The 13th Month Review – A Unique Visual Novel Experience That Leaves More to be Desired


Powered by Unity, developed by Kobayashimaru LLC and published by Kobayashimaru LLC with support from Kodansha Game Creator’s Lab, The 13th Month is a visual novel that reinterprets the classic tale of “Sleeping Beauty”. Backed by an illustrious cast of creators mostly of Shin Megami Tensei fame, the game aims to tell its story accompanied by stunning visuals and stageplay cadenced voice acting.

First pitched and shown on the crowdfunding website as far back as April 1, 2018, The 13th Month as a project would then be fully funded by May 13 of the same year when it was announced that the game would launch at the beginning of 2022. However, problems with the ongoing situations of the world pushed back the release of the game till recently, when the game arrived on the Steam store this month.

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Based loosely on the classic fairy tale, The 13th Month aims to capture and twist the original storyline of a damsel in distress and her salvation by a handsome prince. It should also be pointed out how in The 13th Month, writer Kazunari Suzuki explores some of the more nuanced plots seen in the original tellings of the story by the Brothers Grimm.

Though comparable to the original story at first, it is warped in a way fans are familiar with Kazunari’s works in games such as Shin Megami Tensei (along with SMT II and SMT if… both on the Super Famicom) can see the inspiration from. As the man who wrote the groundwork for the story of ATLUS’s hallmark franchise, his writing style takes the unassuming story to a darker, more introspective version of the tale.

Kazunari Suzuki

A Twist on the Classic Fairy Tale

The story of The 13th Month begins on a rather contemporary note, as it begins with the birth of the Princess and her being granted benedictions by the 12 maidens acting as envoys for a divine moon goddess. Blessed with beauty and possessing positive qualities such as honesty, grace, and tolerance she is described as perfect. However, on her sixteenth birthday, a witch visits the castle and curses her to eternal sleep, and the two stay confined within a bedroom chamber for centuries.

The sleeping princess, along with all the inhabitants of the castle is accompanied by the one who cast the curse on her. the witch who introduced herself as Uruzuki. Commanded by the will of a goddess even she can’t comprehend, Uruzuki remains inside the castle waiting for a prince with true love that would rouse the afflicted princess from her eternal slumber with a kiss.

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Thus begins the story of The 13th Month, with a prince arriving every century to try and awaken the princess. The princes that manage to get inside the thorny confines of the castle are the definite highlights of the narrative, as they turn out to be historical figures from both fiction and non-fiction seen in our world. From Rene Descartes to Aleister Crowley, these individuals are revealed to be possible candidates for being the sleeping beauty’s groom.

Transformed by the spell of the castle, each character is depicted most curiously as an anthropomorphic animal. Each of these would-be-princes has their own motives for why they set foot on the castle, though each of them is tested by the witch Uruzuki if they are to be the chosen one.

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Through the colorful interactions between Uruzuki and the visitors to the castle, the writer intertwines character development for the witch who damned the princess to her eternal sleep. These interactions are definitely where Kazunari Suzuki’s versed knowledge in mythography and philosophy is displayed to its fullest. The writer rather liberally regales the reader with musings on all kinds of topics ranging wildly from heavy-handed discussions on the meaning of life to more esoteric factoids on historical events.

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Due to the intrinsic nature of the game genre, I can’t discuss much of anything in terms of gameplay found in the game, though I can tell you that The 13th Month does have instances of player choices. During some chapters found in The 13th Month, the players will be granted choices that lead to branching paths. This might instill some form of replayability in some hypothetical completionists out there. Though rather disappointingly, from the choices I made and saw, there only seems to be one “correct” choice found in these moments. Picking any other choice seemed to end in rather quick game-overs typically.

The 13th Month

Interestingly, each chapter of The 13th Month is bookended by a fairly long segment titled “The Princess’s Dream”. Written from the perspective of the princess still trapped in the confines of her dreams, these moments breathe new life into a character contemporarily given no development outside of her damsel-in-sleep status.

