The Fox awaits me, is a story originally created by Talesshop, and published and developed by Cosen. Renowned for their titles My Girlfriend is a Mermaid?, Dead End and Panty Party.
This lengthy visual novel boasts multiple choice scenarios, 2D visual animations and various endings, depending on how you play it out. Granting a decent amount of time with the story and replayability.
The story itself, is essentially a reunion of a love affair between your main character Kaito, and a vibrant, bubbly and lively imp-like girl called Shuan. Often hypnotic,often hyperactive. Shuan is primarily a fox with ears and tail showing but the behaviours, conversations and actions of a human in every other manner. Call her a fairytale hybrid of sorts.Yet,referring to you as “master”. Shuan is very much subservient to cater for all your needs and driven as a guide and helper from the very start. If it wasn’t for one very big problem!
Kaito awakes in a bamboo field and has Amnesia! and cannot remember who he is? where he is? or why he’s here?
It’s this amnesia aesthetic that ultimately drives this story from the word go. The player/reader automatically connected in thought to the main character with wonder and confusion to the very questions pondered and dilemmas experienced,that are mirrored to such a degree, that it feels like some sort of automatic telepathy going on as the story gently progresses.
Shuan, of course, is partly saddened that you cannot remember anything of their previous times together, but offers to help you get your forgotten memories back.Prompting this story to launch the player on a journey of self discovery.Partly attempting to renew and rekindle a lost romance, whilst trying to make sense of the world and the people in it. Often charming,gentle,bright,light and humorous ,there’s always the ongoing mystery and uncertainty behind it all.Carrying with that, moments that are nervy, unsettling, dark, mysterious and borderline psychotic!
The tone set next morning, after your first sleep disturbed night at Shuas House..
Was that sweat running down my back really blood? Did my backpack really contain masses of human hair? And who was that mysterious figure just standing outside the house?
It’s this Japanese M Night Shyamalan/Hitchcock infused take on a story, that further drives the incentive to delve deeper into its heavily text driven narrative.
Not that there’s anything against it in the visuals department though either.
Each scene is handsomely drawn, yet appears to be very static and almost lifeless. A bamboo field is two sides of bamboo sticks and nothing else. A pool just a pool and the sky with the sun shining and nothing else. This is further enriched with the text, describing just that.. No birds in the trees, no insects by the pond. This world is sombre, blank and almost anaesthetised . Like living in a painted and incomprehensible artists picture. Yet it all justly adds to the stories mysterious mood, atmosphere and ambience just perfectly.
The 2D animations are confined to the few characters you meet in this game,and work very well.
Shua, featuring for large portions of the opening chapters, will jump about in glee, hosting various arrays of moods and expressions, whilst her eyes blink constantly. Whether happy or sad,these animations bring a great degree of realism and that split second illusion of a living, breathing character inside your switch screen, awaiting your next instruction.
Audibly, she will giggle with delight and speak fluent japanese (translated in the English text underneath) with the second option of Korean language in the settings menu. Although English audible is missing from the menu. There’s a good understanding and the feeling that a language, apart from those available, would detract from the overall feel and atmosphere somewhat. It is, after all and quintessentially, a Japanese story.
Kaito’s journey is albeit, a rather challenging experience that touches on some rather adult themes at times. With a great deal of memories hidden away, comes a great deal of locked up emotions and feelings as well. Touching on feelings of love,lust,sex and even perversion carries their own themes/deviations and warrants caution and digressive thought. That being said, this story walks the line at times, but never crosses it! There’s no graphically explicit content or no explicit text to compliment those instances. Certain scenarios though, will conjure up periods of unease and possible discomfort with what’s worded.
Nothing more than when Kaito meets the second girl character, kneeling by the pool. Described as” just a child”,but described herself as a “water deity”. What follows in the meeting is best described as suggestive and an inner thought process to the provocative nature of her dressing and poses. This is explained later on with “she must be an adult”, and whether you’re misguided by interpretation or not, there’s that element of the unease, that although prevalent throughout the story, may take you into temporary areas of confusion and uncomfortable thought as to where it’s all leading.
What’s not confusing, is Kaito’s inevitable meeting with the mysterious stranger. An altercation that leads to a war of sarcastic words, that are a joy to read and utterly hilarious, as one tries to outwit the other. Followed by a second altercation, that leads to an exchange that’s both savage,brutal,visceral and utterly shocking . The stories beautifully crafted talent of taking you from highs to lows in a split second!
On the downside,there is very little to criticise.The chapters are decently sized and pan out to a full story length of nine chapters in all.This structure with limited characters and limited in the detail of the environments, can come with its own drawbacks.
Shua, for example,is a lively character that can clone herself to appear everywhere within a split second. Combine this with her personality and obsessive and compulsive behaviour,in which she instantly materialises here, there and everywhere and there’s times that trawling through her same visual expressions, moods and mannerisms and lines of text can prove, at some times, daunting and mildly irritating.
Whether this is a deliberate and intentional plan by the creators to build up tension,whether negative or not, remains unclear. Yet there’s always that risk and possibility of a certain amount of stagnancy setting in for certain readers,when there’s long dialogue and limited progression.
However, that possibility is granted a certain amount of solace,with a readily available border interface. Allowing to save at any point in the story, in up to four available save slots. A “Skip” option and a warmly received “Auto” button to save you constantly spamming the A button to advance the text.
The Fox Awaits Me is a novel psychological fun-fair ride, that incorporates the tunnel of love, ghost train, whilst keeping you fixed firmly in the roller-coaster carriage!
An advisory note is that there is little in the choice of options for a good third of the story, that could lead to readers feeling dragged down and powerless in making any choices in direction and outcome. Yet, as they say, perseverance is key.
There’s an hidden method to all this madness,that arrives at a point where the game has settled you and familiarised you enough to care and feel for the characters involved. An emotional and engaging journey, that opens up at the halfway point and places more options and choices your way, in how far you want to push yourself into the unknown, whilst the surrounding world gets weirder, unfathomable and a damn sight, unexplainable.
Developers Cosen have come up with a treat of a lengthy story, encouraging multiple visits in order to experience the various good/bad endings on offer. A Foxes tale of beauty, forgotten memories, dreams and nightmares, that just like a foxes behaviour, can be unpredictable and misunderstood, that is well worth your money and time, …just if your nerves can stand it!
Thanks to Cosen for the code.