Cinders is unlike any other Otome game/visual novel I’ve played, and this goes for more than just the gorgeous artwork and amazing soundtrack. First of all, it is not Japanese. It is made by a newer indie company named MoaCube, whose second VN is currently in production (and I am excited for it!) Cinders is a feminist retelling of Cinderella, asking the questions of whether it really does pay to be subservient and obedient as Cinderella was in the original story, and what would happen if she had had a different personality and more options to choose from.
As you make your way through the game’s myriad choices, you alter Cinder’s personality, love interest, relationship with her family, and ultimately her future. There are four different endings, but each ending has a bunch of different variations based on the choices you made. For example, just because you can end up as queen doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll end up being a good one.
The art is like nothing you usually see in an visual novel. The character’s lips move, their eyes wander, their expression and body language changes, and the way that they talk– as the text appears on the screen, the speed of what they are saying changes according to their mood. If they emphasize a particular word, that word appears more slowly. If they’re angry and are snapping at someone, those words appear lightning fast. It added a lot of depth to the conversation and helped show people’s meaning– you didn’t end up questioning whether they were being sarcastic or not. You knew.
Furthermore, the music is absolutely gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that I bought it from the artist. You can set your own price for the music, and it was so gorgeous that I had to pay him for it or live with my conscious beating me with a stick, even though I don’t necessarily have the funds for it. But don’t just take my word for it– give it a listen here, and maybe even buy the soundtrack if you like it enough!
Also, the story was downright addictive. There are so many choices that actually affect the storyline that it would several different play-throughs to even see them all, let alone get all the endings! Heck, I must’ve played through the game around fifteen times so far, and I still haven’t seen all of the different dialogue options (nor have I gotten all of the endings)! This game is masterful in creating characters that you care about and feel for, and even for allowing you to play Cinders as if you actually were her. While in most standard VNs there is an obvious “right” answer and an obvious “wrong” one, that is not the case in Cinders. You might think it would be bad to obey the Stepmother and forsake your freedom, and you might think it would be bad to insult one of your stepsisters, but that is never the case. There are no right or wrong answers to this game– only options that take the story in ever new directions.
Not only that, but this game is a completionist’s dream. There are nine different unlockables that magically appear on the menu screen, plus as I said, the four different endings to unlock and the multiple variations in each of them. This makes for a truly unique experience and ending each and every time you play. And, for those looking for it– yes, there is romance in this game. Each with rather appealing men, in fact. Yet you still have the option to end up alone. And really, in the end, the story, plots, characters, and different endings are so interesting that you’ll end up caring much more about Cinders herself than any potential romantic partner she has in-game (and this isn’t a bad thing).
Overall, Cinders is a Visual Novel I’d recommend to anyone. The appearance may be a bit new at first, especially if you’re used to anime, but I promise this game is nothing but a shining gem underneath. Cinders is available for $22.95 at MoaCube’s website for both Window and Mac computers. There is a demo available for play if you want to try it out before you buy. I encourage you to give it a look. I highly doubt you’ll regret it.