Project: Perfectly Normal is an indie action-comedy boys love visual novel developed by Peaceful Pastel. In the game you play as a retired killer for hire, who is tasked with his toughest mission yet—navigating the ups and downs of a normal life. The game was originally intended to be a part of a one-month game jam, but during development was extended. After the go I’ve been having with boys love games, I am happy to say that Project: Perfectly Normal is just an all around sweet and wholesome game and a welcome reprieve from some of the… ah, questionable(?) boys love games I’ve been playing recently.
“Project X, a top secret privately funded project designed to train the ultimate assassins, was recently shut down under government orders. Now, dozens of children trained under the program are orphaned. In order to solve this situation and offer these children a second chance at life, the government has created a special foster program.”
For seventeen years, Ren has trained to be the perfect killer. Now that Project X has ended, Ren has been relocated to a foster family. An older woman named Granny and her grandson, Kazuya open their home to the former child assassin. And now, in a small and normal town, Ren has made it his next mission to become the perfect normal person. Unfortunately, there’s also a bunch of people who wish to kill him along the way.
Haruto is Ren’s supervisor who is sent to keep an eye on him during the foster program. Whenever there is a problem, he’s always there to clean up any messes and he serves as the liaison between Ren and the “Agency”. Haruto is mostly there to give Ren advice on how to navigate the ups and downs of everyday life—like helping him bond with his foster brother and when it is acceptable to use a knife. He’s a few years older than Ren and while he is meant to be something of a mentor, his carefree and flirty personality make him seem much younger. And then there’s his love of cake~
I honestly didn’t think I’d like his route all that much, but Haruto is surprisingly genuine and sweet. At first he comes off as just your run of the mill flirty type, but it’s mostly just posturing—he’s easily flustered by Ren’s unintentional flirting and it’s just so cute! His relationship with Ren is fun to watch develop, from that of a mentor/mentee to family to romance, it’s just so wholesome and sweet.
Kazuya is Ren’s foster brother and a bit of a tsun-bun. He is stubborn and unfriendly and doesn’t even pretend to hide his dislike for Ren… but then again, he’s a bit short with everyone. Though, he does have his cute points, like his love of cheesy rom-coms. I am a sucker for tsundere characters, there is just something really rewarding about getting them to open up and admit their true feelings, and I liked that this route focused not just on Kazuya opening up to Ren, but the pair learning to accept each other’s differences.
The writers really take the time to go through the growing pains of their relationship. Kazuya is wary of Ren, because of his past as a killer for hire, something that he is morally against and also poses a very real threat to his family. But, the more time he spends with Ren, the more he comes to see just how hard he’s working to live a normal life and that’s when he starts trying to really understand Ren. Of course it’s not easy and there are plenty of misunderstandings along the way, but you really get a sense that both Ren and Kazuya are making an effort to meet each other half way. This is hands down my favorite route! Everything was just so perfectly executed and I couldn’t help but root for Kazuya and Ren to get together, because they just make each other so much better!
I LOVE Ren as a protagonist—usually naïve characters can be really annoying after awhile, but the writers build that aspect of Ren’s personality into the story, and it is all the better for it! He spent his childhood training to be a killer for hire, stripped of human emotions and desires. Then after years of following orders he is told to forget all that and live a normal life—this is a fish out of water story on a whole different level! Not only does he have to unlearn all of the things he learned in his program, he has to learn all the things we take for granted like how to make friends or what foods he likes and even how to smile. He is just such a pure soul, who must be protected at all costs. Ren asks a lot of questions and he has a tendency to take everything literally, which leads to some cute funny moments. But, what I like is that the other characters (especially Sora) take the time to explain things to him, even if he doesn’t always fully understand the thoughts and emotions behind certain actions. He doesn’t do anything by half measures and there are times when he oversteps boundaries, but he means well and isn’t afraid to apologize when he does something that makes others uncomfortable. Some of the early “comedic” moments revolve around Ren’s lack of experience with seemingly normal situations and not gonna lie, I did kind of laugh a bit at how direct he is with some of the characters.
I never expected to get so emotionally attached to him, but every time he learned something new I would do a little fist pump, because the writers do a phenomenal job of showing just how hard Ren is working to be a normal person. At first he treats simple tasks and requests like “missions”—Granny tells him to decide on a favorite food and he literally asks her for an itemized list of criteria for selecting one. Most people don’t put that much thought into stuff like that, but for Ren its a way for him to rationalize what he’s being asked to do. As the story progresses and he learns more about the world around him, he starts taking more initiative and does things not because he’s told to, but because he wants to.
