Silverain Reviews: Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,



Created by 773 Cherry Tree High Comedy Club mixes up the RPG Maker formula creating this RPG/Visual Novel crossover. Indeed Cherry Tree High Comedy Club is all but unrecognisable as an RPG maker game and is regarded as one of the most impressive examples of what the software can be used for outside of its more traditional game styles.

Comedy fanatic and high school student Mairu Hibisu has decided to set up a comedy club in her school, but the school rules require a minimum of 5 students to set up a new club and Mairu is 3 people short! Spring break has just started and Mairu has until the end of April to recruit the 3 new members she needs to start the club or her rival Chitose will have the last laugh! 
 Hard to believe this is a RPG Maker Game
The gameplay focuses on story through character interaction as you walk around town, meet people, and try to talk to them and make friends. Mechanically this is done by levelling your conversation skills in different subjects by reading magazines, attending talks or watching television/movies. Each of the 6 possible candidates that are introduced throughout the month the game takes place in have their own preferences in topics with some topics earning their friendship quicker while others simply waste the little time you have.
It should be said though that the conversation system is somewhat simple and in some ways quite unfair, the method of learning which topics are worth while for each person is down to a mixture of random chance through causal conversation (e.g. chatter that does not take time or contribute to friendship), educated guesswork from observing the various cut-scenes or simply using the option after which the result is recorded on the persons profile page in the options.
However as each major conversation option can only be used once per person other than the gossip option which can be used repeatedly (and is nearly useless) this information only helps in subsequent playthroughs, though the new game+ option is only accessible if a minimum of 3 people are convinced to join the club otherwise its a simple restart after 3 to 5 hours with none of the conversational skill levels or information gathered.


 I do like the various menus and huds in the game, the various comments often brought a chuckle
Speaking of skill levels even if you guess the favoured topics of your would-be members if the topics level is rather low you will have little gain in friendship making the most ideal method of play spending the early game addressing the additional minor needs such as completing homework on time, earning money while minimizing your fatigue level, and taking advantage of free methods of levelling topics before focusing on just 3 people to join the club.
The result of this is a average of 2 to 3 playthroughs to get the best ending where all six candidates join the club though as there is no player input to the story the player will be forced to repeatedly watch the same cut scenes and dialogue. 
The story isn't bad by any means, each character has their own goals and personal issues that they want to address but what stood out was that our protagonist Mairu Hibisu (or Miley Verisse in the westernised version) doesn't magically solve everyone's problems. In fact in most cases problems still exist but the various characters take their own steps towards fixing them, Mairu simply acts as a catalyst through her actions or occasionally a throw away comment that has a deeper affect than she realises. Its a nice alternative to much of today's story telling but does have the affect of making the game feel a little shallow and short with the Player an observer rather than having any actual effect.
For a game about Comedy and whose menus and descriptions are filled with small titbits of amusing descriptions the dialogue itself is relatively lacking in these regards in both the original and westernised versions with Mairu's outlandish behaviour often been used as a source of comedy (like most high school animes) but often falls a bit flat of the mark. In the westernised version is in the same vein as the Ace Attorney games more effort has been put into gag names and hand waving why obviously Japanese elements such as a shrine are in 'America' which might amused some players but personally this has always been a particular pet peeve of mine.   

Pros:
  • Nice visual art style through the game and a clear informative hud with lots of little details that contain much of the games humour.
  • Visually attractive and clear in design for menus and most mechanics are explained adeptly in easy to understand tutorials.
  • Unique gameplay, suitable for younger audience.
  • Choice between westernisation version and original names and references.
  • New Game + Option (if completed with minimum requirements)
  • Steam Cards.

Cons:
  • Music is short, lacks variation and obviously loops.
  • Average playthrough length dragged out by skill grinding, this is also made further problematic by the fact that certain conversation topics are far less useful than others and certain actions are quite pointless with little benefit.
  • Appalling westernisation version in spite of Ace Attorney inspiration.
  • Very little actual gameplay beyond "Go to location and select option" which quickly grows repetitive.
  • Very limited re-playability with the game easily completable in two playthroughs depending on which skills have been improved in the first playthrough.
  • Player feel like an observer to the character due to having next to no input on story events.
  • Money and items do not carry over in New Game +

TLDR: A wonderful example of what can be done with RPG Maker but with limited replay appeal and gameplay. Recommended as sales purchase.
If you'd like to see a more example of the game check out my video below:



Or alternatively the Lets Play can be be found Here


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