Five years ago, Suganuma Shoichi was given the opportunity of a lifetime; to join a world renowned orchestra in Germany as one of their violinists. Having played the violin since he was a child, Shoichi jumped at the chance to climb up in the world of Classical music and reach new heights. During his stay in the orchestra, Shoichi became an idol to the Japanese people and was frequently called a noble and the “Violin Prince” of classical music; however, years later an unknown scandal caused Shoichi to fall from grace, forcing him to give up the limelight, classical music and the violin that he had spent his entire life devoted to. After having everything he had ever known torn from him, Shoichi returned to Japan and his hometown and began to live and work at a live house named 696, where amateur rock bands frequently play.
While working at the live house, Shoichi meets a rude and arrogant regular by the name of Gonda Eiji. Unbeknownst to Shoichi, Eiji’s arrogant ways pull him into a series of events that thrust him back into the world of music. It is at this small live house where Shoichi is introduced to the world of rock, and his life of emptiness begins to change through events, involving strange friendships, rock and roll, and a band consisting of the most unlikely of members. Can DEARDROPS make it as the newest rock-and-roll sensation, or will it fall apart at the hands of its fickle and volatile band members?
Despite having some darker, angstier moments peppered throughout the story, Deardrops is at its heart, a light-hearted comedy about a bunch of seemingly incompatible people getting together and forming a band. While the story itself is nothing really noteworthy, the overall writing was well done, and the characters and dialogue more than make up for it. Every character is fairly unique, and their interactions with each other with effective chemistry. The game threw out plenty of hilarious punchlines and comedic moments as the game’s characters clashed and showed off their personalities in ways that had me wiping away tears from laughing.
Great attention to detail has also been paid to the musical aspects of the writing, and it is obvious that OVERDRIVE made sure to accurately describe instruments and certain aspects of the musical process. This attention to detail also went into the graphics, where they included real life instruments and gear brands while just slightly changing the names to avoid infringement, and the depiction of these objects is spot on to their real life counterparts. The quality of the English localization was spot-on. I cannot think of a single instance where I came across an awkward sentence or a misspelled word.
Suganuma Shoichi is the protagonist of Deardrops and later, one of the guitarists in the band DEARDROPS. Shortly before the events of the game, Shoichi became the cause of a scandal within his orchestra due to perpetrating a violent act against another member. Shoichi felt such shame and disgrace over the incident that he vowed to never again touch the violin as punishment for his transgression. It is here that the game’s events and story begins, with Kanade, his childhood friend’s family offering Shoichi a place to stay and a job at Live House 696.
After an incident involving a rude and crude man by the name of Eiji, Shoichi begins to learn the guitar under the tutelage of a rambunctious girl by the name of Yayoi. Despite only learning the guitar to help Eiji out, a series of events causes Shoichi to stick with the guitar and form a band. Having been born into a rich family and spending quite a few years in the limelight, Shoichi tends to speak and act differently from most of the other characters.
Shoichi never came across as spoiled or privileged; rather, he is portrayed as a very humble person who does not treat others as if they are beneath him. He is always sincere about his feelings and perceptions of others, and has always constantly endeavored to better himself; not to be better than everyone else, but to be the best that he could be and not pull down others with his inabilities. Part of his humble attitude can probably be attributed to what happened during his time in Germany, as the events that caused his fall from the top haunt him throughout the game.
Gonda Eiji is the bassist of DEARDROPS. He is the foul mouthed, chain smoking, never-giving-a-fuck member of the band who is quick to get into fights, spout off profanity, and throw random objects. Due to his blunt, asshole attitude, Eiji is extremely infamous among many musical circles and bands, with many of them adverse to having him play with them, but despite that he is venerated for his skills and talent with the bass.
It is common knowledge early on that Eiji has band hopped frequently, due in both parts to quitting when the mood strikes him, or being kicked out due to his attitude. He also has no desire to go pro, and so for the most part Eiji tends to play solo and stay away from others. His attitude and disdain for going pro stems from the fact that much like Shoichi, Eiji is an extremely wounded man who is haunted by his past. He is the main source of many of the fights and problems within the band, and is frequently butting heads with the other members.
