Kindred Spirits on the Roof
Developer(s): Liar-soft

Publisher(s): MangaGamer
Platform(s): PC
Reviewed on: PC
Release date(s): March 30, 2012 (JP), February 12, 2016 (WW)

Kindred Spirits on the Roof surprised me. Though I’d enjoyed games like Huniepop and Sakura Spirit, I’d never taken the time to sink my teeth into a substantial, plot-heavy visual novel. Kindred Spirits demands considerable time investment due to the leisurely pace at which it unravels its tales of high school romance, forbidden love, and lifelong friendship.

Far from being a negative, however, the pace and length of this VN feels akin to watching several seasons of an anime. There are small payoffs early on, but the storylines stay interesting enough to continue watching long after the initial climax.

The game’s titular “Kindred Spirits” are a pair of girls who, through some genuinely fascinating turns of fate, became ghosts and fell in love on the roof of their all-girls school. Unable to move from the school grounds (being confined to certain parts of the school itself), Enoki Sachi and Nagatani Megumi spent their years together observing the daily lives of schoolgirls and keeping tabs on any budding relationships.

The VN starts when Toomi Yuna, a second-year loner who often eats lunch alone on the roof, notices that she can suddenly hear and see the two ghosts around her. Jumping on this rare opportunity to have an influence on the physical world, Sachi and Megumi quickly envelop Yuna in their plan to help other girl-girl relationships bloom around school in hopes of creating a self-proclaimed “yuritopia.”

Slice of Afterlife

If the premise sounds ridiculous… well, you’re not wrong. Enjoying Kindred Spirits requires open-mindedness on a few different levels. Be it yuri relationships (obviously), previously straight girls falling for other girls, or student-teacher relationships, Kindred Spirits may ask a lot from more reserved gamers. If you’re willing to plunge in, however, you’ll be delighted by just how fleshed out these tales of romance are.

The diversity of personalities and romantic situations here is staggering. Every girl that Yuna helps is dealing with something different that keeps them from confessing their love or strengthening their relationship. Far from a one-dimensional VN, not every confession the player lines up immediately results in a relationship. For those that do, there’s always an obstacle that has to be overcome later on.

The issues presented–trying to make enough time for someone, fear of losing close friends, etc.–are all incredibly relatable and realistic despite the silliness of the core premise. Much like Yuna, I soon found myself becoming increasingly invested in the potential romances I was helping to establish. When something fell through, I often felt for the girl and looked forward to the next rendezvous with Sachi and Megumi to see how we could fix it. Needless to say, developer Liar-soft did a great job of writing likable characters that players want to see succeed.

Love is a Game

Players, via the in-game calendar, can either progress the main story or get a deeper look at the various relationships via Couples events as they become available. The Couples events work brilliantly as ways to cover backstory, individual relationships, and personal struggles.

However, the allocation of these scenes vs. the main storyline can be a bit unbalanced. At some points I encountered stretches of 8-10 main story scenes before their respective Couples scenes became available. Though this didn’t happen often, it was nonetheless frustrating to have to finish large chunks of the main story before backtracking and gaining small insights later on.

Kindred Spirits stands out for its soft, hand-painted art style. Each of the characters are simply and beautifully drawn with several different poses and facial expressions. There are also a wide variety of backgrounds that help keep things fresh and visually interesting. The pleasant OST features several catchy tracks that never wear out their welcome despite the odd looping delays. Though it might seem like a minor detail, the fading out of tracks constantly fooled me into thinking a serious story moment was about to happen.

Another small oversight I encountered is a bug that causes both the text speed and character portraits to lag slightly (during the few instances when the characters move on-screen) after a scene or two each play session. The text issue is easily avoided by setting the text speed to “instant,” but it’s slightly annoying that scrolling text isn’t an option without lag.

Fostering Kindred Spirits

Kindred Spirits on the Roof isn’t for everyone. It’s quite pricey for a visual novel at $35, and its slow pace may put off those looking for a snappy, exciting read. The few instances that the game presents dialogue options are also just for fun without any impact on the narrative, a sticking point for those looking for replayability. Despite all of this, though, Kindred Spirits earned a special place in my heart. Like a good slice of life anime, I found myself looking forward to little in-game events like sleepovers and study sessions just to see what would happen. The overarching story manages to stay interesting with tantalizing secrets and dark backstories, but it’s the couples that really steal the show and make you lose hours reading at a time. If you can make the investment, this one is well worth your time.

[wp-review]