Update: Edited for corrections giving proper credit for the writing.
Love Ribbon by Razzart Media is a release that proves Western H-games don’t have to take second fiddle to Japanese games in terms of quality — or even have all that much hentai.
When you open up Love Ribbon, you are treated to an elegant bursting animation of the two leading ladies of the game surrounded in flowers, and making the most sickeningly sweet, barely touching pose one can imagine. Also, they are fully clothed in this image, which is frankly less erotic than one would even expect from a non-H yuri game. All of this is a sign of what’s to come.
Love Ribbon is the third completed game by the indie VN creator Razz. It tells the story of a girl named Iris who discovers that she has a long-lost sister who will be moving in for the rest of the semester. At around the same time, she also finds out that her sister is extremely attractive. What follows is an idealistic, romantic romp where Iris, the honor student, becomes slowly and inexorably more attracted to her bad girl, musician, younger sister Zoe as the story continues. Will their love triumph over the people who don’t think two girls going at it is hot? Will they triumph over a society that isn’t totally down with siblings getting it on with each other?
Now, reading that segment above, I would forgive you for thinking that what I described sounds like the most generic version of a yuri-incest romance possible. Two opposites attracted, and they have to fight against a society that doesn’t approve of their relationship, but they must keep fighting because they love each other so damn much. I would forgive you because you’re right.
The plot of Love Ribbon is relentlessly samey. If you have ever read or watched any yuri manga or anime, you will never be surprised once in the entire damn story. If you either don’t have a tolerance for light, fluffy yuri stories or are aching for a bit of creativity, then this is one game you should skip. There is really nary a new idea in sight.
It’s also not a game you should bother picking up if you’re trying to get off. It’s got naughty stuff in it, sure. The big sex scene at the end is even animated. However, this is a romance VN first, and a porn VN second. In the entire three to five hour run-time of the game, there is one sex scene of note, with two other erotic scenes that never reach full sex, and perhaps another three or so ecchi scenes that never sneak past an R rating. If what you are looking for is a game brimming with unrestrained sexual passion, Love Ribbon is also not for you.
Expect to see a whole lot of this…
Then, you might be asking, who is this game for?
Well, it has a rather select audience that it is distinctly aiming for. That audience is yuri fans. People that already like the idea of sweet, fluffy romance pieces about girls realizing their feelings for other girls and have nothing but enthusiasm for the idea of a lavish well-made game in their genre of choices.
Love Ribbon is a beautiful piece of work. It’s teaming with lovingly rendered CGs of girls discovering intimacy for the first time. Many of these CGs have been animated to add everything a yuri fan could want, such as flowers flying every which direction. The game’s script is flowery and emotive but keeps itself to a level of prose sophistication that is dignifying to the whole experience. It really shines most when the game does actually get to the erotic sequences, where Razz proves herself capable of. Furthermore, the whole thing has a well-crafted UI that never leaves you struggling with how to make the damn thing work.
In short, Love Ribbon is a professional level product from the amateur market, nothing less. If you’re already a committed fan of the type of story it’s trying to tell, who cares if it’s not reinventing the wheel?
…and a whole lot of this…
Let’s talk about that artwork. Love Ribbon has crisp, expressive line work aided by a coloring that really brings out the fluffiness of the whole thing. The character artwork does a damn good job putting their personalities into the designs too. The game deserves special attention for being able to stretch its resources, figuring out new ways to use art pieces already in hand, such as the character models, in different ways to fit the feel of different scenes. The artwork is so detailed, the game can just use a close up of Iris’ head to demonstrate she’s lost in thought.
The animations are a nice touch, and the game uses them strategically in a few key scenes. They help the scenes that need extra emphasis, such as first meet and first kiss, carry the kind of weight that the game wants them to have.
Despite how easy it is to beat up on the game’s broader storyline, I really do like Zetsubou and Razz’s writing. As I’ve mentioned, they manage to let most of the important character details come out through dialogue, rather than just blatantly shoving it into our face. As a reader, I rarely felt like the prose was too purple, and it had a nice way of flaring between minimal description and more intense detail in scenes that require it.
…but, occasionally some of this.
The prose during the (few) erotic scenes is a good job. They really do know how to write an erotic story, and whenever these scenes would show up they did a good job of adding an erotic element to a frequently too-innocent story. My favorite of these scenes is a sequence where Iris starts masturbating while watching lesbian porn for the first time. The scene really does get across the girl’s lack of experience, and it serves as perhaps one of the most true to life erotic sequences I’ve seen in any H-game in quite some time. It distinctly feels like a real human experience.
There isn’t much to report on the sound, however. There are a few simple background tracks and sound effects to keep it varied enough to prevent me from throwing on a podcast, but I really wasn’t too impressed.
The game, being a visual novel, is rather light on gameplay elements, and only really has a few dialogue choices scattered throughout the game. While all but one of these choices are mostly superfluous, I enjoyed the way that the changes they’d make in the game’s events tended to happen at later points, as opposed to at any immediate moment. A decision to lie about Zoe’s attendance at school might get resolved a few scenes later, for example. I will. however, knock this element of Love Ribbon on account of the fact that there is a big choice that the player can make at one point in the game that can essentially end the story right then and there. It’s an un-telegraphed bad ending in a visual novel that doesn’t seem inclined towards throwing an ending just because you made a “wrong” choice. I understand and sympathize with the fact that game resources are difficult to make, but there really was a better solution they could have gone with.
The rest of the UI is nice, going with a set of themes that match perfectly with the artwork. I rarely had any kind of problems getting it working or figuring out what to do next. I’d give it high marks for this, but the simplicity of what it was aiming for means that it had a really low bar to jump. It just didn’t have a very complex task in the first place.
Time to sum it all up. Love Ribbon is a VN I can’t recommend to everyone. If you demand an original storyline, it’s not for you. If you’re looking for some porn, it’s not for you. If yuri is just not your genre, it is all kinds of not for you. Though, if you’re a yuri fan and what you really want is a visual novel that stands tall against the competition in terms of prose writing and artistic flourishes, I’d say Love Ribbon is worth a try.
This game might have given me diabetes.
Love Ribbon was released earlier in the year. You can pick it up over at Steam , for $9.99. If you have an aggressive hatred of DRM, you can also pick up a copy over at Itch.io for much the same price. At about four hours worth of play time, it might be a little bit steep in terms of price, but certainly not to the point where I’d say avoid it just in terms of price alone. If it sounds interesting to you, try it out.