by Nick F., contributor, Inside AX- Anime Expo
“What does it mean to be human?” “What does it mean to love?” The 2004 visual novel Soul Link by developer Navel, who also developed Shuffle!, asks these questions in their story about military cadets fighting to survive on a space station besieged by religious zealots.
Part Die Hard, part Parasite Eve, Soul Link is primarily a military Sci-Fi thriller but contains a great diversity of plot elements, drawing from romance, comedy, drama and horror. These elements lead to one of its major flaws though, which is its scattered plot.
I didn’t find the character designs or story to be particularly groundbreaking, instead everything seemed to draw from established archetypes. Given its impressive span of genres however, Soul Link can serve as an excellent gateway for anyone unfamiliar with its component genres, or as a springboard into visual novels in general.
The prologue set me up for a light-hearted romp in a space station, but once the first act began, I found myself trying to make sense of a military background my character, Shuhei, had that I lacked. The choices I was asked to make didn’t seem to have more than a cursory impact on the story and their placement felt arbitrary.
In order to progress past the first of the “bad endings,” I was required to disobey orders given to my character, which would be dangerously negligent given the crisis presented in the game world. So much for my sense of duty and responsibility — and immersion.
The tone of the first act changes erratically between scenes of drama, action, comedy, and exposition, and the first major plot twist, from about the middle of the first act, came from so far out of left field it felt like an easter egg rather than the main plot.
I found Soul Link frustrating from both a gameplay and storytelling perspective (I blew two hours on one time management puzzle before I gave up and found a walkthrough), but I enjoyed the consistent portrayal of its robust cast, as well as the changing relationships between characters as they developed throughout the story.
- Fun, consistent, if stereotypical characters
- Fun, recognizable voice talent throughout
- Robust save/load system, scene skip option
- Lackluster and unambitious plot, storytelling
- Decision points feel arbitrary, unintuitive
For more information on the game, please visit MangaGamer’s official Soul Link website (18+).