An urban legend states that if you write a letter to a god, they’ll grant your wish. A girl named Myth wakes in a strange house with a talking dog named Will (sometimes referred to as Willy), who explains to her that they’re the gods behind that same legend. A letter arrives soon after, and Will has Myth pick up a unique instrument to get to work changing the fates of mortals by altering their letters. The visual novel WILL: A Wonderful World starts with a simple, nearly whimsical premise and quickly delves into much darker and bleaker subject matter. Yet, at its core, it remains a bittersweet and oddly hopeful story about the potential inherent in all of us.
As you probably gleaned from the previous paragraph, the central concept of WILL: A Wonderful World is that Will and Myth receive letters from specific individuals in the human realm and must decide on how to approach altering the content of said messages. Doing so inherently affects how the stories in the letters play out, changing the fate of the letter writer. There is a core group of letter writers: Li Wen, a high school senior in China; Wen Zhaoren, a disillusioned and heavily depressed artist who is about to take on a teaching job at Li Wen’s school; Park San-Gung, a young boy growing up in an abusive environment; Jimmy, a gifted hacker and otaku who develops stalker tendencies towards his crush; Spottie, a streetwise alley cat; Carlos, a young man from Mexico who arrives in Hong Kong to search for his older sister; Alicia, Carlos’ missing sister; Chang Gyeong-Min, a rookie cop with a strong sense of justice; and Kang Baek-Ya, the leader of the police unit that Chang Gyeong-Min joins who harbors a dark secret of his own. Though other characters show up occasionally with messages connected to the larger unfolding narratives, the game’s plot mostly follows the core group. Every so often, an individual’s letters relate to another character’s in surprising ways: some connections make complete sense, and others require a little divine intervention to figure out.
The gameplay in WILL consists of word/sentence puzzles. You read about a sequence of events in a letter or multiple letters, and then you work on maneuvering sections around to alter the story that the letter tells. When two or more letters are connected, you can take phrases from one note and add them to the other for various effects. Sometimes the puzzle-solving will add some challenge with terms that can only change in a specific order. In other words, for example, you can’t have a phrase marked with “1” come after a term with a “2” attached to it. Specific ways of rearranging words prevent one sentence from happening in any context. It is up to the player to figure out how to alter the letters to get the “best” possible outcome for each, with the goal mostly being to acquire the vaunted “S” ending out of the many results the letter altering can take. However, sometimes unlocking another ending besides “S” to change the characters’ fates for the “better” in future letters is also necessary.
WILL: A Wonderful World is essentially a VN, with the more traditional VN presentation when Will and Myth talk to one another outside of the letter-writing segments. After those moments, a menu opens up that shows the mail you’ve unlocked with a detailed story/character map that tracks the letters and the various outcomes you’ve attained. From here, you can choose which character’s route you want to see the continuation of, as well as unlock profiles for everyone in the cast and manually save. It is worth noting that the game also auto-saves regularly. Every once in a while, you open a unique CG illustration as you scroll through letters and alter them. Hints for approaching letter alterations are given in a red font if playing the normal difficulty mode, and blue text signifies terms that are added to the game’s helpful dictionary so that you can read up on them. Occasionally, the events of a specific letter and certain outcomes also impact another character’s letter and alter how you approach “solving” it.
The visual presentation for WILL: A Wonderful World is simple-yet-detailed and eye-catching simultaneously. I love the details in the moving silhouettes that accompany the letters, and the artwork never ceases to impress. There is a colorful graphic presentation, often contrasting with the darker subject material that the game’s text explores. Sound effects are plentiful and help capture the mood and setting of a specific letter’s events, with the music adding another emotive layer and dimension to the storytelling. The script is also localized excellently, with hardly any grammatical errors.
In terms of the plot and story, WILL: A Wonderful World is a thought-provoking and insightful VN. It covers a lot of darker content and mature subject material in graphic and detailed ways that might (and probably should) make players uncomfortable. I’d heed the messages provided by the developer beforehand and perhaps steer clear of the title if the topics it delves into would be triggering. There was even one dictionary term I couldn’t bring myself to read additional information on because the in-game’s description is already disturbingly graphic and upsetting. Still, the plot’s content is vitally essential and covers topics often overlooked in mainstream media. I think such stories are vital even if they do illicit uncomfortable feelings. I’ve nothing but respect for the developer for addressing the content they do here, and it certainly makes the tale all the more poignant and harrowing. It can be draining if you play it for lengthy periods, but you’ll also feel so much while playing. I was impressed by the overall message of the “true” ending once it is unlocked.
As far as gameplay issues go, I did feel that some of the in-game explanations for mechanics could be a bit hard to follow at times. In addition, certain puzzles take a very long time to figure out or are so challenging and complicated they fall into the “frustrating” side of the puzzle difficulty spectrum. Finally, a timed sequence at the end of the game perhaps adds a layer of unneeded stress, though the time provided to solve the series is more generous than in many other games.
I picked up WILL: A Wonderful World at the recommendation of a friend, and I don’t regret doing so. It’s an incredible title in many respects, with characters and storylines that stay with you and a surprisingly heartfelt twist in the overall plot late in the game. I wouldn’t say it is for everyone, given the topics it covers, but those willing to move past that will discover a VN that makes them pause, feel things, and honestly think about the state of the world around them. Seeing how all the characters’ stories connect in such big and small ways to one another, and just how it all comes together in the end, is a truly memorable gaming experience. At its core, WILL: A Wonderful World is a story about potential and continuing hope, even in the face of horrible and traumatic adversity. That is a message we could all use.