I have played quite a few VN’s in my time, however, none of them have impacted me more than EF- The First Tale. This VN has interested me for its history - it’s one of the few games to have received the rated A for adults-only rating. It may seem odd at first glance but note that very few games are actually given this rating. On top of that, I am someone who loves anime and Visual Novels (VNs) since the 2000s.
Pros and Cons
- A fantastic romance story that is written very well
- Amazing characters that have interesting and likable personalities
- Gorgeous art style that has that rich 2000s feel
- A beautiful soundtrack that is pleasing to the ears
- There are some spelling errors that are present sometimes
One night on Christmas Eve, two old friends finally reunite after a long time of not seeing each other. Yuu Himura and Yuuko Amamiya are meeting each other in a church and will spend this holy night retelling their past events to each other, as well as the many lives they have touched along the way. The first tale will be from Yuu’s perspective; Hiro Hirono is a manga artist who is inspired to improve his craft. One night, he meets a young woman named Miyako Miyamuira who was attacked by a purse snatcher.
Since that night, the two form a bond with each other that will change their lives for the greater good. Hiro has two other friends named Kei Shindo and Kyosuke Tsutsumi that go to the same high school. Due to all the work that Hiro is doing, he often skips school as he lost interest in it and needs money to pay for living and does not have enough money as is. Hiro later finds out that Miyako goes to the same school as he does, but she tends to skip school because she finds it boring.
This is only the first half of the story, EF-The First tale has two stories set within it. This makes it rather special. You don’t get many VN’s that do this sort of thing and it’s something I wish more of them did. The second story I won’t go too much into as it’s something I think is better viewed blind.
If there is one thing that I believe that this VN does wonderfully, is it’s storytelling. The characters are all executed very well and are extremely likable. The story for the most part has a slower pace, but this was something that didn't bother me. I found each character to develop very well. There was never a character who I hated seeing, they all felt good and to me, that’s something that’s really hard to do. Only two other VNs did this, so it just goes to show how great the story and characters are presented.
Although I should mention that EF is not a lighthearted VN, there are moments when tragedy will strike. You will see struggles from different point of views, and they will hit you hard. I have yet to read the successor, but I felt it already in this one.
I know I talked about them somewhat in the previous section, but the characters need their own section in this review. The entire cast is likable as mentioned before but my favorite characters have to be Hiro, Kei, and Kyosuke. Hiro is interesting as we get to see the life of a manga artist in a way, while everyone’s experience as an artist may be different of course. However, it’s still interesting to see it. He goes under the pen name Nagi Shindo.
Kei is someone who is a hothead. She wants Hiro to get good grades in school as she wants him to succeed in life. However, Kei is also attached to Hiro and is hurt when he starts to hang out with Miyako more. I can relate to Kei on this one, as she wanted someone who has been with her for almost her whole life. You can even see her struggles as she is trying to prove that she can get Hiro and beat Miyako.
Then we have Kyosuke, who surprised me with his hobby. At first you think he is just there to get girls, but he is actually someone who enjoys making films. He wants to record Kei as he has taken interest in her lifestyle. Kyosuke has to be my favorite character in the VN, he shows us this side of him that may not seem likable, but it is and then he goes out and does a 180 on what he is actually into. Something that I myself liked about his character. His enjoyable personality always brought a smile to my face.
Although as much as EF has a great story, it does suffer from some spelling errors. Given the age of the VN I doubt a patch will ever come out to fix these, not a huge issue but something worth pointing out.
Graphics and Performance
The art style for EF is honestly beautiful and it has to be one of the most gorgeous looking VNs from the early 2000s that I have seen. Each area is drawn extremely well, and they fit perfectly with the characters. I tested the game on an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 3GB, AMD Ryzen 5 1500X Quad-Core Processor 3.50, and 16 GB of RAM. The VN had no issues while I was playing and can run on low-end laptops with no problem. I should also mention that the character's mouths actually move when they are speaking, most VNs today lack this, so I felt this was a nice touch.
I love the soundtrack, it just felt so beautiful to listen to and enjoy the nice vibrant music that was showcased. The Villon and Piano tunes really fit with the atmosphere that was presented, no song felt out of place. In all honesty, the soundtrack has to be one of my favorite things about EF. It shines in this that most VNs can’t do sometimes.
I urge any 2000’s otaku like me or VN fan in general to buy EF-The First Tale. This is honestly a masterpiece above any other that I have experienced so far. I'm very impressed by the great story and amazing characters and this review is only for Part 1!
I am definitely looking forward to playing part 2, although I do wish they had them both in one game. This is also one of those rare moments where I think picking this VN at full price is actually worth it.