The first Grisaia trilogy caused huge waves in the western visual novel community when it showed up on KickStarter in 2014. The trilogy’s success allowed many Japanese visual novel developers to see the west as a beneficial market to localize their products in. Since then, developer Frontwing has been self publishing their games in the west while using their own in-house translation team to streamline the process.
Last year, the developer revealed they would be continuing the beloved Grisaia series with a game titled Grisaia: Phantom Trigger. The game would share a similar setting with the the previous titles, but contain a new cast of characters. The first Grisaia Trilogy set the bar with a unique, dark, and gripping story that some fans call their favorite visual novel of all time, so adding to the world might be difficult. However, Phantom Trigger Vol. 1 does provide a well produced introduction and an interesting premise, if only it wasn’t held back by the short playtime.
Grisaia: Phantom Trigger Vol. 1 begins with an introduction to the strange school that is Mihama Academy. The player follows the new home room teacher, Arisaka Shiori, as she walks onto the school grounds for the first time. Arisaka comes off a hard worker who does whatever she can to be a good teacher, so it’s hard to understand why she is trying so desperately to get this teaching job. However, her personality is that of a child who is constantly afraid of getting scolded, which is an often used character trope in visual novels, but doesn’t really work for a teacher who is supposed to be leading the class.
During her first day on the job, Arisaka gets introduced to her students, Christina, Tohka, Aoi, Murusaki, and Rena. She quickly finds out that these are not normal students and Mihama Academy is not a normal school. It’s said that the school works with the government and often send these students on assassination missions or any mission that law enforcement doesn’t want to deal with. The students casually discus their skills and their mission life, but Arisaka has a hard time believing it because of how nice they all are.
To be honest, Phantom Trigger Vol. 1 really only serves as an introduction to the characters and academy, which sadly made it difficult to truly care about them over the three hour volume. It seemed as though right when the story could be getting somewhere good, it ended. Meaning, as a player I would need to purchase Griaia: Phantom Trigger Vol. 2 and continue where the story left off. Coincidentally, Frontwing got what they wanted because I was left wanting more following the game’s conclusion, but it was tough to look past the thought that this was just a way to make money off of Grisaia fans.
With that said, what seemed to make Grisaia: Phantom Trigger Vol. 1 well worth it was its fantastic production. The character designs and CG scenes were very well illustrated, which I feel is necessary for kinetic visual novels with static images. Additionally, Frontwing knows how to impress visual novel fans with their UI features, which includs: Japanese voice over options, touch screen options, and the option to have both Japanese and English text in the dialog box.
This first volume serves as a great introduction to this new cast of characters. Furthermore, Grisaia: Phantom Trigger Vol. 1 is easily accessible to visual novel fans who have not yet read the previous Grisaia titles. However, The approach that Frontwing is taking to release smaller volumes may not be the best route for Grisaia: Phantom Trigger. I feel that this is a series that relies heavily on how much the readers care about the cast and their situations which is impossible to accomplish in such a short time.
Grisaia: Phantom Trigger Vol. 1’s premise fits in perfectly with the rest of the Grisaia titles, that includes the beautiful character designs that the series is known for. However, the introductory chapter felt rushed, which ended up hurting any chance for proper character development. As such, the climax of the story feels out of place. Phantom Trigger Vol 1. begs to be longer in order to allow the reader to care enough to want to move on to the later volumes in the series. Hopefully, now that the introductions are out of the way, the real story can start.