There are few games that have managed to sell me on a single video clip that I’ve stumbled across randomly, but Class of ’09 is one of them. Of course I can’t find that damn clip anymore, even after trawling through my YouTube history and upvotes, and even through all of my playthroughs I didn’t manage to get that scene either. Still though the essence of what got me interested in the game was there: an irreverent satire of the visual novel genre where instead of being the mega chad who gets his pick of the ladies you’re a vitriolic malcontent bent on sowing chaos with the male population of your school. Whilst I lost interest in trying to see every single ending after a couple hours I will admit to enjoying a game where every single person in it is a dumpster fire of epic proportions.
Nicole hasn’t had an easy life, being bounced around from school to school ever since her parents got divorced. She hadn’t seen her father in ages either and, going back to his house for the first time in ages, she finds him dead with a suicide note next to him blaming her for everything. So once again she finds herself moved to a new area, starting the cycle again. She’s hot and knows it though so she’s got that going for her, something which she uses with wreckless abandon to manipulate the horny masses of the new school she finds herself in.
Class of ’09 is deliberately retro in all the right ways. The art style reminds you of the Flash games of yesteryear with their mishmash of realistic elements overlayed with stylized characters and wonky interface elements. As someone who came of age in this era it was a delightful throwback to the burgeoning techno-centric society we now find ourselves in. Not that it was any better, indeed many of the things the game makes fun of now as being quaint (No one gets rich on YouTube!) were exactly the thoughts that many people had back in the day.
Game play is simple, you’re basically a passenger in the fully voiced visual novel who’s only job is to make decisions at various critical junctures along the way. You’ll get familiar pretty quickly with each of the main paths and how you can diverge off from them, going down various rabbit holes each with their own unique set of terrible circumstances that you either put yourself or others into. The black humour of it all stays true throughout and whilst it starts to wear on after your 10th playthrough but at least you’re not forced to sit through all the same dialogue over and over again.
Now I’m not sure if this is something that the Re-Up (which I only just found out is a thing, I would’ve played that over the original if I’d known) but I would’ve liked to seen one of those branching narrative trees that’s become popular with games like this. It’d just make the process of going through to find the other endings a little less boring, having to skip through everything again and again just to get to see the 2 different endings that are right at the end of a narrative arc.
The game cheekily states that it’s “all based on real events, encounters, and personalities experienced by the lead developer.” which, upon investigation, is a pretty large stretch of the truth given that in an interview the director states that it’s more based on their experience with that type of girl. Now that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s honestly hilarious and having a female protagonist who is unashamedly sociopathic is definitely refreshing. Really most of the story is just a vehicle for meta-commentary on the genre and the games industry itself in general which is worthy in its own right.
Class of ’09 is a fun, darkly twisted take on the visual novel genre. It knows what it’s about and, whilst it might be lampooning much of the games industry, does a lot of things right. There could be some small improvements made here and there, something which the Re-Up might already address, but overall it achieves what it sets out to do. It does overstay its welcome either with all the endings easily achievable in a handful of hours if you’re so motivated. Overall, good fun, not much else to say.
Class of ’09 is available on PC right now for $21.95. Total play time was 2 hours.