Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Feb 222017

About a month ago, indie developer Radical Phi sent me a review copy of Angels With Scaly Wings, which they described as “The Dragon Dating, Mystery & Drama Visual Novel.”

A dragon dating game? Sure, why not? After all, a game about dating birds proved to have hidden depths.

When I started Angels With Scaly Wings, I realized right away that the romance is only a small part of this visual novel. It began with an explanation of how humanity discovered a portal that put them in contact with a world of intelligent dragons, and from there quickly spiraled into a murder mystery with hints of conspiracy.

A few hours later, I reached a rather depressing ending. Determined to get a better outcome, I plunged into the story again and reached my first “good” ending… which was almost as bleak as the bad one. I realized I might need to play many times to get an actual happy ending.

But not only does Angels With Scaly Wings make that painless through features that let you fast-forward text you’ve seen or even skip entire scenes, it actually incorporates it into the narrative.

The presence of dragons might make you think “fantasy,” but this really is a science fiction story, and the sci-fi elements play a more central role than just setting up the premise. In particular, there’s time travel. When you start a new game, it’s because your character is in a time loop.

Ah yes… time travel…

While the game puts a great deal of enthusiasm into its time travel, it does present problems and paradoxes if you look at it too closely. On the other hand, the time loop creates a neat way to integrate the way most fans play visual novels–repeated playthroughs for each and every character route.

Now, despite the fact that you spend much of your time dating dragons, the sci-fi mystery story is stronger than the romance. You get to know these characters, learn their backstories, and grow close to them, but it isn’t given enough time or depth to feel especially romantic.

It’s also possible for at least some characters to get their good endings without accepting their romantic advances at the end, and a couple don’t have anything beyond lightly implied romance.

So if you’re looking for real serious dragon romance, Angels With Scaly Wings won’t be what you expect. (And if you’re looking for a happy, silly game, it’s definitely not what you expect.) However, the mystery is intriguing enough that it kept me hooked on my first playthrough, and subsequent playthroughs held my attention as I tried to see every scene, uncover every part of the story, and figure out how to help my dragon of choice.

In some ways, it felt like a puzzle: if I make this choice and go to this place, will I have the tools I need to get so-and-so’s good ending?

The more I played, the more my choices began to affect other playthroughs, because of the time loop. This was a pretty cool feature that tied into how the true ending actually works from a narrative perspective. It wasn’t perfect, as the game occasionally referenced events I hadn’t actually done, but overall it’s one of the most interesting aspects of Angels With Scaly Wings.

Some parts of the story and exposition could be handled better, and while some character interactions were engaging, others felt bland. However, I enjoyed playing Angels With Scaly Wings. It made me work hard for my happy ending, and intrigued me enough to make me do so. It might not be a perfect game, but I’ll be interested to see what Radical Phi does in the future.

Speaking of visual novels, don’t forget to back Ascendant Hearts on Kickstarter. No dragons here, but we do have romance!

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