SoS! Day 8: Cherry-Picked Inspiration

Title screen of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club

A quick look back on the game that inspired Seriously Senpai! STAT!!

Hello, Comedian-senpai!

It’s the sixth eighth day of the Summer of Senpai, which means it’s time to talk about some other game! I had a pun that worked around this being day 6 but this post is late!

It’s Cherry Tree High Comedy Club!

Title screen of Cherry Tree High Comedy Club
This caption made a reference to it being day 6 too!

CTHCC, as often abbreviated in the game, is a story-driven, time and relationship management game, made by doujin group 773. It was localized and released to Steam by Nyu-Media and with some help from Capcom. I believe the script was worked on by the people who were doing the Ace Attorney games, at the time.

A “dewesternized” version of the game was made available, where names, settings and jokes were more in-line with the original script and were less punny. This version was made due to “popular demand” but since the Capcom logo was removed from this version and it happened just before a sort of sequel was released, which Capcom was not involved with, I’m not confident this “demand” can be attributed to “popular”.

Miley: I can't believe Elise goes up and down those stone steps every day. No wonder she has thighs like Chun-Li!
Do you notice the video game reference in this image?? That’s right! Our character is also named Miley.

None of this matters. Nyu-Media closed down in 2022 and publishing rights were passed around for their many Japanese localized games. From best I can tell, 773 wasn’t interested supporting an old game, made in an old build of RPG Maker (no window resizing! 640×480!) and just let the game go to the delisted graveyard. It’s dead! You’ll never play it! It never existed!

Miley: I'm going to resurrect the CTHCC, and I'm gonna do it with a bang!
That’s right, the one and only SEE TEE HAITCH SEE SEE!

But I still want to talk about it, even in death, because it inspired a game that somehow still hasn’t been born yet, Seriously Senpai! STAT!!.

first mockup of Seriously Senpai! STAT!! featuring sprite rips from CTHCC's dialogs.
Our game’s first mock-up was made with sprite rips from CTHCC. Dialog was just as good then as it is now.

Back in 2016, I came to the realization that the main Seriously Senpai! game had grown way out of scope with what I was going to be capable of realizing. I decided it would be fun to start the series with a smaller story that could be done for the Yuri Jam 2016. At the time, I was quite fond of this CTHCC game and wanted to make something similar, if not on a smaller scope.

CTHCC gameplay scene with main character Miley walking around town.
Probably wasn’t going to include coins to pick up off the ground.

In CTHCC, you control a Miley and are free to roam and walk around Cherry Tree Town and partake in various activities and story events. The goal of the game is to get friends and have them join your school club, which needs a minimum of 5 members to be an official club. There are characters that you can recruit by talking to them about a variety of subjects, such as pets, music, video games, fashion, cooking, etc . . .

Doing activities, such as watching a romantic movie, will improve Miley’s expertise on a particular subject. The higher Miley’s level on that subject, the more she’ll improve her relationship with who she is talking to. Each character Miley can recruit have different interest in topics that they respond well to and each subject can only be discussed once per character.

It is best to talk to a character about something they are very interested in, which you can gleam from their story scenes, while having a maximum expertise in that subject. As you advance levels with each potential recruit, you will be treated to scenes involving that character’s individual story-line. Help them through their troubles and they’ll join your club!

Screen showing Miley's current stats on each topic.
Miley can join politwitter right from the start of the game.

It’s not all cherries and trees, however. Each activity, including discussions with potential recruits, takes up time and adds to your fatigue. Most activities also cost money, which you can earn by taking small jobs, which also take up time and add to your fatigue. Fatigue can be managed by resting, which loses you time or by eating, which cost money. You start the game off on school break but there are homework assignments that you need to complete and once school starts back up, that will limit what you can do with your time on the weekdays. Finally, there is a date by which you need to have the minimum amount of recruits or you fail your mission.

Managing all of these factors keeps things fresh and makes for a satisfying game-loop. You’ll need to recruit a minimum of 3 of the 6 possible recruits to get a good ending. In a new game plus, you can carry over stats from the first play-through, making it relatively easy to obtain all 6. It is also just possible to recruit all 6 on a first play-through, by playing a near flawless game, which makes for a pretty solid challenge. I wrote a guide on how to route this challenge and then it got lost to the void when Steam tossed it for whatever reason. How appropriate!

