Review by Bkstunt_31
"So you say you like conversation simulators?"
It's probably no surprise to you that I happen to like video games. A lot. I mean, more than you could possibly imagine. No no, I don't think you get it, I mean I play a LOT of video games. I even write reviews (hundreds of them) and game guides (dozens of them). In all of my years of playing and reading about video games, I have NEVER played a video game where your goal is to recruit people to a comedy club. Cherry Tree High Comedy Club came in and changed all that though. You've probably seen this game recently as it stands out with its anime-styled characters and, well, unique game title and wondered what in the heck its all about! Well, before you go spending your money let old Bkstunt tell you exactly what to expect.
You take on the role of a high school senior named Miley who just LOVES comedy. She aspires to be a comedian when she grows up and has lived comedy for years. Together with her friend Harriet, Miley has decided to start a new club at school: a comedy club. However, school rules state that you have to have FIVE club members before starting a club and well, Miley only has two. Not good. That leaves Miley around 6 weeks to recruit 3 new club members. Sounds like you better get out there and find people!
Like the title of the review says, this game is REALLY just a "Conversation Simulator". With that being the case, the conversation in the game had better be FANTASTIC to keep anyone's interest for any amount of time. Thankfully Miley is absolutely hilarious. The writing in the game is very clever and anyone who likes light-hearted humor will enjoy talking to whoever they can. I should add that there is no real "plot" to the game: just a bunch of short self-contained stories that you'll get to hear as Miley talks to potential comedy club members with a ton of one-liners and short, witty dialog in between. You'll find that some of the one-liners and short dialog options will repeat from time to time, which is a shame since there isn't THAT many days in 6 weeks but other than that unfortunate repetition the writing and "story" of the game is quite good. The characters in the game are, for the most part, typical JRPG arch-types that you've likely seen before if you've played your fair share of games but are still rather funny and interesting regardless.
So the premise of the story is pretty simple: find people to join your club. However, it's not as simple as it sounds as you can't just go ask people to sign up right then and there. Instead, you need to identify targets as being club material and than more or less "woo them" into joining. Miley does this by having conversations with them and generally being friendly, which causes that persons friendship rating to increase from 1 to 5. When they reach 5 they'll join the club. There are six targets in total, so you'll need to find and convince at least three of them to join. And like I mentioned before you only have six weeks to do this, so the game does have a time limit. The game splits each day into Morning, Afternoon and Evening time segments, so the real "game play" of the game is time-management.
There's quite a bit to do in Cherry Tree. Miley can head to a variety of places including the High School, various shopping districts, the local park and the local shrine just to name a few, so you have quite a few thing to occupy your time. Your comedy club targets will rotate around the town so you have to find them to spend time with them. Other than that you can also choose to work at a part time job to make money or you can spend said money at various shops. The other big system in the game is Miley's "repertoire", which is really just a fancy way to say "Miley's knowledge of various skills". These skills are really just conversation topics and range from standard "girly" topics such as fashion, romance and cooking to other interests such as video gaming, travel and "whodunits".
Much of Miley's time can be spent trying to improve her knowledge of these topic. You do this by buying and reading magazines, watching TV and paying for attendance to movies and other cultural exhibitions. Each comedy club member likes and dislikes various things, which you'll have to find out for yourself by talking to them. This is however where I feel the game actually fails: you can spend days becoming an expert at video games and get your skill to 5 and even find a target who enjoys talking about video games. Fantastic! You're sure to become friends fast! However once you've talked to that target about video games once you can NO LONGER TALK TO THEM ABOUT VIDEO GAMES! Wha? Are you kidding me! Nope, you have to either talk to them about something else or "chit chat". So you may ask yourself what's the point of increasing your own skills? Good question. Wish I had an answer for you.
So while the game play is really an exercise in time management, the entire "conversation / skill" system in the game is rather lacking. I was able to beat the game without purposely leveling ANY skill. I also beat it without really going to work once. They also make you do some homework assignments as well (you ARE still in school, after all) and even have a fatigue system in place but with the entire skill system botched those things mean very little. Too bad you can't just continue to talk to people about whatever topic you wish...
The game's graphics are definitely anime-inspired, but look good nonetheless. Character reaction's are purposely exaggerated for comedic effect (think along the lines of the Phoenix Wright series). Character designs are very well done and the game has a good amount of detail. Granted, you have exactly eight different places you can visit throughout the entire game so you'd hope the detail would be good. I did notice that some of the characters have t-shirts with writing on them and as a result when their character portrait gets mirrored from the left side of the screen to the right the writing is backwards. OK, well, maybe the attention to detail doesn't apply to everything...
The music in the game is a mixed bag. First of all, there is absolutely no character voice acting, so don't get your hopes up. Everything is scrolling text in the game. The soundtrack is the mixed bag part as it ranges from catchy to mundane. Some of the tracks really caught my ear such as the track "Daily" which is so good that I added it to my YouTube playlist. I also really liked "Ennui" for it's nice soft melody. However other tracks are rather bland, such as the town music which honestly just sounds like elevator or shopping mall music. There's a limited number of tracks in the game as it is though, so no matter what you can expect to hear the same tracks over and over. Thankfully once you know what you're doing you'll only really ever spend a few dozens seconds in any one area so its really not that big of a deal.
The game has a bad, good and great ending, depending on how many members you end up recruiting into the comedy club. As you can guess, the bad ending is less than three members and the great one is all of them. The game does have a "New Game +" option, but as I found out (and consequently raged over), you MUST get the good ending to even do a New Game +. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. My first game through I knew I wasn't going to make three recruits so I spent all of my time building my skills to help me on my next game, only to learn that I was being dumb. But hey, maybe I just helped you out, so there's that at least! Playing through a single game will take you about 2-3 hours, so the game isn't necessarily very long either.
Overall, I had a fun 4-5 hours with Cherry Tree High Comedy Club. The highlight of the game is, without question, the clever writing and social interactions but there's still a LOT of room for improvement. The conversation system needs tweaked, closer attention needs to be played to some of the graphics, the elevator music needs replaced and the New Game + system needs to include every new game but despite that laundry list of "wants" the game can still provide you with hours of fun. You can buy it off of Steam for $7.99, but I don't think I can honestly recommend it at that price. Instead, if you're still interested, try to wait until it goes on sale and grab it for half that amount. Have fun and keep playing!
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 01/07/13
Game Release: Cherry Tree High Comedy Club (US, 11/08/12)
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