Sunrider Academy on PC
Management sims are a strange breed. A few of them have been popping into Steam lately to say, “Hello!” Not all of them are being received with applause, however, and there are few games that can truly live up to the wild success enjoyed by Long Live the Queen.
Sunrider Academy, though, comes damn close. While it might not be the hottest time management/visual novel hybrid ever, it manages to combine challenging stat management with a delightful dating sim. Though it suffers from small pitfalls, this is a thoroughly enjoyable game.
Sunrider Academy is the high school spinoff of the turn-based strategy title Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius (pending its third and final episode). Where the latter features Kayto Shields as captain of the Sunrider, the former casts him as vice president of the student council at Sunrider Academy. Fans of Mask of Arcadius will immediately recognize most of their favorite characters in new roles, as well as many nods to its parent game.
But, Sunrider Academy isn’t just for franchise fans. If anything, it’s aimed at an entirely differnet audience. Mask of Arcadius features challenging tactical gameplay; Sunrider Academy, on the other hand, is definitely closer to Long Live the Queen. Gameplay focuses on managing Kayto’s school life, his love life, and three clubs over which he now presides. And the story, while not groundbreaking, is fun with hilarious writing.
The core of the game is the management. Players take the role of Kayto who must not only lead the Kendo, Science, and Swim clubs to success but must also pass exams, stay healthy, and find himself a ladyfriend. Sunrider Academy plays out over the course of 10 months and at times could end horribly if goals aren’t met, or if Kayto gets so sick he “dies.”
Most goals are monthly, but the game introduces them gradually. One permanent goal is to keep each club’s membership at 5 members or higher. Other periodic goals include keeping exam scores high, earning the school enough prestige, and other such milestones. Difficulties get higher as time progresses, so keeping Kayto’s abilities up to snuff and the club’s numbers high becomes the main challenge.
Do you do your homework? Maybe you need some cash, so you have to spend the evening at a part time job? Though if you do that you won’t be able to exercise and make it harder to get sick. And if you do that, your stress will get pretty high so perhaps you should play at the arcade? Then again, that will reduce your intelligence so a safe day praying at the shrine will do, right?
Sunrider Academy does a great job of encouraging the player to not just make every day count but to make every single action matter. Stress increases regularly just from attending class – anyone familiar with something called high school can confirm that – and managing Kayto throughout his hectic everyday life becomes incredibly addicting and fun. It captures the player in a perfect “one more day” addiction that’s hard to escape.
Where Sunrider Academy falters ever so slightly is its core mechanic – RNG, or random number generation. All the game’s stat events are managed by a random number generator with a number of appropriate influencing factors. Reloading saves to get favorable outcomes is possible, but a single string of unfortunate events can ruin a playthrough. Some might appreciate the randomness, but others might just as easily get frustrated.
Fortunately, the difficulty settings affect success probability and playing at normal or lower is highly recommended for those just looking for a good story, or those who want a go at the rigorous time management. This will make enjoying the visual novel portion of the game much easier, as, despite all the responsibilities of life, Kayto must still find time to woo a lovely lady.
The dating sim element of Sunrider Academy is fairly simple. Every now and then you’ll randomly run into a lady and you can talk to her about a topic. Talk about stuff she likes, points go up; talk about stuff she don’t like or about the same thing too much, she’ll shoot you down. Other random events and scheduled things like birthdays offer other opportunities to increase the love. Get things steamy enough and you can enjoy a lovely relationship.
Visually the style of Sunrider Academy is decidedly anime, though the character designs are colorful and the backgrounds quite detailed. The music is also a fantastic addition to the mood of the game, and fits perfectly with the activities. Hearing the joyful “ping!” of success becomes incredibly gratifying; conversely, the failure buzzer becomes a hated monster. But then there’s that joyous tongue-in-cheek writing that picks you right back up.
It has its fair share of hiccups and design flaws, but Sunrider Academy is a good spin-off title. It’s a fantastic game in its own right with charm, addicting gameplay, and a humorously told story with good replayability. It won’t knock your socks off, but it will provide hours and hours of fun.
[+ Challenging stat management]
[+ Wonderfully addicting]
[+ Good blend of time management and dating sim]
[- Randomness of success can be brutal]
This game was reviewed for PC