White Wings is Pureworks Japan's first visual novel on Steam. It features a male student Hiro Fujihara, in a modern Japan winter setting. Hiro's mother is concerned that her son's grades in class are slipping and orders him to leave his school's basketball team to make time for tuition classes. Left with no choice, he decides to comply with his mother's wishes.
Before coming to the actual review itself, White Wings is not your typical cute romance visual novel with good endings, despite the lively, upbeat opening theme song and chibi artwork of the heroines. The protagonist and the heroines come from broken families, and someone's life will inevitably be broken in every ending. If you can handle the protagonist being a two-timing and indecisive male who is not really likeable, allegedly broken crowdfunding promises, an uncommunicative development team, and an English translation which falls short of expectations, then read on.
At school, Hiro is introduced to a new transfer student named Moe Miyazawa as his classmate, and a junior student Reika Fukihara as his tuition classmate. Despite Hiro's introverted nature and lack of confidence in himself, he is one of the most popular boys in school where nearly every girl in his school has a crush on him. Moe takes a liking for Hiro after he stood up for her after she got bullied in class, and the same goes for Reika after she saw him play basketball exceptionally well in an earlier game while she was a cheerleader. As a result, Hiro finds himself entangled in a love triangle with Moe and Reika competing for his affection.
What's in it
This game is a romance visual novel with plenty of attractive artwork and great opening theme song and video which piqued my interest in trying out the game despite the numerous negative reviews on the game. After spending around 10 hours to read and listen to all the text and dialogue in the game which consists of 2 routes and 4 different endings, I agree with some of the negative reviews for many reasons, yet I feel this game still has a number of redeeming features to justify writing this review in the first place.
For those looking for a more interactive plot-focused visual novel or expecting a cute and sweet romance story, White Wings will be a disappointment because the game has some sexual encounters but they are rushed and/or forced, the protagonist getting pulled into the love triangle, and a less than perfect ending which are unavoidable.
The artwork and background music is this game's saving grace which prompted me to write this review in case the game is removed from Steam under the weight of the negative reviews it has been receiving. The animated artwork sprites, character portraits, large amount of CGs, attractive Steam achievements, wonderful theme song by Chata, and opening movie by KIZAWA studio make this game very attractive in its own right.
At the time of this review, the Steam achievements will not unlock. This problem can be addressed by reverting the game to the July 2020 version until the trigger to unlock them is fixed in a later patch update. There are published community guides and online databases to help with this part.
The game has adult content (an uncensored patch is available at the developer's website).
White Wings has full voice acting for all the characters including the protagonist and the minor characters. Sadly, the voice acting for the protagonist feels flat. I know the protagonist is a very introverted character with a low sense of self-esteem, yet I can agree with the complaints by others in the Steam reviews.
Regarding the voice acting for the protagonist. I might be imagining things, but I thought the voiced lines for the protagonist in the H scenes sounded more as if the voice actor was sighing rather than panting, or was delivering his lines a few meters away from the microphone. This feels underwhelming compared to the voiced lines the heroines deliver in the same scenes.
Among the soundtracks for the game, the BGM With Shinshin, Just be Honest and Cold Air has pleasant piano music to suit the romance themes in the game. The opening theme song Pure White easily swings this game from a rough one to a memorable one with its uplifting piano music, bass accompaniment, and vocals by Chata which perfectly suits a romance and coming-of-age story. Therefore, I have voted this game for the Best Soundtrack Award for 2020.
In the English version, there are numerous translation errors that may reduce the enjoyment of the game, although most of the text is still understandable. Still, the developer claims in their posts to have found a reputable publisher to retranslate the game in the Steam community hub which may have turned out to be otherwise. The developer should clarify why that has not been done rather than make false claims.
Overall, I feel White Wings could have been an excellent adult winter-themed visual novel with its artwork, animation, original music compositions and full voice acting. Sadly, it was let down by less than desirable plot, scriptwriting, translation, gameplay problems for the Steam version, and an unresponsive developer who ignored player concerns. White Wings took me around 10 hours to read and listen to all the text and voiced dialogue, reach all endings and obtain all achievements. If you are looking for a plot-driven visual novel and don't care about the soundtrack and artwork, I can only recommend the base game when it is discounted to less than $5. For those who like the artwork and music in the game, I can recommend the game with all the DLCs when they are heavily discounted within the price range of $10 to $20.
Initial gameplay video on YouTube by ahftqs (OP at 7:21)