Visual Novel Review: Red Embrace Hollywood by Argent Games

 
 

Red Embrace: Hollywood is a thought-provoking, bittersweet, complex character-filled visual novel that explores some of the darker sides of vampirism and immortality. Play as a newly turned vampire in the midst of a faction war, choose a mentor/companion to show you the ropes, get to know other vampires and the ideals driving each faction, and make your decision about who to support.


Red Embrace Hollywood Promo Image depicting a pale vampire with long black hair and sunglasses

Official Description:

Story Summary:

Los Angeles, California, 1996. A young newcomer is turned into a vampire and thrust into the dark underworld of society, forced to sink or swim. You are that newcomer.

Overview:

Red Embrace: Hollywood is a unique vampire visual novel that puts you, the player, at the heart of the story.

Choose your appearance, pick your vampire House, and make hundreds of choices that determine not only your future–but the future of Los Angeles.

In the world of RE:H, you can be anything…because you’re already dead.

More Info:

You can get more info and buy the game here on Steam, here on itch.io or here on the developer’s website!

Long Review:

This was a fantastic visual novel, though it should really be thought of less as a game and more as a story you get to experience from multiple different sides. And what makes this visual novel so fantastic is the complex characters you get to know and the way it explores some of the potential darker sides to vampirism and immortality.

I would kind of forget, while playing, that each character talking to me wasn’t a real person, that there wasn’t a real person (well, vampire) out there with these thoughts and beliefs and the experiences that shaped them, that all of these unique, complex characters were created in the minds of a few people sitting at a computer. I found myself spending a lot of time just thinking about these characters, even when I wasn’t playing.

And it wasn’t just the three main love interest characters. It was really interesting and neat talking to all the different characters you’re able to just talk to. Heath. Randal. Markus. Saorise. Andrei. Aluesha. David. Lazarus. There are even some random characters you encounter if you go out to the right places on the right nights, and they’ve got interesting stories and thoughts too, like the vampire bartender, and the woman trying to woo her reincarnated lover.

The endings are mostly bittersweet or just plain sad, but, as I said, I actually like that the devs chose to show some of the potential darker sides of vampirism and the toll it might take on a person, since they were all human once. The three vampires you get to get close to, they’re vampires who are not really handling their undead life well, even if it may seem that way on the surface. In case it wasn’t clear, you shouldn’t think of this as a dating sim or romance-based game, because you will probably be disappointed if you do.

Note: I recommend doing Markus’s routes last. I feel like it just makes the most sense that way. Plus, I’m pretty sure you can’t even unlock his special ending until you’ve unlocked the others.

Screenshot of Markus saying, If you ever want to go find a car together to toss around like a football---that sounds like a Mavvar pastime---this is where you'll find me.

But also as I said, it’s best to think of this as less of a game and more of a story you get to experience from multiple different sides, because the only choices that matter are the ones that change your status with the different factions. Your interactions with the main characters don’t seem to change anything, aside from getting to the optional sex scenes (though it can be fun to see their slightly different reactions to different choices, and sometimes you get to learn more about them). I would’ve admittedly liked it if our interactions could’ve had some affect on our chosen companion, possibly a way of helping them with their struggles, but I still enjoyed the game for what it was. Ultimately, it’s not the choices and outcomes that really matter, if that makes any sense. What makes this so interesting is getting to know each character so well and understanding their story, which is always more than it first appears. And getting to know them is something that happens throughout the game as you spend time with them and then in each character’s a special ending.

Speaking of the sex scenes, these were the most unsettling sex scenes I’ve ever read (at least two of them, the third was more just lacking in passion), but they were supposed to be. So the devs really succeeded. Warning though that one of them feels kind of rape-y, depending on your choices (i.e. once started, the character will not stop, regardless of the responses you choose). And again, the sex scenes are entirely optional.

Also, I thought it was cool one character was seemingly asexual!

I found this to be a surprisingly thought-provoking game. I’m still thinking about these characters, their struggles, my feelings toward them, etc. It also feels like the devs put a lot of thought and care and meaning into everything. A lot of the endings and achievements have Latin phrases, bible verses, quotes from poems, etc. as their names, and I found it really interesting to look up their meanings. I felt like it gave me a bit more insight sometimes into the characters and their stories and the different endings, or at least just gave me more to think about. Some of the characters also have song playlists in the extras section.

The one small complaint I have is that there are some unanswered questions. Not a lot, and not big things, but intriguing enough that I really wanted those answers.

The backgrounds are lovely, and the character art is nice though quite anime, so it’s up to you whether you like that or not. There are also CGs to unlock. What I really loved was how each character’s personality really comes through in their body language. I feel like I’ve never seen body language utilized so well in a VN before. I’ll admit I was a bit put off at first by the way Markus’s eyes show through his sunglasses, but it turns out his eyes actually glow. (Kind of unrelated, but Andrei was the hottest character in this game, and he had no business being so attractive when he wasn’t even one of the companions you could choose.)

