ef – the latter tale Review

ef - the latter tale Featured

Ef - the latter tale Boxart

Developer: minori
Publisher: MangaGamer
Platform: PC – MangaGamer*

Playing ef – the first tale was an unexpectedly emotional experience for me. The twenty something hour visual novel was interesting and a far more heartfelt story than most games of the genre ever muster up. As such, I was very excited to see what would follow in ef – the latter tale. If you’ve already played and enjoyed the first, then this one must definitely be played. It somehow manages to surpass its already excellent forebearer.

ef - the latter tale Screenshot 4

If you’ve never played ef – the first tale or even a visual novel, that doesn’t mean you should turn away. First, let’s make sure we are all on the same page in regards to visual novels. Visual novels are a genre of video game that focuses primarily on storytelling with text (and often voice acting) and accompanying images. As one progresses through the stories, there are moments that allow the player to make a choice between various options. Choices can often change the direction of the story, but not always. Overall, they are like multimedia-rich novels and encompass a wide variety of genres.

ef – the latter tale is the third and fourth chapters of the ef series, and although it is definitely suggested to play the first game first, you could probably get away with only sampling this one. The main reason to wait to play it second is how the two stories intertwine. Characters only touched upon in the original are fully expanded upon here. One of the biggest mysteries is also finally resolved and not having the understanding of why it’s significant would be a detriment to any player. With that said, let’s dive into ef once more!

The tale of two continues onward. The stories of Miyako, Hiro, Kei, and Kyosuke have been completed, but what of other young people? Kei’s sister Chihiro stars as a lead character in the third chapter. She seems very mysterious at first, and only grows more complex as time goes on. Without revealing too much, she has a disability which seems like it came straight out of a dramatic film. One day as she is sitting alone, Renji appears and the two become friends. But, of course, their friendship will be tested…

ef - the latter tale Screenshot 1

One of the hallmarks of ef is the excellent writing. At first, I had feared the latter tale would veer off that path into pandering to fandoms. For one, Chihiro has an eyepatch which is often added to characters for accessory’s sake. Thankfully, her storyline is very fleshed out and explains the purpose of her eyepatch as well as other aspects of her circumstances. Under worse writing, it would have definitely fallen flat, but chapter 3 managed to be an emotional powerhouse. As such, the introduction to chapter 4 seemed repellent.

You see, chapter 4 focuses on Mizuki, the teen who was always fawning over Kei. Her hyper, happy antics seemed to draw upon the worst that “moe” anime has to offer and I couldn’t help feeling like the rug had been pulled out from underneath me. Still, I progressed onward and realized that the game had once again tricked me. Mizuki is indeed full of laughter and joy but there’s so much more beneath the surface. As more came to light it became obvious that this was not just a two-dimensional stereotype and a well thought out character.

As everything progressed, those initial reservations about characterization faded away, but there are still some issues with this chapter. For one, her love interest is an older violin player name Shuuichi. Longtime friends with Himura, the two do not seem they should work at all. For as forthright as she is it can’t change the fact that flirty Shuuichi is an adult. Moments like these were incredibly irksome as otherwise my time with the story was so enjoyable. At least nothing is painted as being a perfect, wonderful, and sane experience. If anything, ef – the latter tale is far more offbeat and original than the previous game.

ef - the latter tale Screenshot 2

Those who played the first tale are already aware of how great the visuals are and they are just as fantastic here. Unlike many visual novels with purely static characters, ef’s practically come to life. Instead of looking like a comic, the characters actually move, talk, and seem pulled straight from an anime. However, unlike anime, the art is crisper than usual and helps to ease the hump some have with sitting down and reading for hours at a time.

Of course, you’ll still be spending a ton of time reading to make it through. With autotext on at 75% speed it took me nearly thirty hours to finish playing. This is even longer than the first game and with good reason. As it turns out, there is even more to experience beyond two new chapters but I’ll leave that for you to discover. There were not many times that it felt there was a lull in the story. No matter what there always seemed to be something building up or resolving to keep players invested.

The strongest reason to keep playing is simply because ef gets you hooked. The storylines became dramatic without being silly and are genuinely involving. It’s not too often that games made me cry and the latter tale caused that reaction on a couple occasions. Just be warned that this game comes with a definite trigger warning for violence and sexual abuse. Although it is primarily described rather than shown it is still very intense and frightening.

If it were not for a few aspects of the storyline that sounded problematic alarms, this would hands down be one of the most engaging visual novel experiences I’ve had yet. ef – the latter tale is a far better game than the first (and at the time, it seemed fabulous!). The experience is not for everyone due to explicit sexual content and the aforementioned triggers, but it is definitely impressive. If you’ve not played ef – the latter tale and are now interested then pick it up immediately – just be prepared to lose yourself in dozens of hours of masterful storytelling.

Score: 4

4 out of 5 alpacas

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  • Kilicool64

    Huh? Doesn’t the game have two more chapters?

    • Yes, there is a lot more content that comes after you beat chapters 3 and 4, but they aren’t titled “chapter 5” or “chapter 6” for whatever reason. That’s what I meant :).