The problem with many VR visual novels is that you spend an awful lot of time reading dialogue and not much time doing anything else. I find this less of an issue when playing flat games, but when you’re immersed in a virtual world, you don’t really want to be rooted to the spot being subjected to endless dialogue.

That is what made me apprehensive of Sushi Ben going in. Sure, the developers have a great pedigree as they’re responsible for the excellent Hatoful Boyfriend (and yes, there’s a fantastic pigeon in this game too), but I still wasn’t keen on the idea of a seven hour visual novel in VR.

How wrong I was to doubt Big Brane Studios, as they ended up releasing one of the best visual novels I’ve played in years.

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Arriving on the train to Kotobuki town, you find yourself speaking to a mysterious stranger whose idea of fashion consists of a massive eel wrapped around his neck. It turns out he is the boss of a local Sushi Restaurant there, and welcomes you to drop by for a visit so that you can try their delicious offerings.

However, soon after entering you realise that the town in overrun by Land Sharks who are trying to put the Sushi Restaurant out of business by cutting off their supplies so that they can seize the land for themselves. To make matters worse, the boss hasn’t shown up and has left the junior chef – the titular Ben – all alone, struggling to deal with the failing business. Thankfully you are there to help him out by helping him to get the ingredients he needs, and promote the business by aiding the other townsfolk with their myriad of issues.


Kotobuki town is a small, yet beautiful portside town, and the vibrant visual style makes it look like you’ve been dropped right in the middle of a manga. Whilst you can get around the town pretty speedily (especially as the smooth movement also has a very fast and long-reaching teleportation function), there’s still plenty for you to explore. From forests and shrines to occultist shops and libraries, there’s so much here that it feels like it could be a real town. Unfortunately, outside of story related moments, you rarely see the town’s residents wandering around, and that can make Kotobuki feel far more barren than it really is, and I wish that more time was spent adding in a few extra routines for people to do when they’re not needed for the story.

But that’s not to say that the town isn’t full of life. During the course of the game you’ll meet a large cast of colourful characters that get themselves into some unusual situations. Sushi Ben obviously has his restaurant concerns, but he’s also fighting a phobia of the sea that the local fisherwoman is helping him overcome. There’s also an over enthusiastic ping pong player who needs help training to become the best, a dog running a newspaper stand, and many, many more. Each one is distinctly memorable, and both their eccentricities and the 3D comic book panels that appear when they talk add to that manga vibe.


Helping the residents is where the game comes into its own. Even though your motives for doing so are largely based on promoting the restaurant, the tasks you have to do are what helps make the game more captivating than the normal visual novel. One minute you may be getting rid of wig-stealing poltergeists ala Luigi’s Mansion; but then the next you could be walking a dog around the town or catching troublesome pigs. None of them are overly challenging as the game is intentionally forgiving, but the variety of minigames give you something to do between those moments of conversation.

These interactive elements, combined with the game’s excellent writing and humour, are what helps to make this such a fantastic little game. There are certainly issues, as the story comes to a sudden end with a hanging ‘to be continued’ screen, even though it feels like it could have come to a more natural ending – but at least the journey up until that point is a fun one. I also encountered a few minor bugs during my playthrough, a couple of which forced me to restarts, but given that the game saves quite frequently I didn’t find them problematic enough to affect my recommendation. Hopefully these issues can get fixed, but they’re also not a massive deal-breaker either.

Quite frankly, Sushi Ben is one of the best visual novels I have played for quite some time. With a charming story, a cast of wonderful characters, and some fun little minigames to break up the dialogue, I never found myself getting bored. Whilst I do wish that the game didn’t have an unnecessary cliffhanger ending, and that you could see more people wandering around the town, it still comes with a hearty recommendation.