Kaguya Riho is DEARDROPS’ lead singer and also the main heroine of the game. Out of everyone, Riho is the most dedicated to the band, as singing for her is her life, her dream, and her passion. Riho will do anything within her power, and beyond to go pro, so she looks down on those who do not give music their all and strive to better themselves. She despises people who play music or are in a band just for “fun” — those who become “okay” with their musical talent — and is quick to tear into anyone over this, which causes some slight friction here and there within the band and group, especially with Eiji. Due to this, Riho is at her best and happiest when she’s singing and when the band is practicing and training. She is also very independent and hates being told what to do or feeling forced into something.
Initially I really, really did not like Riho. Her initial interaction and personality came off as a stereotypical tsundere (playing hard-to-get) character and my first thought was, “Oh god, great, another jackass tsun-tsun character.” Despite this, as the story progressed, Riho ended up doing one thing to me no character has ever done to me in regards to visual novels; she completely and utterly surprised me.
What started out as a typical tsundere character became so much more as events progressed. While Riho initially comes off as an asshole, she is in reality an honest person, to the core. Due to her lack of “people skills”, she has zero tact for being subtle or nice about certain things and so comes across as horrible, when in reality she very rarely says things with horrible intent. She is a woman who knows how she sees things; what she believes; what she wants, and she is not afraid to be herself; say what she wants, and put herself out there.
Sakurai Kanade is the childhood friend of Shoichi and the daughter of Sakurai Sadao — commonly referred to as “Master”— the owner of Live House 696. She is a secondary heroine next to Riho, although Kanade’s route is not canon. While she is not a member of DEARDROPS, her singing ability is frequently praised by everyone, even surprisingly by Riho, who clearly shows jealousy and rivalry towards Kanade for her singing ability. She frequently struggles with her two dreams in life: to express herself through music and bring it to many people, and to help produce a well known, professional band from her live house.
Though she lacks confidence in her singing abilities, at heart Kanade is an extremely strong woman, and her struggles with pursuing her dreams stem a great deal from her caring more for others rather than herself. Kanade will frequently set her own dreams and desires aside, if she feels it will cause problems for anyone she cares about. She will not hesitate to turn from mild mannered to rude and head-strong when she opposes something though.
On a side-note, Kanade’s H-scenes actually surprised me. Despite being the oldest out of the heroines, both of her sex scenes are slightly exhibitionist, which I totally didn’t expect out of Kanade’s route due to her age and shy nature. In her first H-scene where you deflower her, you have sex in her room while her father and younger sister are sleeping in theirs. During this, Kanade even wakes up her sister with her moaning, and she starts asking Kanade questions from outside her door while she and Shoichi are naked, with Shoichi riding her the whole time!
Her second H-scene is in a hospital room, and kids in a room next door overhear her because Shoichi decides to bang her brains out (again waking up some children), who promptly break into the room because they believe that the noise was a ghost moaning. It would be one thing for the H-scenes to be exhibitionist, but it’s another to involve small children overhearing moaning and freaking them out.
Tamano Rimu is the band’s drummer and is is the most short-tempered of the group, with her moods being spontaneous and completely random. If things aren’t going in a way Rimu approves of or she begins to get bored, Rimu will quickly lose interest and run off. She is frequently compared to cats by Shoichi, and this comparison is pretty spot on to how Rimu’s random nature is. Thanks to her blunt and whimsical nature, her and Eiji are frequently like two peas in a pod, agreeing with each other and usually being the ones to thrust any hard work that needs to be done on the others. Rimu also has a very large complex about her drumming, and despite her small stature, is able to pound out some amazing beats.
If she feels like she is being one-upped, she absolutely has to show them up and be the best. Her father was in a band when she was a little girl, and she learned drumming from him at an early age. Due to this and her complex, she frequently compares people and their musical abilities to that of her father’s band. She has never really been in a band or gotten along with others due to them not being able to live up to her expectations, so she ends up quickly getting bored playing with others.
Ohba Yayoi is the band’s main/lead guitarist, and Shoichi’s guitar teacher. She is frequently teased by the rest of the band as being the “plain one”, being lamented as a huge freak, and is the only member of the band who is caught between two worlds; the band, and practicality for her future by studying and taking exams for college. Despite this, she is still very much dedicated to the band and her guitar, treating it as if it were her child. The face of her guitar has an image of her in chibi form with “I’M GUITAR PRINCESS” on it to solidify her claim of being one of the best guitarists, and that it’s hers and one of a kind.