Games come up with all these really interesting characters, with so many unique backgrounds and more times than not the writers don’t really worry about how these fantastical characters fit into our world. Sure it’s cool to have a character that was raised to be an assassin, but what happens when their mission is done and they’re left to their own devices? What emotional obstacles will they face? Can they even adjust to normal life? And that’s the whole premise on which Project: Perfectly Normal is built—Ren, a former child assassin is decommissioned and given the rare opportunity to live a normal life. Of course there is a shadowy organization trying to take Ren out to hide the truth of Project X, but the bulk of the story is just Ren trying to acclimate to life in the ‘Burbs and that is just so refreshing and sweet. This could have easily been another action heavy story where Ren has to fend off various “villains” always looking over his shoulder, and yes there is a bit of that in the game, but, at its core, Project: Perfectly Normal is about Ren’s journey to live a normal life. We see Ren learning how to make friends, going to school, figuring out how to smile, falling in love and it’s absolutely adorable.
The romance in this game is just so well done—in most BL media, sex is the end goal, but here the writers go to great pains to build up the bond between Ren and his chosen love interest. In fact, each relationship develops naturally, gradually building up the bond between the characters, regardless of whether the relationship eventually turns romantic or not. In Project: Perfectly Normal after everything these characters have been through together, falling in love is just the natural next step. Even with Haruto, who is the “mature” option, aside from some light intimate touch and kissing, their relationship is pretty tame by BL standards and I prefer that, because Ren’s emotional growth is what’s most important, not his sexual exploits. Even when you don’t pick an LI they don’t just fade into the background, they’re still very much an integral part of the story. I’ve played some bigger budget games that can’t seem to pull off that level of character development.
While the end goal of each route is for Ren and his chosen love interest to get together, I really like that Project: Perfectly Normal also explores Ren’s non-romantic relationships as well. The writers put a lot of emphasis on familial bonds, we see them sharing meals together and talking about their days. Granny, the woman that takes Ren in, becomes a surrogate mother figure to him, offering up unconditional love and support not just to Ren, but to everyone she meets. She’s non-judgemental and you really see just how much she comes to care for Ren over the course of the story—to her he is family and she treats him no different from her own grandson, Kazuya.
Then there’s Sora, a neighborhood boy Ren meets—at first you think he’s going to be a secret love interest or something, but their relationship never goes beyond friendship… and that’s okay! I saw a lot of folks comment that they wish Sora had a route too (and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of them) but I’m also just as fine with their relationship staying the way it is. Sora is someone Ren’s own age who isn’t connected to the program or his new foster family that he can confide in and be himself around. Most of the other characters will take the time to explain things to Ren, but with Sora it just feels so much more genuine. He never asks anything of Ren and he is perfectly fine taking things at his pace and their whole relationship is just so dang sweet and wholesome! We need more friendship routes in games!
Of course Project: Perfectly Normal isn’t perfect, there are some scenes where the dialogue can be a bit… stiff and the solo ending (while super cute) feels a bit rushed. A character from Ren’s past is introduced about two-thirds into the game and I would have loved to have explored their shared past a bit more since most of Ren’s story is fed to us in small snippets and this would have been a perfect opportunity to really delve into Ren’s life in the program from someone that was actually there too.
Heck yeah! I went into this game expecting it to be a short chill game to take my mind off the horrors of Hadaka Shitsuji. I thought I’d play a route and then move on, but the more I played the more attached I got! While Project: Perfectly Normal does touch on some heavy topics—Ren is essentially a child soldier and he does struggle with the ethical and moral implications of his past—the overall tone of the story is still pretty lighthearted and wholesome. I was genuinely invested in these characters and their journey, and that’s because the writers gave them so much emotional depth! Ren isn’t just a former assassin, he’s a 17 year old who wants to live his life on his own terms. Haruto isn’t just a flirty mentor, he’s a man who wants to be accepted for who he is. Kazuya isn’t just an angsty teen, he’s a young man struggling to come to terms with his own identity. None of these characters is one dimensional. Each one has their own unique story just waiting to be explored, and in the case of Project: Perfectly Normal the journey is just as important as the destination!