Ever 17: Out of Infinity Review
It’s time for a new segment, this one devoted to visual novel type games for all ages, and what better a way to start it off than with a review of the game many in the VN community consider to be the best to ever come out in English? Released in December 20, 2005 by now defunct company Hirameki International, Ever 17: Out of Infinity was met with curiosity almost as soon as it was announced. The first Phoenix Wright had only come out a few months previous, so to many of us this was either the first or second VN game to come out that focused on something else besides romance when it came to story (in Ever 17’s case it was survival) and the near future-science fiction setting along with the amazing looking visuals made for the perfect enticement. From almost the start to the finish, Ever 17 proved to be even better than it looked and sounded and well worth the money paid for it. We had no idea, though, that the game would develop such a following and not only become a standard by which many measure VNs with a strong story and similar theme, but also be the number 1 game recommended to those starting in this obscure gaming genre.
Pros: Masterfully told story, truly well written and rounded out characters, excellent artwork, great voice acting performed by an all star cast.
Cons: Story starts out a little slow, with Hirameki out of business we probably won’t ever see an official release of the rest of the series, with Hirameki out of business the game is out of print meaning official copies are rare and expensive.
WTF?!: Who would have thought a big frozen tuna fish could be so useful?
Ever 17 is set at an underwater theme park called LeMU and after a short introduction you choose which character to play as, Takeshi, a university student visiting LeMU, or an amnesiac boy known only as Kid. Regardless of which MC you choose, an incident occurs that leaves both characters, along with five other people, trapped in the underwater section of the facility with any way up to, or communicating with, the surface cut off and half the facility underwater. To make matters worse, severe water pressure from the outside is assailing LEMU, giving everyone a very limited amount of time to escape.
Okay, before I comment on the story I should make a note of something. Those of you who have played last year’s Nintendo DS hit 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors may notice some similarities as you play Ever 17. Well, you’re not wrong for noticing; the main creator for 999 was none other than Kotaro Uchikoshi, the writer for Ever 17. Now don’t get the wrong idea, Ever 17 and 999 are still very different (and very good) stories, but they do have some themes in common. What those themes are, though, you’ll have to see for yourself. Now back to talking about the story.
To put it simply, Ever 17 has a very well written story. From the beginning it does an excellent job of blending the right atmosphere of a group trying to survive in this facility cut off from the outside world and trying to find a way out with very believable character interactions that lead to bonds forming between them. These interactions range from the light hearted and amusing sort to very emotionally driven ones such as Takeshi’s reaching out to Tsugumi. All of these interactions are written well in that they go along with each character and situation; no scene feels too silly or forced. This brings me to another aspect of the story that I really like, every character is fully explored and developed over the course of this game. We learn secrets about these characters from their back story to something they know that may relate to why they were at the facility when the incident occurs. To add to that, the scenes are well placed in the story as they are spread out a bit so that no scene feels too long or like an info dump.
Now some of you may have noticed I didn’t give any examples about what this game does right in terms of character development (and speaking of which click here for profiles), well the reason for that is because many of the examples I could give are spoilers, but one example I can give is Tsugumi’s but before that I need to explain something else about this game’s story, the routes. The routes are essentially the reason I called this game “masterfully told” up in the pros section. Each of the routes tells a good story centered around its specific heroine that also have plot revelations that end up tying into the true ending route (Coco’s) that is unlocked after you finish all the heroines’ good routes. Now some of you may recall in my Koihime Musou route where I explained my regard for games with true ending routes and how the other routes are written in relation to that route, and I can say that Ever 17 is a definite example of how to do things right in that regard. Each of the routes is written as important in the grand scheme of the story as they all tie in to solving the overarching mysteries of LeMU in the final route, which has a great deal more story than expected and has quite a few plot twists (not that there aren’t any in the other routes) that you in all likelihood won’t see coming and it all leads to one of the most satisfying conclusions I have ever read in any VN game. I’m not going to say how these routes do this because that would be major spoilers, but I will say that it’s different from how 999 did it.
