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Game Review

Angels with Scaly Wings

Successfully mixes dragons, dating, and mystery in one highly original visual novel adventure.

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When I first heard the words ‘dragon dating game’ out loud my mind had to pause for a few moments to let them sink in. Let me say them again: dragon dating game. Dragons! Dating! Angels with Scaly Wings is a visual novel based around this wild concept and takes it on with full force. My initial reaction to it was disbelief and just at a glance I was expecting a sub-par quality, virtual dating experience. Not only was I proven wrong, but I was genuinely surprised by how the subject was taken on seriously and – dare I say it – pretty damn well compared to other dating games I’ve played.

The basic premise of Angels with Scaly Wings is simple, yet satisfyingly original: humanity has discovered a portal to another dimension. They exchange letters with intelligent beings on the other side who seem to speak the same language. Eventually, a trade is proposed between humanity and these intelligent beings who exist on the other side. As a member on the chosen team who’s been working near the portal, you’re picked to go as an ambassador for the tradeoff.

When you arrive, the surprise is the “people” humans have been communicating with are actually dragons! They’re intelligent beings with their own functioning society and are eager to meet you. During your time with them a few mysteries begin to crop up, and it soon becomes obvious that something isn’t quite right. With mystery lingering about and the chance to romance mythical creatures, the world is yours to explore.

Visual novels aren’t my usual forte, but Angels with Scaly Wings is pretty well ‘fleshed’ out all around. Choices made throughout a path determine the end result, and not all of the conclusions include a happy ending. There were times I felt stressed out with a choice I’d made and would go back to an earlier save to try and change the outcome.

The dating part of Angels with Scaly Wings is fairly easy since responses can be anywhere from a mean comment to flirting with a dragon. While responses could feel robotic and a little too ‘scripted’ for my tastes, there was enough variety to go one of three ways: start up a romance, be mean spirited towards the dragons, or remain neutral. This opens up several paths and endings to explore as the storyline progresses so there’s a different flavor branch for every choice made.

By far my favorite part of the game had to be the writing, especially in how Angels with Scaly Wings takes its odd subject matter so seriously. Science and the history of how the dragons came to be play a big role in the overarching storyline. Explanations are given for how certain dragon species differ between with other, some with the power with flight, others with hands, and even an explanation on how some dragons can only breathe fire. Even the dragons wearing clothing is explained pretty accurately (at least in a way that makes sense in a world run by dragons…), which made plenty of sense given the setup.

Surprisingly, the only element lacking is the romance between the main character (whose gender is open ended, a nice touch by developer Radical Phi) and the dragons. There are several dragons to romance, each one having their own personality, interests, and personal storyline. My personal favorite had to be Remy, the white dragon you meet the moment you step out of the portal. He’s knowledgeable about the history of his kind, likes video games, and works in a library under a mean boss. When he’s not working he’s sweet, caring, can cook, and has a sad history about a past relationship he had with another dragon. What’s not to love?

Another downside is I often felt like there wasn’t enough time spent to get know each dragon and fully explore their storylines. I enjoyed getting to know other the dragons and hearing their stories, but the amount of time spent romancing them didn’t amount to all that much. The main focus seeming to be a rash of murders going on in town and tracking down the culprit. While the mystery ended up being interesting and in retrospect was pretty clever starting out, I just felt for a visual novel toting itself as a romance just didn’t have enough of a focus on the latter element. Just when I would start to get to know a character and spent maybe one romantic evening with them, I had to move back on to solving the mystery.

Angels with Scaly Wings is a mixed-bag artistically; the design of the dragons look as if they were crafted in MS Paint. They don’t look horrible, but there’s a cartoon-quality to them that just felt too clean, given the subject matter. Perhaps another pass through the drawing phase might’ve helped, as details like shadowing and scaly textures would’ve helped define them better.

Backgrounds were equally confusing in design, with some having a water color painting inspiration to them and others like something straight out of an anime scene; one background during a firework sequence is an open field where the character goes to meet one of their dates. There’s a few trees in the distance and a fence cutting through the field, but the texture on the fence just didn’t match the pastel touches of the rest of the environment. Odd inconsistencies like this for the backgrounds threw me off and felt out of place in an otherwise well-written romance.

Angels with Scaly Wings surprised me with its in-depth storytelling, scientific explanations, and rich lore to flesh out this strange visual novel world. Despite lacking in the artistic department, I still enjoyed getting to know these characters and to experience the unusual setup for myself. With multiple endings and several dragons to romance, there’s hours of entertainment to be had here. Just be careful about that fire breath!