Note: Review code provided by Studio Studio Élan
Here we are at last. The highly anticipated bonus story DLC is within our grasps. The obvious question is whether it was worth the wait. Let us find out as we take a look at Highway Blossoms: Next Exit, developed and published by Studio Élan, with collaboration from Studio Coattails.
Check out my Highway Blossoms Review HERE. It should be obvious but play the main game first before proceeding to avoid potential spoilers.
Genres: Comedy, Kinetic Novel, Romance, Yuri
Themes: Americana, Family, Road Trip
Length: 3-5 hours (Depends on reading speed and whether “plreaders” choose to experience the story with voice acting on)
Plot Summary: Set one month after the original Highway Blossoms, Next Exit once again follows Amber and Marina as they return to glitz and grit of Las Vegas after being invited to an alien convention by an unusually depressed Tess. But this time they aren’t gambling with gold, they’re gambling with their relationship…
The story can be split into three parts. The first is how Amber and Marina are doing after the treasure hunt and becoming a couple. Long story short not well. On the surface it looks like the couple are hunky dory but deep down there is doubt. Amber tries her best to make Marina happy, even when what she wants to do does not particularly interest her whereas Marina is struggling with her love for Amber and her girlfriend constantly repeating things that upset her from looking down on her or not taking her feelings into consideration. Then there is the fear of losing Amber should she dare open up, knowing Amber’s short temper. In short both clearly love each other but have to find a way to work out the flaws in their bond. Can they do it? That is up to “plreaders” (play-read) to find out.
Speaking of things Amber does not want to do but puts up with it for Marina, going back to Las Vegas to attend an alien lovers convention. More importantly it was to celebrate Tess’ 12th birthday. Tess also happens to be the tritagonist of Next Exit. Tes is already known for her quiet nature and somewhat advanced vocabulary for an (up to that point) 11 year old. This time however, something was wrong. She felt more uninterested than usual. Tess, along with Joey, go on an unexpected journey of self-discovery revealing that despite her mannerisms she is still an adolescent girl while Joey shows a side of himself not seen in the main story. As for everyone’s favorite sexy roughneck Mariah, despite her defeat at the hands of the main couple she is still the same hot mess since her debut. However, could there be more to her than a potty mouth, alcohol, violence and an unzipped coat?
Last but certainly not least we have one of the main reasons I was excited for NX. Cassi, aka Best Girl. Her appearance in the main story was brief but effective. So much so I was smitten. Upon hearing she would have a bigger role in NX. So how was she? Long story short I was left praying to Godoka and Kumaria for a spinoff starring her. I will leave it at that. If I liked her a lot in the main story I am now entranced by her after NX. I NEED a (hopefully) yuri spinoff about Cassi!
On to the presentation. As readers have noticed the new CGs look really good alongside the guest art unlocked after finishing the story. There are a couple extra tunes along with a great end credits song. Fans of the main game who enjoyed the voice acting can expect more of the same quality goodness in NX.
Despite the game being a Kinetic Novel like the main story there are a couple of times “plreaders” are given the option to view certain scenes from Amber’s and Marina’s perspectives while The Trio get an invisible narrator. Besides the couple of “choose your perspective” moments the rest has fixed perspectives. What I mean is there are points the story automatically follows Amber, Marina or one/all of The Trio. Best Girl is the only one who does not get to narrate the story, probably because she is technically part of Amber and Marina’s. Still gets to tell her own tale when sharing the spotlight.
Overall Highway Blossoms: Next Exit is a delightful side-story. We get more of the main couple’s story and learn more about the rest of the important cast members. Put simply it is highly recommended to fans of the main story…provided they were/are not TOO demanding of the kind of continuation they wanted.
Note: The game does not feature H scenes. The developers mentioned this tidbit at the very beginning.