Crescendo (Windows)

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Developed by
Adults Only
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Written by  :  Eurythmic (2697)
Written on  :  Aug 07, 2004
Rating  :  5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars5 Stars

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My favorite bishoujo game.

The Good

Crescendo has atmosphere. Loads of it. Between the quiet soundtrack of ragtime and light string music, the poetic writing style, the muted colors, and the almost sleepy or sad expressions on the faces of the characters, the game takes on a very dreamlike quality that is easy to notice but not so easy to describe. While a good adventure game should at least entertain you with its story, only the best manage to create atmosphere and immerse the gamer in it. Crescendo does this admirably.

Honestly, every element of this game is outstanding compared to any other bishoujo game. You'll probably notice the graphics first - the characters are drawn wonderfully and are very expressive. The girls are gorgeous. In terms of consistently excellent character design across several characters, only Chain comes close to Crescendo. While it is par for the course in bishoujo games for hair to be the only visual element distinguishing one female lead from another, each of the girls in Crescendo looks one-of-a-kind. They also have more realistic body types than what you would usually find in an anime game. I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite character, but I was particularly drawn to Kaori, the school nurse. Despite being eight years older than Ryo, she seemed the perfect match for him. Regardless, you will love every minute of looking at this game.

While Crescendo is not an especially long game, the story paths are unique and varied. It is interesting to note that the game does not go out of its way to tell you which ending is the "best" or "true" one. That's for you to decide. No matter which girl you end up with, someone else may be hurt in the process. You will likely want to see each girl's ending - and not for the artwork, beautiful though it may be, but because each story is deep and moving in its own way. Although I wouldn't call Crescendo a tear-jerker like the successful title Kana, it isn't shy about tugging on the heart strings a bit, either. Ryo understands that when he leaves high school, he will be leaving a place in his life that he can never return to. This is something that most of us don't fully comprehend or appreciate at eighteen, and the game will often draw upon that fact to evoke emotion in the gamer.

Crescendo does have graphic sex scenes. They are beautifully drawn, and much more respectful and romantic than in most games of this genre. In most bishoujo games, the sex scenes are the centerpiece, and the story is written to serve them. In Crescendo, it is the other way around. A sex scene is only shown when it is appropriate for advancement of the plot. With one exception, the game contains no violence or non-consensual sex. There are no weird situations, or odd fetishes that you sometimes find in bishoujo games, making this a good first title to pick if you are new to the genre and unsure about what you may be getting into.

Crescendo's main character is also a rarity among bishoujo games. Generally, the character you play is fairly unsympathetic, even a bit mean-spirited. Not so here. The game seems to start out that way, but as the story progresses you discover that that Ryo has a lot more going on in his mind than you might think. In fact, he even does quite a bit of growing up by the story's end. I think you would have to be fairly familiar with bishoujo games to really appreciate this. Generally, the hero in a bishoujo game remains virtually unchanged throughout the story, except that he has a smiling heroine by his side at the game's end. Most great stories are told using the Hero's Journey as an outline; a main character survives certain tests or trials and emerges changed, a better and more complete person. However, this plot device is strangely under-utilized in the bishoujo game genre.

The Bad

My biggest complaint about Crescendo is the way the text is displayed - right on top of the artwork! You can see an example of this if you peruse the screenshots that I have uploaded to MobyGames. This wouldn't be such a bad thing if you only had to right-click to remove the text (as in most bishoujo games), but instead you must right-click, select an option to remove the text, then right click, and select another option to put it back. Since the artwork is good enough that you will probably want to get an unobstructed look at every scene, this process gets old quickly. Although it didn't necessarily hurt my enjoyment of the game, I couldn't help but wish that D.O. had figured out a better way to present their story.

I was also disappointed with the game's length. I can't really take any points away from Crescendo for this though, since I generally think that adventure games are too short. In all, your first time through the game will probably take around four hours. Future plays will likely take 2-3 hours, due to the game's ability to breeze through text that has been previously read. In Crescendo's defense, most bishoujo games deviate very little from subplot to subplot, preferring instead to give you basically the game story with a different female character depending upon the choices you make. Not so here - each girl's story is completely different from the others. I played the game every night for five days before I had seen it all. My disappointment in the length of the game stems mainly from the fact that I liked each of the characters so much, I would have liked to see more of them.

The Bottom Line

High school dramas are very popular in Japan, most likely because the bittersweet end of one's youth carries great cultural significance there. Life is never quite the same once you enter the "real world", and these changes that we all have experienced are fertile ground for storytelling. Crescendo creates a palpable air of sentimentality, making the game a highly enjoyable and memorable experience. Have you ever wished that you could re-live your "glory days", knowing what you know now? This is probably about as close as you'll come with a computer game.

Crescendo is the best that the bishoujo game genre has to offer so far in the western market. I have virtually nothing negative to say about this game. If bishoujo games interest you at all, buy this one. Critical Point used to be my recommendation as the best bishoujo game for first-timers, and while that title is excellent, Crescendo betters it in nearly every area. The game makes a very convincing argument for bishoujo games as a legitimate art form.