Review: Cinders

I have a weakness for visual novels. It took way too long for them to become popular in western society, which made me learn about them later in life than I would have liked. Visual novels are a mix of video games and books. You read all the dialogue at the bottom of the screen while watching an image of the character who's speaking over a background illustration set to music. The thing makes them unique is the ability to make decisions for the main character and choose how they react to the situation, which may change the outcome of their story. It's a technologically advanced version of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. Since visual novels tend to cost closer to the price of a video game than a book, I usually stick to free smartphone ones such as Lovestruck: Choose Your Romance. However, since I'm going to be locked in my tower indefinitely, I decided it might be worth dishing out some extra money to play Cinders, a visual novel that lets you enter the fairy tale world of "Cinderella" and determine how her story will end.

As soon as I started playing Cinders, I deactivated the in-game sound effects. It makes a terrible clicking noise every time a character speaks, which I guess is supposed to represent their voice even though I don't know anyone who makes clicking noises when they talk. Without the clicking, the music and illustrations are very pleasant and reminiscent of a Victorian fairy tale world. The story is one that we are all familiar with, but the game allows you to do things that many people wish Cinderella would have done, such as talking back to her evil stepmother and attempting to reclaim her father's residence. Whether or not you are successful in getting the ending you want depends on the decisions throughout the course of the game. There are four main endings, but each one has a number of variables that change based on your behavior and how you treat other people.

The biggest appeal of visual novels is the ability to choose from a number of love interests who have romantic potential with your character. This game is no exception. The prince should the most obvious option, but he is actually the hardest one to get because Cinders only sees him one time at the ball. He falls in love with her no matter who you choose as her love interest, but in order to get Cinders to reciprocate his love, you have to make one specific decision very early in the game that could easily be missed. You also have to avoid showing romantic interest in her childhood friend, Tobias, or the Captain of the Guard, Perrault, even though they go out of their way to attract her affections multiple times before she encounters the prince. Tobias seemed like the best option for Cinders in my first playthrough because she knew him the longest. However, earning the affections of the Captain of the Guard can literally allow you to get away with murder in one of the endings.

Cinders also expands on the personalities of the stepsisters, Sophia and Gloria. Sophia reveals that she likes to pick on Cinders because she used to be the family scapegoat before her mother remarried, so bullying Cinders means that she gets bullied less. Gloria picks on Cinders because she wants to earn her mother's approval by being just like her. The stepmother, Carmosa, runs the household with an iron fist. It's possible for Cinders to earn Carmosa's approval by digging up dirt that she's hiding and proving that she can be just as manipulative. Earning the favor of the stepsisters also changes the conversations that they have with the prince during the ball. I personally would have liked to see some dialogue for some of the servants in the household since Cinders often mentions how her family forces her to help them even though we never see them. I actually think a servant would have made a better romance option than the Captain of the Guard because it would give her Cinders a love interest to stay with if she chooses to re-take the residence.

If you enjoy the story of "Cinderella," I definitely recommend playing through Cinders at least once if you don't mind spending $20 on a visual novel. It gives you a deeper dive into Cinderella's world than any movie or book ever could and allows you to determine whether marrying the prince is rthe right choice for her and if so, what kind of queen she will become. I was so fascinated by how many different scenes you can unlock by making different decisions that I ended up getting 100% of the variables for each ending. I don't recommend doing this unless you're as OCD as I am. Repeating the game can feel very tedious after the fourth or fifth playthrough even though it lets you fast forward through conversations that you've already seen. Still, the story was very complete, and it was exciting to discover new dialogue in each playthrough.


PrincessContent said…
I just finished my second play-through of this and I’m going to take back some of my early criticism. I was too quick to judge the game.
I still think some of Cinders dialogue is annoying but I really like the story and I’m glad they added in “escape town” as a choice. In the beginning of playing my main question was why Cinders never had tried to run away.
I also like that not only can you choose between different love interests but you also have different fairy godmother options that are added in to the story in clever ways. I really like the backstory with Cinders’ father going with her to the lake and bring gifts to the fairies.

Stay safe and take care!
Lisa Dawn said…
Hi there! :) First of all, thanks for recommending this to me! I was hesitant to buy it at first, but I'm glad I did. To be honest, I didn't notice the issues that you presented about Cinderella seeming too strong to put up with the abuse either. If you pick certain options, she sounds just as subservient as the fairy tale character. I also read several reviews on Steam before I started playing the game, and I noticed that most of the criticisms were from people who didn't exercise all the options. For instance, someone said they were disappointed with the fairy tale ending because it resulted in a loveless marriage, but if you play the game a certain way, you can complete it with Cinders and the prince in love. Someone else said they weren't able to re-take the residence even though there were many different ways to do that depending on how much dirt you dig up on the stepmother. I also loved that it had running away as an option because that seemed like it would have been the best choice for the original Cinderella if she never had the opportunity to go to the ball.
PrincessContent said…
Hi again!
You’re very welcome! I’m glad that you had fun with this game! :D

Yes, like I said above I was waaay to quick to judge the game. Once I got further into the story (stories) I realized my mistake. I guess I was too impatient. I’m not used to visual novels. But I’m really glad that I fought my way through it! :D
The artwork is beautiful and the three main choices of what to do are very intriguing. I also like that they show that running away can be an easy choice but it still will be hard once you’ve done it. You need a plan to survive. Running away tends to get romanticized a lot.
The soundtrack is also very lovely.

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