Backlog Burndown #22 – Highschool Possession

Highschool Possession, Dharker Studios, Backlog Burndown

Greetings Backloggers! While I struggle through thirty-five year old shareware classics, this week I also took on one of Dharker Studio’s Visual Novels. Highschool Possession is one of their earlier titles released in 2015, and has been in my backlog since February 2016.

Highschool Possession tells the story of tells the story of Hikaru, and his two school “idols”, Akiko and Kasumi. On the surface to Hikaru, both these girls seem to have perfect lives, and are barely interested in him for anything more than a casual friend. However, Hikaru is about to find out that appearances can be deceiving.

Highschool Possession, Dharker Studios, Backlog Burndown

Meed Akiko

After coming home from school with a massive headache and laying down for a rest, Hikaru wakes up the next day to an unfamiliar ceiling. Even more shocking, he’s inhabiting a familiar, yet very unfamiliar body: Akiko! As Hikaru tries to navigate Akiko through her day, he finds that rather than having a perfect life, she’s got some serious problems. A bad boyfriend is trouble enough, but Akiko has some serious depression issues that she’s been hiding from everyone. But as night falls and Hikaru goes to sleep, this will have just been a bizarre one-off event, right?

The next day sees Hikaru waking up in Kasumi’s body instead! Much like Akiko, Kasumi’s live isn’t the perfect exterior that Hikaru had envisioned. Kasumi has a serious bully problem, one that effects all of the major aspects of her life. She’s also got a serious crush on our protagonist, but in his current state, how will she ever confess to him?

Highschool Possession, Dharker Studios, Backlog Burndown

Meet Kasumi

As the third day of Hikaru’s out of body experience dawns with him back in Akiko’s body, it becomes clear that this is much more than a mere one-off bit of serious weirdness. In a twist worth of a Quantum Leap episode, Hikaru determines that he needs to solve both Akiko’s and Kasumi’s problems before he can (hopefully) return to his own comatose body.

Let’s get this out of the way first: Dharker Studios games are not rated E for Everyone. While the Steam version edits the really explicit bits, this is definitely not a clean, vanilla game. An official uncensored patch is also not difficult to find.

Highschool Possession, Dharker Studios, Backlog Burndown

Kasumi and her biggest problem

Being that this is a romance visual novel, there’s three possible endings: dating Akiko, dating Kasumi, or sort of solving both their problems but not enough to actually get with either of them. Don’t end up sad and alone. Mechanically, the skip text function works very well, stopping at decisions and not enabling for scenes that players haven’t seen yet. There’s no voice acting, but the soundtrack is good, and the text is pretty well free from grammatical and spelling errors.

Backlog Verdict: I was genuinely surprised by this one. I was expecting a quick, easy, slightly trashy visual novel, but what I got was a surprisingly deep exploration of depression and bullying, and its emotional impacts on the victims. Sure, in the end the problems are somewhat solved by Hikaru, but unlike a lot of VNs, this solution felt a lot less arbitrary. The dating resolution seemed a lot more appropriate to the situation, and not “Hey, certain arbitrary things happened, let’s get naked and date!” It’s a legitimately good story, one that just happens to include nudity. But then, so do Game of Thrones and Westworld.

Previous Backlog Count: 1,193.

Current Backlog Count: 1,192 – Added another Dharker Studios game thanks to a helpful friend, but finished Highschool Possession and cleared another duplicate from the How Long to Beat list.

Next Week: Finishing Apogee Games classic: Cosmo’s Cosmic Adventure

Backlog Burndown is a regular Wednesday column on Marooner’s Rock. Read previous columns in the archives, and suggest future games to play in the comments!

Aaron is proof that while you can take a developer out of the game industry, it's much harder to take the game industry out of a developer. When not at his day job, Aaron enjoys teaching Axis & Allies to his kids, writing sci-fi stories, playing classic space sims on Twitch, and riding around the American Midwest on his Harley.

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