Visual Novel Review: Ex Astris 02 and 03


It's another Ex Astris post!

Just a disclaimer: I absolutely loved the first one, so I may be a little biased with these two sequels. I'll still do my best to be as objective as possible, though, because this is basically a documentation of my own experiences with these games, then I guess you can expect more "feels" than objectivity. =)

Anyway, since these games are just sequels of the first Ex Astris game, I decided to just do one whole blog post for them.

+ so many interesting characters!
+ the art is lovely. each character has multitude of outfits, as well! really awesome if you ask me, especially since this is a free VN
+ the story is simply so intriguing!
+ the soundtracks set the mood of the scenes really well

- the filtered photographs as backgrounds don't suit the art
- art between the characters don't differ that much, though. except for the colors, almost everyone could pass off as siblings
- although this game has choices, I'm not really sure how it affects the game's story, so as of this point in time, it seems more like a kinetic novel than a visual novel for me. Not that it's a bad thing, of course, although... why still add choices if the story will basically end up in just one way?


So, yeah, I really liked Ex Astris 1, so I was really excited to play this. Actually, I already got a copy the moment it was updated (a few months ago), but I couldn't get around to playing it because I didn't have enough time. When I play visual novels, I like playing them all the way to the end. Hahaha. If I know I won't have enough time to at least finish one route, then I'll just choose a shorter VN to play in the meantime. (Sort of the reason why I tend to play smaller VNs these days, huhu, sorry.)

Anyway, I started with Ex Astris 2 (obviously), and we're basically picking up where we left off the last time. The first game ended with a bang (at least for me) though it totally left me hanging. Huhu. This game, the first sequel, starts with a flashback of sorts, which, if you've played the first game, you should know that Lanis always gets.

As a character, I really like Lanis. She's a good person, and she's really smart too! If you assess her overall personality, I'd say she seems like a pretty awesome person overall, but not so amazing that she's already your stock Mary Sue character. What I like most about her is that even though she's really strong and smart and everything, she has her own flaws that make her more like a real person. To have the protagonist as fleshed out as her is already a great thing for me.

If you guys still remember the events of the first game, then... good for you, I guess? Hahaha. But if not, here's a quick refresher. In the first game, Lanis, a recently graduated Loennian doctor who works in the military, got invited to the nearby Xian nation, for work-related reasons of course. Xian is a really secretive country, though, and they don't often accept foreign people in their country, nor do their people travel outside much, except for work-related reasons, too. (Sounds familiar?) However, they are also quite advanced, especially with their scientific knowledge, and Lanis, a prodigy, is invited there for her own skills and knowledge. Since she's kinda lost in life and stuff, she sort of agrees to this invitation, and meets with some Xian people, mostly doctors/scientists/military. She gets assigned to a bodyguard of sorts, a guy named Ash... who turns out to be, well, basically a robot, called A-28. They're introduced to one another, and as they shake hands, Lanis suddenly gets a very (cool and mindblowing) powerful vision.

I won't spoil you regarding Lanis' vision. But all I can say is... well, Ash is a hot guy, so I don't blame Lanis for getting that vision. =) That's just one part of her vision, though. And probably the most troubling, but really, her whole vision is nuts.

Here in the second game, we see Lanis debating whether or not to go to Xian. She talks it over with her best friend, Manna, who has this awesome ability to use telekinesis, and they basically agree that it might be best for Lanis to go and decide her future. Manna is a little bit apprehensive because, hey, Lanis is her best friend, and Xian is a really shady country, but for Lanis' own sake (and peace of mind) she flies over to Xian with Ash and another doctor who's there to guide her and stuff.

Ash escorts Lanis to her new place, and it's revealed that he actually knows what Lanis saw in her vision from the previous game. *whoops* He asks her more about her visions, and she admits that she doesn't know much about them. Ash later takes her around the city. We see a lot more of Xian, and its actually quite an interesting place! I find it cool that most things are free to the public in Xian, haha, including transportation! My, if transpo was free here in my country, just imagine the chaos of every day travelling. Hahaha. =) Anyway, at this point, I also started noticing how the filtered backgrounds don't really match with the art of the sprites. It's actually pretty distracting. However, the sprites are really quite nice, if you ask me! In one part of the game, it started raining, so Lanis and Ash had their hoods up. So cute.

Back at Lanis' new place, Lanis finds out that her bathroom is connected to her neighbors' a woman named Dianna, who's also assigned to Lanis as her guide, since she speaks Loennian fluently. The game ends with Lanis drinking with Dianna. She falls asleep, and we "see" Doctor Harem and Ash putting something inside Lanis' shoulder.

In Ex Astris 03, we learn more about Lanis and her ability to see visions and have astral powers or something like that, which apparently started when she was a kid. It starts with another flashback to the past, though after that scene, we're basically picking up where we left off, which is in Lanis' new place. Ash goes to her place to accompany her to their research facilities, where Lanis learns more about the scientific breakthroughs in Xian, specifically the "robots", or Shadows, like Ash. She's given a device that allows her to understand Xian without learning the language, which is quite cool if you ask me. =)

Basically, in the research facility, we just learn more about Ash's kind. I would spare you all the details, but it's pretty interesting. Ash and his kind are pretty similar to humans, but they're more of... superhumans, than anything. They're like humans on a whole ton of steroids, and on a level that's biologically impossible, too. What's cool is that all these facts about Ash makes Lanis' vision even more troublesome, and very dangerous. 

