Stand By Me is an upcoming isekai fantasy otome RPG developed by indie studio, Fish Attic Games. As an RPG-visual novel hybrid, the game offers players the best of both worlds—the rich storytelling of a visual novel, and the intractability of an RPG.
After a deadly accident, you wake up in the unfamiliar land of Desideria, assuming the equally unfamiliar identity of Ciel Rozenbleu – a sorceress in the royal military. With no knowledge about your new identity, you will need to learn more about the world around you and the people you encounter. But, with Desideria in the midst of a conflict with a neighboring country, you will need to decide whether you will stay loyal to the country Ciel once served or if you will carve out a new path with your own hands.
The demo kicks off in the modern day, with our heroine, Yuna, a completely normal college student bemoaning the woes of working on group projects. In fact, she is so busy complaining about how shitty her fellow groupmates are that she tries to cross the street without checking for oncoming traffic… and promptly gets hit by a truck. YuYu Hakusho vibes aside, I kind of like the idea of killing off the heroine at the start of the game… it definitely adds some shock value. But, the real kicker is that as Yuna (presumably) lies dying in the street, her last thought is that she can’t die, because she hasn’t turned in her class assignment—and you’d think I’d criticize her for not having her priorities in order, but no, as a former overworked and sleep deprived college student I can 100% confirm that that is probably exactly what I’d have been thinking of in my last moments. SO, that was perfectly on brand. But, lo, Yuna does not die! Yay!
Instead, she wakes up in a strange room without a scratch on her, in fact it’s almost like she was never hit by the truck at all! Finding the whole situation weird Yuna decides to explore her surroundings and discovers that her spirit (?) has been transported into the body of Ciel Rozenbleu, a Royal Sorceress serving the country of Desideria. Just as she is contemplating her new lot in life, a strangely dressed man named Altair, magically appears in the room. He knows that she isn’t the real Ciel and offers to help her blend in, though he has a roundabout way of “helping” her. He goes out of his way to give her as little information as possible, instead preferring to just watch her stumble awkwardly through situations.
Yuna/Ciel has a hard time assimilating to her new life as a military sorceress causing problems for herself and others—which could prove deadly since the country is in the middle of a conflict with a neighboring country, Idris. The demo covers the first few days after Yuna arrives in Desideria and gives players key insight into the world of the game and the characters that inhabit it. Fantasy stories like this are always have a wealth of worldbuilding opportunities and while this is just an introduction the writers set a pretty sound foundation for what is to come in the future. There is a fully realized magical society, a military conflict, and the whole isekai body switch situation to explore and I can’t wait to see how they’re all handled as the story progresses.
You get to meet four out of the five potential love interests: Altair, Yuna’s mysterious guide; Rigel, Ciel’s loyal butler; Caius, the cheerful young king of Desideria; and Kiel, a proficient magic wielder and Ciel’s straight-laced partner. You get ample time to get to know each of the LIs, but, I Kiel and Altair were the ones that stood out the most to me due to their much more engaging interactions with Yuna/Ciel. While she still has a ways to go before she is able to fit in with her new surroundings, I did like that she wasn’t a push over either; she can get downright sassy at times. I especially loved her banter with Altair!
The design of the game is similar to most RPG Maker games with the tile based maps and pixel art character sprites. I was especially impressed with the detail of all the different locations—the royal castle, a dense forest, a bustling market place, and more—this a vibrant world and the visuals really give a sense of depth to the story. While the main interface is modeled after a retro RPG, there are unlockable CGs and many of the characters also have detailed sprites, like you’d see in a traditional visual novel. The battle cutscenes in the current build are modeled after comic book panels, and I thought it was a cool way to give those scenes a sense of movement.
Stand By Me is definitely one of the more interesting demos I’ve played so far this year, as it blends the gameplay elements of an RPG and a visual novel, making for a much more immersive gaming experience. You get the great expansive story and character interactions that you’d expect from a VN, while also being able to truly explore the world of the game through first hand interactions–which is great, since like the heroine, you don’t know anything about the world or the characters. So it makes sense that you’d need to interact with as many people, places, and things as possible–rather than just being a cute gimmick, the RPG mechanics are built into the story. Every action serves a purpose and that more than anything is what really made the experience for me.
If you’d like to check out Stand By Me for yourself you can get the demo over on itch.io: Play the Demo