The magic academy-themed yuri visual novel Perfect Gold: The Alchemy of Happiness is the third game by the Philippines-based indie studio YangYang Mobile, and the Nintendo Switch and iOS/Android ports have just been released just in time for Pride Month. As a short and sweet romance with gorgeous visuals, I couldn’t resist checking it out!
I’ve been following YangYang Mobile’s titles since their first release, The Letter, a horror visual novel. Their second title, Love Esquire, is a romantic comedy dating sim with RPG elements with a clear bishojo influence. It’s really fascinating to see their trajectory (they currently have a new horror title, Saint Maker, coming out later this year), but I was admittedly a little apprehensive about how a company without any yuri titles in their lineup might handle the subject matter.
Perfect Gold is the story of two girls, Audrey and Marion, who attend a prestigious magical school in the city of Castlecove. After a falling out, the pair butt heads in one of their classes and are sentenced to detention on the day of the yearly Sunflower Festival. Not wanting to miss out, Marion convinces Audrey to ditch detention with her. The story follows the two girls through the past and present, and you’ll learn about their backgrounds, personalities, and motivations to understand why their friendship fell apart and hopefully mend things between them.
The fantasy setting may largely be a backdrop for this intimate, character-driven narrative, but the writing and illustrations paint a lovely picture of the city of Castlecove and the nuisances of the people that inhabit it. Despite being focused on a fantasy magic school, it wasn’t exactly what I expected – the girls have different crests on their uniforms, but unlike a certain other famous magic school series, these denote what aspect of magic they’re studying, be it alchemy, elemental magic, or healing (there may be others, but these are the main ones that come up in the game).
Worldbuilding is achieved through small nods throughout the text and situations that show, rather than tell, players more about the setting for this schoolgirl romance. The city of Castlecove turns out to be prosperous because of the work of alchemists to turn objects into precious metals. As a result, tensions between alchemists, who view themselves as superior because of their hand in making the city what it is now, and the other types of magic users, are high. Aubrey is the daughter of a famous alchemist family, so she’s expected to follow in their footsteps, but her heart yearns for a different path…
Marion, on the other hand, comes from the south, and worked hard to earn a place at LeFay Academy. She’s most attuned to fire magic, which fits her passionate, strong-willed personality. Then there’s her sister, a famous graduate of LeFay Academy who Marion admires greatly, but hasn’t been in contact with for ages due to her sister’s fast-paced, glamorous lifestyle.
The first thing that struck me about Perfect Gold was how gorgeous it is. Not only are the anime-style character sprites detailed and emotive, everything, from the characters’ hair to elements of the backgrounds, move ever so slightly as if a gentle breeze is flowing throughout the entire game. It’s subtle enough to not be distracting or annoying, and I really liked how it added an extra touch to the CG scenes.
The characters are also fully voiced in English, with Audrey and Marion’s voice actors providing solid performances along with the supporting cast. While some may wish the game was longer, I think, as an indie developer, YangYang Mobile was probably able to pull out all of the stops to make such an impressive, polished experience precisely because it is a shorter game. After completing the story, you’re even treated to some additional content such as a gallery with assets from the game, which I really enjoyed being able to flick through.
I had a few minor issues with how the game was ported to the Switch – namely, I was not a fan of how the left stick needs to be clicked in to view the backlog, and when playing on the Switch lite, the achievement text was so tiny, it was nearly illegible. The achievement font being so small made me wonder if it’s even worse of an issue on mobile phones… But during my single playthrough without a guide, I was able to get all of the achievements and view what they were for in the main menu, so it didn’t impact my experience in a major way.
As a short coming-of-age story of love and friendship between two girls from different backgrounds, Perfect Gold is a really pleasant, enjoyable gåme. The narrative switches between the perspectives of Audrey and Marion and provides numerous text-based decisions to shape the course of the story in minor ways. Many of the characters and aspects of the plot do fall into familiar tropes, but I think that’s par for the course of a short script. Some examples of this can be in the character designs themselves, as well as the core conflicts present in the narrative.
However, the game does shake up things with the characters in interesting ways, such as Audrey’s reason for why she wants a different magical path than the one that’s expected of her. I also really appreciated the small additional details such as the teacher with they/them pronouns that made the game even more LGBTQIA+ inclusive than just the central lesbian romance.
Anyone who has been reading my blog for a while will know that I don’t read/play/watch a lot of yuri media, mostly because I tend to not be interested in yuri created with the male gaze in mind. However, Perfect Gold is very much reminiscent of early shojo stories about the blossoming romances between schoolgirls, with none of the panty shots or undulating breasts that can pop up in some yuri media (not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that! It’s just not to my personal taste). If you feel similarly or are just looking for a yuri romance that is more on the sweet/innocent side, I think you’ll find that this game does not disappoint.
I came out of Perfect Gold: The Alchemy of Happiness with not only the perfect amount of warm fuzziness, but also a surprising amount of admiration for what the developers accomplished. I don’t fault the game for being a little cliched in some areas because its writing is filled with so much compassion toward its characters and subject matter for its playtime. Even if, like me, you don’t pick up yuri titles very often, I implore anyone interested in indie games, LGBTQIA+ narratives, and visual novels to give Perfect Gold: The Alchemy of Happiness a try.
A review code for Nintendo Switch was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.