From Silken Sail Entertainment, Henchman Story takes a peek behind the mask at what supervillainy looks like from the perspective of the cannon fodder. A job’s a job, right? As an underling for Lord Bedlam, Stan’s done his best to keep from standing out. After a particularly personal encounter with a superhero and another villain joining the outfit, our main character finds that things are about to get a little more complicated in a world that’s already a little weird. He also learns that even a henchman can make dramatic changes.
A review for this game was requested through the VN Game Den review request form. The reviewer also happens to be a Kickstarter backer for this game by happenstance.
The art is flashy and vivid. Stylistically, it’s comic book from top to bottom, while still elevating the art to something even more clean and fun and relaxed. All the character designs are unique, but within that very distinct comic book expectation. It’s very fun to see hints and homages to “real life” heroes and villains in the costuming and the small details, but at the same time, nothing feels like it’s a direct parody or particularly derivative. Aesthetically, it’s a synthesis of the genre while still being its own things. The backgrounds for the lair, in particular, hit all the notes for a sort of corporate overlord feel.
On top of that, it’s all very fluid. There’s lots of poses and movements. The characters blink and have very fun dynamic expressions. The CGs have a high-action quality and a solid understanding of scenic presentation. It generally makes excellent use of its screen space. Its overall aesthetic pulls from classic print comic book elements, and it just looks great.
The writing is generally snappy and fun with this grim comedy playing through all of it. It has a large cast, but each character has a very strong individual written voice. Even the “villains” are endearing in their own way. There’s a lot of really great character interplays, and everyone’s very likable. Even when Stan, our main character, is a sarcastic jerk he’s still fun. There’s a very strong comedic voice to everything. You also get to make a lot of choices, so there’s a very strong level of personal investment in how things shake out and the story progresses.
The story, as a whole, is a little weird to me, and I think part of that has to with me, personally, being a long-time comic book and superhero fan in various capacities. I don’t dislike the story by any means. I think it moves a little slower than it needs to sometimes (made more obvious by the physical speed of the text, which you can’t change), but it’s a solid story set in an internally consistent if simple setting. The romance that I’ve experienced so far is goofy and adult in a “we know how to be in a relationship and have fun with each other” kind of way. It’s got some fun twists and turns and the presence of secret identities adds an occasional fun element in that regard.
I think it just didn’t quite meet my expectations for what I would have wanted to experience when telling me it’s a comedic take on the superhero genre from the perspective of a henchman. To be fair to the game, I’ve personally experienced that specific story before. I’ve consumed a lot of media that is both superhero-centric and lampooning superheroes, so that was an inescapable factor in painting that expectation. The game, in many ways, doesn’t go as far as it could in really exploring what the ramifications are of being in the world these people live in. It’s just self-aware enough that it feels like it should read more metatextual than it really does, in the end. The front half of the game is an office comedy with the superhero part playing more like a veneer than a central narrative construct. The back half that I played (there are eleven endings, so others may read differently) felt like just a general superhero story with a comedy twinge where things really start to pick up in the action. None of this is bad at all. If that’s what you want for your game, you’re in good shape. It was just not the impression I got from the marketing and what I would have wanted from this game, personally.
What really does sort of nail that dichotomy between the more ridiculous aspects of superheroism and the more mundane is the way the voice acting is handled from character to character and as the story progresses. It knows exactly when to hit hard, when to pull back, when to really just be as bombastic as possible. It hits every single beat perfectly from start to finish and makes the whole experience extraordinarily fun.
Henchman Story is the perfect game for someone who really likes romance visual novels with a little bit of action and is looking for something that maybe has a slightly different vibe to it. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and it’s a really great mature game without being “adult” in the NSFW sense. And even though it doesn’t dig super deep into superhero satire, it does have some very fun reversals on the themes.