Review: Lily of the Valley

At this point, ebi-hime has become a relatively well known entity in the English visual novel community thanks to a fruitful publishing partnership with Sekai Project. However, they’ve been working on games within the genre for longer than they’ve been with that company. One of the very earliest titles released was Lily of the Valley in 2014. Unfortunately, the title has gone unplayed by many visual novel fans and left to obscurity – until now thanks to a remake. This version includes an upgraded script, soundtrack, text presentation and new artwork. As such, even though the original release was available as a free download, the updated (and paid) edition is most certainly the one worth picking up if you decide to play Lily of the Valley in 2017.

Since most have yet to play either version, it’s important to explore the basic storyline. The game begins with a somewhat morose narrator’s thoughts as they attend the funeral of their own mother, Eve. Although it might be expected for them to be full of emotion, they seem basically nonplussed about the whole situation. This allows him to instead consider the emotional outbursts of others as well as the ridiculousness of the situation at hand. For example, the priest conducting the ceremony can’t even say Eve’s name right. Once home, things don’t get much better. Both his father and sister are on the verge of tears constantly. To escape from these emotional outbursts our protagonist heads to an old favorite location – an empty, grassy valley.

Well, it used to be empty. On this day in particular there’s a young blonde woman enjoying the scenery. As he’s about ready to turn on his heels and leave, she turns around and we learn her name is Lily. It seems that she had Eve as a teacher at school and for some reason seems more upset about the death than a student should be. From there, the two characters meet up more as a mystery quickly unfolds. By the end, players will likely be left a bit shocked by the ending unless they manage to figure it out beforehand. There’s not much time for detective work, however, as the whole game takes only around an hour or two to complete depending on your reading speed.

Lily of the Valley is not completely a kinetic novel. Those are the visual novels which feature absolutely no choices whatsoever throughout a playthrough. In this case, there is one choice point near the very end. The two endings compliment each other quite well and as such are absolutely worth completing. If you happen to be a Steam Achievement hunter, be warned. There are two Achievements which are difficult to find – and one you can lock yourself out of quite easily. It is suggested that these gamers seek out a guide, but others should not worry about it until after completing both endings. At this point, it might still be worth seeking out a guide to access one final “secret” item hidden in the game.

As far as the visual are concerned, Lily of the Valley now totally matches up with other modern ebi-hime output. You can thank artist SilleySelly’s contributions for that, as they previously worked on Asphyxia and Strawberry Vinegar. Just like those games the artwork on display here is completely gorgeous. However, the original artwork was not completely cast aside. It still remains in the game and can be swapped out if desired. Previously, Hazel did not have a sprite. A sprite was actually created for her by the original artist so it’s both a new and old bit of art in some respects. Even those who never played the original release might want to at least toggle on the original art to check it out briefly.

There are not too many songs in the soundtrack but that makes sense given its overall brevity. The tracks mostly fit the mood, although they might get a little too dramatic by the end. Unfortunately, the ending(s) might not work for everyone. It’s very obvious that Lily of the Valley was made with a certain powerful point in mind but it comes across a little ham-fisted. Your mileage may vary, of course. The whole thing feels a little soft, or that it pulls its punches before truly going somewhere. That’s really the biggest issue at play here. A short story can be tremendously impactful, it just isn’t the case for this one.

In an interesting twist, the basic scenarios which occur in Lily of the Valley are quite similar to ebi-hime’s other game, Sweetest Monster, on multiple occasions. The plots and characters are pretty different, but the structure feels much closer. Both games put us in the shoes of a protagonist who moves back and forth between problematic real life and a more whimsical time with a mysterious girl (who for some reason talks freely to a much older man). With that said, if you end up at all enjoying Lily of the Valley, then absolutely pick up Sweetest Monster immediately after as it weaves a far more intriguing tale.

Closing Comments:

Lily of the Valley is best enjoyed in a single sitting on a quiet day. It doesn’t take long to finish both endings and deserves being completed rather than left hanging with only one ending. Over the brief playtime you’ll get to know a few characters and (hopefully) feel for them by the end. However, even great visuals and a decent soundtrack can’t turn this into a total tear-jerker of a visual novel. But, since that is variable between people, it’s worth checking out if you’re at all interested in short visual novels which have little to do with fanservice or silly hijinks.