Note: Review code provided by Top Hat Studios
When it comes to yuri settings the most common I run into over the years the top 3 are Slice of Life, School Life and Fantasy. We get the occasional futuristic/outer space sci-fi but cyberpunk? Rarer still. Elements may be included as part of a sci-fi story but a yuri game centered around love between a human woman and a female android? Do not see one of those every day. This is a title I had been keeping an eye on its development for a long time. Question is was it worth the wait? Let us find out as we take a look at Synergia, developed by RADI Art and published by Top Hat Studios.
Platforms: PC (Steam, itch.io), Nintendo Switch (Coming Soon)
Genres: Cyberpunk, Romance, Sci-Fi, Visual Novel, Yuri
Length: 6-8 hours (All endings and “Epilogue”. Also depends on reading speed)
Objectionable content: Occasional nudity and violent scenes. Graphic depictions of android/robot insides.
Cila, a veteran cop with a sour outlook and anger issues expects nothing more from life besides the smell of ozone, blinding neon lights and the ever-present manhole steam. At least, until a shady friend replaces her broken-down housedroid as a favor. Advanced, more efficient and remarkably perceptive, unit M.A.R.A. begins to penetrate Cila’s toughened exterior and possibly even heal her new owner’s old wounds – if Cila can decipher the recurring nightmare the process brings. Soon Cila and Mara forge a unique – if sometimes uneasy – bond. Little does Cila know the large amount of trouble being together with Mara will bring.
The simplest description of Synergia’s story is “Yuri i-Robot with a dash of Ghost in the Shell”. the long explanation is a story where the rights of artificial humans (in this case robots, androids and to an extent cyborgs) is often brought to question. If androids are capable of expressing human like emotions in some way, should they be treated with similar rights as human beings? How much control can humans have over subservient androids? What would happen if an android possessed an intellect, feeling and emotions identical to that of a human? Such questions are asked by Cila before and after meeting Mara. Other subjects tackled in the story include existentialism, depression, human potential, war, dark pasts, life and death and more philosophical topics. Basically expect a lot of deep discussions and seriousness alongside the world building and developing “grumpy human X adorably sassy android” yuri cuteness. They are interesting discussions to be had once in a while so it was cool to read the characters’ responses. Every time I pick up a title featuring characters having deep discussions like in this game it is interesting to think which opinions are of the developer or people he/she have had these discussions with. It is a neat little thing to think about. Speaking of, each chapter starts with the title followed by a quote from a famous author or sci-fi movie/series. Nice touch.
Speaking of the main couple let us talk about them next. Cila is another “grumpy and cynical lesbian protagonist with understandable reasons for her sour mood and negative outlook on life” who are becoming more common in Western yuri visual novels. Cila, as mentioned in the plot summary, is a skilled police officer and we get to see her show off her coolness, sometimes depending on the choices made. However, due to a past event that subconsciously haunts her she fell off her hard earned pedestal quickly and has been in an emotional rut ever since…that is until she met the white haired cutie. Without giving much away it is related to her…”preferences”. No, it is not that old trope. Mara is the “sweet angel/devil who soothes the tortured grouch’s soul” love interest. She is as adorable as she is sassy. Mara is in many ways a special android whose being piques Cila’s curiosity (or paranoia) to no end. Mara takes what the tall hottie can dish out and at times is able to counterattack. The series of events that brought the two together put a smile on my face, one that conveyed both amusement and bewilderment (as in “You gotta be kidding me”)…and yet their growing love makes total sense. Their relationship has its ups and downs but stick with it and, provided the right decisions were made, leads to a sweet love at the end of the day.
Besides our main duo there are several interesting side-characters. Some “plreaders” (play-read) may need time to warm up to and others they may grow sour with as their true intentions are revealed. Some are only met in one of the two main ending routes. Personal favorites are Yoko and Rat. There is a neat background cameo for fans who keep up with published Top Hat Studios games. Hint: It is another sci-fi game I waited long time for its release.
The presentation is cool with its “cyberpunkiness”. The CGs, which there are a lot of, have a fitting style to them. They are a nice blend of pretty and grimy. The soundtrack fits the setting but due to a couple of tunes I would not recommend playing the game on full volume. I was going to deduct points because the initial blue font made it slightly difficult to read the text. Fortunately there is an option to change it to red.
Gameplay is the standard visual novel fare of multiple choice. There are occasions where “plreaders” interact with PCs within a PC to read up on data. The data ranges from world building to learning more about characters such as doctor’s appointments or experiments. There are two main endings and an “epilogue” that is more of a “Trigger” than a conclusion. “Plreaders” will know what I mean when they get there. Said epilogue is automatically unlocked after obtaining the main endings.
While there is some nudity in the game Cila and Mara’s romantic development does not get steamy though they bring “IT” up once or twice.
Overall Synergia is a tale that becomes more engaging as it progresses. The main couple is cute despite their intentionally rough start, the side-characters and world are cool, the graphics are pretty and grimy, the soundtrack decent and the deeper discussions interesting. As far as telling a compelling yuri cyberpunk story goes it delivered.