Review by OrochiSonic
A teacup half full.
Tea Society of a Witch is another one of Hirameki Internationals Anime Play interactive visual novels. For those new to the genre, the game is mostly text set onto still pictures with the player making choices along the way to alter the story. Visual novels are quite rampant in Japan, but many of the ones brought over and translated for the English PC, are mostly erotic adult titles. Hirameki has been aiming to change that with releasing cleaned up visual novels first on DVD and more recently on PC. Tea Society of a Witch continues that tradition. However, when cleaning up the story removes half of the original game, then there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
The games story revolves around three witches in training who come to the real world from the magical world to hone their skills and get ready for a very important tea party. You play as a normal guy who happens to have one of these witches crash into you with her broom. You come to find out that this witchs name is Nee, and she soon comes to live with you. Alongside her is the proper witch named Drill, and the much smaller witch named Ponica. The game consists of you reading text and choosing which witch you would like to talk to, and potentially become romantically involved with.
However, I own the import Sega Dreamcast port of this game and can tell you that Hirameki removed more than just nudity and sex that appeared in the PC original; they also took out three other girls entire stories! In this DVD version, you can only choose to follow the stories of Nee, Drill, and the quiet Manamu. You cant go after the third witch Ponica, your childhood friend Megumi, or the witches super busty teacher Akiwo. That means that half of the game has been cut from this English language version, and its a mystery why.
The translation of what was left in the DVD version is still very nice and readable, but like every Hirameki game Ive played, there are misspelled words and grammar issues strung throughout the text. Its nothing that will make you want to stop playing, and its understandable coming from a small niche company, but the mistakes are still there. Also for those wondering, there is no nudity, but there are still a few suggestive pictures and dialogue.
What sets Tea Society of a Witch apart from other games from Hirameki (besides the massive cutting of the story), is the very cute almost super deformed art style. This will either entice players to try the game out, or push them away. The characters all have big eyes and over exaggerated bodies, and its certainly different than anything else Hirameki has brought over.
But with so much of the game removed from this English language DVD version, that means a lot of the CG event pictures are gone. However, the graphics that have remained in the game look nice and crisp, although the game is played with a small border around the screen that was not found in the Dreamcast version. Additionally, some of the text can be hard to read, as the text comes in different colors depending on who is talking, and some of the colors are harder to see.
The soundtrack in this game is actually enjoyable, as some of the slower more romantic songs are quite nice. The witches all have voices, and the main character has none since its supposed to be you. Each girl has her own ending theme song which is a nice touch.
The game still takes some time to finish the three stories within it, and for the most part its fairly easy to know which choices to make. With only three girls to go after, and few and easy choices to make, this visual novel is very easy. Also gone from the Dreamcast version are the art gallery and sound test modes. This is a real shame, but I figure they were omitted since specific character songs and pictures are missing from this version.
The password system works well, and the passwords are all simple three letter combinations, so thankfully the very long passwords from Hiramekis Phantom of Inferno are long gone.
With so much missing from this version, its really hard to recommend this game. Im ok with Hirameki bringing over non-adult visual novels over, as they have proved with Hourglass of Summer that you dont need graphic sex to tell a great story. However, if you have a good grasp of the Japanese language, than you should pass this version up and try and find the import Dreamcast one. There is just far too much missing in this version to justify recommending over better Hirameki visual novels on DVD like Hourglass of Summer and Phantom of Inferno. Whats here in this DVD version is good, but its whats missing that really hurts this one.
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