When I got wind of Viola: The Heroin’s Melody, I got so excited. This game is described as a musical Platformer/RPG. Music? Platforming? RPG? Count me in! Additionally, this whole game was designed by just one person: Jelle van Doorne. When you already hold a game in such high esteem, even before playing it, the disappointment of it being a horrible game hits double as hard. Don’t worry, this wasn’t the case at all with Viola: The Heroine’s Melody. Even though this is not a perfect game, there are plenty of interesting aspects that make this a worthwhile play. Let me talk you through everything!
We played Viola: The Heroine’s Melody for 8 hours on PC.
What we liked!
- Gameplay | The gameplay is a combination of platforming and combat. The platforming part is pretty straightforward. You travel through various locations, like woods and towers, and you’ll find chests filled with useful gems, potions, and coins along the way. Coins can be used to purchase more gems, potions and key items. The world is pretty simple, including springs and canons to get you to where you need to go. The thing to get used to is the triple jumping. You can do a triple jump, but not by pressing the jump button when you’re in the air, but every time you land, you jump again, and you get higher. It’s a different mechanic that takes some getting used to, but it gets you there. The next part is the combat with a party of 5. Combat is a little different according to which mode/difficulty you choose to play in, which I’ll explain in the point ‘difficulty’. Avoiding combat is often possible, so if you don’t feel like fighting a lot, that’s your choice. During battles, you can perform normal, magic, and crescendo attacks. Normal attacks can be performed as often as you want, but the other two have their costs. Magical attacks cost AP, which you can restore using potions. Crescendo attacks are a bit more difficult. They require CP, which can only be restored when your character takes damage. It’s an original way of increasing CP, and I liked this a lot. Of course, besides attacking, you can also defend other characters in your party, or you can simply run from combat. Viola: The Heroine’s Melody offers boss fights, and a diversity of enemies to keep the gameplay interesting. I was never really bored of a specific enemy, because there’s enough variety and because of the fact that you can skip enemies sometimes.
- Music | Music plays an important role in Viola: The Heroine’s Melody, as you could have guessed by the title already. Let’s first off start with the soundtrack, which is really beautiful. It blends in with the gameplay perfectly. Now, music also plays an important role in the actual gameplay. There are nine songs to unlock on your travels, and each song has a different purpose. Some will open up a waterfall, while another one freezes the water so you can walk on it, or a campfire is created where you can rest, heal, and talk to your party. You can always find the various songs in your songbook, where selecting a song will show what notes to play (a.k.a. what buttons to hit on your keyboard or controller) in case you don’t remember. I pretty much always had to use the songbook since my memory isn’t my strongest asset.
- Story | Viola recently lost her mother and is frustrated that she can’t seem to play the violin. She becomes trapped inside a weird world: her instrument’s fantasy world. Together with friends that she meets along the way, she tries to find her way back home. The story that Viola: The Heroine’s Melody provides sounds simple enough, however, the entire storyline turns out to be very engaging. It’s an emotional journey where you meet very interesting characters, without introducing too much dialogue. Let me tell you, the story is one of the absolute highlights of Viola: The Heroine’s Melody! Definitely one of the best and most charming stories I’ve seen in a while.
- Characters | You run into a total of ten very different characters, including a wolf named Fenrys, a boy that appears to be half-cat, and a bluebird named Momo. These characters will not only help you in battle, they each have their own instrument and will also help with Viola’s personal growth. It’s a diverse cast of characters that have different ideals, sexual orientations, and are of different colors, and I personally loved this. The developer really wanted all players to be able to identify with the characters in-game and I think that’s beautiful. You can bond with everyone in your party by talking to them when you’re all sitting besides the campfire. Even though this isn’t obligatory, I strongly recommend this, since it only makes the story stronger. Each character also has a personal quest that unlocks when you reach bond level A, but this, again, is not mandatory. After completing the quests, the next talk with them will get you to bond level S, which is the maximum bond level.
- Graphics | The art style used in Viola: The Heroine’s Melody is very bright, colorful, and just plain beautiful. The environments usually aren’t that special, but the character design more than makes up for this. Every character you recruit along the way has distinct features, making every single one of them unique and lovable.
- Humor | Even though the story is quite an emotional and heartwarming journey, there is also some room for humor. Jokes are made throughout the dialogues, sometimes even being very small so you might not even notice them. The characters turn out to be quite funny, and honestly, this just made me love them even more!
- Difficulty | Viola: The Heroine’s Melody offers both a lot of combat and story. I love that the developer included two game difficulties based on this. You can either pick the ‘normal mode’ where the gameplay focuses on combat. Casting normal, magic, and crescendo attacks will require you to push the right buttons at the right time, making the combat a little bit more challenging. Or you can try the ‘story mode’ where the focus lies more heavily on the beautiful story that this game incorporates. The combat is a lot easier here since there is no clicking of buttons. I ‘finished’ (you’ll read why it says so in parentheses in the ‘disliked’ part of the review) the game in Story Mode, and I’m really glad I did that first. I’m currently going through the Normal Mode, and by deleting my other gameplay (there is only one slot), I did lose all my achievements, unfortunately.
- Extra information | It happened more than once that I missed some extra information in-game. Without this information, Viola: The Heroine’s Melody was sometimes a bit hard to navigate, or adding the info could’ve just really benefited the overall game. The first thing I missed were HP points. You can see the health bar of yourself and your enemies, but showing HP points of the enemies’ health bars would’ve have been nice. Second, there is the songbook. It shows nine songs and their titles, but not what they are for. Their purpose is only mentioned when you collect them, but not after. Some are pretty obvious, like ‘waterfall waltz’ opens up waterfalls, but ‘nocturne of luna’ doesn’t really tell you that it stuns monsters. I didn’t always remember what song to use for every occasion, so a little more help would have been helpful. The third, and last one I want to mention, are the character skills. You can see them during battle, but not in your character status. I feel like being able to view their skills whenever you want, would be benifical. By showing this, I feel like you could understand your skills better.
What we disliked
- Small bugs | Unfortunately, Viola: The Heroine’s Melody is not a perfect game. I did encounter some small bugs. For example, when I landed, I sank into the floor for a few seconds, before being able to move again. I hope bugs like this will be fixed quickly since this game is truly amazing and bugs like these shouldn’t be a part of the wonderful gameplay.
- One big bug | I was so damn close to finishing Viola: The Heroine’s Melody but then a big bug came to the surface, preventing me from being able to finish it. I had some trouble recruiting the 10th party member, a girl named Emerald. She has to be recruited earlier in the game, and I missed that. So, I ended up adding her to my team at the end of the game, but because I did not recruit everyone in the right order, I was not able to finish. I was so, so very sad to see this happening, mostly because I love Viola: The Heroine’s Melody so much, and was very excited to complete it. I am currently playing through the normal mode, and am still enthusiastic about making it to the end, but this incident did put a damper on my mood.
- No manual saving | Even though there are small bugs in Viola: The Heroine’s Melody, I feel like the biggest downside of Viola: The Heroine’s Melody was the lack of a manual saving option. The game would autosave after finishing an area, and even though areas were never too long, I still missed the ability to stop the game whenever I wanted. I often game during my lunch break, you see, and this only lasts for one hour. I kind of don’t want to spend half an hour in an area and not be able to complete it because my personal time is up. You probably get how this makes me feel like I just wasted some time.
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Head of PC team. PC, Switch, and Xbox game reviewer. Also a marketeer, concert and animal lover, and photographer in training 🙂