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I don’t talk about visual novels that often, do I? It’s not that I don’t like them, but it’s just that most are hard to talk about without spoiling the story—which is the main meat of these types of games. It’s text with visuals. That’s the medium. Simple.
But there are visual novels like Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, which go beyond just being a bunch of text with character portraits. They’re both logic games that also include some mini-games, with a deeply involved story. And there is the Zero Escape series, which I have yet to play at this point. There’s a lot more to talk about with games like these. So I’ll try my best in trying to review Sound of Drop – fall into poison – without giving too much away.
To begin with, this visual novel is a remake of 2014 visual novel Sound of Drop, with some upgraded visuals and some new endings. I couldn’t find much background info aside from that, so I played through the game mostly blind. So let’s see what the deal is about.
The Nightmarish Manten Aquarium
The premise of Sound of Drop is that two middle school girls, Mayumi Nakanobe and Himeno Tamagawa, heard of an urban legend about the Manten Aquarium. Desiring to satisfy their curiosity, they visited the aquarium to see if the rumors were true. There, they met a worker there named Kenji Hiyoshi, who seemed to know the Manten Aquarium inside and out.
However, Mayumi and Himeno somehow got whisked away into an alternate version of Manten Aquarium, where they encounter malicious sea creatures and paranormal activity. To make things even more complicated, there are more people wandering in the alternate aquarium—all of which with ulterior motives. Furthermore, the place is cursed! How nice…
So let me get this out of the way. The premise of Sound of Drop, along with its plot twists, is reminiscent of Corpse Party. Seriously. Some of the plot details are similar and even identical.
- The protagonists entered a pocket dimension with a haunted facility.
- This pocket dimension existed because a single malevolent ghost had been taking victims, further feeding into the negative feelings that kept the dimension from fading away.
- Multiple hazards (some random) appear before the protagonists, threatening their lives. Failure means a gruesome death.
- “True Ends” and “Bad Ends.”
- The pocket dimension frequently changes in shape, leading to new places.
- The owner of the facility is at fault for the existence of this pocket dimension.
- Both horror games with nightmare fuel imagery.
Honestly, the comparison is inevitable. So with that said, can Sound of Drop stand on its own?
Well, I’ll concede that the visuals are beautiful and striking. The character portraits were well drawn and the CGs look really good. The audio is quite pleasant too, though there are only a few tracks that play a little too often. So at the very least, we got the “visual” part of visual novel right. Or if you want to call it a sound novel, it’s also got the “sound” part down.
But… the story just bugs me.
Why Am I Drowning Again!?
So ignoring the comparisons to Corpse Party, the story of Sound of Drop is mostly predictable. Aside from Mayumi and Himeno being in the alternate Manten Aquarium, the other people know a little too much about what’s going on.
Kenji Hiyoshi not only works at the real-world aquarium, but he knows a lot about the alternate aquarium as well. And that’s an instant red flag for me. Why would he know so much about that place to begin with?
He’s a villain.
Then you have a character like Sayo Sakuragi, the cold and apathetic rocker chick who tries to keep her distance from everyone. But it’s pretty clear that she’s nicer than she lets on and that she is the actual deuteragonist because of how involved she is in investigating Manten Aquarium. Not much else to say there.
Because of the choose-your-own-adventure format of Sound of Drop, there is no single “True End.” Therefore, character motivations and personalities can differ in each route, even bringing up some surprise antagonists.
Since I’m talking about this visual novel for October, I will mention that there are some horror elements. While most of the actual horror in Sound of Drop is not particularly scary, I will say it’s unique. It’s not often you see horror of marine creatures and the ocean. In this particular case, Sound of Drop has deadly jellyfish, predatory fish, whales, nematodes, that sort of thing. This little spin is pretty cool.
And these sea critters are pretty smart too. They’re even capable of disguise and deception.
Such as becoming your slime girl fetish.
And then you have your nightmare fuel…
BWA HA HA HA!
So yeah. not that many scares. Tense would be the better word.
But here’s the thing that gets me about the story. Random shit happens for no particular reason other than to suddenly bring up conflict or kill you off. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It just suddenly happens without any buildup. Sure, you can blame it on the supernatural elements, but it’s like choosing random doors in a hallway. It’s like you choose a door and…
Oh, no! Sayo is surrounded by vicious orcas!
Then you have to pick a choice to progress through the story. For the most part, the choices you should be picking are obvious. But for other choices, you have to take reckless actions that would normally kill you in real life—some of which just make no sense.
Which reminds me… the endings. There are 27 “Bad Ends” and 4 “True Ends.” And to get them all, you need to make multiple playthroughs of the game.
Wow. Quite a lot, ain’t it? Well, let me summarize the majority of Bad Ends for you…
You get this same CG and drown.
Sorry, but I just don’t feel tense anymore after experiencing this same kind of death for the fifth time. There has to be more variety to the death sequences than this.
In spite of the unique premise, the story is quite convoluted and the plot lacks real mystery behind it because of flat villain characterizations and exposition dumps. Because YOU, the player, are not the one investigating the aquarium, the other characters just do it for you and give you all that information in the form of a five-page essay.
Which reminds me… no matter which story path you take, you’re always going to sit through a boring exposition dump on what’s really going on sometime before the climax. And some of the material is so ridiculous that it’s like watching a B-movie sometimes.
So here’s one of the big contrivances that annoys me: the sea creatures trap and kill people in the alternate aquarium because they were murdered.
Okay, so here’s the thing: there is little to no solid evidence that fish can feel emotion, therefore the fact that fish somehow feel vengeful in this game is going off on an unlikely assumption. Holding a grudge is complex behavior most likely to occur in humans and maybe some mammals. Fish can have stimuli that respond to stressful situations, but they literally don’t have the capacity for emotion or suffering. Their brains are not even close to being as complex as ours. They lack the neocortex needed to feel pain (whether physical or emotional).
Once you accept that, the whole “vengeful fish” thing in this game becomes really silly. It’s even to the point where the characters feel bad for the fish, because they’re “suffering.” It’s like a botched environmentalist message where the messenger didn’t do their research.
Now, the way the story of Sound of Drop puts it… I THINK the sea creatures are actually just deceased human beings with their souls taking the form of fish, which is why they feel malicious. But the convoluted story explains it poorly, almost as if we’re supposed to accept that they’re fish with actual feelings.
I know I’m debating over a fictional story (a visual novel, of all things). But if we’re to assume that the story’s premise is partially grounded into reality, I think it’s fair to apply some real-world physics to see if the execution is plausible. Here, it is not.
With that said, Sound of Drop – fall into poison – is… okay. Just okay. Despite my many criticisms with the story, it’s not that bad. If you like pretty visuals and a relaxing soundtrack, you won’t be disappointed. The prose is serviceable so I can’t complain much about awkwardly worded sentences and bad grammar. The characters are okay, if not just fulfilling typical anime tropes.
Would I recommend it? No. If you’re looking for something smarter, you’re not going to find it here. The premise is pretty much diet Corpse Party without the engaging mystery with a contrived story. But if you’re looking for something to read casually and you like visual novels, this one is harmless. Give it a shot.
P.S. Himeno is best waifu.
Sound of Drop - fall into poison -$12.99
- The CGs and character portraits are well made.
- The music is mostly pleasant.
- The horror, while not always scary, is unique with using various marine creatures as the hazards.
- Predictable story with some contrived plot twists.
- The "drowning" Bad End is overused.
- The villains are not particularly well written and come across as shallow.