Last Stanza is the latest visual novel in a long series of similar visual novels released by the publisher Sekai Project. Frankly, I’ve rarely been impressed by their games thus far, which makes it all the more resonant that I took to this one the way I did. In many ways, it manages to break the predictable mold that traps many visual novels, for better or worse. First, it’s a linear experience, meaning no choices are made – but that doesn’t mean time itself is linear. Expect multiple jumps in time and point of view that don’t always feel particularly useful.
The game mostly follows a young man in high school named Liam, and his friends Gregor, Annabel, Beatrice, and the fallout of the death of their friend (and in the case of Liam, love) Charlotte. The point of view switches give us multiple different views that reveal a couple characters’ inner struggles, many of which are either not very well done or are what you might call… alarming. I’ll try not to say any more in case the random soul reading this review is curious how it all pans out.
The game’s functionality worked perfectly fine, with a pleasant UI and the ability to read in either Brazilian Portuguese or English, so if you want to practice your Brazilian Portuguese literacy, here’s your chance! I never lost progress, and saving is easy, which I can’t say for all visual novels. The dialogue isn’t always irritating despite the awfully verbose (for high schoolers) monologues, and the characters, for the most part, feel like they could be real people.
I’ll be honest about Last Stanza: I don’t know exactly how to feel about it. The story is a mess with multiple red herrings in a plot that isn’t even a mystery, yet a few poignant moments sprinkled here and there. The art is standard anime fare in some places, and in the next frame has entirely different style that I found almost beautiful. And the music! The composer of the soundtrack is worth mentioning more than any other part of the game. He goes under the name Ryunocore, and I have to send him my deepest compliments; I want the music. Unfortunately for me, he only has one song available to find on the internet, and it resides on his SoundCloud. And it’s not even the best one!
Overall, I have to recommend Last Stanza, if only on the merit of being such a confusing mess that I want to be able to have a discussion about it with someone. I certainly won’t be getting any of that from the four people who deigned to review the game on Steam. The music is beautiful, the artwork can occasionally be the same, and the crazy plot such a shocking punch in the face, it might just be worth the money.