“From start to end, the story is consistant with telling its story of two lost souls who find each other, leading up to an extremely satisfying and cathartic ending that you will not regret going on.“
Platform: PC | Release Date: June 17th, 2016 | Hours Played: 5 hours
I’ve always personally appreciated the phrases ‘Maybe the real treasure was the friends we made on the way‘ and ‘It’s about the journey, not the destination‘. As a cynical, glass half-empty person, its always offered a bittersweet solace of gaining something through loss or failure.
And these phrases are a perfect way to describe Highway Blossoms‘ moral message to its player and its characters.
Highway Blossoms is a yuri, kinetic visual novel that describes itself as the “new definitive romance treasure hunt road trip experience“. I had no idea what the game would entail. Was it going to be a trip full of hi-jinks, action and adventure?
Well, eventually I got my answer that it was a trip… of feelings, emotion and a box of tissues.
The story is about a young girl called Amber driving out on a highway in the Midwest and coming across another girl in the middle of nowhere called Marina. Amber finds herself entangled in Marina’s quest for the illusive treasure written in an old miner’s journal that has made news across the country. Not only does their adventure result in new friends and experiences, but also a growing relationship between the two.
As the game is a kinetic visual novel, this means that there are no choices or gameplay of any sort – essentially being the definition of a visual story-telling. This means that unlike your average non-linear visual novel, there is extra importance in its story elements from its plot, characters, visual and sounds in order to keep the player interested.
The plot is definitely a unique point of interest, basing itself on real world locations and a, in my opinion, pretty realistic mission. The two characters travel to various places in the Midwest, visiting a wide range of landmarks possibly containing the miner’s gold. As someone who has no knowledge of… well, any of this in the slightest, it was very enlightening and informative for me. While I can’t confirm its validity, it does provide some interesting trivia and facts about these landmarks that show alot of research and passion has gone into it.
The characters are written pretty realistically in spite of their cute anime-like appearances. Amber is your pessimistic realist whereas Marina is your happy-go-lucky optimist.
Although the focus is on the two’s growing relationship, the main protagonist is ultimately Amber as we are permitted into her inner thoughts about everything around her. However what makes her even more perfect as the player’s vessel is that even Amber omits herself from certain memories. These are the source of her woes in the story that she struggles to come to terms with and thus finds herself closed off with others. This is why Marina’s personality works so well as their contrasting personalities allow them playfully bounce off each other, while also allowing them to open up and grow.
There is a fair amount of backgrounds and animations that plays during the scenes that do provide some interactivity throughout the story. There is a large range of backgrounds and do depict the various landmarks they travel to (although I cannot say whether they accurately match up.)
However, while tolerable in short bursts, sometimes the characters do fall into long conversations and you start to notice how out of place the sprites can seem from the backgrounds due to the different colour styles so it does feel disconnected at points.
The main appeal of this game are the interactions between not just Amber and Marina, but the band of misfits they encounter on their travels. The pacing is quite slow but for a realistic approach, it is perfectly paced and you feel as if you are literally watching and following their lives from the moment it intertwined.
There is also an optional 18+ patch that you can add to the game. This, as far as I’m aware, adds two intimate scenes between the two characters inserted naturally into the story that basically provides some fan service. It also comes with new CGs aswell, which is a pretty good patch for those who want more. If anything, the patch does make a point in the story fit more naturally into the narrative rather than just implying it.
After the ending, I was given a surprise ‘Goofball’ ending. It came with 3 different modes. From waiting 30 ACTUAL minutes to drive to the convenient store (Extreme indeed) to an EZ mode where the story literally merges into a wonderful 1 minute of hilarity.
I had to give it a whole extra point for the whole bonus level at the end. Highway Blossoms is a not a rollercoaster, but a gradual and slow ride with occassional bumps in the road. However, this does not ruin it and you are able to enjoy the peaceful ride until your destination. From start to end, the story is consistant with telling its story of two lost souls who comes together, leading up to an extremely satisfying and cathartic ending that you will not regret going on.
Highway Blossoms was purchased as part of the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality on itch.io.