You know what we don’t see enough of in the visual novel world? Yuri related works. In the west, very few yuri themed visual novels exist and we clamor to find some new one to enjoy when we can. Developer Studio Elan seems to have read our minds though as they—alongside publisher Sekai Project—have just released a yuri visual novel called Heart of the Woods. With a romance/supernatural theme to it, Heart of the Woods seems like it could be a rather interesting VN, don’t you agree? Well, we here at Honey’s Anime have played through Heart of the Woods and we have our thoughts we plan on sharing with you in our full review down below. Scroll on down and you can see if Heart of the Woods delivered what we needed from a yuri visual novel.
What to Expect
Heart of the Woods is a romance/supernatural VN aiming to deliver a fantastical story that equally has real themes to it. Players assume the role of two girls who work together on a blog reporting supernatural incidents they come across. When they receive word to head to a village filled with supernatural themes in the depths of its forest, the girls take the next train to the village of Eysenfeld. Players will journey alongside the girls, guiding their story though the use of several choices that will impact both of their worlds in various ways. With several endings and a true ending, Heart of the Woods offers up a nice amount of story for a nice price tag.
Two young women—Maddie and Tara—are bloggers who look for all things supernatural. Maddie acts as the editor and manager for Tara while the latter is the sleuth behind every case. While Tara believes everything is going well for the sometimes-bickering duo, Maddie is beginning to grow tired of this life and plans on leaving the team after this final case. Both women appear in a small and quaint town that seems to harbor only silence and older ways of life. Little does Maddie or Tara realize that within the woods lies a supernatural force that will change their lives forever.
Visual novels made by smaller teams are popping up quite often as of late and we couldn’t be more thrilled. While we here at Honey’s Anime love all things anime and visual novel, we also like when small indie studios jump into the ring and give their offering of what they feel is their story to tell. Enter Heart of the Woods an indie visual novel made by developers Studio Elan and published by famed Sekai Project. Heart of the Woods intrigued us from the get go with the concept that not only was it a romance/supernatural VN, but it also was a yuri work and we don’t see that often enough. Does Heart of the Woods do its job in presenting a truly fun and intriguing supernatural tale or does it falter like many other VNs tend to do? Let us find out as we review Heart of the Woods!
Heart of the Woods is a rather simple visual novel with an extreme emphasis on the “novel” part. Players assume the role of both Maddie and Tara—with occasional moments as another female lead—as they enter the village of Eysenfeld. Promised a supernatural story perfect for their blog, the duo enters with two different perspectives. Tara is overjoyed to see some supernatural prescience, but Maddie just wishes to end their working relationship with at least one more good story. The two get more than they bargained for though once they set foot in Eysenfeld. Players will also be quite surprised as this is where Heart of the Woods shines brightest from the forest of other VNs like it.
The strongest element of Heart of the Woods is in its storytelling. While most yuri themed works tend to be over the top on romance and melodrama—though many romance VNs share this trait— Heart of the Woods eases players into both the romance and the supernatural themes of the story. Out of the six chapters—the last being the true ending chapter—you’ll only truly begin to see big story elements by the third. The first two chapters truly immerse players into the world that is Maddie and Tara as they meet the townsfolk of Eysenfeld and hear the stories they have. Heart of the Woods doesn’t try to go over the top from the gate, but instead, paces the story in a rather fresh and simple way. However, this pacing also acts as a bit of a double-edged sword.
Remember when we said Heart of the Woods emphasizes the novel part of visual novel? We weren’t kidding about that comment as Heart of the Woods only offers several choices for the player over the course of its story. Chapter three will be the first major choice and from there, several other choices will be scattered about as the player progresses. These choices do have significant impacts in Heart of the Woods’ story leading to not one but several endings but the lack of choices means a lot of “gameplay” will be reading. There’s no voice work—which we expected and don’t fault Heart of the Woods for—so it’s just heaps of text for a significant portion of the game. We honestly would have liked some more choices even if they didn’t do more than change an interaction with someone. Replaying Heart of the Woods meant we used the skip button—which is available thankfully—till we hit new choices we didn’t choose prior.
While reading dialogue might get old after a while, the art in Heart of the Woods never gets tiring at all. We absolutely loved Heart of the Woods’ visuals with the characters being truly unique and realistic. They all might have anime themes—who is complaining about that though—but none of the girls in Heart of the Woods are unrealistic and all have a true to life feel to them. The music that also accompanies the art does a fantastic job of setting just the right mood for each scene whether it be a romance scene or a moment of genuine suspense. Heart of the Woods nails these two elements perfectly and we only wished more indie VNs aimed to deliver in the way Heart of the Woods does.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Heart of the Woods might be more reading then other VNs but the story it presents is a truly solid one overall. Even if you aren’t into yuri, Heart of the Woods has a compelling story of finding your future in the strangest ways sometimes. Add to this several possible endings, a rich and diverse cast and some solid art/music and you have the recipe for a great visual novel. If we had just a few more choices here and there, we would have said Heart of the Woods was perfect. Yet, it comes pretty darn close to perfection and we can’t say that too often with visual novels made by smaller teams. If you are looking for a yuri visual novel or a visual novel that has a truly impactful story, just download Heart of the Woods for your PC today.
Excellent art and music
Engrossing story with very solid themes of romance, suspense, supernatural and slice of life feels
Could have used more choices
Honey's Final Verdict:
Indie visual novels are showing us here at Honey’s Anime something quite interesting. Just because a VN relies heavily on some themes doesn’t mean all VNs need to follow suit. Heart of the Woods doesn’t change the VN world but it creates a story that shows not everything has been done before in the world of VNs and we’re happy to see that. Are you excited now to try out Heart of the Woods? Comment below if you are or if you already happened to play it for yourself! Be sure to keep stuck to our hive for even more visual novel and other gaming related reviews/articles done by us here at Honey’s Anime.
Hey everyone I’m Aaron Curbelo or Blade as I’m called by my YouTube Subscribers. I’ve been an anime/manga fan since I was a young kid. In terms of anime I have watched nearly a thousand shows and have read hundreds of manga series. I love writing and honestly was so happy to join Honey’s Anime to get a shot to write articles for such a wonderful site. I’m a firm believer in respect in the anime community being the most important embodiment we should all have. We all love anime and we have varying opinions of series but we should respect one another for those differences! Life is too precious to spend it making needless arguments in a community that should be the shining example of loving an amazing medium. I hope as a writer for Honey’s Anime I can bring you folks some amazing articles to read and enjoy!