It’s not particularly often that a visual novel finds itself receiving a ton of press prior to release unless it’s something along the lines of a Phoenix Wright or Danganronpa series title. But chances are many non-visual novel fans have heard of Kindred Spirits on the Roof. Why? It’s simple. This is the first 18+ visual novel which has been allowed onto Steam without any content cuts. Yes, there are zillions of “adult” games in the form of M ratings on the digital distributor, but generally it’s due to intense levels of violence rather than depictions of human sexual activity. Kindred Spirits on the Roof has an adult rating due completely to the latter reason. As such, word quickly made it out that a “porn game” would be bursting onto Steam and setting a new precedent for the storefront. Really though, to consider this visual novel as a pure sex-based novelty sells it tremendously short.
Kindred Spirits on the Roof does have a rather intriguing kickoff plot, though. Taking place at Kokonotsuboshi Girls’ Academy of Commerce, this all-girls school features a cast of wonderful characters. We focus our attention first on the protagonist, Toomi Yuna, who seems to be rather uninterested in friendship. Instead of eating in class like most other students, she heads up to the roof and passes lunch by on her lonesome. It’s there when she finds her world flipped upside down as two ghosts suddenly appear before her. Enoki Sachi and Nagatani Megumi aren’t particularly frightening ghosts. Instead, they seem keen on goofing off and saying completely awkward things to Yuna. After she comes to grips with the situation, she finally hears the duo out as they ask for her assistance to help young lesbians at the academy become honest with themselves. What else are two gay ghosts to do with themselves than help young couples who still have a shot at a living, breathing romance? Oh, they also might want to spy on the newly created couples to figure out how to “do it.”
Yuna finds the set up immediately perplexing, but after helping one girl deliver her love letter, finds herself suddenly excited to help others. From that point on, Yuna becomes a sort of yuri Cupid by ensuring girls can confess to one another and hopefully begin or maintain romantic relationships with one another. Along the way, our protagonist learns more about herself, gains newfound friends, and gets into a number of predicaments. The progression within Kindred Spirits on the Roof is fairly unique as well. The tale progresses from day to day throughout a handful of months at school. However, players can and are expected to break the progression somewhat by checking out stories of each blossoming couple occasionally. This means that you will often see a scene play out from Yuna’s perspective first and then later see what’s going on from the view of another character. At times this is a little annoying when you’ve already read the spoken dialogue, but the personal thoughts generally make scenes interesting enough to review.
Playing through these side stories is necessary because they factor into the main storyline and also are quite engaging. Each character has her own style and stands uniquely within the cast of a dozen or so young women. Somehow the writers managed to ensure each character was likeable in her own way, and different enough so that it’s very unlikely players will become confused as to who is who. As we learn more about the cast, we’re treated to heart wrenching moments as well as a ton of amusing bits as well. All in all, there’s very little to complain about in the writing department. After a recent patch, there now appear to be very minimal typographical and grammatical errors as well.
One element that stands out as one that could have been improved is the audio in Kindred Spirits on the Roof. However, my complaint isn’t the same as it usually is with comparison to other visual novels. Actually, the voice acting in this game is stupendous. Its Japanese voice actors aren’t simply doing the typical “anime high school voice.” They’re putting a tremendous amount of effort into truly inhabiting their roles and emoting appropriately. I’m unsure if I’ve seen a better voice acting performance in any other visual novel as of late. So, what’s to complain about? The simple fact is that it’s disappointing to realize there is only partial voice acting. Basically all key moments in the storyline have voice acting, but most other sequences do not. Then there is the matter of the soundtrack. Personally, it’s totally chipper and fun, but it feels like there aren’t enough tracks. One song in particular seemed to start up far too often for my liking, even though it certainly wasn’t a bad track.
Now it’s finally time to address this whole eroge aspect of the title. After all, this is the one thing which most press were advertising to their audiences. “Kindred Spirits is a lesbian sex game!” seemed to be the main focus. Yes, it is true there are gay characters who have sex with one another, but it’s not nearly as bombastic as some probably imagined. In fact, across ten or more hours of an initial playthrough, there are very few of these sequences for one to come across. They’re not particularly long or explicit, either. Basically, you’ll see some bare skin and breasts, but there are certainly no genitals on display or overt depictions of what exactly is happening beyond kissing, hugging, and fondling. It may be because of this title’s rather tame CG sequences that it was allowed on Steam when compared to more explicit genre contemporaries.
Basically, if you are coming to Kindred Spirits on the Roof because you’re looking for some sexy stuff, then you’ll leave primarily disappointed. The focus is not on sex for its own sake but as a culmination of months of interaction between characters. These relationships are shown to players as they build in a way which makes sex scenes palpable even for those who have never touched eroge before. Sure, they might still be sexy too, but that doesn’t appear to be the primary goal. If it were, the writing wouldn’t need to be as excellent as it is and there would not have been so much attention paid to building these relationships up to begin with. The biggest problem in my opinion is that at least one of the relationship paths is totally illegal and the dubious nature of it is never seriously questioned. It’s a shame, given the honest presentation of these various relationships is easy to get behind otherwise.
Amazingly, even after you run through the story and reach the credits, there are still some additional seventy scenes to uncover. Players will find many of these “extra” scenes already unlocked, but others hidden initially. The way to unlock them is simply to revisit previous scenes and make different choices. In this way Kindred Spirits on the Roof rewards the player’s choices, albeit in a slightly clunky way. Without using a guide, most probably won’t remember which sequences featured a choice and may need to view many before hitting them all. With that said, unlocking all the extras provides a beautiful reward of an expanded closing segment, so it’s definitely worth it. Choices do not change the ending or relationships in any other way though because this is a kinetic visual novel, meaning there is only one ending to the tale.
Kindred Spirits on the Roof is an excellent visual novel, yuri romance focused or otherwise. Every character is imbued with a fantastic personality and the story is both light and heavy in proper measure. Reading through the main storyline — and the “extra” scenes — is an absolute joy. Sure, there might be only one story path to really explore, but it’s completely engaging and entertaining throughout. It is fairly pricey at $35, but the quality and potential time spent (up to and over twenty hours for a completion) is more than worth it. There are an increasing amount of yuri visual novels on Steam these days, but you’ll be extremely hard-pressed to find something more heartfelt than Kindred Spirits on the Roof.