Vampires intrigue people regardless of the decade. Over time we’ve seen hundreds of different takes on these beings, from hideous monsters to suave gentlemen. Red Embrace is a visual novel which places its vampires somewhere in between. The game begins by setting players up with protagonist Ash’s unremarkable life. He works the graveyard shift at a trashy diner and “enjoys” the company of vagrants and rowdy teenagers who come by late at night. It’s on yet another one of these dull nights that someone new shows up — a handsome, quiet man with a strange air about him. Things get weirder when Ash locks up for work that night only to come into contact with another mysterious man who piques his curiosity and invites Ash to see something exciting. Of course, this invitation pulls back the veil on this rendition of San Francisco to reveal that vampire factions exist and vie for dominance. Thus begins Ash’s journey and Red Embrace proper.
Fortunately for Ash, the vampires he comes into contact with aren’t of the totally mindless blood sucker style. Instead, they look and act pretty much like humans (aside from their obvious fangs). The man from the diner, Dominic, mostly seems like a stoic loner. But then there’s Rex who comes across like a punk that clearly shows his interest in Ash’s blood. Between these two extremes is a fellow named Isaac who helps the vampires out but also comes across as a snide rich jerk. Despite their differing personalities they all have one thing in common. This rag-tag group is gorgeous. That really should be expected given that this is a romantic vampire tale. Maybe some folks out there want to date a Nosferatu-looking monstrosity, but not the mainstream player!
Dominic, Rex and Isaac are Ash’s three potential beaus. Each of these characters comes with two routes, a good and bad one, as is common for the visual novel genre. Playing through Red Embrace the first time could take folks anywhere from one and a half hours to three. After that, with the common route taking up about half of game time, future playthroughs run anywhere from ten to thirty minutes. However, you can’t simply make a save at the fork in the common route and then pick up from there to receive all the other endings. The reason for this is due to the game’s stat-raising element. It’s not something super heavy like you might see in an otome game or raising sim. Instead, it’s stat-raising based on the dialogue choices the player makes that enhances Ash’s personality.
For example, making mean-spirited comments or actions nets you “aggressive” points. On the other hand, acting meek and seeking to create peace yields “gentle” points. After each choice, the point received is shown on screen to alert players. What is the point of these points? They play into what endings are possible in the given playthrough. Certain dialogue options are locked by default and only open up once you’ve accumulated the right type of personality points. Without access to locked options, it’s just impossible to get various endings. This may annoy folks who prefer visual novels without choices that are locked/hidden on initial playthroughs since it is not always clear what personality mix is going to unlock them. It also seems that some characters simply have tougher routes to access.
The personality points also change bits and pieces of text throughout the story. For example, when Ash is loaded up with “charming” points, he will become more of a charming guy throughout the story. It’s fun to see the different reactions dependent on the personality build and cements the mechanic via storytelling. Even so, the storyline in Red Embrace isn’t particularly long. The move from characters being complete strangers to totally devoted lovers seems like a big jump in such a short time frame. It would be interesting to see what a longer version of the game would look like. On the other hand, the game is short in sweet in a way which makes it easy to replay through to completion.
Red Embrace features anime styled artwork, but not in the same vein as so many moe visual novels. The men are suave and don’t look like wide-eyed children. There are actually a few art styles at play via the sprite portraits and then the CGs. Both work well together, even if some will prefer one style over the other. The soundtrack, which is often a miss in indie visual novels, actually is pretty great. It’s dark and definitely enhances the vampiric atmosphere. Also unlike many other visual novels released on PC, this title features very minimal typos or grammatical errors. It’s a bit sad that this has become a rarity, but it’s always pleasant to read through a game free of these issues.
It’s always exciting to see more boy’s love games make their way onto Steam. Because developer Argent Games is now known for these titles, folks might be expecting certain things – namely adult content. Both Requiescence and Choice of Blades came with PG-13 and adult versions. That is not the case here. Aside from steamy neck-biting artwork and some choice text descriptions here and there, Red Embrace sticks firmly to its PG-13 rating. As such, the version available from itch.io and Steam are the same and there’s no need to download any patches.
One of the best things that can be said about Red Embrace is that players will wish it were even longer. Each of the main men is loveable in their own way and makes you want to keep spending time with them. This skilled writing ensures that most players end up replaying multiple times just to get as much from it as possible. Some fans might be initially let down by the single PG-13 release, but hopefully not for long once they begin playing. It’s a little difficult to 100% complete Red Embrace, but it’s certainly worth doing.