Butterfly Soup is a visual novel about gay asian girls playing baseball and falling in love by Brianna Lei.
I love this game so much. 2020 was a strong year for playing games, but this is my absolute favourite. Set in a mostly-asian community in Oakland the game follows four friends who attend the same school, go about their day and play baseball.
A minute into the game I was roaring with laughter. It is also absolutely endearing, really smart and delightfully human, but I was giggling and laughing out loud throughout. There are very few games that actually made me smile much less laugh with any regularity (Ladykiller in a Bind and Undertale are the only examples that come to mind).
It is beautifully written.
Despite being lumped into a single "asian" bag by the society, each protagonist speaks a different language (Chinese, Korean and two separate Indian languages) in addition to English and they don’t understand the other ones. This is actually used in the game: when e.g. Min-seo says something in Korean to Diya, the game displays a bunch of Korean characters.
I really loved how the game explored the different cultures that these girls' families came from. Diversity is a hugely multi-faceted thing and to seriously think that a continent of roughly 4.5 billion people could be generalised into a handful of traits is of course ridiculous.
They’re all really different from each other. Complex, multi-dimensional wonderful individuals. I love them all.
The game is set against the backdrop of the 2008 California state elections during which Proposition 8 (a nonsensical “well, actually” law, defining marriage as only between a man and a woman) as these girls are trying to figure out and define their own sexuality and how all this seems like a step back.
In a similar vein, they are facing racist remarks despite being told in school that racism in America has ended a long time ago and having to confront the traditional duties expected of their gender as well as the roles their parents expect them to fill.
But mainly, they just chat and spend time together and it’s beautiful.
Throughout the game, you take control over all of them and while I feel closest to Diya, I don’t think the game favours any one of the characters. The frequent switching of points of views is wonderful and not something I’ve experienced much in games. It is put to great effect here — especially when it comes to their family languages.
Excellent all the way to and including the end, Butterfly Soup — a name which is indeed explained in the game, makes perfect sense and possibly teaches you something about biology (because like I said these are not one-dimensional characters and so they talk about many things) one of the best things that I’ve experienced this year.
It’s relatively short (around four hours) and there’s not a strong drive to replay it (that a lot of other visual novels have). But I’ll probably return to it for the same reason I re-read Scott Pilgrim every year or so — I love the characters, the story and everything else in it! In many ways, my feelings about Scott Pilgrim (funny, fast paced, smart, delightful) are the same ones I have towards Butterfly Soup.