June 26, 2012 3:45 PM | Cassandra Khaw
I've been anxiously waiting for Cinders to drop for a long time now and now that it has, I can tell you one thing: this new visual novel from MoaCube does not disappoint. It's good. It's more than good. In fact, it's all kinds of excellent.
For those of who who are going 'Who? What? Where? How?', Cinders is a lavishly good-looking reinterpretation of the Cinderella mythos. The basic components are all there, of course. Set within what appears to be the close of the medieval era, Cinders is the tale of an orphaned child of nobility who is constantly beset by the whims of her squabbling step-sisters and the demands of her domineering step-mother. Driven by circumstances and a need to escape her lot in life, she eventually finds herself attending a royal Ball and meeting men far above her station. Yes, a fairy is a part of the package too.
Now, here's what makes Cinders so bloody awesome: no one in the cast is perfect. Sure, Cinders might be a strong, independent woman but she's also rather irresponsible and somewhat egocentric. The dashing Captain of the Guard? He definitely has a heart of gold but he's also blindly loyal, naive and a little too eager with the sword. As villainous or as virtuous as some of the characters might initially seem, none of them are without foibles or redeeming traits. From the heroine herself to the so-called wicked stepmother to the skull-painted wise woman of the town, there's something poignantly human about the people in Cinders.
And that's (if you're a bit of a closet sentimentalist like me) what will make you keep coming back. You end up caring. You end up wanting them to have their happy endings. After my first few playthroughs, I found myself compelled to see Cinders' household reach some sort of mutual understanding. Regardless of the fact they're little more than pixelated people with a minimal roster of animations, I wanted them to stop being so miserable.
If you're not quite as soppy as I am, there are still other reasons to keep coming back. Ostensibly speaking, Cinders has four possible endings but there are a large amount of possible variations to each of them. For example, the 'Fairytale Ending' will have you astride a gilded throne but depending on your actions in that particular playthrough, you could be anything from an evil Queen with a supernatural adviser to a royal ornament embroiled in a love triangle.
Asides from being delightfully well-written, highly replayable and filled with complex, convoluted characters, Cinders is also beautiful. Eschewing anime-inspired aesthetics for something slightly more realistic, Cinders looks and feels like something straight out of an old-fashioned storybook or, if you want to be a bit more cynical about it, a 'hidden object' game. Like most visual novels out there, controls here consist entirely of left-clicking at appropriate intervals.
Long story short? If you can afford the price of entry, Cinders is definitely worth picking up. Check out the game (and the demo) here.