Note: Review code provided by T.F. Wright.
There can never be enough stories about yuri witches, which as far as I am aware are a rarity. The following Visual Novels goes through several personal emotions that are difficult to openly discuss with others, how past experiences greatly alter a person’s future, life altering decisions and a chatterbox cat. Oh, and there is magic too. Question is whether this is a story worth experiencing or best left forgotten? Let us find out as we take a look at Wicked Willow, by T.F. Wright.
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Supernatural, Visual Novel, Yuri
Themes: LGBT, Magic
Length: 2 hours per route (More or less 10-12 hours for all routes)
Objectionable Content: Profanity. Willow curses a lot
Plot Summary: “If they call me wicked for following my heart, then so be it.”
You’re Willow, a wicked witch, trying to make her way in the world in 1993. Who is Willow?
She’s a judgy vegan. An Atheist who says she wears a cross “ironically.” A sad soul with a tragic past. A brush with death has awakened Willow’s powers, but don’t expect her attitude to improve.
Along for the journey is Avery, Willow’s environmentalist best friend, Xarsi, a nun-turned-succubus, Tanya, a self-appointed mentor with a secret past, and Lydia, an Evangelical Christian whose cheery attitude puts her on Willow’s bad side.
Also, there’s a talking cat named Shadow. He never shuts up.
The story’s setup can be best described as a 90’s young adult witches sitcom like Charmed (but with a more likable cast, unless readers are huge Charmed fans then please do not let my dislike of the Charmed Ones stop you from loving them) mixed with a certain movie’s main plot that I cannot mention the title lest I spoil a major plot point. English Plreaders (play-read) who grew up in the late 80’s to early 90’s will recognize the plot point. Willow is dragged into becoming a kind of heroine witch fighting against a seemingly just corporation but is clearly up to no good. Said actions by the corporation are determined by Willow’s own throughout the story. Basically how much their power over the world grows depends on the decisions she makes. There are several themes explored throughout the game that goes through themes such as past trauma, hidden identity, discussing what defines “good” and “evil”, self acceptance, finding your identity, trust issues, judging the human race, sexuality and of course “what is love?”. An extra theme is a certain one many comic book fans are quite familiar it in regards to “power”. I imagine many comic book readers and fans of a certain “crawler” can recite the “six word mantra” without fail. It is one of many personal obstacles Willow must face.
One of the interesting tidbits about the story is the many clues dropped throughout giving “Plreaders” hints on what secret lives of each character, how they affect Willow and vice-versa with her own past. This is one of those stories where every route is part of the bigger picture, meaning whatever unanswered question there is in one route is answered in another. For example, what are all those potions in Tanya’s room? The answer lies in a specific route. This is connected to certain events also. What I mean is one big revelation in one route happen at a different point in time on another route. There is a reason for this but again I cannot give too much away.
Speaking of the 90’s setting, expect media references to that time period along with certain real life events mixed in. There may even be references to prior decades. Expect plenty of sass in the humor department. LOTS of sass. It is wonderful. However, there are moments that hit hard so be prepared.
Next let us go over the main cast:
Willow herself continues the ongoing tradition of cynical grouch protagonists in Western yuri Visual Novels. Nothing against such leads of course as the writer imbued some of her personal traits when writing Willow’s character.Like other cynical protagonists of her ilk Willow is grumpy but kind and has good reason why she trusts very few people and is easily irked.
Lydia is a sassy southern belle who is a perfect rival for a Willow. She is very religious and openly welcomes everyone to worship the Lord. Something that irritates Willow who for personal reasons clashes with Lydia’s beliefs, believing she shoves it down hers and people’s throats…but is Lydia really a “holier than thou” evangelical that Willow sees her as or is there more to her behavior? Lydia is best girl in case readers are curious on moi preference.
Avery is Willow’s best friend. Avery is selfless and humble for the most part and is perceived as “easy” or a “pushover” because of it when really it is because of a dislike of conflicts and is rather shy. Avery is one of the few people who can tolerate Willow’s…let us refer to it as her “meanie wall” because Avery knows she is not as bad as she seems. Avery is dedicated to protecting Mother Nature and a fan of a certain genre of games. This is tied to something Avery may have a difficulty discussing. Avery is cool.
Xarsi can be found in a separate route from the other lovely people Willow meets. She is a nun turned succubus who embraced the greatness of corporal pleasure. Let us leave it at that. Without giving too much away she leans between chaotic neutral and chaotic good.
Tanya is the poster woman together with Willow and the most complex woman to romance. She is a myriad of secrets and plays the role of “helpful confidant who is vague but with good reason”. She is also thicc.
Next up is the presentation. The backgrounds serve their purpose and the character art is quite good. Heck, Willow herself has over 50 facial expressions despite appearing at the lower left side of the screen most of the time. Another nice surprise were the animated CGs such as Willow wandering through a forest or using magic. Not all CGs are animated but those that are look pretty cool. It is like future VN developers were inspired by Razzart Visual’s work and expanded on it, or something like that. Besides the story, characters and animation one of the main reasons I was thoroughly invested in the game was the lovely voice acting. The game is fully voiced right down to Willow’s inner thoughts. Every single line of dialogue is excellently delivered. I cannot understate how much the voice acting added to the game. I am not saying every VN needs VAs to be good, far from it but when it is done well it is absolutely worth praising. There are times the spoken dialogue does not exactly match the in-game text but the delivery is so good it does not affect the flow at all. The soundtrack fits the game and mood. It is solid.
As for the romances each love interest gives Willow good reason to fall for them. As I said my favorite honey is Lydia but readers may find the other three more to their liking. I think there is a “true” route but as the writer said each romance route is equally valid. It is up to “plreaders”.
As per usual in VNs the gameplay is choice based but what helps Wicked Willow stand out a bit from the crowd is the Progress screen. Depending on the choices made “plreaders” will unlock Checkpoints with several branching paths. As mentioned in the story portion of the review each route and end is part of the big picture, meaning each one tells part of the main story. Exploring each one will help “plreaders” better understand the story. Plus it is connected to the aforementioned hints scattered throughout the story.
Overall Wicked Willow is an enjoyable title and a good sign of things to come from T.F. Wright. The main story, Willow, cast of characters and presentation are all well done. The themes tackled throughout are serious and for some relatable. The humor is full of sass and the yuri is quite nice. It is recommended to explore every nook and cranny to get the most out of the game.
Wicked Willow is available on Steam.