8 mins read

Review by Matt S.

There are two things that are important to visual novels: One is the art. The other is the narrative. If either of those are broken, then the game itself is rendered pointless. Lily of the Hollow – Resurrection is broken thanks to a localisation that is so bad I can’t even imagine how Google Translate would have spat it out. I have no idea where this localisation did come from, but the game is unplayable as a result. This isn’t a subjective thing; it’s not like I just didn’t like the story. It’s that I had to read every single line in it a half dozen times to even try and piece together what it’s saying, and it’s just not worth the effort.

The game’s description on the Nintendo eShop page isn’t great in itself, but it’s significantly more readable than the text in-game, which makes me feel even more uncomfortable with Lily of the Hollow – Resurrection, as I do feel like there is some deception wrapped up in the developer’s effort to sell the game. It’s like they knew that the game was illegible, and took steps to conceal that until players had already made the purchase. The developer also seems to have carefully selected screenshots for that store listing that show the in-game text in its best possible light. Take this quote from one of the screenshots on the Nintendo store, for example.

“If one can describe the scene in front of me with a sense of smell, at that moment , I did smell a breeze of fragrance.” 

A “breeze of fragrance” is a weirdly good name for a rock band but it’s also a really good example of why, for all their protests about “censorship”, anime/visual novel/JRPG fans don’t really want a literal translation of any of the games that they play. Even when they are localised in a way they don’t like, they do certainly want the editor’s eye to look at the text, so that it doesn’t end up being like this.

And yet, that’s the writing at its best. That’s writing you can laugh at, but still makes sense, and while it was nonsense, the meaning behind it was fairly clear on a first pass. On the other hand, once you’ve made the purchase, you’ll start seeing the game at its worst. Get a whiff of this breeze of fragrance:

“The ride Ralph is a date-red horse in his prime, we spent years together through life and death, it is breathing heavily, as if complaining against the heartlessness of the master.” 

That, my dear friends (and inevitable reader that will somehow take offence at the score this review is about to give the game), is an unintelligent word salad and I have read it through a dozen times and I’m still not entirely sure I understand the full extent of its meaning. I think that a proper localiser would write it as such (though, again, I’m actually half-guessing here because this really makes so little sense to me):

“My horse, Ralph, and I have spent years together, through hardships and good times alike. Right now, poor Ralph is breathing heavily, with his nostrils flaring in protest against the perceived heartlessness with which I’m driving him on.”

Now, if I have somehow localised that right, feel free to get in touch with me, indie visual novel developers, because I am actually very happy to help you localise your games. I would have loved to contribute to making Lily of the Hollow – Resurrection readable because the other core quality to the visual novel – the art – is utterly gorgeous. This is a romance VN and the art comes across as warm and genuinely romantic. Not fanservicey, but heartwarmingly. The game looks like it treads through all the common ground for a romance visual novel (including the mandatory hot springs scene), but it does so with a real elegant eye and an almost naively beautiful sense of romance. At least, that’s what I get from the screenshots. I’m never going to finish this game because I decided it was unplayable within the hour. 

There are 100,000 words of this unintelligible text, according to the game’s description! That’s quite a few hours to read through it all (and if you consider the fact that you’d have to read the text five or six times to make sense of it, it’s really 500,000 words or longer). Unfortunately, as gorgeous as the art is, that in itself is just not enough of a payoff. 

I was genuinely excited to play Lily of the Hollow – Resurrection. It seems like such a beautiful little visual novel and while I wasn’t expecting a masterpiece of localisation based on its low price, I was expecting to be able to read it. But that just cannot be done. Developers from Japan, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, and every other emerging game development centre through Asia-Pacific, listen to me carefully: You can have the most beautiful aesthetics and a heartwarming concept for your game. If the localisation isn’t going to be good, though, do not bother with an English release, because it is going to get reviews like this one. Make “invest in proper translation” your big resolution for 2021. I do not want to play any other games like Lily in the Hollow – Resurrection ever again.
ZERO – No Stars for the visual novel you can’t read.

– Matt S. 
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb

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