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Highway Blossoms Review

A yuri visual novel by an AMERICAN studio (not Japanese!), and it’s a banger at that. Love it when yuri starts to be recognized, it shall conquer the earth! Highway Blossoms, a heartwarming girls love story set in present day Southwest America, where a wanderer and a hitchhiker go on a wild treasure hunt and maybe fall in love along the way?

So this was my second playthrough, as I wanted to do a review of this visual novel with a fresh perspective and I did not regret it. Going through the story a second time helped fully appreciate a lot of the subtle nuances in the characters, and enjoy their flirty banter and bickering much more. Quick introduction to our main characters. 

Amber Golly, a loner who’s driving to California in a RV, to attend a music festival in honor of her recently passed Grandfather, and Marina Hale, a hitchhiker whose car broke down and is off to find a famous hidden treasure that everyone is after. Maybe it’s fate that these two met on the side of a desert road, and their initial meeting is off to a predictable rocky start. 

The Characters and Story

Despite Amber’s major reluctance to help a stranger (albeit a cute one in her opinion), she relents and helps Marina locate the first part of the missing treasure. The story picks up quick from there, as Amber and Marina slowly build their budding relationship over the course of their treasure hunting journey. One of the strongest points of the story is their relationship as their chemistry and dynamic is really wonderful. They both throw their share of snarky comments at the other and tease the other to no end, with Amber often being the one to provide dry humor with Marina being the butt of her jokes. However, Amber does get embarrassed as well, breaking her often serious demeanor. 

Exhibit A: A for Amber, whose weakness is a devious Marina

As the duo race to track down the remaining treasure pieces, now that it’s confirmed the legend is real, they run into Team Rocket, oops I mean Mariah, Joe, and Tess. The peanut gallery trio who are delightful in their own way, and characters who keep running into Amber and Marina along the journey as their treasure hunting rivals. 

Mariah is the greedy leader of the trio, willing to do whatever it takes to get rich quick, a sharp tongue, and aggressive boisterous personality. Joe, the straight man of the group who makes sure the trio don’t get too out of hand and the one with the sensible personality. And lastly, Tess, the quiet eccentric one with snappy remarks. They are always a treat to run into in the story, as their humorous antics and rivalry with Amber and Marina (Amber mainly, who hate’s Mariah’s guts) are a sight to see. Especially when they were the ones who uh accidently “liberated” Marina’s car at the start of the story for spare parts and cash. So we should thank them for getting Amber and Marina together haha. 

Anyway, back to the main couple. Seriously, the story is elevated by Amber and Marina’s dynamic. Just their casual conversations and banter is prime slice of life fluff. Like when they’re in a diner and Amber pokes fun at Marina for ordering chocolate milk like a kid, then Marina shoots back and calls her a granny for ordering coffee black. Then Amber later gets chocolate milk because surprise, it’s actually good, and Marina never lets her live it down. 

As their treasure hunt gradually comes to a close, the pair are faced with a daunting question; what becomes of them after the hunt finishes? This lingering question plagues their mind, and they’re desperate to avoid answering the question by avoiding each other and the topic, until it reaches a breaking point. They have a heart to heart, with Amber really trusting in Marina and telling her about her life story. They don’t confess to each other just yet, but relax in each other’s company, and that’s enough for now.

Now don’t get your pitchforks yet, because on the last trek of the treasure hunt, they find the last hidden treasure and finally confess and kiss. And it’s glorious and so earned, what with the tension between them for ages and other characters pointing out the will they or won’t they. 

Thus, the second part of the story ensues, and I really appreciate Highway Blossoms for this. A lot of yuri stories tend to end after the main couple gets together, and wraps it up as a happy ever after. But what about what comes AFTER? That’s where the second half comes in, exploring the struggles of their new relationship and tackling Amber’s still existing insecurities. 

Amber’s Journey

Amber’s happy now to be with Marina, but that doesn’t magically solve her issues. Getting into a relationship is good and all, but life still goes on, and I love that Highway Blossoms tackles that issue. She still isn’t over her grandfather’s death, and it shows in her overprotectiveness and freezing up at moments when she is reminded of him. Amber’s parents weren’t always around, so her grandfather was her caretaker and were extremely close. 

Marina’s friendly and outgoing behavior wore down Amber’s closed off shell slowly but surely. Amber herself realizes that she smiles a lot more when she’s around Marina, as they go from treasure hunting location to location. But Amber is quick to put her shields up, as she feels she isn’t worthy of being happy, especially after her grandfather passed away so recently. 

You start to notice Amber projecting her own flaws onto Marina, as a way to make up for her late grandfather. Marina also starts to notice this too, as she feels like Amber seems to overcompensate sometimes, as if to make up for something. She feels like she couldn’t save him, but she can protect Marina as best as she can to make up for that. It really hurts to see Amber being happy with Marina one second, then remembering her grandfather, and shutting down because she feels like she doesn’t deserve to be happy. 

Her insecurities eventually get the better of her, as after the two get (ahem) intimate, Amber has a moment of guilt in thinking that she has been using Marina this whole time as a way to cope with her loss. She decides to send Marina home, and their ensuing fight is hard to watch. Shortly after, Amber realizes her mistake and that maybe, just maybe she can move on and be happy. She gets this advice from Mariah of all people, where Amber drunkenly confides in Mariah, as who else to rant to then your sworn enemy? A scene occurs where Amber buries a favorite cassette of her gramps, and bids him farewell (I cried at this part).

Amber and Marina’s reunion is so sweet, and it comes full circle. Amber isn’t perfect, but she learns that’s ok, and that she can rely on Marina to pick her up when she falls. They attend the music festival (the event all the way from the beginning), only this time, Amber is attending for all the RIGHT reasons. She’s here with Marina, to start a new journey, a new chapter in her life. And she knows she’s really happy at this moment right now. Honestly one of the most natural character development journeys, especially impressive for a yuri visual novel. 

Amber started off a cynical loner, who wanted to atone for not being able to save her grandfather. But along the way, fell in love with Marina, and learned that she didn’t save Marina; Marina saved her from herself. Amber may not be perfect, but she wants to do better for Marina, and that is a great love story. 

Other Details

The voice acting was TERRIFIC. I often found myself taking my time on the read through, simply because the voice acting was truly funny, and heart wrenching at times. Cool easter egg I noticed was that Marina’s voice actor also voices Charlie from Hotel Hazbin (great youtube animation). The art was also cute, and really fit the Southwest vibe (whatever the hell that means). There are also a couple, ahem, lewd scenes but they’re done in that awkward first time style if you get my drift. 

Final Thoughts

Visual novels aren’t my first go to for consuming entertainment. Anime and manga are my usual picks, but choosing to read this was the best accidental mistake I’ve made. This was my first foray into the world of yuri visual novels, and what a splash it made. Amber is a fantastically human character, and her relationship with Marina over the course of the story is very natural and well built. It’s available on steam, and is around a 4-8 hour playthrough. Check it out, if only to see Amber and Marina roast each other in good flirty fun. 

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