Bai Qu: Review of hundreds of melodies
Quite quietly, 2021 has turned into a banner year for Xbox visual novels. Any year that finally brings Doki Doki Plus Literature Club! to Xbox was always going to be “banner,” but it’s more than that. Cross the moon, C14 Dating and A little princess of lilies have ranged from great to good, and even the failed experiences of Dull gray and Angels with scaly wings have at least been ambitious.
Four of this list come from Ratalaika Games, a publisher that we sometimes denigrate for the quality of their production. But when it comes to visual novels, they serve quality and quantity. They’re on a roll as well, with all of their last five visual novels sitting at 3/5 or higher on TheXboxHub. A “Ratalaika visual novel” becomes a quality label.
Well, all races have to end somewhere. Bai Qu: hundreds of melodies is a boring, melodramatic game, and it’s a classic example of how to go wrong in visual novels. We love visual novels, but they have habits that we don’t like, and Bai Qu does their best to expose each of those habits.
Bai Qu: Hundreds of Melodies is set in modern China and begins in the home of Xiao Su, a student who discovers that his neighbors have moved after their daughter’s death. A package arrives at his home, addressed to his neighbors, and he doesn’t think about it until a graduate named Wei Qiuwu comes to pick it up. He is there to return the package to the family, as it is the diary of their deceased daughter, Li Jiayun. Xiao Siu wants to know more about what happened, so Wei Qiuwu settles down to tell Li Jiayun’s story and how he came to be in his life.
One can imagine Xiao Siu regretting having asked the question. What comes next is ten o’clock – ten o’clock – from Wei detailing how he met Li. You were not asked for your life story, Wei.
Bai Qu: Hundreds of Melodies is played almost entirely in flashbacks. Wei accidentally meets Li at the hospital where his father lies. She performs an accordion solo in a hotel waiting room, which we imagine is unusual in mainland China. Wei fabricates reasons to visit him again, bringing gifts and food, until their friendship grows. He becomes a cross between caretaker, driver, benefactor and lover, teaching him to ride a bike (twice), watching his star in a local theatrical performance, creeping into the family and then watching him from the side as he ‘she pops her hooves very, very slowly. It’s the fault of our stars with accordions.
Let’s fight the elephant in the room right away. Bai Qu is built on extremely fragile moral foundations. Wei is in his second year of college, which puts him at around twenty, while Li Jiayun isn’t even in high school, which – checking the Chinese education system on Wikipedia – puts him around twelve. . Even taking into account the translation errors, which is perfectly possible with Bai Qu, Li Jiayun is described as an extremely young and thin girl and people keep noticing the age difference. While you’re playing Bai Qu you’re supposed to want these two together, but we mostly shuddered our way through that. Although the story may fly in China, it caused extreme culture shock in this reviewer.
What’s weird is that Bai Qu seems at war with himself over this. The translation seems to understand that there is something unsavory about the plot, so she spends a lot of time apologizing. Wei reassures himself that the relationship is not romantic. He’s just a man bewitched by some kind of pure, flawless beauty. At a late stage in the game, you choose whether you want to be “close” to Li Jiayun or “be with” her. They engage you in a relationship with Li without committing to what it means, as if to excuse the shady nature of what you are doing.
But the artist from Bai Qu arrives. As the translator dances around this relationship, the artist says “fuck that” and switches to softcore. In a sequence etched on our retinas, Li takes on the role of Princess Fox in a theatrical performance and spends most of it naked. Achievements appear with the text “Wait, are these costumes too exposed?” As if they were completely confused as to whether they should celebrate nudity or shake a finger.
The dissonance between art and history runs through Bai Qu. With a few exceptions, everyone who shows up is a hilarious, busty girl or woman, with the tissue between their breasts at the breaking point. Each girl has the same face, but with different sized hair and breasts. Some scenes are presented as CG stills and the camera is low trying to capture a view of some panties as the situation is interpreted in the most obscene way possible. A girl puts a fox headband on another girl? Of course, let’s let them scoop up and stare at the camera vigorously. It’s hard to take the story seriously, especially when 90% of it is meant to be extremely serious. The only way to deal with the discord was to imagine that the writer and the artist hated each other.
We think there is also a culture shock in the way Bai Qu is written. There is a lot of conversation, especially from the two main men in the game, about the attributes of a good woman. The bottom line is that polite, welcoming and obedient women are the most virtuous, while independent women are often seen speaking harshly and reminded that they will need a man someday. Obviously, the same conversation doesn’t happen around men, and what makes them good husbands. You can get an idea of where Bai Qu comes from by how he first describes his female characters: “his body was really proportioned,” Wei says, as a busty woman walks into a classroom; “I suddenly felt her rear view was so elusive, as if she could disappear at any moment,” he says of a slimmer woman. “A standard Asian beauty,” he says of a girl he doesn’t find attractive.
Take out the nasty stuff, and the story is a yawn. Very, very little happens in the ten hours. We often praise stories for not having an ounce of fat on them; that you couldn’t reduce it any further. Bai Qu is all fat. It’s a pig scratch. You give Li and his friends bike lessons not once but twice, and each takes about half an hour of playtime. The same things happen in both, and there is no character development. . You see several rehearsals of the same piece, like stuck in a never-ending Groundhog Day.
The writer would likely offer the counterpoint that Bai Qu is not about what happens, but how the characters develop. They would probably say it’s more about spending time with these people and, in Li’s case, spending the last moments with them. There is some truth to this, but the characters here don’t develop: they’re the same as when they started out, with the exception – maybe – of Wei, the character you play. None of this is truer than with Li, who starts out as a figure of Jesus Christ, a pure and innocent girl who can’t do anything wrong and everyone loves no matter what she does. It will remain so until the end.
There are some saving graces in the characters. Li’s best friend is a girl called He Jia, who provides energy for Bai Qu, and it would probably take twice as long to play without her. She is enthusiastic, eats anything and has a habit of biting people when they are nearby. There is a subtext in Bai Qu that some of the characters are spirit animals like foxes and rabbits, and most are centered around He Jia. Sadly, Bai Qu doesn’t fully explore this outside of an epilogue, when it could have been a real focal point. Your parents at Bai Qu (never given any character art – probably because they wouldn’t have been an attractive young girl) are also noteworthy, as they bicker, eat each other’s food, but still love each other clearly.
But even the best characters have to struggle with writing and translating Bai Qu. You can do multiple sentences without getting the gist, as English is clearly not the first language displayed. “My dear parents looked at me with a strange sight,” Wei says. You can get the gist of what is being said, but it takes a little more focus to get there. The problem is, we’d rather not spend that on too long a plot.
At the start of the review, we said that Bai Qu: Hundreds of Melodies features all of the worst traits of visual novels. The worst novels are too long, full of fluff that could have been extracted for the sake of interest. You wouldn’t have put up with the quality of the narrative in book form, but it’s worse in a game where you have to press A multiple times. They can be poorly translated, tripping you over them and their cultural differences. Bai Qu is the poster child of it all.
By the fifth or sixth hour of Bai Qu, we wanted it to end, which – given that this is a story about a girl going through the last moments of her life – makes us kind of a monster. . But we challenge anyone to wholeheartedly enjoy the ten hours of poorly translated and suspicious guff here. Ratalaika may have been on the run with her visual novels lately, but it’s a long and prolonged misstep.
You can buy Bai Qu: Hundreds of Melodies for £ 9.99 on the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S
Quite quietly, 2021 has turned into a banner year for Xbox visual novels. Any year that finally brings Doki Doki Literature Club Plus! to Xbox was always going to be “banner,” but it’s more than that. Cross the Moon, C14 Dating, and A Little Lily Princess have ranged from very good to good, and even the failed experiences of Dull Gray and Angels with Scaly Wings have at least been ambitious. Four of this list come from Ratalaika Games, a publisher that we sometimes denigrate for the quality of their production. But when it comes to visuals …
Bai Qu: Review of hundreds of melodies
Bai Qu: Review of hundreds of melodies
- Cool art, especially in the backgrounds
- Some endearing characters
- Well, way too long
- Very little is happening
- The representation of women is archaic
- The quality of the translation is poor
- Thank you very much for the free copy of the game go to – Ratalaika Games
- Formats – Xbox Series X | S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, Switch
- Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
- Release date – July 9, 2021
- Introductory price from – £ 9.99