voltage did away with that ‘don’t ever see the main characters face and when you do her eyes are hidden’ crap. Most of the prologue was obviously to set up, but I got to hand it to them. 5 minutes in and I was genuinely curious, like the main character, who Joao was. I was also grateful the new guy, the fish out of water meant to make things easier for players to understand, was stumbling around a bit so I could understand the game myself.
Technically speaking the game has some handy stuff. No longer must you slog through entire scenarios if your game shuts down, they actually have checkpoints! The length is done differently, the character’s presented in a new way, and the choices even seem more consistently meaningful. Did I mention Joao is a cutie? Not to mention I’m pretty sure the MC, who I have named Rachel, can kick everyone’s ass in this story. It’s really fun and refreshing to see that! By the end of Joao’s prologue I was incredibly interested in continuing. I can’t give you the full run down until I see more, but so far it’s promising and looks really entertaining.
Emmett kind of wore on me a bit in Joao’s prologue, but his story is one we have all heard. Best friend romance, guys! Sadly most of the missions specs and in general that route don’t catch my attention, as it’s a political bit. For some reason being a spy is so much more interesting when you have a bigger stake- not that politics aren’t a big stake, they just never feel like it until you get into some really heavy territory. It’s also now more of a pain to skip things because it’s under a second menu.
Emmett is interesting, and Joao’s REALLY interesting. I think with their new approach they are taking a much needed step to make it about a character who is most certainly doing their own thing while still having some really cool love interests. It takes a new approach with it’s own prologues and it’s own set up that is definitely unique from the softer type of woman that Voltage usually represents.
You’ll find in their Japanese made games they tend to rely on a subset of women who are either doing much more vocational work. The best example is two games in their own have you featured as a pastry chef, one an assistant museum curator, one a random villager who is just nice to people, one a designer, and the one that really stands out is one where you are a doctor who wants to murder her potential love interests. For the most part Voltage tends to pick less serious roles for the women involved. The only credit I can give them is the roles really matter to the women involved and that makes it really interesting. Now you can’t argue anything because the main character in this game very clearly is self sufficient and capable.
What I am interested to see is the comparison. It’s so different seeing Voltage take on this kind of game, even their American subset company. I think when the whole game comes out it will be a very interesting thing to compare Voltage USA to it’s Japanese counterpart- their styles are different but underneath you can still feel the pull and appeal of a Voltage game. Without a doubt the love and care put into the game makes it a must to try out.
I will say this: while the art can be funky, it’s actually much better than some of the other games. Still, try softening your art Voltage. You’re blending the art a bit and making it smooth, but the faces themselves seem rigid and painted starkly. The best faces were done for the main character, but the art on the cover photo is a lot weaker than in game!
Color me interested. Fans of Japanese Voltage fans might find this new release to be an all around attention grabber thanks to it’s strong plot, dynamic characters, and interesting new game layout. (but someone please wipe that smirk off Emmett’s face? He’s starting to seem like a sleaze ball)