Game Review: Rakuen

I’ve followed singer/composer Laura Shigihara for a while, but it’s only now that I tried out her story game, Rakuen. The setting: you’re a boy in a hospital who discovers magical doors to the fantasy land of Morizora’s Forest, and you have to go around helping people in the two connected worlds in order to be granted a wish from Morizora himself. I’ve summarized it to others as “like To the Moon, but more Link’s Awakeningy”.

I called it a “story game”, and by that I mean it’s an essentially linear game where the payoff is the story, or in this case stories: the history behind each of the five main characters you meet. All of these are acutely bittersweet and very concretely grounded in the real world, with a number of them placing the game very specifically after a certain historical event from the early 2010s.

The flip side of this is the gameplay. It turns out that if you take the combat and most of the puzzles out of Link’s Awakening, you’re left with almost all of the game being fetch quests. Story aside, that gets old after a while—to the point that while movement in the game isn’t slow, I was wishing for a running option before too long.

But the music is strong (not a surprise), the world is fun, the portrait art is great (and the rest of the art isn’t bad), and the stories, as I said, are strong and bittersweet. And the whole game only took me 6 hours or so to get through, though I’m sure there were corners I could have poked into for a bit longer. So while I don’t think it did so well as a game, it was a nice story…and that’s what the game said it would be from the start.

Favorite backtracks: “The Midnight Tea Shop” and “Welcome to the Skylands