Alright, so this is another game that has been sitting in my backlog for way too long. But, since my office was closed for Spring Break I figured now was a good time as ever to pull this game out of the abyss and give it a play… I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with stats raiser games, on one hand… nah, I’m not even going to try and sugar coat it! Stats raiser games can be a pain in the ass, plain and simple, and I have heard some wonderful stories about the stats raising in SakeVisual’s Backstage Pass, that made me very reluctant to start it…
Backstage Pass was released twice, the first being the early access beta (2014), which is what I originally bought and never played, and the second being the final completed version of the game which was released August 2016 for PC (Windows, Linux, Mac) and Steam. The game features full English voice acting and at a cool $29.99, I’d say that’s a fair price to pay for the amount of content the game offers.
**Disclaimer: I DO NOT own any of the images used in this review, ALL images, screenshots, and characters belong to SakeVisual. Please if you are interested in the game, purchase the game either through the official site or through Steam!!
I played SakeVisual’s first game, RE:Alistar++ ages ago, and I absolutely loved it (I’ll probably get around to reviewing it one of these days), so when I saw that they were working on a spiritual successor to RE: Alistar I was over the moon. The funny thing is Backstage Pass has absolutely nothing to do with RE: Alistar, save a few Easter eggs here and there, but I was familiar with SakeVisual’s style and didn’t mind giving the new game a look regardless. And I must say, this is a huge step up from their first game in terms of content and quality. Not only does the game feature a full English voice cast, some of which have worked on some pretty big anime voice over gigs, but the opening and credits scenes were animated by Studio DEEN and boy are they crisp… the opening and ending themes on the other hand, I could live without, the vocalist is just a bit too cheerful, no, too upbeat, yeah… too upbeat. On top of that there are a whole host of mini games, events, and wardrobe options that also add a bit more substance to the overall gameplay experience.
The game follows Sian Goodin as she balances her career as a professional make-up artist with her studies as she embarks on a journey of self discovery. Sian is a reserved college student, who tends to shy away from the spotlight, so I can’t for the life of me figure out why she wants to be a professional make-up artist in the entertainment industry! Now, I should clarify that I’m not judging her in any way, I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around how someone so adverse to attention managed to find herself working in showbiz… not to mention the fact that she’s besties with an up and coming young singer! Sian is by far the biggest headscratcher in the game, she doesn’t really stand out all that much when compared with the other characters in the game and I guess that has more to do with her being an otome game heroine than anything else. I don’t hate her, because she does have some genuinely stellar character moments, but as a whole, I don’t really have much to say about her, hopefully she does a bit more in the other routes…
There are four pursuable characters: Adam, Sian’s Best Friend 4 Lyfe and an up and coming musician; Benito, a
jail bait cutie young street magician that hangs around Sian’s school; John, a famous actor currently moonlighting as Adam’s music producer; and Matthew, a shy model with an overbearing mother and a secret fear of women. While those are the only “romanceable” options, you can also achieve friendship and semi-romantic ends with a couple of the side characters from the game, including one asexual character and a female character. So, there is a bit of diversity in there for folks looking for a non traditional otoge experience, however, those routes are merely subsets of the main romance paths. Out of the main romance options I was most interested in Adam and Matthew, but I’d be lying if I said the cute megane TA didn’t catch my eye from the moment he showed up in the game… alas, he’s one of the side options.
So for my first playthrough I attempted to romance Adam, only to realize too late that I’d missed some key Adam events and that I’d been raising the stats for Benito… If you have ever played a stats raiser game, then you know just how devastating it is to grind for hours in-game only to wind up on the WRONG route! I almost rage quit right then and there, because I was in no mood to start that mess all over again… So, after facepalming and a bit of swearing, I set my sights on Jail Bait Cutie’s route instead, don’t get me wrong, I liked Benito, he’s cute and definitely pretty slick with the flattery, but cradle robbing just isn’t my thing. The kid is only 15 years old and I dunno, I just felt like a creep for even humoring his flirting. It also didn’t help that Adam kept showing up for the first few months of the game, I felt bad having to turn the guy down every time he wanted to hang out. As for the other guys, Matt kind of disappeared, because I stopped taking jobs with him, and I found that I liked John more as a mentor, especially given the fact that he’s 35 and Sian is only 18… but, since I wasn’t pursuing him, the age gap didn’t bug me that much. It also didn’t hurt that John had a super cute bromance going on with one of the side characters, Lloyd, who I absolutely adored! In fact, now that I think about it I think I liked the side characters more than I liked the actual main love interests. Each one was really well developed to the point that I really wished I could spend more time getting to know them instead of grinding away at the various stats…
Oh my effing God, the stats in this game are damn near impossible to get for the Best End… I managed to get perfect stats for the end only by neglecting the guy I was trying to pursue so you can imagine, I didn’t get the Best End on that run… or any of the subsequent playthroughs! I’m still pissed about not getting that damn end, I was so close! I’d been warned about this before, but hearing it is one thing, experiencing it for yourself is a whole different thing altogether! Mind you, this isn’t my first stats raising game either, I have played quite a few over the years, but this one *shakes head* is by far the most grueling, that Best End better be worth it, because I swear, for all this work there better be something really good at the end of that rainbow!
Impossible stats goals aside, this is just a well designed game! There are a ton of features, most of which assisted with the stats raising aspect of the game (ie. buying stats boosting items/gifts, baking cupcakes, dates with love interests, accepting jobs, etc.). I could literally write a whole post about all of the features in the game, but, my favorite were the various wardrobe options for Sian. I spent most of my money on clothes during the first playthrough instead of the stats boosting items like I should have… so my overall stats took a bit of a nose dive, not that the game made it easy to maintain them in the first place!
The art and BGM were great, but the perspectives in some of the CGs made the characters look a little weird. But, the sprites and backgrounds were on point! The interface was colorful and the the chibi cut scenes were super cute! The voice acting was awesome, but I noticed that some of the character voices were just naturally lower than the others and since there isn’t an option to adjust the volume for the voices individually, I wound up just lowering the BGM instead.
Since I only managed to make it through just one route, I can only make comments on that particular storyline… and while it was cute, it wasn’t anything mind-blowing, nor were there any huge character revelations. Overall, I liked the game well enough and I’m curious to see how the story progresses in the other routes… However, the ridiculous stats raising really turned me off to playing any of the other routes anytime soon.
What do you guys think of Backstage Pass? Are you a fan of stats raiser visual novels? Let me know what you think in the comments section. If you like what you see, like this post or follow Nice Job Breaking It, Hero! As always THANK YOU FOR READING!!