Also, this is the first time that we see Lanis' power in full view. While in the research facility, Lanis gets a shock of electricity in her, and it's revealed that she has this sort of power that seems to have something to do with electricity. Strangely, it seems to be coming from her shoulder, and she faintly remembers what happened last night. It turns out that Doctor Harem and Ash had actually implanted a chip in Lanis' shoulder that shields her thoughts from everyone else.

And, that's kinda where the story ends. Frankly, it's really quite frustrating, but I like where this series ends its episode. Hahaha. Such frustrating cliffhangers.

There's this strange chemistry between Lanis and Ash that I just can't comprehend, although I'm loving it so far. To be honest, even though it's a GxB game, it's not like any other otome game I've played out there, which focuses more on the romance. With this one, it really doesn't seem like romance is the main point, since... haha, Ash actually want to kill Lanis. And he doesn't want to kill her just to give a sense of conflict and turning point in the story, no. He seems to genuinely want to kill her, because that's what he's made for anyway: killing. I like how this game handles its story really well, and I do hope that it won't take a cheesy or corny turn somewhere along the way just for the sake of romance. =) (I tend to do that when I make stories, hahaha, oh how I suck.)

I like the humor. Most of the time, the game is really, really serious, but there are little bits of humor every now and then that I simply love! They always make me laugh out loud, hahaha. I guess it's because I think the timing is right for the humorous parts despite the VN's overall aura as serious.

And Ash is hot. Seriously. Hahaha. The guy's too hot for me, but... aww, man, he is, he is. Lanis is quite a likable protagonist as well, so I'm rooting for the two of them, hehe.

This game may be episodic, and it may be quite frustrating at times, but it's worth a try! =) Personally, I'm looking forward to more episodes in the future!

Here's a link to the games~

[This is a scheduled post.]

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2 berries

  1. Does it really deserve 8 strawberries? It isn't really horrible by any means,but 8 is a high score and I can't really see anything in particular about the game that completely stands out as something close to perfect. The writing is okay; The story is interesting enough,but the episode format (mainly the short length and overwhelming waiting time between episodes) really hurts the story flow (I feel like it forcefully ends because the dev team ran out of time/resources and not because a chapter is finished). The character backgrounds are not really expanded upon except for the protagonist,and the universe itself isn't clear - perhaps it is a mystery for our protagonist,but it is no reason not to clearly explain to the reader what are those powers,how do they work,some history,etc. instead of giving this sort of "its magic" theme to it. The art is more of a personal preference,but it looks like an average-average+ custom-made art and not something that'd makes you stop for a second just to admire the character design. Which is a real shame,because given the story there was so much potential for cool character designs :|

    Episode 1 started really nicely as a sort of background before the real story; but ep2/3 just seem to be unable to build up on that potential. As I see it,its going to develop into more of a nest-of-complicated-feelings with the actual non character-relationship events coming into play between situations and serving to rearrange the nest and only considering advancing the plot as a secondary notable purpose. I'd love to be proven wrong.

    What do you think makes you give this game that much of a high rating?

  2. Hi there Komachi!

    Sorry for the late reply. :) To be honest, I'm not really sure how to "justify" it. =)

    Yes, I understand why Ex Astris may not seem like a "deserving" visual novel, but I think it does deserve some merits. Story-wise, I think the game "stands out" in a way because it is different from most other otome games I've played (not that I've played a lot, but still). I normally don't like sci-fi, but I really like how the genre is used here. Not sure about the "magic" part, since I actually thought that all the scientific stuff was pretty nicely (though still not sufficiently) explained. :)

    As for character backgrounds, I like how everything slowly unfolds with every episode. At least, that's the way it seems to me. I'm not a fan of info-dumping. I'm okay with them, sure, and sometimes, I even appreciate them (I'm looking at you, Nowhere Safe 3) but I'd much rather figure things out for myself. :) I guess that's why I don't mind Ex Astris not giving the readers all the details of the story behind everything that's happening. Episode 3 is quite disappointing compared to the first two episodes, but for me, that's only because I didn't see much "action" between the two main characters. =) It had too little romance and too much sci-fi for my liking. :D I did like how it delved a little bit deeper into the "history" of the scientific progresses in Xian, though.

    As for the art, hmm... while I do agree that art is relative, I think it's true that we do have some "standards" when it comes to forms of media like visual novels. I have gripes with the art of this VN (like I said, almost every single person looks like they had come from the same womb) but I think I'm more concerned with how "polished" the whole thing is. Overall, I think the art style looks fine, and fits the game in most cases, save for the filtered backgrounds. It's not glamorous by any means, but it's not too shabby either. Also... hooray for different outfits! =) Most free visual novels don't have that much art.

    I think the main problem here is the episodic style of this visual novel. :D Perhaps if it was just one whole game, we wouldn't have much problems with the story dev't. :) But, yup, because it's episodic, the "quality" kinda ranges differently for each. Some episodes could be exciting and eventful, while some could be boring and just exist to lead to the "climax" of the story. Eh, I'd say Episode 2 is the real 8 here, while Episode 3 is a lot closer to 7.

    And yes! I'm not saying that I would like you to be proven wrong, too (haha), but I am also hoping that the future episodes will be better, and not worse. =)

    Anyway, thanks a whole bunch for your input! I really appreciate hearing your thoughts about this. :)


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