She originally meets Shoichi through Master, who asks her to be Shoichi’s guitar teacher on his behalf. Gladly accepting, she torments and abuses Shoichi through much of his training, calling his guitar “shit” for a good portion of the game. Apart from her crazy, egotistical nature, Yayoi is actually the most sensitive out of the group, and frequently cries when the other band members start to fight. She is the most practical minded one of the group, instantly thinking of merchandising and money-making schemes once DEARDROPS begins to gain some popularity. Adding to that, she forbids inner-band relationships from the get-go, in order to prevent the band from breaking up due to a bad romance.
The sex scenes in Deardrops were visually and audibly pleasing, and with strong writing for every scene. Most of the scenes, with the exception of a few of Rimu’s, blended well with the rest of the story and felt like they had natural progression that fit into the context and pacing of the narrative. The sex was handled in a way to signify and deepen the romantic feelings and relationship between Shoichi and his chosen romantic interest.
Thanks to how the scenes were handled, there was a bit more substance to them, rather than just being five minutes of a bunch of moaning and vocalizations. Each girl had two scenes and give or take four different positions per heroine, with the exception of Yayoi who only had one very long scene. Each one covered a variety of vanilla positions and sexual acts.
The only real fetishes covered in the game were in Rimu’s route, which featured a tit job and sex on a beach/forest in one scene. Each heroine featured a different body type and sexual personality, with some of their personalities in bed being quite interesting, if somewhat surprising. The voice acting was convincing as each girl’s voice fits with their respective characters; although, there were a couple over-the-top vocalizations in the heat of the moment. Something worth noting is that the uncensored genitalia art was decent and not off-putting, including the semi-internal vaginal shots in Kanade’s route.
One of Deardrops‘ major pros is the simply breathtaking soundtrack. Sticking true to its music and band themed roots, there are several original vocal songs featured in the game and are actual DEARDROPS songs; as in they are the songs that DEARDROPS and the characters create and perform during the game. There are a few songs that the band plays at their concerts; a different song for each character’s ending; a couple tracks featuring Kanade as the vocalist, and a cover by another character who appears later on in the game.
Each song fits perfectly with the band and/or singer of each track, and there are quite a few memorable and catchy songs among them. One thing that made me chuckle early on; DEARDROPS does a brief cover of a Nirvana song that fans of the band will instantly recognize, even though it’s just the instrumentals. The game shows the evolution and progression of the band and characters through their songs, as they go from being grittier and darker, to livelier and happier as the story progresses and the characters bond.
In addition to the vocal tracks, the background music is equally impressive. Each track fits the mood for the scenes they are played in, and are equally well composed. The sheer amount of BGM tracks (roughly 20 or so) gives a variety of music for scenes, and avoids the typical “same song for 50 scenes” scenario that plays out in most visual novels.
Deardrops is a visual novel about music, and OVERDRIVE did an excellent job and exceeded my expectations on this front. In addition to this, DEARDROPS has actually released two CDs outside of the game’s OST, really giving a feel that they are a real band instead of a fictional one.
I thoroughly enjoyed Deardrops and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good visual novel. I would especially recommend it to those who are fans of musically oriented titles. If you have given the Kira Kira titles a try and enjoyed them, Kira Kira and Deardrops take place in the same universe, and have an all-ages crossover game.
Despite how highly I would recommend this game, I cannot call it a masterpiece. The story while interesting, was nothing awe inspiring and it was the characters that drove the game and my continual fascination with it. Nearly every character was memorable, and it was the character interaction and how fresh most of their personalities were that truly made this game. The music also added greatly to the game’s value, boasting what I consider to be one of the best soundtracks I have come across so far. If not for its great cast of characters and simply amazing soundtrack, I feel like Deardrops would have been lost in a sea of unmemorable, alright slice-of-life comedy stories.
Luckily that is not the case due to its exceptional areas, and so I end this review giving this game a happy two thumbs up. This is one title that I feel should be played at least once to experience the great characters and music that made the game stand out against other titles in the current English market.