Disclosure: The game’s review copy was kindly provided to LewdGamer by MangaGamer. LewdGamer has hosted advertisements in the past for this game.
Continuing my adventures in playing visual novels, I started playing Free Friends, a relatively short game from Noesis, translated to English courtesy of MangaGamer. While playing the game, I experienced some conflicting feelings and wasn’t really sure what to think of it at first.
In Free Friends, you take the identity of a nameless teacher who lives a boring life and a loveless marriage. You start out smoking outside of your home, contemplating life and judging the people walking by, simply because you don’t want to go home and talk to your wife with the standard disinterest. Your inner monologue tells you about the existence of a message board known as Free Friends, a place where runaways and drop-outs place messages for older richer men to meet them for money. Meanwhile, Kurahashi Yui, an honor student who happens to be from the same school you teach at, has fled her home to escape her controlling parents. Finding no place to go, she tries every friend in her address book on her phone to no avail. A friend texts her a website where she can go meet other runaways to hang out with. As she sees no other option available, Yui goes for it, unaware of what the message board is really used for. Meanwhile, as your curiosity for young love becomes unbearable, you find Yui’s message and choose to meet her. Once you meet up, it quickly becomes clear what kind of person you play in this game, as you swiftly take Yui to a love hotel and rape her.
After this out-of-the-blue event, you are confronted with the first choice of the game: to either go the bad or the good route, which is not signposted very well. Free Friends contains many bad endings, and it’s easy to fuck it up if you wish to aim for the only good route in the game. The player can either choose to be worst person on Earth for a moment, or actually have some sympathy for Yui. The only choices in the game that don’t really matter are cumming inside or outside, of which I always chose the money shot.
Overall, the story and writing are rather dull. The inner monologues go on for way too long and can make the sex scenes that don’t interest you take forever. No plot is given during the scenes so that you can skip most of the dialogue, but even then you have to think if the story interests you at all. I personally could not get invested after getting the cognitive dissonance of your character raping a student so suddenly. Neither the good nor bad routes have any interesting arcs in them, and both can end quite abruptly.
While playing the game, one may also notice that the background art is also quite dull, suffering from a lack of variety. Unfortunately, this also carries over to the sprites, of which I can count on one hand. Yui does change her expression often, but she is always wearing the same clothes, which I personally found quite a letdown. The sex scenes were done with disappointing angles that could have revealed so much more. Even the fact that Free Friends is free of any censorship whatsoever did not make the images any less dissatisfying.
Yui’s voice—which is the only voice in the entire game—is very nice and sweet to hear. She sounds warm and sincere whenever she talks and handles the role of the “shy raped student” very well. Even during the rape scenes, she doesn’t scream too loud like most female Japanese seiyuus would in adult content. However, the background music is rather drab; so much so that I didn’t even notice when the music looped or not. It is a bit of a disappointment that not many of the visual novels I’ve played contain good music, but it’s understandable for a game such as this.
In the end, the writing of this game was what let me down the most. I had no real satisfaction with any of the endings or the badly written monologues during the sex scenes. The game is average in all fields, but the voice acting, and better images for the sex and rape scenes could have saved this game. Personally, rape is not my thing, and I found Free Friends a bit of a chore to play through. I cannot recommend Free Friends for the price it is being sold at unless you really like rape stories and the corruption of a sweet honor student.