No matter how different “you” are, you’re still you.
The following is a review of a fan-made Scenario for the visual novel Student Transfer. For more information about Student Transfer, please consult my dedicated Student Transfer page or the official Student Transfer website.
Notice: I originally wrote this review based on the build of Reality Warp released on 7/8/2021. But on 9/6/2021, 2 days before this review was published, Calaman released an update that, per the changelog, expanded the Book route and modified the animations in one scene. Due to time constraints, I only played through the newly added content and updated my review based on these additions. I also originally claimed that the shower HCG was edited, when it was made specifically for this Scenario.
Something I love about Student Transfer is how the base game establishes a foundation that other creators can build upon when writing their own Scenarios. By having this foundation, the Scenario developers don’t need to bother introducing characters, relationships, settings, or concepts, as they assume the player/reader is already familiar with these things. It makes for more expedient storytelling without necessarily impairing creativity, and it gives these creators the opportunity to twist and alter something familiar into something unfamiliar.
Reality Warp is one such Scenario, as it plays with the base canon by warping and altering reality around just a smidgen. With the cause being Kyoko, who finds herself drawn to a magical book written in an unknown language that, when spoken, allows Kyoko to change the very fabric of reality. This might sound like just another permutation of John’s spellbook, but these spells are a touch more grand, powerful, and indecipherable, which just makes them all the more dangerous. While this could lead to any number of changes, most of these changes take the form of reality rewriting body swaps that follow John as he’s displaced in the bodies of others.
Meaning that while John is always a Tina Koya student, the child of Sandra Davis, and friends with Katrina, Kyoko, and Kiyoshi, his name, body, sexuality, hobbies, some personality tidbits, and a sampling of memories, are all carried over from whoever he wakes up as each day. It is an interesting concept with a lot of room for character growth and exploration, especially when more characters are thrown into the mix, that is divided into two developed routes, and one slightly expanded stub.
The Kat route follows John after he wakes up with Katrina’s body, name, and sexuality, but quickly discovers that nobody aside from him and Kyoko recognizes that reality has changed, including for the newly John-ified Katrina. Yet rather than try to change things around after a day of this, John decides it would be best to ride this transformation out, as he does not want to play magic roulette with an untranslated book, and stays as Katrina for the time being.
From this decision, the story’s focus then shifts to showing John steadily adapting to this new life of his. Coming to terms with his new androsexuality and attraction to his former body. Spending time with his sister Holly for the first time in years. And learning to enjoy more traditionally feminine activities, such as going on a shopping trip for a dress to wear at the upcoming school dance.
It makes for a nice lowkey character study of a Scenario and there is enough friction between John and this new reality for the story to remain engaging. To me, it is fairly clear where things are going from early on in the route, but the banter and character bits leading up to this seemingly inevitable are entertaining enough that I don’t particularly mind. However, the Kat route is only a fraction as developed as the main route, the Book route, which… I have some more mixed thoughts on.
The Book route follows John as he urges Kyoko to keep experimenting after learning that she gains more knowledge with every spell cast. However, in pushing her to play with powers beyond mortal comprehension, the reality warping gets more intense, and before too long, John and Kat are waking up with a different body, name, and quirks every morning.
This premise alone has an incredible amount of potential behind it, as those affected by these changes are forced to routinely reassess who they are, what defines them as a person, and if there is something about them that they wish to change. All as they fluctuate between countless traits and interests, learn how to view the world through different lenses, and try to enjoy their routine transformations as much as possible. It is a premise that has ample room for introspective discovery, especially since John and Kat have each other to confide in.
The route, quite openly, expresses that this is what it is about during day 5. A day that stays true to this goal by forcing John and Kat into bodies and assigning them traits that cause conflict in their daily lives, and help further their own development and shared relationship in a meaningful way. It is a splendid example of what I believe this route should explore, and what the route says it is exploring… But the route doesn’t always stick with this idea. For most days, I cannot parse any thematic, character, or narrative reason why John and Kat land in the bodies they do, as they are largely unphased by them, and do not make any major, or even minor, discoveries about themselves during these days.
On day 4, John and Kat inherit a love of shopping, so they go shopping… and that’s pretty much it. Then, from day 6 onwards, the characters are… more or less unphased by their bodies at this point, only making occasional remarks about them and seldom ever fixating on them. From their perspective, this is understandable, as the two have been doing this for several days. But it still feels like a lot of wasted potential in my book.
Despite this criticism, I thoroughly enjoyed what the Scenario delivered upon. When it explores the headier aspects of its premise, it does so well, taking itself seriously without ever wallowing in the existential waters for too long. I enjoyed Kyoko’s own character arc, where she becomes increasingly snarky and irritable after spending a week researching this book, due to both the stress of the situation and the fact that she is reading from an eldritch tome. And I appreciated how the story mingles the dual subplots about Kiyoshi committing an E-rank school crime with the Saturday dance subplot in order to create a crisis for the characters to overcome.
The Book route, and the Scenario overall, are juggling a lot of concepts and, even if I do not think they all land as well as they could, I still enjoyed what was delivered, and the writing itself. Scenes flow well, the writing handles various subplots well, and Calaman does a good job capturing the personality of the Student Transfer cast. Particularly the main four, who are given the most screen time by far, and have plentiful opportunities to bounce off one another.
That being said, there are a scattering of wording errors, or instances where sentences are arranged in an unconventional manner, particularly early on in this Scenario. I never found it difficult to ascertain the meaning of a given line, but there are definitely enough errors to warrant another proofreading. Initially, I thought this was simply a case of sloppy editing, something I am notorious for. But per some Discord sleuthing, I found out that Calaman is yet another ESL writer, as German is their primary language.
…Someone in the Student Transfer community should do a tally to determine what percentage of Scenario developers are ESL, because, I swear, it seems like it’s at least 35%.
As for the presentation, it starts fairly standard, has a few odd expression choices thrown in, but it gradually gets more ambitious. It starts with your standard hops, tilts, and lifts, before throwing in animated shower effects, a custom masturbatory breast juggling animation, background storytelling with character sprites. Hell, there’s even a custom shower HCG that was drawn by Calaman’s girlfriend. …Yes, really.
This sort of artistic evolution is something that I have seen in quite a few Scenarios over the… 2 years I have been reviewing Scenarios, and I always enjoy seeing a creator get more comfortable with their tools like this. Learning the boundaries and then making more of an effort to push them. Moving from just having characters sit and slide to having them perform little dances and pseudo-blowjobs.
Overall, I liked Reality Warp. It tackles a unique blend of transformations that I rarely ever see. Its character writing is both entertaining and faithful to the base game. And while it does not quite hit the mark on what I consider to be the most interesting aspect of its premise, I still enjoyed what exploration it offers. I look forward to seeing how Calaman brings things to a close, especially given the note the Book route currently ends on. Though, seeing as how Calaman released another Scenario two weeks ago, are working on a third Scenario, and recently joined the dev team, that might be a while. This might be a turnoff for some people who want something more complete, but what’s here is both developed and quality enough to feel like a worthwhile experience.
In addition to reviewing this Scenario, I also prepared a flowchart. Please let me know if there are any errors.