BackgroundA few years ago, I was just getting into Visual Novels. The fourth that I ever played was an rather interesting one, well known in English-speaking Visual Novel circles, "Ever 17: The Out of Infinity". Made by Kindle Imagine Developers (KID) in 2002 and translated for English-speaking audiences by Hirameki International a few years later, Ever 17 managed to gain a strong western following, helped by the engaging plot, the lack of adult scenes, and the availability of a translation in a fledgeling fanbase where the pool of works that were in a language that the fans could understand was severely limited.
Though Ever 17 gained a good-sized fanbase, none of the other games in the Infinity series were ever translated, likely due to the collapse of both Hirameki and KID. In summer 2010, however, a fan-produced translation patch was released for the third game in the series, "Remember 11: The Age of Infinity". Now, in summer 2012, we of the English-language Visual Novel fanbase may once again experience Infinity with the release of GundamAce's translation for the first game in the series: "Never 7: The End of Infinity".
General ImpressionsOverall, I was pleasantly surprised with Never 7. Going into it, I couldn't expect it to have a plot on the same level as Ever 17, which has continued to hold a place in my top visual novels due to that particular aspect. Additionally, between Ever 17 and Remember 11 displayed a marked improvement in presentation, I felt it would be inevitable that Never 7 (which predates Ever 17) would end up being a game with a few interesting plot ideas with a presentation that was rough, but not enough to completely interfere with the ideas. (This is not to say, of course, that I wasn't looking forward to the release of the translation.) The anticipated roughness was there, but not nearly so much as I was expecting, and in a few ways I'd say that Never 7 may even have an upper hand against Ever 17.
Structure-wise, Never 7 is nothing more than a standard "Male character meets five female characters, decisions decide which girl's story is pursued" Visual Novel. This was a bit of a disappointment to me, as Ever 17 started on that model before breaking out of it slightly (While each girl had a story, not all of them had a romance subplot), and Remember 11 ditched it entirely (One path, with events viewed first from the perspective of one character, which then unlocks the ability to view the same events from a different perspective). I was also struck by fact that, having completed two paths as of this writing, there is a distinct lack of mysteries that would seem to belong to a overarching meta-plot. (In contrast, Ever 17's path endings left more unanswered questions than they actually answered in preparation of the final path, and Remember 11's structure was basically "Raise questions on Kokoro's Chapter, Answer them on Satoru's)
In technical terms, there are a few things noticeably missing from Never 7 that have become standard in Visual Novels since then. One such thing is that there is no menu option to make holding down the control key skip only the text that has already been read. (Indeed, other than a few options from a window that appears following a right-click, there's really no options menu at all). The "Skip Read text" option can instead be achieved by pressing "F4".
Music in Never 7 is atmospheric but not particularly memorable (This is more or less consistant with Abo Takeshi's work from later games in the series). There may not be many drop-dead-awesome tracks that have yet been revealed to me, but Haruka's theme, Magic of True, and Despair are pretty decent. Special mention goes to Once More, which marks the beginning of Abo's fine tradition of writing excellent Title Screen/Emotional Moment pieces.
(Note: These are only limited impressions of the paths. I may write up more detailed responses to them later, but those might be a bit more spoilery and I don't want to put them in the main review)