It would be an understatement to say that official English translations of yaoi/boys love visual novels are rare, but BL visual novels actually made in English are even rarer. That’s exactly what we’re looking at here. Sentimental Trickster is an original 18+ BL visual novel written by an English-speaking yaoi fan for other English-speaking yaoi fans. What does this mean for players? It means you get a unique combination of Japanese-style BL visual novel with more Western leanings when it comes to the characters’ personalities and the way they talk.
Whether you’re a hardcore yaoi fan or are just a little curious, Sentimental Trickster is sure to fill up the gaping hole that the lack of English-language BL visual novels has left in most of our lives. This review will be based on the gameplay seen in the demo, which is freely available for anyone to download and try out for themselves on Sentimental Trickster’s official homepage, the link for which is above. The game also has a Kickstarter, the first goal of which has already been funded thanks to 200+ backers and plenty of interest. However, Sentimental Trickster has a lot of potential should its stretch goals be reached.
What to expect
Sentimental Trickster: English BL Yaoi Visual Novel - now on Kickstarter (PV):
Sentimental Trickster follows your standard visual novel format. You play the role of the protagonist, Haru, and meet several potential love interests. Through the decisions you make, the plot moves in various directions and your relationship with the boyfriend candidates deepens - or not, that’s down to you. At this stage, Sentimental Trickster is set to have four different routes and at least twelve different endings, but if it succeeds in reaching its stretch goals on Kickstarter, there is potential for an extra ‘secret’ dateable character, Nitro+CHiRAL-style bad endings, and even partial voice acting.
Of course, this is an 18+ visual novel, and that means one thing - smut. And what’s better than smut? Uncensored smut. And where do you get uncensored smut? Well, not in Japan most of the time. If you're uncomfortable with mature content, the demo of Sentimental Trickster features the first chapter and therefore no sexy scenes, so is safe for you. The Steam version will also be censored, although the uncensored version will be made available for all buyers - so you don't have to put up with any of those pesky pixelated areas. You can also expect nipples. Really pretty nipples. Who doesn’t love nipples?
In Sentimental Trickster, you play as Haru, an arts college student who has just moved to the big city. Which would be scary enough on its own, but it turns out the boarding house he’s set to stay at is actually located in a freaky horror story-style forest. But that’s okay - Haru is a big boy with a big attitude, and he’s ready to kick ass if necessary. After being guided to his new home by a hot stranger, he finds out said hottie is one of his housemates. Maybe the other residents will be as nice… Or maybe not.
The four potential partners in the demo follow character traits any BL dating sim fan will recognise - there’s the arrogant enigma Shinya, flashy babe-magnet Kanae, bad-boy Jin, and kind but often-overlooked Soichiro. Every character also has their own issues beneath the surface which Haru uncovers. Despite his attitude, Shinya is having problems at school and keeps getting weirdly-timed phone calls. Kanae has an old, ink-stained teddy bear hidden in his drawer. Jin has seems to have issues with self-care and Haru spies him arguing with an older man who’s trying to give him money. Soichiro keeps a photo face-down on his desk and avoids talking about the past. Seeing how each of their routes pan out and the different endings they experience is something to look forward to in the finished game. Haru also has his own issues, and it seems you’ll get to know him as he learns more about himself.
Then there’s the side characters, of whom only two appear in the demo but at least five are set to appear in the final Sentimental Trickster. What makes these characters different from less major roles in some other BL visual novels is that there are girls. Actual women, like in real life. Although very little is known about them at present, judging from the demo, it’s easy to imagine that they will be well-rounded and well-treated female characters rather than being used as tools to further the plot between you and the guys. Oh, and they’re pretty damn gorgeous too.
Sentimental Trickster has your standard visual novel read-and-click format. At various points in the story you are given choices which affect how the novel progresses and how your relationship with the other characters develops. However, if you’re the type who gets sick of reading pretty quickly, that shouldn’t be an issue with Sentimental Trickster. Why? Well, because Haru exists. If there’s one thing above all else that makes this game stand out, it’s our protagonist. His narration is witty, sarcastic, and biting. You often find yourself laughing out loud at his comments. Sometimes it can feel a little thickly laid on, but whether that’s part of Haru himself or an act he’s putting on, is something we’ll have to wait to find out in the finished game.
As for the art, the characters are bright and shiny (especially the nipples. Did I mention nipples?) with easy-on-the-eye colour schemes. Each potential boyfriend in the demo has at least two facial expressions, with Haru having a wider (and goddamn adorable) range - we can expect more in the final product, especially if the Kickstarter stretch goals are reached. The backgrounds are gorgeous, especially the cityscape you see at the beginning of the demo. It’s important to note that the creator is also currently searching for a professional artist to help with character anatomy and backgrounds, so we can expect an overall boost to what’s available in the demo on Sentimental Trickster’s completion.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Whether you enjoy Japanese Yaoi/BL visual novels such as Nitro+CHiRAL, are looking for something a little different, or are a first-timer when it comes to Boys Love games, it’s definitely worth giving the demo of Sentimental Trickster a play through. This is a demo with sass, laughs, and plenty of pretty boys to perv on. It’s also worth checking out the Kickstarter page for more glimpses into the art and 18+ material.
Haru’s hilarious narration
Actual female characters
Really pretty nipples
No guarantee that there will be voice acting
We have to wait for the whole game!
Honey's Final Verdict (Thoughts):
Playing through the demo of Sentimental Trickster, it’s difficult to believe that (apart from the music) it was created entirely by just one person. Although you only get a glimpse of each potential partner, it’s clear these are characters with depth and the potential to break your heart (or maybe it’ll be the other way round?). If there’s just one thing missing in the character line-up, it’s characters of colour - although it’s rare to see POC in BL content in general. The characters all have quite similar builds (barre Haru) and skin tones. However, according to the creator, the potential extra secret dateable character may be a game changer with a more muscular appearance. So if you prefer your BL on the bara side of things, there’s hope for you!
The highlight of the demo is definitely Haru, but we have to emphasise the potential this game has outside of the wonder child. The demo leaves us with so many questions. What happened to Haru that led him to this point? What is he hiding - what is everyone hiding? Where the story will go, how will the characters grow and change? Now that the Kickstarter has reached its initial goal, we know that we will be getting the full game eventually. But will we be getting it at its full potential?
The stretch goals on Kickstarter are interesting to say the least. Past the secret character, there’s the potential for an epilogue 18+ fan disk, packed full of future frolics of the sexual kind. Then there’s the bad endings - but only if you want them, making the game friendly to those who may not be so okay with gory violence. Reaching the final stretch goal would mean hearing Haru’s snark out loud with partial voice acting - oh, and the creator said she’d dye her hair rainbow, and that’s always fun. Backers will also receive some pretty nifty rewards, from exclusive extra content to having a say in the outcome of the final game, or even future projects!
If you’re a fan of Yaoi/BL in general and are looking for something new, we recommend at least trying out the demo of Sentimental Trickster. If you enjoy it, do what you can to support its creation - whether that’s pledging on Kickstarter or spreading the word to those who can!
Author: Ellyn Barnes
Gudetama goods collector with a soft spot for seiyuu and an undying love for Matsuoka Rin. When I'm not smashing out the latest news in the office, you'll find me holed up at home watching anime, playing rhythm games, and sobbing because Miyano Mamoru exists. Other interests include reading far too much bad BL and occasionally trying to create stuff.