Returning to the subject of Tsugumi’s development as a character, it’s the route structure of this game that really does a good job in showing her develop quite a bit from the cold and distant loner that she starts out as and I don’t think it could have been done anywhere near as well otherwise. Now I should explain one more thing about the routes, you only get access to two per protagonist: for Takeshi you can only play Sora and Tsugumi’s routes and for Kid it’s You and Sara’s routes. After completing those four routes, you unlock Coco’s which is the true route. I recommend playing the routes in this order for the best story experience:
Sora - - -You - - -Tsugumi - - -Sara
I’ll admit to having quite a bit of praise for this game’s story, but trust me, it’s that good. I will admit the only real flaw with the story is that the start is a little slow. Not a particularly big detraction, but still…
In the area of presentation, Ever 17 wins on all counts. The artwork is very well drawn and many of the game’s CGs almost looks like a still from a very high quality anime series or movie. The music is excellent with each theme matching the scenes that it plays for and the true ending end theme is one of my personal favorites in that it really helps to convey the satisfying feeling of the final ending (I’d give a youtube link, but I feel it’s best experienced hearing the ED theme from the game itself first). Finally, the voice acting in this game is excellent as we have a largely all star cast playing the characters that I’m sure many who watch anime will recognize. For example, both Takeshi and Kid are played by Soichiro Hoshi who you may recognize as Kira Yamato from Gundam Seed, Tsugumi is played by Yu Asakawa who played Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh, and Sara is played by Kana Ueda who played Rin Tohsaka from Fate/Stay Night and Rachel Alucard from Blazblue.
Before I end this review, there is something I need to point out. Because Hirameki International has been out of business for years now, Ever 17 is sadly out print and official copies are rare and pretty expensive (and you can’t have mine!). Fortunately, being out of print, you should be able to download the game yourself and install it, just use good old google. The only other bit of bad news is that this means we probably won’t ever see an official release of the rest of the Infinity series, which Ever 17 is a part of. For those of you who don’t know, the Infinity series are a series of games with a similar theme to Ever 17 that take place in the same world. While there aren’t any direct connections that I know of, the series has gotten quite a following since Ever 17’s release and one of the games Remember11: The Age of Infinity has received a fan made translation patch for the PC version and a similar translation patch is in the works for another of the series Never 7: The End of Infinity. There are two others that are currently untranslated: 12Riven ―the Ψcliminal of integral― (no that is not a typo) and Code18, which is currently unreleased. As far as I can tell, 999 isn’t part of the Infinity universe.
Ever 17: Out of Infinity rightly deserves all the praise it’s given by the VN community, a true masterpiece of storytelling and character development, and for anyone who wants to give the VN genre a try this is a great start to show just how good these games can get. If you’ve played 999 and enjoyed it then you’ll love this game, that I can guarantee as the 30-50 hours it takes to clear it will practically fly by. Truly a must play.
Final Score: 10/10 Legendary
Author Recommendations: Legendary!
On a side note, to those wondering which is better, Ever 17 or 999, here’s my opinion: Ever 17 is better. While I will admit that 999 has a bit of an edge in having a bit more compelling a drive behind its story considering the characters’ situations and the two are practically equal in terms of art quality, Ever 17 has a longer and more fleshed out story, the characters are more likable and more developed, and finally it has a more satisfying ending. Bear in mind, I say this as someone who really enjoyed 999; I consider it one of the best games to be released on the DS, and found its story to be quite compelling. In the end though, I just find Ever 17 to be the superior experience. You don’t have to take my word for it though, play Ever 17 yourself and if you disagree, feel free to explain why.
One last thing, if you have decided to play this game, AVOID SPOILERS. Seriously, stay away from Wikipedia and be very careful about any forums you visit in regards to this game. I’ve been treading very carefully to avoid spoiling anything in this review, the story is THAT good.
And yes, I am aware of the planned XBOX 360 rerelease. Not quite sure what to think of it since there doesn’t seem to be anything to add storywise and I don’t really like the 3D character sprites. There has been some speculation about Aksys making a deal for its English release, but we’ll have to wait and see.