After much thought, I believe it wise to inform the public of what may be the most intriguing Graphic Adventure game to have ever come out of Japan, YU-NO: A Girl who shouts love at the edge of the world.
This game, originally for the PC-98, was published by Elf in the early 90's and the remake came out for the Saturn in 1997, so you PC users are out of luck. The Saturn version offers many improvements over its PC-98 counterpart, the most obvious being the better graphics and FULL Voice support, which makes the game span 3 CDs. Another addition to the Saturn version is the 3 new endings that they've added, which was a nice touch.
One thing that may deter you from this game is that the game holds some things that people may consider to be morally wrong, the main one of which is incest. If the very thought of this is sickening to you, you may be better off to not touch this game, but for the others, you are in the treat of a lifetime, with a story that can be said to be amazing. In fact, I was tempted to boost the rating for the story so that the scores better reflect the greatness of the game...oh well. Oh, and one more thing, this game IS Slightly Hentai so you should avoid this game if you are more conservative morally.
If you are the type of player that dislikes Adventure games due to their low replay value and the shortness of the game, have no fear. I can GUARANTEE you'll play the game for the all-new original endings, which will take you approximately 45-50 hours. Hey it's longer than Xenogears! If you decide to persue the 3 extra endings that the Saturn Version has, you can expect to add another dozen hours to the game.
You play the role of Takuya, a 'bad boy' in high school whose father is a famous archeologist. Your father disappears suddenly and both you and your stepmother assume that he is dead. However, one day, you receive a package from your father, which includes a letter from him telling you that he is well, along with an artifact called the 'Reflector'. As you try to piece together the meaning of his message, as well as the whereabouts of your father, you find the uses of the Reflector device; it opens up a new world...
The Reflector device is what some may describe as a time travel device, or to put it more accurately, it allows you to travel to an alternate universe. Each stone on the reflector device you use will mark that position as a returning location, and if you decide to retrace your steps, you can go to an alternate universe to the time you've used the reflector stone. You start out with approximately half of the total number of stones in game.
From then on, you journey to find answers to the mystery. Who is the Blonde Woman? What is the Mystery of the Mountain? What role does the blue-haired girl play? Where is your father? What is your stepmother researching? Who the heck is YU-NO anyway? Such questions will be answered by only the best of players... will you solve the Mystery of YU-NO?
The Graphics of the game, while now a bit dated, are still beautiful and adds immensely to the Anime feel of the game (I wish they did make one...sigh). The characters are designed very nicely and the animated sequences are well done too. While the low number of colors that were used does make this game slightly less attractive (But then, NONE of the games used High res. back in '97 ^^), I find it still too wonderful to resist.
The Gameplay is not too different from the other Adventure games you'll find. This means lots of text, choosing between dialog choices, and being in the right place in the right time. While this doesn't really take away from the experience, I can't help but think how much better it could've been. However, YU-NO does use the Automatic Diverge Mapping System, which makes the game very interesting to replay. The ADMS feature sets this game apart from others by introducing a unique storyline flow. ADMS is a screen that you can check at anytime to see in which direction you are heading in the story. Ever wonder when you could go into a different path in the story? Now you can! The screen is presented as a Branching Line, with marks on where you are, where the endings are, and where the Reflector stones are held.
The music of YU-NO is quite good, but I was disappointed to find that the number of tracks was pretty low. Expect for a few pieces that stand out, especially the opening theme, which is implanted in my mind now, tracks are mainly pleasing to the ear but very forgettable. The Voice Acting is VERY VERY good, and I was glad to not find any Seiyuu whose voice I felt compelled to skip.
The control is done well, and while I wasn't able to test out the Mouse feature, I appreciated the Message Skip feature, which works very well. While other games of this ilk also have the message skip feature, they tend to be slow and force you to press it over and over again. Not this game! In fact, I once skipped a huge dialog that left me in the dark but that's another story...
As a whole, I feel this game to be THE best Graphical Adventure game ever, which from me (I play tons of these games) is a huge compliment. In fact, I feel saddened by the fact that the scenario designer that made this (I forget the name) isn't working on enough games! As a side note, you should also check out EVE:Burst Error, another game, written by the same person, which I also found to be excellent. It's actually available in English for the PC at www.himeya.com so be sure to check it out!