Symbiotic Love is the prequel of Melancholy Love and also WHITE DEW GAMES' second Visual Novel published by Kikai Digital.
In the last story, we had Mianxue attending the all-girl School of Linghua. Mianxue was under the pressure of doing hard study sessions with the help of Qianxun, her class monitor under the context of having to leave the prestigious school if she is not able to successfully complete the upcoming test which was prepared just for her.
On an additional note, Mianxue and Qianxun fell in love with each other without being able to openly express their feelings. This complex situation was due to Mianxue falling in love with the fake persona that Qianxun pretended to be and Qianxun trying to cope with the constant lies that she had to tell to keep up the act.
In this story we play through the time before the events of Melancholy Love, playing as two different protagonists, Zihua (the new principal in Melancholy Love) and Jisuo (the deceased friend of Qingwei and lover of Zihua). Qingwei is also the current class monitor for Zihua and Jisuo as well as Jisuo's childhood friend.
In this current timeline, we relive the time when Zihua transferred to Linghua and met Jisuo for the first time up until Jisuo's death. We experience the position between their friendship, their time passing together, and each of the hardships they have to deal with. Zihua is being controlled and manipulated by her mother, while Jisuo didn't have a father figure and lived alone with her mother.
Jisuo: First one to meet Zihua and is captivated by her beauty. She has a strong personality and is good-hearted.
Zihua: Closed up, cold on the outside, and wears a smile as a façade. She struggles to face the pressure put on her by her mother but is easily attracted to the group with Jisuo who wants to befriend her.
Qingwei: Current class monitor and childhood friend of Jisuo and Jianyu. She always drags her friends into school-involved events without asking them before for agreements, which she ends up regretting as she gets stuck with the bill at expensive restaurants.
Jianyu: The animator of the group, she is always the one attracting the most attention and likes to tease and engage Qingwei in harmless quarrels. She is also often late on giving out her monthly exams from the class.
The visuals are identical to its predecessor in Melancholy Love which is overall a neat art style with good-looking CG's. They do use some of the same background assets for the surroundings such as the school area which is minor, but noticeable if you have played the sequel recently.
The character sprites do express different facial emotions for the various scenes with slight movements when the sprites change.
Since most of the story takes place in a school setting, you will see the characters primarily wearing their school uniform. There is a little variety to their outfits during events that take place outside of school and on special occasions. Secondary characters such as the parents only have one outfit regardless of their location which usually consist of casual clothing or suits.
Once you have completed the game, a gallery feature is added to the title screen along with a new background. This allows you to view pictures, play song tracks, and reread route endings.
The game runs in a small window, which can either be expanded to full screen (no black bars) or in a window frame. The artwork and text remain clear in both modes. The graphics settings cannot be saved however, so it will default to windowed mode on the next restart of the game.
The visual novel is fully voiced in Mandarin (Chinese) accompanied by background music of calm piano music, adapting nicely to more serious tones when we face situations like drama or fear. It resembles the audio in the predecessor.
Symbiotic Love provides five different endings that do not change the story itself but the ending epilogue is slightly different with the events and results depending on the choices made.
Symbiotic Love provides answers to the many questions that we were left with after the ending of Melancholy Love. Some of which hint to a third story.
The translation is fine in terms of understanding the text, but it misses the mark when it comes to expressing emotions, such as lacking explanation marks in areas that could use them which would help reinforce the idea that characters are upset or excited. Mixed with a slow pacing, the story starts to feel rather dull about halfway through.
The romance is wrapped inside drama and psychological issues, giving the whole story a dark setup which really stands out compared to the peaceful and usual love romances we are familiar with. I recommend Symbiotic Love to anyone who would like to experience a darker romance and understands that certain parts will seem dry compared to the rest.
Check out the game on Steam
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