"Given that the game's title promises heartfelt music and singing, I was disappointed that the soundtrack was so lackluster."
Otome visual novel How to Sing to Open Your Heart is the latest game in the Story of Eroolia series, which includes How to Take Off Your Mask and How to Fool a Liar King. All the games take place in the same world but follow different characters. For example, Princess Myana, the protagonist in How to Sing to Open Your Heart, was a side character in How to Fool a Liar King. Playing through the previous games is not required to dive into How to Sing to Open Your Heart, but it is recommended to at least play their demos to get some background on the established characters in Eroolia's world.
How to Sing to Open Your Heart is a pop anime game that juxtaposes goofy hijinks with a measure of gravitas. Princess Myana is a luccretia (cat-person) from the country of Laarz, which has historically had a hostile relationship with the human kingdom of Eroolia. Although Laarz and Eroolia recently signed an armistice because each country has what the other wants, relationships between humans and luccretia are still strained.
The game chronicles the time Princess Myana spends on a diplomatic mission in Eroolia to see for herself how the armistice is holding up. Princess Myana is used to being admired by her people, especially when she sings, so experiencing overt and covert prejudice firsthand in Eroolia is a rude awakening for her. The worst offender is Ludovic, the abrasive captain of the king's guard. Although Ludovic excels at his duties, he also has strong ties to Eroolia's anti-luccretia movement. Princess Myana, in spite of herself, is beguiled by Ludovic's dark beauty and he, in turn, is intrigued by her magical singing voice. The plot thickens and twists in all the expected ways, making this tale nothing that anime or VN fans haven't seen before in more compelling forms.
The game's dialogue is fully voiced in Japanese, and the voice acting is on par with what I'd expect from games and anime of this ilk. In other words, the performances are solid but not showstopping. That being said, it's best to play the game with the voice acting on because without the voices injecting a modicum of personality into the script, the writing is somewhat dry and wooden.
Like any visual novel, the gameplay is basically to read/listen to the story and make choices at various junctures. The choices made during the first three chapters set you on one of only two available paths for the game's second half. The game is rather short: I was able to achieve 100% completion in a single Saturday.
The only way I can describe the game's visual and sonic aesthetics is by half-heartedly saying "ehhh... they're okay." The indoor location backgrounds have some lush colors and sundry details, but the pedestrian outdoor backgrounds lack dynamic textures and shading. The glossy character portraits are pleasant enough to look at, but the designs lack originality and dimension. In a nutshell, this is a very flat-looking game. The menus and user interface look and function smoothly, but the occasional use of text colors other than black makes things mildly difficult to read at times; the biggest offender here is green text. The background music and few vocal themes peppered throughout the game aren't unpleasant to listen to, but I found them listless and forgettable. Given that the game's title promises heartfelt music and singing, I was disappointed that the soundtrack was so lackluster.
How to Sing to Open Your Heart is another entry in the massive pile of games I've played that don't do anything wrong, but don't really do anything right either. Localized otome games have become surprisingly ubiquitous within the past decade, and with several fantastic titles to choose from, there is no reason to waste your precious time and hard-earned money on uninspired fluff like How to Sing to Open Your Heart.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.