Sun­rider: Mask of Ar­ca­dius is an in­die visual novel with a catch. De­pend­ing on the choice you make at the start of the game, you will play any­thing ran­ging from a good visual novel to a ter­rible turn-­based space­ship battle game. I had pleas­ure to try both the former (visual novel dif­fi­culty set­ting) and the lat­ter (hard dif­fi­culty set­ting). This re­view is, there­fore, split into two sep­ar­ate sec­tions cov­er­ing both vari­ations of the game sep­ar­ately.

First of all, I prob­ably would not even con­sider play­ing this game if it was not free, un­less I got a strong re­com­mend­a­tion from a friend, or the game came as a part of a bundle; this game be­ing free will only cost you about 1GiB of band­width to play and you should def­in­itely check it out.

Also, thanks to the tech­no­logy the game is cre­ated with (Ren­Py) this game is sup­por­ted across three ma­jor op­er­at­ing sys­tems. Sun­rider de­serves a big plus just for di­ver­si­fy­ing Linux gam­ing eco­sys­tem.

The great side: visual novel mode

As long as visual nov­els are con­cerned there’s three things they have go­ing for them: story, art and sound, and the game does fine at most of them.


This game has a tra­di­tional sci­ence fic­tion set­ting – in a far fu­ture the hu­man­ity has already in­hab­ited most of the galaxy, they have huge space­ships, warp­ing devices and laser weapons, and, ob­vi­ously there’s evil guys who try to take over the same galaxy. The writ­ing is very ap­proach­able and easy to fol­low, but re­pet­it­ive, cliché at times. Sun­rider be­ing a visual nov­el, abil­ity to make some “im­port­ant” story-al­ter­ing de­cisions as the story pro­gresses would be ex­pec­ted; cap­ab­il­ity to make the de­cisions is presen­ted, but they ap­pear to have no sub­stan­tial ef­fect to the story at all: throw a girl into a con­fine­ment cham­ber and you will still find her in your vir­tual harem some­time soon any­way.


The story is wrapped into beau­ti­ful ja­pan­im­a­tion-­style art, as com­mon to most of the visual nov­els. It is clear that much at­ten­tion was ded­ic­ated to it and I hereby de­clare art to be the best thing about Sun­rider.


Un­like the art, the mu­sic is in a much worse shape. While the se­lec­tion of tracks is quite like­able, they have a severe de­fi­ciency that should not have been over­looked for beta – the tracks lack any form of loud­ness nor­m­al­isa­tion. You will find your­self reach­ing for volume con­trol to save your ears when a louder than usu­ally track starts cas­u­ally rap­ing them.

On the pos­it­ive side, the char­ac­ters are voiced! I’m mak­ing the As­aga’s “I’m fir­ing my lasers” my alarm right now. A big +1 here.

The bad side: com­bat mode

Now, if you hap­pen to make a mis­take and pick any dif­fi­culty harder than the “visual novel”, you will find your­self bat­tling 8-bit sprites bet­ter part of the game in­stead of in­dul­ging in tex­tual pleas­ures with your vir­tual harem and, oc­ca­sion­ally, a dude or two. This does not sound like a prob­lem un­til you real­ize there’s only a few types of units avail­able to fight against and they are all powered by a pretty stu­pid, sui­cidal AI (more likely, just a few hard coded pat­terns) mak­ing the com­bat mode a lackluster.


The playl­ist in com­bat mode seems to dif­fer some­what from the one used for the visual novel mode. Re­gard­less, mu­sic here suf­fers from the same is­sues men­tioned in the visual novel part of the re­view. Moreover, all this is made worse by the play­back of the tracks: they are stopped after each turn and an­other ran­domly se­lec­ted track is star­ted from the be­gin­ning when next turn comes around. This res­ults in a feel­ing of dis­con­tinu­ity and, alas, makes it hard to ap­pre­ci­ate the pos­sibly fine mu­sic in its full form.



While I real­ise this is a beta ver­sion, it is still quite easy to en­counter a crasher or two and get thrown back into the main menu los­ing all your pro­gress past the last save. Other bugs I found (where’s the “re­port a bug” but­ton?) qual­ify for beta-­grade and mostly con­sist of graph­ical is­sues such as mis­cal­cu­lated text baselines in re­search fund al­loc­a­tion screen.

In con­clu­sion, while I’d like to rate this game as two sep­ar­ate games, Steam only has a single bin­ary switch. There­fore, un­less I rate visual novel part >8/10, the av­er­age score turns out to be less than ½, hence the “thumb­s-­down”.