Slowly but surely, this company is getting my attention.
Last year, it caught my attention by releasing an English game called Hourglass of Summer, which we would know to be Natsuiro no Sunadokei. While not as big-name as other visual novels of its kind, it had its share of popularity as a game and anime OVA. But more importantly, releasing this game (which is actually an interactive DVD played on DVD players) is a rather unprecedented move. Why? Almost ALL of the bishoujo games released in English are of the hentai/ero variety. This is probably one of the rare few non-hentai bishoujo game being released in English. And a moderately popular one at that. It was amazing, although I didn’t know of the company’s fate after that. Did they sell well with Hourglass, among with their other Anime Play DVD games? Seeing their lineup, it’s actually rather stellar.
Now, the company is back with a vengeance, and is seemingly doing rather good but risky business again. They are now launching big-name titles in their Anime Play PC division (this time games that can be played on computers). The highlight is Ai Yori Aoshi. The anime community definitely knows of the anime series, and so they would probably take notice of this. But the game that has caught me stunned was their upcoming release of Ever17! As they described, yes, Ever17 could be seen as on-par with the big ones. Demo downloads of both of these games are already available, by the way.
More importantly though is that this company is initiating the new wave of visual novels. Their big point is the non-hentai part. They seem to be on a mission to prove that visual novels are not just about the H, and that it can be seen as a viable form of mainstream entertainment, in the same way that anime is emerging right now on the western world.
Another big scoop here: (quoted from their site)
From July to September, HIRAMEKI International will be setting up a booth at conventions primarily along the west coast to demonstrate English versions of Japanese Visual Novel Games. We will be showing to the public for the first time, of course DVD format games, but expanding our line of products with games that operate on a Windows PC platform. Currently in Japan, “Kimi ga nozomu eien” and “Tukihime” have been made into many anime episodes and we’re sure that anime fans attuned to what is happening are dying to play the game that kicked off the craze these anime have created. Please be on the look out for news from HIRAMEKI, which was created with the objective of meeting the needs of these fans. We are working hard to see that we have some big titles on the horizon for you. If you would like to test a game, drag yourself out to one of the venues listed below and tell the HIRAMEKI staff exactly what is on your mind.
While I won’t believe that they could be licensing Kiminozo and Tsukihime anytime soon, this proves that they seem to have an eye out on anime fans, specifically, those who download fansubs. I think this can be a double-edged sword on them, mainly because it is both a risk and opportunity. Will international anime fans bite, and finally play the kind of popular visual novels the Japanese fans play? Are they heading for success, or failure? Time will tell. In any case, Hirameki International definitely has something good up their sleeve. I dig it.