With a gritty context, interesting characters, and impressive visual style, Meteor World Actor offers nearly everything you want from a visual novel except for a sense of closure.
Release date: November 29th, 2020
Availability: $39.99 via Johren, currently on sale for $29.99
Two years ago, Valve created a blog post detailing their stance on censorship. Their position was to “allow everything onto the Steam Store, except for things that [they] decide are illegal, or straight up trolling.” Sadly, that statement proved to be little more than sycophantic posturing. Valve has a longstanding history of requiring “all ages” versions of its games, with changes mandated before titles like Nekopara, Criminal Girls: Invite Only, and HuniePop were added to their inventory.
Recently, ShiraVN’s attempt to bring Meteor World Actor to the platform was denied twice, forcing the publisher to find an alternative distribution method. A recent upstart in the eroge field, Johren was chosen as a storefront for the visual novel. Delve into the work and you’ll find a stirring read that offers more than just risqué CGs.
Instead, it’s a layered work of pulpy detective noir that’s only undone by an insistence on leaving main and sub-plots incomplete. Without the official announcement of a sequel, Meteor World Actor’s readers run the risk of becoming attached to an unfinished narrative. Given the novel’s forty-dollar MSRP, that could be a critical factor when considering whether to add the novel to their collections.
A Fascinating Setting
Despite this issue, Meteor World Actor makes a compelling impression. The bulk of the storyline takes place inside a technopolis country known as Seventh Republic. It’s one the few areas in the world where diasporic races live together. While the human population is substantial, they’re a group that typically lacks any kind of distinctive physical traits. While the Pixies might be diminutive, they can fly. Meanwhile, the Seguits exhibit a muscular physicality that’s often intimidating to other groups.
Scenario writer Kinugasa Shougo ensures the atmosphere is tense and sophisticated. Most groups have a least a bit of animosity with others. And even when there is the presence of a pact, there are hints that it’s a fragile alliance. Pressures are also present in the 13th Division, a police force formed from the eccentrics and outcasts that didn’t fit into more conformist branches. Not only are there pressures from other divisions, but the jumble of personalities leads to plenty of friction. Mirroring the kind of gallows humor often used by police offers, Meteor World Actor hits a multitude of tones. Expect a joke immediately after the discovery of a mutilated body.
A Prickly Protagonist
Like many bishoujo, Meteor World Actor’s doesn’t have the most likable protagonist. Although Ruka has been with the 13th Division for some time, he hasn’t received a promotion. And it’s clear why. Coworkers like Tamako, the resident technology expert, use their intellect to solve cases. But Ruka’s methods are a bit more dubious- and other times, downright unethical. He’s lackadaisical and perpetually goading those around him, like Ikuta, a by-the-books rival from another division and Verse, a Seguit with a temper. Eventually, Ruka succeeds as case solving, but his indifferent attitude might make you feel like one of his annoyed colleagues.
Meteor World Actor’s branching plotline leads to four different routes. While the novel devotes time detailing each heroine’s relationship with Ruka, some of the characters aren’t as interesting as the game’s non-romanceable subordinates. One of those is Ikuta’s assistant Huyumi, who displays a perpetually cold demeanor. Likely, the source of this loathing (and hopefully, a turnaround) will be offered up in a sequel. But as it stands, Meteor World Actor leaves quite a few narrative strands dangling. This frustration will also be felt by the novel’s epilogue, which sacrifices closure for a set-up that’s too obvious.
Great Sounds, Good Looks
But if you’re able to look past these transgressions, Meteor World Actor has a lot to offer. One of the visual novel’s most salient qualities is Yamaguchi Tako and Yuki Nakano’s jazzy soundtrack. Not far removed from the spirted swing popularized by Shoji Meguro, it’s a persistent pleasure. Another asset is the game’s voice acting, with side characters like Ikuta performed with a delightfully deadpan delivery.
When it comes to the game’s visuals, the novel is nearly as adept. Backdrops are evocative, with plenty of shadowy nooks and character portraits express a decent amount of emotions. But ideally, the game’s action sequences would boast a bit more visualization. As it stands, it’s the sound effects rather than the drawing that’s burdened with depicting conflict.
Meteor World Actor’s interface is thoroughly convenient. Beyond options like a dialog review and interface opacity, readers will find 180 save slots, as well as quick save and load opportunities. Readers can mute or adjust the speaking volume of twelve different characters if they want. Additionally, you can jump to the next decision branch, which makes seeing every route effortless.
Unlike many visual novels, Meteor World Actor’s cast are all adults. The hold full-time jobs, display sexualities, and in the case of Ruka, reveal a world-weary demeanor. As such, it’s perplexing why Valve wouldn’t allow the novel in their marketplace. Sure, there’s some pixelated CGs, but they small a modest role in the overall story. As long as the presence of some unfinished plotlines don’t perturb you, Seventh Republic is a dystopia worth a visit.
Meteor World Actor was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.