Game Title: Gaokao Love 100 Days
Company: Navila Software Japan
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Battery Life: 4.5-6 hours
Download: 1.5 GB
I’m starting to wonder if Angels of Death having its console (and handheld) debut on the Switch is inspiring and encouraging other PC VN-like developers to bring PC-only games over to the Switch. While I’m not sure I’d call AoD a pure VN, it fits with this trend I’m starting to see here. It came over. Nekopara Volume 1 came over with a still-delayed PS4 releases.
Then we have what I’m going to about today: A Chinese Visual Novel with bunches of branching paths and romance elements involved. This game is something I’d never heard of until I saw it on the eShop and found out not only is it only on PC, otherwise, but there’s not a whole lot about it on the net as a whole.
Let’s try to fix that. Here is my review of Gaokao Love 100 Days for the Nintendo Switch!
GKL is about a student at a Chinese school and his friends, as they head towards and prepare for the “GaoKao” exam, which is China’s notoriously-difficult graduation exam that determines what sort of college or university they will be able to attend, if any at all.
The plot revolves around the protagonist, Lee, getting a girlfriend 3 months before the exam takes place and his struggles in keeping his relationship low-key and dealing with all of the heavy stress involved in preparing for this exam, not to mention how all of this is affecting their close friends, with or without knowledge of the relationship.
Although this game is a Dating Sim and has some pretty big arcs around its paths and endings, I found my secondary runs to be more on the dating side and the first run of GKL to be more of an eye-opening experience into how strict and cruel the Chinese Education system is. The overwhelming pressure of the GaoKao exam is pushed hard in this game, from the way Lee’s parents treat him all the way into separate branching paths that show what some students are pushed into from stress overload.
This leads into a very interesting narrative, but one that is hindered by a not-so-interesting translation. The English translation isn’t very good. There are misspelled words all over the place and the way sentences are structured just don’t make grammatical sense. It’s not hard to read, but takes a lot of getting used to with how poor the grammar organization is and how often problems pop up.
GKL is a visual novel with dating sim and time/stat management elements thrown into the mix. You’ll be doing your usual visual novel fair of reading through a storyline, but you’ll be doing a lot of little tasks at menus to manage your stats as well as the time you have left before the GaoKao Exam at the end of the game.
The way this works is pretty simple. When you’re going through story scenes, you’ll eventually get to points where the story stops and you either make different dialogue choices or you choose what you wish to do on that day, be it study, take a way, sleep, etc. The choices you make in each situation will gear you in certain directions in terms of what ending sets you move towards as the game progresses towards Practice Tests as well as the Real Test, and the story can drastically change at the end of any of these events.
And this is all on the stat system. Every choice you make affects your stats in some way. You have stats for your relationship with Muxin, the default girlfriend as well as stats for all of your core subjects in school and your health and stress levels. Doing one thing may help one stat, or it may hurt another stat. Studying Hard will increase your academics but will also lower your health level and raise your stress level.
That’s where management comes in and shows itself as a pretty in-depth system. Unlike other games, you can’t just study hard all the time, as you will not perform well on a test at low health and high stress, even if you had absurdly-high academic scores. It’s all a game of managing it, and accounting for unpredictable life events, as some parts of the store will raise and lower your stats at will. Plan ahead, so when a crisis happens, you can recover and still manage a good score by the end of the game.
Thankfully, the Item system is here as well to give you a helping hand. As you explore areas and do things, you’ll get items you can equip. These can help you manage stats much easier, such as the Amulet lowering how much stress you accumulate through tasks and even items that guarantee you a Good, Normal, or Bad Ending, no matter what your grades are when you finish the game.
This is also part of the Branching Paths and Endings. GKL isn’t a game where you just go through the game and have one ending for each possible relationship or friendship partner. The game changes a lot in accordance to choices as well as your test results on practice tests. A bad grade could be the difference between a having a break-up and being shipped off to a military training school. The game has 61 endings over a ton of different path types that really shows a lot of different paths you can take when under the pressure of school and where those paths can lead you, be it love by friends or desertion by everyone but your own parents.
There are two little problems I have with this, though. First, not all of the scenes accurately represent grades you get on your tests. Getting a passing score on the first practice test, for example, will often lead to both Lee and his parents reacting as if he completely failed the test and has to work harder or he will never get into a college at all. From what I’ve gathered, this is also a bug in the PC version of the game.
Second, a lot of the endings have repeated scenes and sequences. In one of Xiaohan’s paths, you have a situation where Lee visits his parents at the hospital to talk about his studies and another path, you have a situation where he’s alone for completely different reasons, yet the dialogue is exactly the same between the two paths and doesn’t make as much sense in one of the two it appears in.
In terms of time and length, the internet misled me, once again. Websites like HLTB and such had logs that this game lasts around 5-6 hours on a single run. I read dialogue pretty quickly, myself, and it was over twice that before I got my first ending. Unless you skip most dialogue, you’ll likely be spending at least 12-15 hours on your first run of the game, and all of that all over again to replay the game to get all of the other endings you want, even with skipping everything you’ve already seen.
Controlling the game isn’t too difficult. You can play the game wither with button controls or motion controls, which is nice for handheld players.
The basics are using A and B to cycle through dialogue, the ZL and ZR triggers to skip dialogue, the – button to set it to auto-advance, and various other face buttons to change the HUD, like making the text options disappear when you want to take screenshots. It’s not too hard to learn.
Visually, there’s usually not much to say with visual novel games. The artwork and character renders look nice and crisp. They aren’t animated like some other VNs, but they work.
No problems with performance.
As expected, you’ll get a lot of Battery Life out of GKL. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 4 hours, 31 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 4 hours 43 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 01 minute
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 6 hours, 16 minutes
Lots of Battery Time, indeed. You’ll get through a good chunk of the game on this.
In conclusion, GaoKao Love 100 Days is a very different sort of dating sim, giving players a more informative look at Chinese Culture and starting the Dating Sim off with you already dating someone. On the downside, the translation for the game isn’t very good, and it’s got some strange bugs and repeated scenes across multiple story paths. If you can get past the translation, though, it’s got a ton to do and is a very eye-opening experience into what Chinese students face when they prepare for college.
Final Score: 7.5/10