The master of cyberpunk Hiei Murasaki (卑影ムラサキ) returns with an action-driven visual novel about cyber-terrorism, BALDR Sky Dive, that inherits and builds upon the fascinating setting and fantastic game-play of its predecessor, BALDR FORCE. The guy is to visual novels basically what William Gibson is to paper novels, so you know you’re in good hands when you see HIS name as the scenario writer.
The aspect that I find the most mind-blowing in this series, is the fully realized setting of nearly perfect virtual world, complete with its own politics and sociological implications. BALDR Sky Dive drops you straight into a clusterfuck of a conflict between the government, religious terrorists and private corporations there. As the amnesiac mercenary, Kadokura Kou, you are supposed to fight through countless battles and figure out what exactly is going in this chaotic place, all while reliving the sporadic flashbacks of your peaceful life before the war.
The visual novel makes you fight your battles yourself, and as a hardcore gamer I can assure that the game-play is this vn is top-notch, with tight controls, satisfying fighting mechanics and challenging difficulty. Add the fact that in most fights you’ll be totally fired up both from the good narrative and the rockin’ upbeat music, and you have yourself a gaming delight.
Unfortunately, though both the premise and ultimate pay-off of the story are fairly well thought-out, the plot tends to move at a snail’s pace. It never really gets exactly boring —the many mysteries being enough to keep your attention for a long time— but it still takes a really long time to get anywhere.
The most disappointing thing about Sky Dive, however, is that it is plagued by either bland or ditzy heroines. Only the introductory Lain and the culminating Sora are somewhat interesting, with all other girls fading out of memory pretty much as soon as you finish their routes. Side-cast is, for the most part, fine, but doesn’t blow your mind in any way either. Nonetheless, though it’s hard to get invested in any of the heroines apart from Sora, it’s actually not that big of a deal as all routes concentrate on action and mystery solving anyway; romance being a side-gig at best.
Fantastic setting, fantastic game-play and good complex story with loads of satisfying action make this visual novel into a delightful experience. It’s only marred down by its bland cast and the fact that its prequel already introduced us to this mind-blowing setting and even did a better job at that, naturally lowering the initial “wow” factor somewhat.
|Fine music||Character designs have messed up proportions|
|Fantastic cyberpunk setting||Characters lack charm|
|Complex mystery driven sci-fi story|