There’s a small bit of customization for the player character’s appearance. And you do get to choose between she/he/they pronouns.

There was a great soundtrack that suited the mood of the story.

It took me 6 hours to finish my first playthrough, 12.5 hours to get all four endings for Heath, and 25 hours total to see all the different achievements, routes, and endings (though only abou 80% of text).

Whew, ok, I think that’s it! This is a fantastic, thought-provoking visual novel that really explores some of the darker sides of immortality with interesting characters I’ll be thinking about for a while!

*Some brief SPOILER thoughts about the characters:*

David (actually none of my David thoughts are spoilers, but whatever) – I felt very conflicted and unsettled about having David as my blood pet. On the one hand, I felt like I completely messed up his life by biting him that first time and getting him addicted to my bite and then letting him give everything up to stay with me, and I don’t know if he could ever return to normal life after that. But on the other hand, he wanted to stay with me, he didn’t seem like he had a lot going for him in life before that, and perhaps living in a nice hotel, having all his needs taken care of for free, and getting an extremely pleasurable bite from a vampire every so often was his dream come true, and therefore it would’ve been crueler to turn him away.

Lazarus – Lazarus was so messed up and so broken. He did abhorrent things. He killed innocent vampires. But he had such a compelling backstory that I still felt for him.

Heath – I think Heath made some bad choices, and I did initially feel betrayed in his special ending, but I think he did have some genuine feelings for the player too. He had trouble just being himself, even knowing who himself is, but when he opened up to us about things, I feel like that was his real self. He just had too many inner struggles that he needed to deal with, and we couldn’t fix them. His special ending was not great for us, but it was possibly the best ending for Heath because it didn’t end with him disappearing or sinking deeper into depression. It ended with him finally deciding to try and find himself and live again. At least, that’s how I interpret it, choosing to believe he faked his death in order to escape. I still have a soft spot for Heath. I think he’s got a good heart and there’s hope for him, if he can just work through some of the issues he’s struggling with. Solve et coagula. “Dissolve and coagulate.” He’s going to rebuild himself anew.

Randal – Randal’s special ending threw me for a loop (though I suspected he wasn’t really Mavvar when I got that one ending with him). I couldn’t really look at him the same after that. But then I realized, in the endings where he fights against his darkness and tries to be a good person, there’s something to be said for that. It’s the choices we make that count, more so than the feelings we can’t always help, I think. But who knows if that darkness might still have come out eventually.

Markus – I felt for Markus and his struggles, even if I didn’t fully know or understand them, and I felt like the relationship with him was the most genuine. His endings were also the happiest ones, I think. I’m not entirely sure if his special ending was meant to be a breaking of the fourth wall or not, but it was certainly interesting.

Short Review:

– Less a game, more a story from multiple sides
– Explores the darker sides of vampirism/immortality
– Super interesting, complex characters
– A lot of bittersweet endings
– Nice art with great use of body language and some unlockable CGs
– Pronoun choices and a bit of customization
– Soundtrack that fit the mood
– Overall a fantastic and thought-provoking visual novel!

Accessibility:

(May not include everything)
– Partially accessible for blind / visually impaired players and screen reader users with Ren’Py self-voicing mode (press V to toggle). I would not recommend it if you cannot see the screen. Game text will be read aloud, but menus, stats, certain choices, and the red marking for special ending choices are not accessible.
– Sex scenes are optional and dependent on your choices.
– Trigger/content warnings listed on store page.

 
 
 
 

Talk to me!

Have you played Red Embrace: Hollywood?
How do you feel about unhappy or bittersweet endings in games or visual novels?

 
 
[shared_counts]
 
 
 

Your Thoughts

 

6 thoughts on “Visual Novel Review: Red Embrace Hollywood by Argent Games

I'd love if you'd share your thoughts, too!

 

Reading your comments makes me a very happy blogger!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 
  1. Greg

    “the darker sides of vampirism and immortality” Ooh that sounds great. And this

    ” would kind of forget… wasn’t a real person” How cool is that? Imagine being a writer on one of these games. I would love that. Coming up with stories that are SOOO immersive and affect people. The art looks fabulous too.

    1. Kit (Metaphors and Moonlight)

      It really was great. I feel like you don’t actually find many books that do that, or at least I haven’t, so I loved that they explored that.

      Seriously, that would be the best compliment lol. But it’s true! I really did have this moment at one point of just, “Wait… this is like third vampire I’ve talked to about their ideals and motivation and whatnot, and they’re all so unique and in-depth and fascinating… and this isn’t a real person?!”

      1. Greg

        Exactly. I can’t wait for games to develop to a point where can actually immerse ourselves like that. But will we ever leave the game world lol?

        And yes I want more books that go in depth to what it’s like to embrace vampirism (or other forms of supernatural-ness?) as a means of immortality. the moral choices, the trade offs. The Lights of Prague sorta did that although it could have gone deeper that way, but I did like the way it went.