14 people found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 6.6 hrs on record
Posted: Apr 29, 2023 @ 5:51am
Updated: Oct 22, 2023 @ 2:32pm
Product received for free

Overview
Something strange is going on in the fictional Russian town of Kuznetsk. The locals appear to be stuck in the past, and the town's lake is feared and avoided by all. Our protagonist, a teenage school pupil called Anton, just wants to finish his education and get out of there... until he experiences a meeting with a strange girl who claims to know him, and witnesses the murder of his best friend, Sergey. Things become stranger still when Sergey reappears in perfect health but with apparent memory loss, and leads to a small group of friends attempting to investigate what is going on.

Translation
For a visual novel of Russian origin, this can boast one of the best English translations that I have come across to date. Granted, it isn't perfect (read the store page to get a good idea – the occasional word missing, usually an article or preposition, but fully and easily understandable). Spelling is spot on (allowing for the rare typo) and grammar is good, and although you can tell that it isn't altogether natural, it fares better than most of its peers.

Something I came across very early on threw me off though and knowing this may help. (With thanks to my friend kitten for the excellent explanation). The main characters mostly refer to each other by their “informal” names which may not be immediately obvious as the same person. For example, suddenly someone called “Seryoga” is mentioned. It turns out that this is an informal name for Sergey, perhaps in the same way that, in English, you might see “Robert” referred to as “Bob”. In the same vein, you're going to come across “Antoha” (Anton), “Dasha” (Daria) and “Fedor” (Fyodor). It may have been wiser to stick with given names only in the translated text so that non-Russian readers understood what was going on straight away. In addition to this, the teens always refer to the older generation characters by their full names all of the time. This may be normal in Russian (I have no idea) or just a quirk of the translation, but it's odd and a little annoying in English.

I also found 3 lines not translated, and there are also Russian-only words on all endgame graphics.

Features
The game opens with an optional (and not story-affecting) minigame embedded in the main menu, which is presented as an old style television. See the picture below for clarification.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2968757135

In this, the four dials change purpose to up, down, left and right which move the girl into position to catch a cassette dropping to the floor from one of the four conveyors. Simply moving the cursor to the appropriate dial at the right time results in a save and a higher score. This starts slowly but becomes much faster until it's quite manic where speed and timing are critical; and serves as a very nice little bonus before beginning the story proper.

Once in the main game itself, there is full Russian voice acting, which, as an English reader, was no use to me so I turned it off straight away; but it is nonetheless an addition which will doubtless be of value to those who understand it. There is no back step option, though there is a good log; and whilst this slips into the “oldest entry first” trap, you can click the slider at the bottom once to be brought instantly to the most recent caption, so it is not nearly as trying as it might have been; merely two clicks instead of one to access a missed line.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2968760021

There are not that many save slots, but it is probable that you will need only five throughout the game, so it is enough. The game does not feature a separate gallery, which may disappoint some, but honestly, I didn't think in this instance that it was particularly necessary.

Graphics
Now, this is where opinions get contrary. I read several of the Russian language reviews via Google Translate, and all of those I looked at complained about the art.
I'll say straight out that I don't know what planet those reviewers were on when they made those comments. The game falls into the £7 price range, and as such, the art sits very comfortably in the upper echelons of the quality to be found at this price point. Sprites do vary in quality a little – the primary teenage characters are typical anime, so, therefore, effectively clones of a thousand similar releases; but the older characters have more facial detail and are really quite realistic. Here's an example.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2968763572

What may qualify as CGs is interesting. In some shots, the active sprites are removed and replaced by the characters in the current backdrop itself, in positions appropriate to the narrative. I found this a very nice touch and added to my immersion in the story.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2968766013

And for my closing defence for the graphics, take a look at the detail of the posters and the rug in this scene. To have read so many reviews dismissing the art as “cheap” has to be one of the biggest review injustices I have ever come across on Steam.

https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2968766769

Verdict
I have specifically avoided saying much about the story itself as – apart from being rather difficult to explain – revealing almost any plot point would act as a major spoiler. What I can say is that 1997 kept me intrigued from start to (almost) finish. I found the very end to be “open” - leaving the reader to fill in the conclusion from their own imagination. If you've ever heard of the British TV series “Tales Of The Unexpected” from the 1980s, yeah, kind of like that. (If you haven't, Google is your friend!)

There are just 5 choices in the game, where you must choose to trust or distrust whoever you are communicating with at that moment, and these ultimately lead to one of 4 bad endings or one good one. Be advised that there are some killings and a little blood splashing to screen; but nothing that could be considered visually offensive or upsetting.

It took me approximately 6.5 hours to play through, including a couple of attempts at the minigame; and as someone with very little personal time, to complete this amount of game time inside one week shows very clearly that I prioritised those little moments to continue progress rather than doing something else. This point alone serves as a recommendation: the game kept my attention.

In summary: not perfect, but good, and although the underlying story can be somewhat vague, it's still enjoyable, interesting, and thoroughly engaging. No hesitation recommending for those interested. Just don't expect romance to be anything more than hinted towards. These are 16-17 year old kids, after all.

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Developer response:
Angry Saronis  [developer] Posted: Jun 11, 2023 @ 7:43am
Thank you for your review! We will fix the missing translations in one of our next patches!