Game scene of Miley running in the school library.
SHH! No awkward first frame of running while in the library!

Now, back to the Yuri Jam 2016! One of my original ideas for Seriously Senpai! STAT!! was to do a game similar to CTHCC. While not as grand, I wanted to have sprite work with a main character who could walk around parts of Springsake High and have discussions with the Seven Senior Suitors on various topics that you would need to get knowledgeable on.

A trick that CTHCC utilizes is that it doesn’t actually have unique, written out discussions for each character on each subject. If they had, that would be 72 extra unique discussions, by my math. That’s not to say the game isn’t dialog and story heavy but that’s a lot of extra words to get six different characters opinions on “what do you think of dogs?”. I thought utilizing a similar approach could keep the game doable for the game jam.

As it turned out, finding a sprite artist for the jam wasn’t going to be easy. It’s not a big surprise, most entries take more of a visual novel approach. That’s not to say there weren’t any sprite driven games that year but none joined our team! The closest I got was someone agreeing to do pixel art for the school but it was on conditions that I didn’t really jive with at the time. Focus changed and after some fumbling around, we went with a new direction.

Mockup of Seriously Senpai! STAT!! With WIP sprites and WIP UI.
Their Miley may be ambitious but our Miley has a famous catch phrase.

While we did give up on the free-roam walking around aspect of the game, there are still many elements of CTHCC that have stuck around. Our game involves interviewing and making friends with seven different girls within a time crunched course of just a month, with time restraints that occur over each school day. Our Miley also has to keep her fatigue and school work in mind. Our game’s difficulty will also be scalable by how much you attempt to get done in a single play-through, with getting a favorable story out of each girl in one go being just barely possible but very doable on a new game plus run.

Where our game will differ majorly, we are going to have seven unique dialog scenes to answer the question of “what do you think of dogs?”. Or better questions! Hopefully, much better questions. Since our game is based around interviews, we can delve deeper than general topics and get to the juicy, gossip-worthy stuff.

Going with a game more focused on the discussions rather than a variety of activities, discussions take a bigger role in the game-loop. Rather than increasing knowledge on broad subjects, our game revolves around gaining enough trust with each girl to get them to open up on more topics that are personal to them. Knowing how to ease each girl into more informative conversation will be key to getting the best story on them and becoming their friends.

Mockup of Seriously Senpai! STAT!! With sprites and UI that are slightly less WIP.
Oh yeah, and it’s a yuri game. Personal space be damned!

So that’s a bit of history of how Cherry Tree High Comedy Club got the ball rolling on Seriously Senpai! STAT!! Of course, that ball is still rolling to this day. As it turns out, all those conversation dialogs are hard to write and get correct. Also, games need an absurd amount of art, which is hard! Also, it’s hard to make games when life keeps trying to murder you!

I’m not really sure how to end this, so how about a funny bit of trivia on CTHCC to go out on!

Steam Marketplace picture with Foil CTHCC Amane card.
Non-Funny Tradingcards!

So, quite a bit of time after this game was released, Steam started doing its digital collectable trading card scheme for games for the Steam Marketplace. Nyu-Media decided to get in on this and add support for their older titles and golly-gee, did it ever take off with CTHCC.

Maybe it was because this was an obscure game, maybe it was because the emotes you could earn were these generically useful speech bubbles with exclamation points in them, or maybe it was just because Anime girls (valid); whatever the reason, these things went to the moon.

At one point, a full set of foils would sell for around $700! Keep in mind, this was pre-digital collection mania, where gun skins could fetch a bazillion dollars. These complete foil sets were the the most expensive thing to have ever sold on the Marketplace, up to that point. Even the basic cards, individually, would sell for enough that buying CTHCC on sale was actually somehow profitable for your wallet just from the guaranteed 3 freebies you would earn on first play.

So you might be thinking, how much must these elusive Anime girl cards be now the game has been delisted? Well, it turns out that when a game is delisted, you’re not allowed to trade items from that game anymore!

Steam market place showing all the items being worth $0.00.
It’s a Rugpull!

Now, that’s comedy! Happy Holidays, everyone!

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