The few that know me personally are aware that I am a part-time violinist for a local symphony orchestra. As such, I've had extended contact with the circles of classical musicians in my area, and my tastes in music tend to reflect that (though every once in a while I will find something appealing, despite being totally random and different). Thus, I was surprised to see a game come out that was set in a music conservatory, somewhere in mid-western Europe. The game I am talking about is Little Witch's Quartett!.
As the title would suggest, the game encompasses the students of the Magnolia Conservatory, which apparently is a very respected school that has been known to train skilled musicians, preparing them for the proffesional circuits as soloists or orchestra members. The better students are placed into quartett units in order to learn the concept of teamwork with other musicians. It is in this scenario that we find the main character, a young man named Phill Junhers, who is scouted by a teacher from the Magnolia Conservatory and admitted due to his rather exceptional talent. Of course, the three musicians he has been partnered with are all girls, which sets up for potential romance, as expected from one of these games. There's Charlotte Francia (First Violin, the short-yet-older-than-everyone-else girl), Juni Argiano (Viola, the lively-but-extremely-weird-in-a-funny-wa
Interestingly enough, this is not a ren-ai game as much as it is a "visual comic book". That is because Quartett! implements the Floating Frame Director into its interface. The way the FFD works is that you have a preset background, and as things happen, panels or frames slide into view to show what is going on, with text appearing in bubbles. The end product is basically a comic book-like format that comes together as things progress in each scene. To say it is unique is an understatement, since it helps with the story-telling as far as the game's central plot goes. It also makes scenes easier to interpret since things are always added and changing as emotions and lines of dialogue are spoken. There is one flaw in the whole system though, and that is that it does not work for ero-scenes. Not that I cared much, since I think the game didn't need ero to have appeal to it (yes, the story is that well put together).
Musically, the game truly reflects its setting, as many of the pieces are played on actual instruments (courtesy of the Takeuchi Strings), with a few on synthesizer. The composition was great, and even pieces from the classical repertoire were used (like two of Mozart's String quartetts, and Edward Elgar's "Salut d'amour"). The original pieces are also well-put together, proving that Hosoi Soushi outdid himself with many of the pieces he has presented to this game. Sadly, no voices were used, but the quality of the music more than makes up for this.
Oyari Ashito wrote the scenario, and did the character designs. To say the least, the character designs are different, since the game's artwork overall has a heavy feel due to its sketch-like appearance. A better way to put it is that Quartett! is totally pen on paper, with no CG used (well, CG as we have come to know it). The flow of the scenario is smooth, with plenty of comedy to counteract the serious demeanors one would expect from anything relating to musicians.
Overall, the game is impressive due to its different setting along with the flow provided by the Floating Frame Director. While one could argue that voices would have made this game better, I don't think they would have worked well with the FFD. This game seems to have gotten quite a bit of attention, as Little Witch is porting it to PS2 for a "clean" release, which means the ideal version of Quartett (with no ero scenes) will be coming to PS2 owners sometime this year. As for me, I feel well-represented by what is shown in this game, as well as the standard problems musicians tend to encounter throughout their careers. Quite a nice change of pace compared to some of the other stuff I've been playing recently. Anyway, that's my two cents on the matter.
"Mabuta no ryoshi"