Ratalaika Games are certainly no strangers to visual novels, with Jisei: The First Case HD, Roommates, A Hero and a Garden, and a fair few others already under their publishing belt. While not all visual novels are worth getting engrossed in, the latest to arrive on console, How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered, looks to try and win over the masses with a romantic tale involving humans and hybrid cat folk. As the first part of a trilogy by developer ROSEVERTE, can How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered lay down the foundations and do a good enough job to leave players wanting to delve straight into further instalments?
Let’s be clear here, while I am not the target audience for How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered, that doesn’t mean the themes featured aren’t intriguing for all to enjoy. This interesting otome visual novel is lacking in a couple of areas though, including the amount of endings and the overall influence you can have on proceedings.
How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered is an otome visual novel, which means it’s of the romance genre and mainly aimed towards women. You can expect to do plenty of reading, especially as the voiceovers are only available in Japanese. The central character of the piece, Lilia, is an ordinary baker who lives with her gran in the capital city of Eroolia, Leezera. That is until a bizarre encounter with a talking cat leads to a chain of events unfolding; the first of which is Lilia transforming into a half-cat, half-human creature known as a Luccretia. She not only has to get to grips with her new guise, but also how other people react to her current form.
There’s a love interest at the heart of the story, Ronan, and although he’s been friends with Lilia for most of their lifetime, he doesn’t recognise her at all. This enables her to get closer to him than ever before in order to suss out his true feelings, while also learning that everyone has a secret to uncover. It’s quite cute to witness their obvious love slowly being expressed, however the bigger picture here is to not hide behind the proverbial mask, because those who matter will accept the reality. Aww, how lovely!
Granted, while How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered is nice and fluffy for the most part, there are slightly darker themes running through the narrative. That’s in essence due to the long-standing hatred of Luccretias by humans, which showcases numerous occasions of discrimination taking place. It teeters on the edge of disrupting the often light-hearted tone, but never quite goes deep enough to bring down the mood. The sheer fact these things occur will at least make you think about the tough times people can face for being different.
To be honest though, you can’t really expect much depth from the experience as a whole because the writing is so straightforward and to the point. This isn’t Shakespeare; just a little love story that features a cat girl and a city guard. Unsurprisingly then, you won’t find much more than a couple of hours are needed to work through the entire initial playthrough. Unlike many games of his ilk, the replayabiity factor is lacking in How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered for a couple of reasons.
There are choices to ponder along the way, and these could see you reaching an alternate ending (yes, singular) as well as different perspectives for each of the six chapters. However, the decision making is too infrequent and despite the differences in how the story plays out, they’re too slight to care about. It’s one of those tales that’s alright to indulge in once, but doesn’t sufficiently entice you back to uncover new narrative threads. And even if it manages to do so, the ezra bits won’t be worth the effort.
As this is the remastered version of How to Take Off Your Mask, it’s worth noting that the improvements are mainly in regards to the visuals. The computer generated still scenes are far more vibrant and really pop out, with great lighting effects. They’re of a high standard like the hand-drawn character models, which haven’t been touched but still hold up well. The background assets are another matter entirely though, for the fact that while they’ve been re-drawn, they’re all pretty bland and forgettable. Whether it’s depicting a bedroom, a prison cell, or the bakery, there’s nothing interesting to catch your eye.
All in all, How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered on Xbox is a satisfyingly romantic visual novel that doesn’t over-complicate proceedings or become too awkwardly raunchy. You’ll want to see how the rather cute story unfolds, but then you’re done with it, which is a little bit of a shame. There’s just not enough intrigue for multiple playthroughs and the extra content you may discover through doing so isn’t worthwhile.
Given the fairly high launch price of £14.99, for a few hours of reading at the most, you need to weigh up if it’s beneficial to spend that much. I’m on the fence and would recommend waiting for a sale before grabbing How to Take Off Your Mask Remastered.