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Komorebi Review

Komorebi Review

One hundred years ago, humanity experienced Komorebi for the first time, a phenomenon that shows most of the populace a glimpse of what their future could look like. As Delta, you are the 1% that never witnessed this marvel; after leaving your city and upending your life to move to Toronto with your online friend, Isaac, being the only member of the group that didn't experience Komorebi might not be the most extraordinary thing that happens from this one decision.

Komorebi is a visual novel in which you will experience a world unlike our own. As a newcomer to the genre, this is the first time I play through a title that is more focused on the story told through a kinetic-esque style rather than a branching narrative. Your agency as Delta throughout the game boils down mostly to which of the five characters you'll be interacting with and romancing, with little decisions on what you do throughout the 20-hour adventure.

Komorebi Image One 1 Dante Isaac

The story starts off as you arrive in Toronto and are introduced to the first couple of characters, with more coming throughout the first chapter of four. The character dynamic is all over the place intentionally, a tidbit of information offered by Delta's insight in later parts of the game, and it helps build the uncomfortable process of building a relationship with a group of strangers. The bumpy start doesn't take too long to pick up and gives you a clear objective for the end of your chapter, a recurring theme for each of the ones you'll experience — a big event is happening at the end, and the remaining occasions in-between are the characters coping, interacting, or planning for the culmination of the chapter.

While the writing and voice acting is excellent throughout pretty much every part of the game, one of my biggest quarrels with Komorebi is the way the game tells the narrative between these significant life-changing events. Instead of linear storytelling, the game uses the Fragment Map system, a way for you to experience all of the stories at your own pace and choose which memory you want to watch first. While the existence of the Fragment Map system makes sense narratively for reasons I can't mention, the gameplay implications are less than enjoyable in execution.

Komorebi Fragment Maps One of Four

The way Komorebi works is relatively simple — between chapters, you will encounter Fragment Maps, which will have various choices to choose from: the three categories are Pivotal Fragments, Heart-to-Hearts, and the Supplemental Fragments alongside Journal entries connected to the first category. The way you experience these is entirely up to you, but that doesn't mean that you are creating a cohesive narrative to follow; instead, you are watching the story unfold in a disjointed manner that makes it challenging to keep track of what's happening.

To progress into the Culmination Fragments, which ends the chapter that you're in, you must experience all six of the Pivotal Fragments, with a mixture of Heart-to-Heart moments sprinkled within and the Supplemental Fragments to get a bit of extra context. The six main events don't give you a lot of agency and work more like a kinetic visual novel, while Heart-to-Heart ones give you access to romancing the characters and heartfelt one-on-ones with the main cast that was always welcome. 

Komorebi Heart to Heart Dante Fragment 2

While every character is very lovable, and I quickly fell in love with pretty much all of them (I basically tried to romance everyone by the end of the story), I have to say that I was a bit disappointed with the protagonist. While the main cast all have their own personalities, aspirations, and even stories to uncover — with unique and exciting backstories and futures — Delta was a relatively dull and unlikable protagonist. They are both too fledged out as a personality to be able to project yourself into their story, but not enough that it inspires any desire to uncover their story or any sympathy for their role in the narrative. The mix between kinetic storytelling and branching narrative was more of a hindrance, as I genuinely found moments I would have wanted Delta to be less than a shrugging, careless machine — it feels like they contribute nothing to the game, in neither allowing you to project yourself onto the character or giving a likeable protagonist to follow along with.

These two complaints — both the narrative system and Delta — are my single issues with the entirety of Komorebi, and although they are pretty significant and left a sour taste in my mouth, the Culmination Fragments and character progression absolve the narrative mess that it quickly became. While the name might suggest that the story will surround the strange future-seeing phenomenon that plagues our cast of characters, it instead focuses on a more political and intriguing story that focuses on the struggles that came from Komorebi rather than the curse itself.

The System Dante Isaac Komorebi

While this was a problem for me at first, as I found that Komorebi wasn't as much of a focus as I wanted to explore, the way it's handled is very much casual and the way a society that has grown with it over 100 years would react to it. Instead of being a central part of the narrative, the phenomenon is a looming presence that every character has taken as a fact of life and instead focuses on the struggles that this brought to society in the form of The System. Although at first I was disappointed by this decision, the narrative gives way to focus on other themes instead, and I was pleased with the result despite not familiarising myself with Komorebi as a phenomenon as much as I'd like.

Despite my seemingly negative outlook on Komorebi, it’s difficult to say that I disliked my experience once I got accustomed to its various quirks. The lovable characters had me chuckling with every new joke, jab, or quip they had to say, and I genuinely wanted to spend more time with them by the end. From their friendly banter to heart-filling one-on-ones, each one of the characters was able to bring something to the table, giving them a three-dimensional feel that encompassed their struggles, aspirations, and even futures. None of their stories felt forced and no one felt out of place or two-dimensional, meaning that I never felt discouraged by having to speak to any of them.

Friendly banter Dante Isaac

Each Culmination Fragment is chockful of important information and is easily longer than each of the Fragment Maps they take part in. These nail-biting endings were the highlight of the game, forcing me to click only one more time to see what would happen next and forcing me to enjoy it in one run, as otherwise I was left thinking about the story, lingering in the back of my mind. The characters and narrative are things I grew fond of, and despite its numerous flaws, I can confidently say that 20 hours in, I'll miss Komorebi and the world it introduced me to. And that, ultimately, is all I need to recommend this game.

7.50/10 7½

Komorebi (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is good, with a few negatives.

Disjointed storytelling and the dull protagonist aside, the Komorebi narrative and characters engrossed me in a way that I will genuinely miss the world that I delved into in my 20-hour playthrough.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Artura Dawn

Artura Dawn

Staff Writer

Writes in her sleep, can you tell?

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