"7'scarlet’s story is engaging and certainly keeps gamers on their toes since the plots escalate quickly in each of the routes."
What would you do if a beloved older sibling went missing? Would you travel to a remote country town in the hopes of finding closure, or would you go hunting for clues? The otome mystery 7'scarlet poses those questions for players right away. Main character Ichiko Hanamaki travels with her childhood friend Hino to the remote town of Okunezato, hoping to find information regarding her brother's mysterious disappearance in the area. Of course, almost immediately after the two arrive at their hotel, seemingly unnatural deaths occur. It doesn't take much to realize that the disappearance of Ichiko's brother might lie at the heart of the game's quickly escalating supernatural mystery.
I think the first impression one will get of 7'scarlet lies with its visuals. The art is gorgeous, with detailed backdrops and beautiful character designs to bring the areas around Okunezato to life. 7'scarlet even boasts cinematics of things like the rising sun or a bus ride through forested mountainous areas to further add to its aesthetic style. The visual direction certainly drew my attention first, and I remained entranced by the art and graphics throughout my playthroughs.
Being an otome visual novel at heart, 7'scarlet has a colorful cast of characters populating Okunezato, several of whom happen to be eligible bachelors for Ichiko to get closer to as she tries to solve the growing mysteries in the rather isolated town. The cast is likable enough, though they are rather archetypal. Players have no doubt run into similar characters and personalities in other video games of this nature.
Unfortunately, Ichiko herself is not the most memorable of otome heroines, either. She has a rather flatline personality, probably intentional so that the player can insert themselves into her role. This is problematic, however, as it is hard to feel much of anything towards her as a result. Having played other otome games where the heroine had a much stronger presence, I couldn't help but be somewhat disappointed by how low-key many of Ichiko's responses seemed to be in regards to everything going on around her.
Each potential route in 7'scarlet generally has three different endings depending on player choice: good, normal, or bad. The choices are spread out during a playthrough, which often means gamers will read quite a bit of text and story exposition before getting the chance to actually choose what to say or do in a given situation. Because not all routes are created equal in this title, I sometimes grew bored or frustrated. To be honest, I found myself genuinely liking certain routes in 7'scarlet more than others. For example, I enjoyed Hino and Toa's routes once I reached their good endings. However, I was completely put off by Isora's route, which had enough problematic story tropes that I found myself growing increasingly uncomfortable as I progressed through it, especially when I realized that in order to get the route's good ending, it was necessary to pick options that seemed to defy all common sense. In 7'scarlet's defense, it actually addresses these silly decision moments in Ichiko's narrative, but that doesn't stop the game from making the player select them if they're going for the good ending. Isora's route does try to explain why the lackluster plot points were warranted, but that doesn't change the fact that it was still an uncomfortable storyline.
As previously stated, the character routes fortunately vary quite a bit, so not all of them are as questionable as Isora's. I genuinely enjoyed most of them, and I loved how even Isora's route helped shed some light on the looming mystery of Okunezato and how it all tied to Ichiko's brother's disappearance. In order to both uncover every mystery and get 7'scarlet's true ending, playing each route is heavily encouraged. On the plus side, the routes are relatively short when compared to other otome titles, so they don't take a long time to finish, which is good since not all are available when you first play the game. You start off with only two character routes, and finishing those will unlock more to pursue. I liked this replayability angle since it meant I was able to uncover story routes I personally enjoyed more than the initial offerings.
7'scarlet's story is engaging and certainly keeps gamers on their toes since the plots escalate quickly in each of the routes. The dialogue amongst characters is rather entertaining, enough to keep players invested despite their not being the most original cast. I loved 7'scarlet's voice work, as the script was really emotive and everything was just the right volume, so I didn't have to adjust anything like I've had to in past otome titles. The soundtrack also helped add a fitting sense of suspense.
One of the only negative story progression elements in 7'scarlet is that it lacks a real story map. When you finish a playthrough and opt to start a new game to go for a different route, a map of sorts will pop up. But generally speaking, the farthest you can go on the map is wherever you've already opened up during previous playthroughs. This often means going back to at least the second chapter of the General Route, if you're wanting to see the romance scenes for a new character. Fortunately, there is a fast forward option for those who want to reach the decision points and new scenes quickly, and the game helpfully changes the color of the text to let players know when they are seeing new versus old scenes. Another nice touch is the inclusion of a "Tips" menu that can be opened by a prompt whenever a character reveals something relevant to the story. The tip provides further insight into what was mentioned, while also adding welcome attention to story details.
Overall, 7'scarlet is an interesting mix between the otome, mystery, and supernatural genres. I may not have been as big a fan of some character routes as I was of others, but I appreciated how they all come together to try and tell a much larger story. Okunezato might just be worth visiting a few times if you happen to own a Vita or gaming PC; at least temporarily. Fans of visual novels and mysteries might find 7'scarlet worth a look, but it isn't going to appeal to every player out there.