Note: Review Copy provided by Alienworks.
In 2015 there had been a resurgence of sorts when it came to yuri anime and games. During that time there were several titles from the Western and Eastern markets that brought great excitement and anticipation for their eventual 2016 release, such as Starlight Vega and Kindred Spirits on the Roof. The following was another one of those hype worthy announcements. After finally becoming available for purchase the question is whether this was another title worthy of its hype or dead on arrival? Let us find out as we take a look at the #YuriRoadTrip #YuriGoldRush #YuriTruckers Kinetic Novel, Highway Blossoms, developed by Alienworks and published by Sekai Project.
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Yuri, Kinetic Novel
Themes: Road Trip, Gold Rush, Family, Americana, Music
Length: 6-8 hours (Give or take)
Plot Summary: Highway Blossoms is a short yuri story set in the American Midwest. After an old gold rush miner’s journal is discovered, a nationwide craze begins as would-be prospectors try to solve the cryptic clues it contains and discover the miner’s hidden treasure. Amber, couldn’t care less. Wandering the Southwest in an inherited motorhome, she mourns the loss of her grandfather, totally unaware of the hunt taking place around her. It’s not until she meets Marina, a young hitchhiker wandering through the deserts of New Mexico, that things start to look up.
Before we get to the review there is one little thing worth mentioning. The save files. I do not know if this happened with others who bought the game or only the copy I got but it is worth mentioning to not save twice or more on one file because doing so will more than likely corrupt said file and it will no longer work. This means every time “plreaders” (play-read) save make sure to either use the Quick Save option or save on separate files each time. Good thing there many files to not make this a big deal but still worth keeping an eye out just in case. Now on with the review.
First of all I must commend HB’s presentation because the art style and the soundtrack are both excellent. Personally I have yet to take a trip through American deserts but after “plreading” this title I put it on my bucket list to do just that one day and visit the locations Amber and Marina had throughout their journey. The backgrounds are THAT well drawn. The same goes for the character sprites and CGs, that all look pretty good. An appreciated nod is how the characters convey movement. Not just in expressions but moving front to back in the backgrounds they are in. What I am saying is that I love how HB uses its camera. The soundtrack fits perfectly and is highly recommended to anyone who wants or has taken a trip through American deserts. In fact, music also plays an important role in the story besides references. Music conveys different emotions in people and HB’s often converse about the importance of music in their lives, especially Amber. Great stuff all around.
Now this being a Kinetic Novel there are no branching paths, just a straightforward read from beginning to end with saving and loading when necessary. So this means we will be covering the story and cast from here on out.
The story has three main plots: The gold rush/treasure hunt, the road trip and Amber X Marina’s love story.
First up is the gold rush/treasure hunt. It is like a “solve the clues and hopefully find pieces of the treasure” kind of adventure with a some thrills and chills here and there. The clues are located in copied fragments of a miner’s journal that also happens to be an amusing short read should the “plreader” choose to check it out. Maybe make a spin-off story about the miner’s misadventures/ego trip.
Second is the road trip. It is pretty cool experience getting a taste of the different locations our heroines visit throughout their journey in the states of Utah, California, Arizona and Nevada to name a few. Besides whatever our heroines on the road and when they reach their destinations another cool part is the history and bits of info about the places visited. As mentioned above the presentation made me want to check these places out one day, especially the Valley of Fire and Grand Canyon, as cliche as the latter sounds. Also there are sweet references. First time I “plread” a game that featured both a Nickelodeon and The Sixth Sense references among others.
Before getting to the main event let us look at the most recurring side-characters, those being the treasure hunting Trio led by hotheaded loudmouth with a sweet bod Mariah. The other members being the levelheaded Joe who TRIES to keep Mariah from causing too much trouble and the adorably ice ghost like little sister of Mariah’s, Tess who does not say but has many emotions behind that ice cold stare and ghost-like mannerisms. They are Amber and Marina’s treasure hunting rivals, mainly Amber vs Mariah, and the super comedy relief group but they are much more than that as “plreaders” will find out should they choose to pick up HB. There are other side-characters Amber and Marina meet along the way, including the dark skinned cutie code named “Waifu” with differing impressions.
And now the moment readers have been waiting for, Highway Blossoms’ main attraction, Amber X Marina’s love story. First off the pairing is a classic “Serious, clever realist” in Amber and “Happy go lucky cutie” in Marina combination. Opposites attract like duo where they seem mismatched but compliment each other perfectly. Now this is not a “I am tsundere for my crush” scenario but one where the two were made for one another as one girl’s positive traits make up for the other girl’s negatives. Second, familial bonds play strong roles in the characters’ motivations, especially Amber as the plot summary mentioned. The same goes for Marina and even the Trio to some extent. Third, Amber and Marina’s relationship grows at a believable pace with the two slowly but surely getting along despite starting off as complete strangers. Besides the aforementioned familial ties the two have other fun and casual conversations when not searching for the gold. As their friendship grows stronger they have more fun together and even playfully tease one another, Amber for being uptight and Marina’s childlike curiosity and innocence. Eventually the seeds of “craving something more” are planted and this is where the real game begins.
The point is that Amber X Marina’s relationship is a very heartwarming tale through good times and a heart-wrenching one through bad times, especially because of how believable it is during both. The joy both girls feel separately and together along with the painful struggles they must overcome (especially Amber) both feel genuine and make sense for both based on their backgrounds. In the above paragraph I mentioned how despite their differences the two complete one another, that is the essence of their friendship to romantic love progression. In short, it is a touching story. Also yay for “This girl’s gay. Okie dokie.” interactions when some of the side-characters notice.
Having played HB with the adult patch I can say that it is worth it. To me, yuri sex scenes are steamy but yuri love scenes that add to the story and are not just there for the sake of fanservice are the best kind. HB’s scenes fall in the latter category. Basically “plreaders” who do not mind adding the optional adult patch will not regret it.
Lastly, after finishing the first playthrough a bonus mode is unlocked that will alter the story in amusing ways so a it is a neat incentive to “plread” the game a third time. I say third because I would gladly “plread” the original story a second time. I enjoyed it that much.
Overall Highway Blossoms was a blast to “plread” through. The characters are all likable (the ones meant to be anyway), the presentation is top notch, the gold rush and road trip aspects are very enjoyable and Amber X Marina’s love story is heartwarming. Highly recommended to yuri fans who want to experience something special. While there are flaws in the writing besides the expected typos and the aforementioned saving issue, this is one of those games where the good outweigh the bad. So yes, I would say Highway Blossoms lived up to the hype and then some. Well done J. Kaplan, Syon and the rest of the Alienworks team that worked on this game.
- Get the game on Steam HERE.
- Get the game on itch.io HERE.
- Get the game on Denpasoft HERE.
- Get the game on Nutaku HERE.
- Get the Uncensored patch for the Steam version HERE. Make sure to check the README file to find out how to install it.
- J. Kaplan Twitter
- Syon Twitter
- Alienworks Twitter
- Sekai Project Twitter
- Denpasoft Twitter
- Sekai Project Website
- Denpasoft Website
- Highway Blossoms Website