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Review of Buddy Mission BOND

SubjectBuddy Mission BOND
Buddy Mission BOND
ByVote: 7.5meirin on 2021-02-07 last updated on 2021-02-09
ReviewIt has been a while since Nintendo decided to delve into the visual novel/adventure genre, but thanks to Koei and Ruby Party here we are. Right after seeing its debut trailer I just couldn't wait to see what this completely unexpected first party game was going to be about, and after giving it a playthrough I have to say, I'm indeed pleasantly surprised.

The story the game has to tell is in my opinion a really enjoyable one. While some of the story beats were quite predictable the game still manages to deliver a plenty of heartfelt and memorable scenes. The star of the show is of course none other than the four main characters. They had great chemistry between them thanks to their distinctive and contrasting personalities. The banter between them never got old and seeing their relationships grow was deeply satisfying. The most interesting one was in my opinion the relationship between Mokuma and Chesley. It was considerably unorthodox, which resulted in plenty of tense scenes between the two of them, yet the resolution was exceedingly well pulled off.

As for the game itself, it's divided into three main portions. The first one being obviously the visual novel segments. During these the choices you make don't really affect the story but instead your "Hero Gauge". Make the right choice, it goes up, make the wrong one, it goes down. However, even if you take the wrong one the game only penalizes you by retracting from that gauge, there are no bad endings. I would often pick the wrong choice on purpose since making Luke look like a total buffoon was always quite amusing.

Then there was the investigation segments. On paper these should've been fine, you collect information by asking around, moving two characters of your choosing on top of a board-like map. You have a limited number of moves and on top of that you need to keep in mind that to collect the information you need to bring the correct partner, so you have to plan carefully before moving into action. The issue was that to collect these you need to sit through tons of mundane conversations, all including a character asking you a quiz-like question about the events that happened until that moment. It quickly became repetitive and in my opinion constantly killed the flow of the story. I understand that receiving the information "for free" wouldn't have been great either, but surely there was a better way of doing so.

The final portion were the infiltration segments. During these you explore a 3D environment while solving puzzles with the clues and information you gathered during the previous phase. While not every mission had one of these, they were always fun to go through. That being said most of the puzzles were way too easy to solve, to be honest I'm not even sure if you could call them "puzzles". Most of the clues you had found were instead direct instructions on how to solve them, and it's not like you could avoid reading those since every time you would enter a room a dialogue would start with the characters telling you the exact solution. Occasionally some would require a little bit more thinking and those were by far the highlights, it's too bad those were in the minority. That being said all levels were meticulously detailed with lots of environmental story telling and it was a joy to explore all of them.

Going back to that "Hero Gauge", the higher that gauge was at the end of the mission the more side content you would unlock, primarily in the form of side stories. While these chapters were short on length, around 5min each, they were indeed abundant. In fact what surprised me the most was how meaty this VN actually is. Just the main story took me longer than 40h to finish, and I can see that playtime stretching beyond 50h if you read all the extra content. Plus the game even has a true ending to discover. It's clear to see how much the devs cared about their game.

Presentation wise I think it's quite the looker. The game makes constant use of these comic-like vignettes that gives the game a really dynamic feeling. All sprites were also really detailed and expressive with just the right amount of animation (thankfully no tweening, just mouth movements and blinking). The soundtrack was also enjoyable and the game would even occasionally pull off some subtle layering tricks. Like for example, when investigating the instrumentation of the ost will change depending who your partner is. As far as voice acting, the main cast was fantastic but some of the smaller side characters, the ones that thankfully very rarely appeared, were a mix bag. It was particularly noticeable during the investigation conversations, those scenes weren't fully voice acted so they used short quips which got annoying really fast. Unfortunately this VN doesn't allow you to mute characters individually.

The final point I want talk about is just how much BL/Otome stuff is in this visual novel actually. Judging by the art style it seems pretty obvious that it's catering to that particular public, and yeah the game has some undeniable BL/Otome undertones. Sometimes a member of the cast would throw the occasional flirty line, but at the same time those were easy to dismiss them as friendly banter. Even as someone who doesn't really play that many or any BL/Otome VNs at all, it didn't really bother me in the slightest. After all the game's focus isn't on romance but instead on telling a detective like story. For that same reason, don't go in expecting a fully fledged out relationship between the MC and his love interest, because there isn't one, that being said the scenes the two of them shared were quite endearing.

So overall, while Buddy Mission Bond might not fully achieve its own potential what it does is deliver a deeply entertaining story with a memorable cast of characters that will manage to satisfy anyone who's looking for a lighthearted mystery adventure.

(One last thing, the "BOND" in the title has nothing to do with James Bond, but with the meaning of the word itself)