From my previous reviews, you could tell that I have not been playing visual novels for long, but that they quickly tickled my interest. This is no exception for If my Heart had Wings, a game developed by Pulltop and distributed by MoeNovel in the West. I had no idea what to expect when looking at the game, besides the fact that there was a girl in a wheelchair in it. Since girls with disabilities are one of my kinks that I can’t get enough of, I dove right in. The experience it gave me is something I will never forget.
The story of If my Heart had Wings starts with a flashback of Aoi Minase. He tells you the story about how he was a bicycling enthusiast that went to a sports-oriented school, but had to leave after an accident rendered him unable to participate in bicycle racing. Afterwards, you begin the game from his perspective as you look towards your old hometown, Kazegaura from Windmill Hill. Soon after, you encounter the first and most interesting character in the game (in my opinion), Kotori Habane, the girl in the wheelchair. A beautiful, but stubborn girl that left her home to go to the same school as Aoi because it was fully wheelchair user accessible. As you help Kotori with a flat tire on her wheelchair, you suddenly see a glider passing by. With much enthusiasm from Kotori, you both wave at it. Later, you learn that there is another reason you went back to your hometown, as you have to take the role of dorm mother of an all-girls dorm known as Flying Fish Manor. Your mother is in real-estate, and needed someone to take over for the old lady that collapsed and couldn’t do the job anymore.
Once you’ve met all the girls in the dorm, you see that Kotori is also in the same dorm, but this time your conversations with her are not so smooth. On the following day, you venture to school and quickly meet some of your old childhood friends, Ageha Himegi, a cute but tomboyish girl and Masatsugu “Mabou” Tasaki, a strangely wild but fun guy. You talk about the old days and see how you and the others changed for the better or for worse. After class, you walk around the school looking at all the clubs available, and you stumble upon a garage, in which you meet another person. This person, known as Amane Mochizuki, is the strangest of them all, as she sits at the drawing board just barely noticing anyone around her. Her good looks are even better in contrast with her clumsy and antisocial behavior. When you meet her again some days later, it becomes clear what the main objective what If my Heart had Wings is all about.
In the garage, you see a dismantled glider, the same one you saw on Windmill Hill. It’s revealed that it was Amane that was flying it that day, as well as the goal she is working towards. As the game progresses, you will notice that the game is split up into large chapters, each with its own plot. The first of these chapters is to save the Soaring Club, the club where Amane is building the glider; however, the club is in danger of having its status lifted, due to a lack of club members. If you finish this chapter, don’t be afraid, because there’s still much more to come. Together with all the characters you meet, you overcome all kinds of setbacks and accidents, most of which were set up by Tobioka-sensei, a mean ill-willed teacher who can’t stand the Soaring Club. In the end, nothing will stand in your way in reaching the true goal: to fly through the Passage of Clouds, a meteorological phenomenon that happens only once every few decades.
The game may seem kinetic at first, but it is not. If my Heart had Wings has a few routes to choose from, the first of which is given in the second chapter. You can choose between four different girls as your love interest: Kotori, Ageha, the Asa & Yoru twins and Amane, though the latter is locked until the second playthrough, and Asa & Yoru are introduced way later in the game. I personally went with Kotori for my playthrough, because for me, she is the most interesting as I have a thing for girls with physical disabilities. The game is also incredibly long: It took me about 70 hours to finish a single playthrough, but playing it once is enough to give you the full experience. The story and writing are the strongest points of If my Heart had Wings, and besides a few errors in translation, it might just be the best romance story I have ever read. The characters actually grow old, acknowledge what they learn about past experiences, and everything that was ever said is remembered. Even the tiniest details or mundane events are brought back later to explain a situation. If that wasn’t enough, the game actually teaches you about gliders and aviation. It’s a very original story, and it made me care for the characters all the way through it.
The game’s visuals look fine for the most part; the backdrops aren’t always so highly detailed or crisp, but the CGs are of good quality. They convey the emotions of the characters at that moment perfectly, and give a true feeling of romance during the love scenes. They are only slightly bogged down by mosaics and a few minor mistakes, but it doesn’t detract from much of the experience. The sprites are done well, as there are not only many positions for each character, but also a wide range of facial expressions to let the player know how they feel. There are also a few different outfits for the main characters, such as a school uniform, casual clothes, and bikini.
While playing the game, I noticed that the soundtrack is pretty fantastic, with no repetitive elevator music or annoying, out of place silence. This was a pleasant change from what I was used to, as the previous visual novels I played had nothing to really say much about. You will hear the same song often, but it’s good enough not to be grating and is switched out with some other songs. On top of that, when a special moment is happening, the music is spot on. It helps to tug at those heartstrings and sucks you right into the moment. The strongest point of the sound department is, of course, the voice acting. This game alone made me give so much respect for Japanese voice actors. Every single character (besides the main character, Aoi, of course) has stellar performance; they even spared no expense for the odd characters that do not have sprites.
All in all, If my Heart had Wings is one of the best games I ever played, and certainly the best visual novel I have played so far. If you want to play it for the sex scenes, you might not get what you want, as it’s pretty vanilla and doesn’t come until at least 30 hours into the game. Nonetheless, this does not detract from how great the game is. I played the Steam version with a locale emulator and this patch, which restores the sex scenes and decensors the CGs, but not the mosaics. It also unlocks “Sweet Love” in the menu, but that feature is untranslated and buggy. You can click through it to get an extra sex scene for each character that you unlocked, but unless you can read Japanese, it’s not going to mean much. That said, If my Heart had Wings has a unique story, and if you like any kind of romance or love stories, you should play this title without question. You won’t regret it.