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  • Heart of the Woods is a self-describedmodern-day fairy tale”.

  • With a little bit of trimming and the removal of sexual references, it could easily fit

  • alongside any book that your mother read to you as a child.

  • As a genre, the fairy tale occupies a special place and duplicating its unique qualities

  • is not an easy task.

  • While belief in supernatural beings is still common in our society, fairy tales play a

  • special role as the remnant of a more local mysticality, a belief that magic could be

  • found right outside your door.

  • At the same time, while more medieval societies believed in the existence of dwarves, elves,

  • and magic wholeheartedly, the contemporary fairy tale is a fable, containing a broader

  • truth but couched in the knowledge that none of its events could actually take place.

  • But while elves may not be real, they certainly stand in for something that is.

  • Heart of the Woods may not be aimed at children but it certainly understands the genre whose

  • lineage it borrows from.

  • It tells the story of two friends, Maddie and Tara, the latter of whom hosts a supernatural-investigation

  • show on Youtube called Taranormal.

  • They travel to the remote village of Eysenfeld, as Maddie declares that this will be her last

  • project as part of the show, something which creates a rift between them.

  • There, she meets a ghost named Abigail, while Tara finds herself drawn towards the one who

  • invited them, Morgan, whose mother, Evelyn, seems to hold a dark secret which appears

  • to hold the entire town in its grasp.

  • This is a game of monsters and magic, a melancholic story set in a constantly snowed-over village

  • bordered by, you guessed it, the perilous yet serene woods.

  • Like the fairy tales we grew up hearing from our parents and teachers, the Hansel and Gretels,

  • the Little Red Riding Hoods, this game understands that fear is an essential element in any moral

  • narrative.

  • As they say, a monster is never just a monster, it stands in for other fears that can not

  • be so easily discussed.

  • The town of Eysenfeld's inhospitality even to those who come from it reflects a broader

  • anxiety towards small towns and society as a whole, worries about a state wherein anything

  • you do will quickly spread to everyone you know, terror at the prospect of being in a

  • position where you have little control over how people will interpret you.

  • Evelyn is the quintessential controlling mother and mayor, narcissistically using others for

  • her own ends with little concern for how anyone else will end up.

  • She's a literal monster as well, yes, but real Evelyns hurt their Morgans and Abigails

  • every day without any magic.

  • This is where the game's queerness comes in.

  • While Hansel and Gretel may foreground the fear of being abandoned by your parents, going

  • hungry, and being abused by terrifying strangers, Heart of the Woods focuses on the fear of

  • being unaccepted, hurt by those who are all too close.

  • In this game, the village is far more dangerous than the forest.

  • Past fairy tales had little chance to focus on queerness; at best, you could read that

  • into the monsters, as the witch in the aforementioned story lives alone in the forest, eating other

  • humans.

  • In this game, however, it's the protagonists who are queer.

  • If crafting a modern-day tale of this sort is your goal, then focusing on the groups

  • who have reason to fear society is not a bad approach to take.

  • Queerness, something which is simultaneously hideable and visible, is a perfect vessel

  • for exploring historical and local trauma.

  • That the game ties this into ecological and spiritual preservation is just a testament

  • to how smart it is.

  • But don't be confused: the queerness in this game goes far deeper than being the symbolic

  • cause of the girls' ostracization and hardship.

  • As with any good yuri visual novel, Heart of the Woods spends plenty of time building

  • up its relationships.

  • By the time the characters finally get around to kissing, the reader will have been begging

  • for them to do so for an hour.

  • Maddie finds Abigail while off by herself and quickly becomes fond of the young woman

  • who's a scant 223 years old though their relationship starts off without much progress

  • since Maddie can't hear what Abigail's saying.

  • Tara, on the other hand, manages to do-the-dirty with Morgan quite quickly, but with both of

  • them hesitant about commitment, it takes longer to go further.

  • These two relationships don't begin in the same way most queer couples get together,

  • though I'd be down to date a ghost if I didn't have a girlfriend, but the way their

  • personalities are weaved into their relationship dynamics is perfect.

  • And did I say that one of the girls is trans?

  • Yeah, that's another element which ties into the broader focus on social ostracization

  • in the game.

  • The writing is absolutely fantastic on this and other topics, far better than in most

  • VNs on the market and while part of that may be due to the fact that it's not a translation,

  • it'd give most Japanese works a run for their money.

  • When the game needs to focus on Morgan's fear of Evelyn, the anxiety she feels at having

  • lived for 20+ years with a monster who's systematically gaslit her with the eventual

  • aim of killing her, you feel it to your core.

  • At the same time, when the game needs to convey the sheer elation felt by Abigail and Maddie

  • after their first kiss, it's absolutely able to do so, in large part due to the great

  • art and absolutely stellar music.

  • (Seriously, I could listen to the soundtrack for hours).

  • Perhaps most interesting is how the game progresses in terms of play.

  • While I'll leave spoilers to the side for this review, I will say that the game is not

  • kinetic, there are a number of choices to be made and they will influence which ending

  • you get.

  • What's curious is that these decisions are made by Morgan, a member of what could be

  • considered theside-couple”.

  • This is an important move as it gives agency to the one who's been trapped for the last

  • two decades, in a worse state than any other character, including the dead girl.

  • What that agency means to the other themes is up to you to find out as the game progresses,

  • though I can promise it'll wrap up with a satisfying conclusion, even if it is a bit

  • overly neat.

  • The only significant problem with the game is its performance; for a visual novel, there's

  • an awful lot of lag, and one of my computers was unable to get through a particular section

  • without crashing.

  • It's a major issue, though not one that should deter you.

  • Heart of the Woods does an exceptional job at tying its diverse elements together, recognizing

  • that it had to engage with changes in society if it was going to be a contemporary fairy

  • tale.

  • At the same time, it feels right at home with your Little Red Riding Hoods, its use of magic

  • serving to emphasize what is, at the heart of things, a sweet story of newfound romance

  • paired with a fight against letting past pain keep you immobile.

  • It's a narrative which deserves to be spoken of alongside those it was influenced by and

  • a must-play for any yuri fan.

  • Thank you to Studio Elan for my copy of the game.

  • It can be found on Steam or on itch.io.

  • Hey, if you noticed that my Kaguya-sama vid is down, that's because it got a copyright

  • strike, which I will deal with as soon as I possibly can.

  • Also, I'm posting on my blog again, so check that out in the pinned comment if you're

  • interested.

  • Thank you to my patrons who make this possible, especially my $10 patrons,

  • Alice Vey

  • Annalisanig Petra

  • Jolyne Munson Rose

  • Cathleen Rau Shadowfish

  • PjammaGod A Huge Pair Of Cats Who Are Friends With Anime

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  • John Clark DJJax

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  • Michael Tersigni Mad Marx

  • Swordy Meeks Rimu

  • Melody Haren Anderson You can also give me a one-time donation with

  • the Ko-fi link listed below, find where else I'm at in the description, and I will see

  • you next time.

  • Byeeeeeee.

Heart of the Woods is a self-describedmodern-day fairy tale”.

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百合ビジュアルノベルレビュー。森のハート (Yuri Visual Novel Review: Heart of the Woods)

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    二百五 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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