To be honest, I was a bit skeptical by the hype that Totono (You and Me and Her a Love Story) has been gaining. For real, I had no idea about this game before the storm of reviews arrived on r/visualnovels lmao. So I kind of got caught up in the heat and went along. The result? Satisfaction, maybe.
The game started off normally just like countless VNs out there, we have a bit of a chilling protagonist who’s filled with some weird thoughts but overall is still your ordinary high schoolboy. However, they sure got straight into the issue fast with the major plot device (literally) of the game being revealed after like 5m of gameplay. This is where it all started.
From a bird-eye viewpoint, the game basically has 3 phases: the introductory, the glitch, and the reconstruction. I don’t have much to say about the introductory chapter since it’s pretty standard as a balance of slice of life and bit of high school drama, so in short a decent stage to get used to the characters.. as well as getting some disturbing foreshadowing.
In my opinion, while each phase has its own substance to kick up the heat and mitigate boredom, the game probably peaked at the transition between the glitch and restructuring. Part of this probably is due to my bad habit of overhyping shit in general, but really, the game raised my expectation to the rooftop right there when I got the “transmission”, it was a legit goosebumps head to toes moment. And yes, I’ve been on team Aoi pretty early on so this moment hit me the more.
That is not to say that the final phase was a disappointment, it was good, to say the least. Despite being a bit tedious I was still able to keep up with the flow for hours. The main highlight of this stage is without a doubt Miyuki herself.
While I personally don’t give much thought to how meta operates in this game (I kinda have an idea in fact but never dug deep into it), it was somewhat entertaining going through all the whacky elements that the game, or Miyuki to be more precise, threw at me. I think they really did a great job of exploiting the exclusive features of the VN medium to further enhance the plot and theme of the game.
At the beginning I was on full “F U” mode and tried to fuck with her as much as I could. However, as I kept playing my curiosity gradually arose and I genuinely started to take an interest in “her”. It’s not like I could overlook nor get over what had happened in phase 2, but really, as I kept learning about “her”, it wasn’t that bad to take the “blue pill”.
Eventually, you can’t escape the inevitable, the main theme of the game finally submerged. To tell the truth, this is not the first time I’ve seen something like this, albeit this one chronologically came out first. However, it was truly mesmerizing seeing Miyuki at her finest like that. It would be a lie to say my opinion on her did not change during that moment. And god damn, the way the final choice was presented kinda took me by surprise, it might be simple but really wholesome.
With all that being said, as the game approached its closure, I somehow got stuck in the process of cramming up more enjoyment. Most likely, it is thanks to the way the twist was handled, which did not live up to the hype that I had anticipated earlier on after phase 2, so welp (Aoi still has a fiery conclusion though).
The cast overall is small, yet well cared. There are not that many side characters so it’s actually a good thing to keep it not distracting. I actually quite enjoy the best friend dude of the protagonist. Even though he always does and says some retarded shit, his expression was handled too well to get on my nerves, not to mention he also has that “my nigga” trait with him so that’s a plus.
Despite having most screentime, the protagonist is strangely not the main driving force of the cast, but that role rests on the shoulders of the 2 heroines of this VN. To start off, Aoi’s character is generally the type that I tend not to tolerate the most, due to how passively annoying they can get. However, Totono truly knew how to make full use of its mechanism to deny those typical flaws of her trope, thus making her a lot more enjoyable than I first thought.
And holy shit, first was “the glitch”, and then the “reconstruction”, and lastly, the “transition”, all of her major plotlines pretty much blew me away with the “holy fuck” energy, truly was something.
On the other hand, Miyuki felt like a rollercoaster trip to me. At the beginning I personally found her “pushy” nature a bit annoying. And as the second phase drew near the climax I got more and more bad vibe from her and holy shit things really went out as I had feared. However, that soon changed as I went through the “reconstruction” phase, just as I already described above.
Long story short, while I can’t enjoy Miyuki’s personality, I genuinely understand and appreciate her “spirit” which serves as her main motivation for all of the ruckus in the game, so yeah we’re cool now.
One of the most unfortunate things about Totono is that I couldn’t find anything outstanding in its technical aspects. The character design isn’t bad but everything else just seems off, like it gives off a fuzzy feeling to me so meh, plus sound and music aren’t that interesting either. If anything, I did find the highlight read text feature useful as it made the ride more comfortable especially when going through the intense restructure phase.
In summary, packed with creative gameplay and thought-provoking theme, Totono is definitely one of the most whimsical VN experiences I’ve ever had. If anything, it kinda ended a bit too soon, I just wish to see more of the 2 main girls…