Bloody Chronicles- New Cycle of Death is the first chapter in a new Visual Novel series by Japanese start-up Igrasil Studio. I must admit that I was hesitant to review Bloody Chronicles at first because Visual Novels aren’t really my thing. Despite how much I act like a weeb online, I don’t really spend any significant amount of time on the genre. Luckily, my first real Visual Novel experience ended up being a very enjoyable one.
Bloody Chronicles – New Cycle of Death
Publisher: Igrasil Studio
Developer: Igrasil Studio
Platforms: Windows PC, Mac, and Linux
Release date: April 15th, 2019
The story of Bloody Chronicles focuses on Igrasil, a privately-owned, non-governmental organization that helps the police with cold cases. After some initial skepticism, the detectives at Igrasil decide to take on their most challenging case yet: a string of grisly murders perpetrated by a mysterious killer known only as “the Phantom.” Each murder seems more cryptic and nonsensical than the last, and are filled with clues based on bizarre masonic and religious symbolism.
You play as Kazuki Koyama, a young detective that has been with Igrasil for around a year. Kazuki was orphaned at a young age by a car crash that killed both his parents. An offhanded comment by a police officer about the crash “not looking like an accident” led him down the path of becoming a detective in the hopes of one day solving the case.
Despite being with Igrasil for a year, Kazuki’s aloof, loner personality has ensured that he’s never really become close with his coworkers. This leads to the game’s many side stories and subplots.
Bloody Chronicles, though primarily a murder mystery, also doubles as a slice of life comedy/drama about Kazuki coming out of his shell and forging familial bonds with the rest of Igrasil’s detectives.
Besides Kazuki, the core cast consists of Suzumi Misao, the Ishikawa twins Aki and Akito, and Kaoru Moriyama. Suzumi is the snarky tsundere boss of Igrasil, and often engages in sarcastic verbal duels with Kazuki.
Akito is easily excitable, and prone to going off track or making comedic references at inappropriate times. His sister Aki is awkward and naïve, but ultimately always has the best of intentions. Kaoru is the highly educated daughter of a wealthy businessman that helped Suzumi gain the funding she needed to create Igrasil, and often acts as the brains of the group when coming up with theories.
While they dip into plenty of anime tropes and stereotypes, the main cast of Bloody Chronicles are all very well fleshed out and display lots of chemistry with each other.
Kazuki can enter a romantic relationship with any of the main female characters, and this will eventually include ero scenes in a post-release update.
There’s plenty of other interesting side characters as well, like General Coya, the enigmatic head of the Phantom case within the police force that acts as a friendly rival to Kazuki and Igrasil.
Another subplot involves Eiko, a relative of one of the Phantom’s victims that decides to take matters into her own hands due to the glacial pace of the investigation.
While the main cast all get tons of development and screen time, its unfortunate that some of the side characters often get left behind.
Several of them, like Bradley, are abruptly introduced and play key roles in some of the game’s B plots, only to disappear again for fairly lengthy stretches of time. I’ve also seen a number of fans lament the fact that side characters like Michiko aren’t romance options.
As disappointing as it is, I can fully understand Igrasil Studio’s situation. They are a small developer working with limited resources, so expanding on some characters and storylines might not be feasible at the moment.
Still, this is just the first chapter of the game, and Igrasil Studio has made it clear that they have heard the requests to see more of certain side characters. They’ve also teased a number of upcoming side stories, so this complaint will likely be addressed as more content and chapters become available.
As I alluded to earlier with Bradley, some characters and plot points feel like they are introduced a bit too abruptly and without any real leadup. One pretty serious tidbit about Kazuki’s backstory seems to come out of no where, and isn’t really addressed again.
I’ve only played through the game once, and that playthrough was off and on across multiple updates in the Early Access version, so its possible I may have missed something by picking different choices, or simply playing before a scene was added into the game.
You don’t have any real control over what Kazuki says during most of the game’s dialog, but that doesn’t mean that the game is entirely linear. Every so often, the game will give you a choice to make.
Most of them lead to further character development, or the advancement of one of your romantic subplots. Some of them, particularly later on, do have an impact on the eventual outcome of the story.
This first chapter of Bloody Chronicles will take you around 25-30 hours to beat, and with multiple romance options, pathways, and endings, there’s a decent amount of replay value on offer for the price.
While the story is intriguing and the game is mostly well-written, there’s still a decent number of typos and translation issues. These have steadily gotten better over the course of the game’s Early Access period, but you’ll still encounter them from time to time.
On a related note, there’s also a few instances of the voice acting not lining up with the text. Sometimes you’ll get the voice acting from the next text box, and there’s a handful of times where the voice acting and text are just completely different.
Speaking of voice acting, sadly Bloody Chronicles only has English VO options. Professional Japanese VO was one of the Kickstarter’s stretch goals, and the game didn’t earn enough to cover the costs.
If you don’t like English VO in your Visual Novels, your only real option here is to turn off voice acting altogether. Hopefully one of these days they’ll get a chance to retroactively add Japanese audio.
Luckily, the English VO is decent enough. There’s a few minor characters that don’t sound too great, but the majority of the core cast is fine. The main exception is Aki. Her voice acting and dialog sound a bit strange and forced in terms of delivery, but at the same time I think that could be intentional.
Aki is portrayed as a naïve and somewhat socially awkward gamer girl, so I’m not ruling out the possibility that her dialog was delivered as intended. In any case, she’s one of the few core characters that a decent number of players seem divided on, in large part because of her voice acting.
One other thing to note is that, as I’ve stressed several times in this review, New Cycle of Death is just the first act of the Bloody Chronicles series. As such, the game doesn’t really have a complete story yet.
The game is fully playable (and enjoyable) right now as is, but if episodic games bother you then you may want to wait until all the acts and side chapters have been released. As to when that might be, I really can’t say.
Despite my initial hesitation to review Bloody Chronicles due to my lack of experience with the genre, I found myself really enjoying the game. It has an intriguing story, a great cast of enduring characters, and a lot of content to go through for a reasonable price.
It made me realize that maybe there’s something to the Visual Novel genre, and that I should branch out and pay more attention to it.
While there’s no confirmed release dates for the next acts and side story DLCs, I look forward to seeing what comes next for both the detectives of Igrasil, and the developers at Igrasil Studio.
Bloody Chronicles- New Cycle of Death was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Igrasil Studio. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.