Picture this — you pick up your phone and type in the address to a “compensated dating” site. You arrange a meeting, accept an asking price, and walk to the requisite seedy love hotel. But when you get there, the face staring back at you is familiar.
This is the idea behind Free Friends 2, a visual novel by indie developer Noesis and translated to English courtesy of MangaGamer. Noesis is well-known for being the team behind the original Free Friends (reviewed by us here), which featured teacher-on-student rape and abuse, among other things. Despite sharing a title with the original game, Free Friends 2 is not a direct sequel or even related to the first game. It is its own story, with a decidedly vanilla, romantic bent.
The best girl. Well, more like the only girl. It’s that kind of VN.
The plot of Free Friends 2 places the player in the shoes of Kaito, a college student and aspiring teacher who recently took up a paid internship as an assistant teacher in a city some ways away from his home. Alone, single, and uninterested in dating, Kaito fulfills his needs through a phone app called “Free Friends”, which serves as a message board where men can pick up girls willing to engage in “compensated dating” — basically informal prostitution.
One day, Kaito arranges a “date” on Free Friends with a girl called Sumire, but when he meets her he finds that she hardly fits the profile of the typical girl on the message board. She’s extremely pretty, seems well educated, and, most surprisingly, a virgin. Moreover, Sumire seems reluctant to sell herself, and accidentally confesses that she’s only doing so because she’s desperate for money. However, Kaito’s lust overrides his common sense and morals, and he has sex with Sumire anyways, in a way that only manages to avoid being rape because Sumire winds up enjoying it in the end.
Once that is done, Kaito assumes this was a one-time thing and returns to his normal life, only to later find, to his horror, that Sumire attends the same school where he is teaching. Moreover, he is surprised and intrigued to hear other students refer to Sumire by his own last name of Shinozaki. On a hunch, Kaito reviews the school records, and he realizes, with more than a little dread, that Sumire and himself are actually related, and that Sumire is his long-lost little sister that his wayward mother ran away with after divorcing from Kaito’s father. The meat of Free Friends 2‘s content centers around how Kaito reacts to this sudden twist, and how he goes about handling Sumire armed with this knowledge.
“She’s pretty hot,” is sadly not a very good excuse for using your sister as a hooker.
In theory, you’d expect such a strange, unexpected plot twist to be a set up for a much more serious story, either centered on trying to pick up the pieces after the act or on carrying out a relationship that is biologically incestuous but psychologically healthy due to the vast amounts of time and distance that had separated Kaito and Sumire. Sadly, if you’re looking for a “serious” VN that just happens to have sex in it as a bonus, Free Friends 2 really shouldn’t be your first pick. While the twist it sets up is very interesting, it’s mostly used as a vehicle to deliver titillating sex scenes and a pretty straightforward plot. Free Friends 2 has two routes depending on whether or not Kaito tells Sumire that she is his sister: a “True” route, which is a full-fledged and somewhat predictable vanilla love story with the occasional surprise, and a “Bad” route, which is mostly a collection of sex scenes that depict how Kaito slowly turns Sumire into his personal sex slave, but has little plot otherwise.
Either way, the sex doesn’t ever get much rougher than this.
What I’m getting at is if you like your visual novels mostly plot-centric, Free Friends 2 probably isn’t your cup of tea. If you enjoy vanilla stories, you’ll have some fun with the True route (although it won’t be anything altogether too memorable), but not much more than that. Ultimately, what carries Free Friends 2 is the strength of its porn. The art is pretty fantastic and the scenarios, while vanilla and consensual, manage to stay interesting through sheer variety. You’ll have sex with Sumire on the rooftop, in the school room, while she wears her gym clothes, while you film gonzo porn with her, and while you both sit and watch the resulting porn video naked.
Moreover, Sumire is fully voiced by a very competent voice actress, who fits the rule of an innocent-yet-lusty teenage girl to a T. All of Sumire’s voice samples, including her dialogue, moans, slurps, and pleading, are fully voiced in good quality; they add a ton to the H experience and also really help to make the slower story moments more bearable. This combination of great art and great voice acting is what redeems Free Friends 2 by turning it from a rather poor visual novel experience to a pretty great nukige experience.
I really cannot understate how much of a strong point the art is for this title.
On the technical side of things, Free Friends 2 is somewhat disappointing. The overall audio is good, with the previously mentioned excellent voice acting for Sumire as well as pretty decent sound effects for the sex scenes. It also has a pretty decent intro song. The background music, however, is legitimately terrible, to the point that I found myself giving up and muting it halfway into the game because I couldn’t stand it anymore.
Resolution and options-wise, Free Friends 2 is also disappointing. You’re stuck in a tiny 800×600 resolution that you cannot change, and forcing fullscreen mode just stretches out the previously lovely sprites into a gory, pixelated mess. Certainly nobody expects visual novels to have sophisticated configuration options, but in an age where 1080p monitors are common and 1440/4K is gaining adoption, having sub-HD art is pretty inexcusable, and doubly so when the art is otherwise very good.
This is what you get. Fortunately, if you’re a veteran of VNs, you’ve like as not made do with far less.
Here is the bottom line: Free Friends 2 is a game I’d recommend only if you go into it with the mindset that it is mostly a vehicle for sexy sibling incest scenes, and nothing more. If you do that, you’ll come out with a smile on your face because that’s what the game does best. Indeed, it’s a perfect example of the divide between eroge (story with some sex) and nukige (sex with some story). At the $24.99 it is currently going for, however, I cannot recommend it to anybody who isn’t already a fan of nukige, and certainly not somebody looking for the vanilla equivalent of a “complete” ero-VN experience in the vein of, say, Euphoria or Monster Girl Quest.
Free Friends 2 holds up and it’s fun for what it is, but unless you’re really into sibling incest, it’s not really a title for the ages. Sumire’s really cute though, if a bit of a whore.