on Nov 26 by Shadocchi
This week, I take a break from revisiting classic visual novels and show off one of Littlewitch’s more striking titles – Quartett! The game, placed in a strongly European setting, follows violinist Phil Junhers as he tries to unite three other musicians in time for an important quartet concert in March.
After an impromptu performance for a Christmas event, Phill Junhers, a young violinist, is invited to learn music at the prestigious Magnolia Conservatorium. There, he is introduced to a group of three girls with the goal of uniting the team in time for a performance in March. The new group must work together as a quartet to pass the conservatorium’s exams and perform in the concert, the outcome of which determines the rest of their musical careers. But working together isn’t just about music. As each girl has their problems, Phil must sort through their issues to bring them all together and reach their full potential.
It’s quite surprising to say that this game is nine years old. In both presentation and art, Quartett! still holds a great deal of appeal, considering it was made in the same year as Fate/Stay Night, Planetarian and Muv Luv. To their credit, those visual novels still have an appealing style, but Quartett’s application, humour and seamless presentation make it stand out as a quality title almost a decade later. The game combines the animated presentation of graphic novels with visual novel elements to bring a refreshing way to present stories in the format. There is a balance between finely detailed graphics, sketched cartoonish images and animation that makes Quartett! an honestly refreshing break textboxes and sprites.
Quartett! thankfully doesn’t lack in story either. The protagonist, Phil, is an earnest and positive character but still has a semblance of personality while the girls aren’t defined by popular types (though the tsundere is strong). The addition of a second quartet of characters, plus route-specific characters, makes the world feel a little more full. The side-characters deal with personal feuds and career worries, making everything more than a pick-and-romance deal. Where Quartett! falls short is in development; the game and it’s in-world timespan are both relatively short, packing the daily lives of the characters into three months or four to five hours. Romance feels sudden and resolving problems characters have had for years feels both too easy and too quick. Given the gravity of some issues, I would suspect more time would be needed for characters to grow, but it seems that resources limited the length of the game.
Being a game about musicians, you would expect an extensive soundtrack – and you’d be right. Forty-seven tracks of classical music back the game, adding to the European atmosphere and being really damn nice to listen to. The musical direction aids the visual direction, apparent in several parts during the game where the dialogue and visuals progress automatically. Tracks are calm, mostly performed by string instruments, and are often taken from famous pieces of classical music. The three main heroines also have a special ending song unique to their route, which is a pleasure to hear.
A voice patch for the game (from the PS2 release) provides each character with a fitting voice and even brings some well-known voice actors to the game. Ryou Hirohashi (Working!!‘s Yamada and Clannad‘s Kyou), Takahiro Sakurai (Code Geass‘ Suzaku and Psycho-Pass‘ Shougo) and Ryoko Shintani (Galaxy Angel‘s Mifuella and Hidamari Sketch‘s Sae) plus others bring life to the main cast of characters while the minor characters still get talent, with Fate/Zero’s Lancer (Hikaru Midorikawa) the most noticeable. Everything just really comes together.
Quartett! uses images and dialogue in a refreshing and humorous way to present its story about maturity and difficult life choices. The music, voice acting and images work together to create a lovely albeit short game with a cast of interesting characters. While it is an 18+ title, sex and romance isn’t exactly at its forefront and the game is very enjoyable regardless.
Quartett! (18+) is available for Windows and PlayStation 2, with the latter untranslated. The screenshots and overview above are based on the Standard Edition 1.0 version of Quartett!, which was re-released for the PC in 2006. As the studio has ceased production for close to four years now, it is hard to track down a physical copy of the game but, of course, is easy enough to find in the usual places.