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Picturesque Visuals and Voice Performance in The 13th Month

Moving on to the visuals, the artwork found in The 13th Month is undoubtedly a feast for the eyes. Illustrated by artist Aogachou, the characters and environments are rendered with detail bordering on grotesque. Credited for illustration works in other media (mainly in card artworks) the artist colorfully realizes the many forms the princes take as they are transformed under the castle’s spell.

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Each key moment in the game is also typically given special treatment, as the game employs some animations here and there to spice things up. The developer’s want for animations to make scenes much more lively comes at somewhat of a detriment, as the game also takes time to animate each text crawl dispersing away. Though understandable in their visual function, the slow elaborate animation for each piece of passage can be frustrating to read at times. Thankfully, the options menu allows you to turn off this feature should it bother you.

The 13th Month is a visual novel incorporating narrations and voice acting from the cast at key moments reminiscent of a theatrical play. Proudly displayed in almost all of their marketing materials, this cast includes but is not limited to talents such as Akio Otsuka as the cat Grimalkin and Ryōtarō Okiayu as the Black Prince. A narrator is also present in the game and will recite some of the passages in the story.

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Though when I mean “some” of the texts, that’s to say that The 13th Month is by no means a fully voiced experience. While offering to amplify the more potent parts of the script, narration and voice acting certainly do not encompass the entirety of the visual novel. While it would have been nice to have more dialogue present in the game, what is present does elevate the mise-en-scène the game tries to capture.

Taking into account the stellar artistic and sonic experience present in the game, The 13th Month also suffers from a fair share of shortcomings that unfortunately, weigh down on the reader’s patience outside of what was already mentioned.

Technical Problems Slightly Affect the Experience

Now that I’ve sung my praises for the game’s compelling story and deliciously palpable art, we should probably go over some of the issues that unfortunately knock the game down a few notches.

In a rather shocking twist in itself, the game lacks any way to make a save manually. The game does make it a point to autosave but doesn’t allow you to make one of your own. This makes the act of returning to where you left off difficult, as you’re required to rummage through the chapter selection screen.

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Rather than save slots, the game opts for a chapter select screen that unlocks as you progress further

The game currently only appears to support mouse controls with no way to scroll the text outside of left clicks. Possibly a rollover from how the game is to arrive on mobile platforms, later on. I eagerly wait for the future update to remedy this by adding keyboard controls.

Other often-seen features like the CG viewer are also missing. A separate game mode to appreciate each one of Aogachou’s painterly CG works would have made for a nice bonus feature, especially given how much time the text covers up the picture in each scene. While I understand the design decision to not use traditional textbox format to avoid obstructing the artwork, the option to alternate between the two would have also been appreciated.

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The 13th Month delivers a Compelling Story but Drops the Ball in Polish

In closing, The 13th Month as a visual novel was a compelling read to the end. Colorful characters illustrated in painstaking details elevate the story’s fidelity backed by musical scores and voice acting that spice up the theatrics playing out in a scene. Comprised of (aptly) thirteen chapters, I can positively say that I enjoyed reading the story of Sleeping Beauty recontextualized by the hands of someone who at the time wrote the script for the Shin Megami Tensei Series.

It’s just that to get to that compelling story, the game asks you to put up with the myriad of other inconvenient features and inconsistencies that make the experience of reading the story that much more tedious. If you can stomach some of its more egregious problems, what is here is most certainly a read worth your time. Stick with it.

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The 13th Month, as of this writing is slated to also release on mobile (iOS and Android). In a recent Steam blog post, the developers at Kobayashimaru have taken note of the current problems of the game and specified that they are fixing these issues as they work on the port. The post also specified that an additional Chinese language option is underway and can be expected to arrive alongside the mobile release.

Though the nature of these fixes was not specified in these blog posts, it’s more than likely that the issues I’ve listed above will be ironed out in future patches to the game.

Rating: 3/5

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*This review was played and reviewed on the Steam Release of the game. The game currently supports English and Japanese language options.

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The 13th Month Review - QooApp
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Told as a reinterpretation of the tale of "Sleeping Beauty", The 13th Month takes the classic story to a more reflective narrative akin to the writing of its creators' other works.

Application Category: Game

Editor's Rating: