Review: No One But You (PC)

No One But You
Genre: Visual Novel
Developer: Unwonted Studios
Publisher: Unwonted Studios, Sekai Project
Release Date: 01/19/16

While publisher Sekai Project is probably most notable for the big name Japanese visual novels they’ve helped bring to the US recently, like The Fruit of Grisaia and Clannad, they’ve also been doing a great service to smaller non-Japanese visual novel producers in helping get their games to the market. As devs like like Love in Space (Sunrider Academy) and Razzart Visual (Starlight Vega) can probably attest, the publisher has a wide variety of Eastern and Western VN’s under its banner, and seem to be doing a big part toward pushing forward the popularity of the genre by force of will if nothing else. Their most recent VN release, No One But You, is one such smaller title, as its developer, Unwonted Studios, is a fairly new player in the field, and having a publisher like Sekai Project on their side is great for helping to get the game noticed. It’s a good thing, too, as No One But You is a surprisingly solid piece of work all things considered; while there are a couple of minor concerns with the game as a whole, it’s quite a good experience in its genre, and it’s definitely a game that deserves a bit more attention that it’d have received on its own merits.

My new life at a new school… I hope things go well.

No One But You tells the branching tale of Hidekai, a high school aged boy who’s found his whole life uprooted after his mother brought them back to his hometown of Okutama for unspecific reasons (though Hidekai postulates it’s because they’re poor). Hidekai himself has a bit of an odd history, as a childhood accident rendered him unable to remember most of his youth, including his time in his hometown, which is problematic when he meets Chinatsu, a young lady who remembers him even though he doesn’t remember her in turn. As he adjusts to the town, he meets a bunch of new friends, including bubbly student council rep Megumi, quite and reserved Chinatsu, full-blown tsundere Yui, cheerful space case Shiro, and super clueless best friend Ryo, and for the most part, everything seems like it’s going well. Of course, that’s… basically never how things stay in games of this sort, and No One But You is no exception; as Hidekai gets to know his new friends and begins to get closer to that special someone, he’ll slowly start to realize that everyone has their own demons in their past, and the closer he gets, the more he’ll have to help confront those demons, at great cost to those around him, and himself.

One of the most likable things about No One But You is that it has a sense of humor about itself and its world, mostly thanks to perpetually traumatized protagonist Hidekai. He cracks jokes about bum fights and being interrupted before he can even begin monologuing, reassures himself the lame stuff he says is really cool (it isn’t), and just generally comes across as a likable, funny person, which helps a lot since most of the storyline comes from him. It doesn’t hurt that the rest of the cast is generally quite well developed overall, and while each character falls into basic stereotypes, they generally all end up becoming fully fleshed-out characters by the end of their particular arcs, to a point where they stand out beyond their core stereotypes. That said, while the writing in the game is generally quite good and the game offers a lot of good character work, this game gets pretty dark at times, and even fans of games like The Fruit of Grisaia or Katawa Shoujo might balk at some of the plotlines here. One character’s arc features a “Good End” that’s super depressing and a “Bad End” that’s even worse, while another character has two Bad Ends, and honestly, almost every plotline here goes to some dark places before the end that can be hard to deal with at points. This isn’t a problem per say, especially if you like a little more complexity in your VNs, but for those who prefer unilaterally Good and Bad Ends in their games, some of these stories can be a little rough, so bear that in mind.

Visually, the art style of No One But You, while fairly consistent with what one expects from the genre, is quite pleasant to the eyes, and the game has a strong visual charm to it that makes it easy to follow along with. The character art is well done, both in static body shots and cutscenes, and the game also features talking head portraits in the bottom left corner to distinguish the speaking character at the moment, which is a nice touch. This also includes your own character, which is helpful, since it allows the player to have a better idea of the tone implied from his dialogue, which isn’t something you see too often in games of this sort. Aurally, the game also has a fairly strong presentation, thanks to a well assembled soundtrack that fits the mood of the game nicely; it’s not a soundtrack that stands on its own, but each track compliments the mood of the moment and fits the theme of the game well overall. There are also a few sound effects here and there for emphasis that accent game events nicely. The game doesn’t presently have voice acting included, but this is a planned addition to the game at a later point, and the small amount shown in prior demo videos of the game sounds nice enough that it’ll probably be strong overall, but at this time it’s not included, if that’s something you’re concerned about.

I guess it wouldn’t hurt to explore a little.

No One But You is a fairly mechanically standard visual novel; environments and characters appear in the main window, a text box appears at the bottom of the screen, and you can either click the left mouse button or press Space/Enter to advance the conversation as needed. As with comparable romance-style visual novels, the general setup is that your character meets various characters throughout the course of the story, and the ultimate objective is to complete one of the five story arcs based on the choices you make along the way. Mechanically, though, this game feels like a bit of a throwback in comparison to something like Steins;Gate or The Fruit of Grisaia, as it sets up its choices in a way that feels more like a dating simulator (or Katawa Shoujo if you’ve played that). What that means is, instead of making a couple of major choices to advance the plot down a set route towards an ending route, No One But You features several minor choices along a lengthy common route that can dictate your final route, then a couple significant choices that dictate the ending you’ll get along that route. It’s not a huge change if you’re used to one style over the other, as most of the minor choices you can make along the way have fairly obvious results (though not all of them do), but it’s worth keeping in mind all the same.

Outside of the core plot advancement and choice mechanics, No One But You incorporates most of the important and useful mechanical options one would expect from a visual novel at this point. The title bar offers quick save and load options (as well as normal save and load options for when you want to make a checkpoint), as well as the standard Auto Advance and Skip functions for when you want to let the game move forward on its own for a bit. The Skip function can also be customized to instantly skip after choices are made or even to skip all messages instead of just the ones you’ve seen, if that’s your thing. It also offers you the option to save at important choices via the Escape Key (though the Save button disappears from the menu) so you can save pretty much whenever you wish and back up to a different choice if you’d rather, so you’re not stuck replaying part of the game if you make a poor decision. Basically, No One But You is pretty user friendly, and while it doesn’t have any oddball mechanics to make its interface stand out, it doesn’t really need them either.

You found me.

You can complete a single storyline in No One But You in around five to ten hours, depending on the choices you make, but the game offers plenty of reasons to go back and play through the storyline multiple times. For one thing, there are five different final paths of the story to go through depending on your choices, so you’ll want to play through several times to see each story path through to the end and see how your choices pan out. Further, each of the paths you can go down with the ladies in the game offers multiple potential endings (generally two to three) of the Good and Bad variety, and unlocking these fills out events in the After Stories section (which acts as an instant drop-in point for the endings, so far) for you to revisit whenever you like. The game even offers a full CG Gallery to fill out with the events you see throughout the game, as well as a Music Gallery that allows you to listen to the songs from the game whenever you wish. Finally, there’s a full complement of Achievements to unlock and Trading Cards as well, which gives you more incentive to spend some time with the game, so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of the experience.

That said, No One But You has some minor annoyances to its presentation that will likely be fixed/patched out eventually, but are notable nonetheless. For one thing, there are some minor technical flaws in the game as-is that should be noted, such as that accessing the Music Gallery anywhere but from the title screen causes an exception, or that the After Stories icons don’t always light up when active (or unlock when completed), and while these will be patched out eventually most likely, they’re annoying all the same. On the other hand, the game also isn’t great at organizing its unlockable content; while most VN’s organize their CG’s and songs either by the character associated or by the order in which they can be unlocked, No One But You does nothing of the sort. At this very moment, for example, I’m staring at the first page of the CG Gallery, which contains three introductory scenes, a mid-game scene, some out-of-order solo route scenes, and two scenes from character endings, and I have no idea how to parse any of this because it’s not organized in a way that makes sense. Why is this problematic, you ask? Well, because if you’re working to complete the game under your own power, this sort of organization tells you when you’ve missed something, but gives you no indication as to what it is or when you might have missed it, and while it’s challenging, it’s esoteric at best and archaic at worst.

All told, though, No One But You is an interesting and inexpensive Visual Novel that’s honestly quite good, especially for its price point, and if you’re okay with some minor presentation hiccups and the occasional rough storyline or two it’s easily worth its asking price. The character and story writing are both very solid and easy to follow along with, and the game both looks and sounds pleasant as-is, which is something the upcoming voice patch should only improve on. The game plays like any Visual Novel for the most part, though it features a choice structure similar to a Dating Simulator in some respects, and it includes all of the features and extra content you’d expect from such a game at a reasonable price. That said, some of the plotlines in the game are really dark (even in their Good Endings), there are some mild technical hiccups that need to be patched out, and the unlockable galleries aren’t really organized in a way that helps the player to figure out what they’ve missed… or in any way I can really discern, honestly. On the whole, though, No One But You is a good effort from Unwonted Studios, and for the price, it’s pretty easy to recommend if you’re a fan of the Visual Novel genre and don’t mind dark content or puzzling some things out on your own for an extended period.

Short Attention Span Summary:
No One But You is a solid Visual Novel with a strong story and presentation, and for the price it’s an easy game to recommend, so long as you can overlook some minor tonal and functional hiccups. The strong plot and interesting characters give the game a lot of charm to carry the experience, and between a solid visual presentation and some well selected soundtrack pieces, the aesthetics are great, and that’s without the coming voice acting add-on. The game is a VN in thought and deed (with a choice system that’s akin to a Dating Simulator) so it’s easy to pick up and play, and between the multiple story paths, unlockable content and Steam-specific novelties, there’s a lot to keep the game going even after a first play-through. It should be noted, though, that some of the plotlines in the game get really heavy and dark even in the best of cases, there are some technical issues that will need a patch or two to correct, and the way the unlockable content is currently organized isn’t conducive to aiding the player in full game completion by all indications. That said, though, No One But You is definitely a case of “more good than bad,” and if you can deal with some downer storylines and technical hiccups, it’s a great experience that’s well worth the low cost for VN fans of all sorts.