I just posted a very long review of ACE Academy, an English-language visual novel with heavy Japanese visual novel and anime influences. ACE Academy was first released in August 2016. However, the project began as Kendo Crush!, a visual novel that would have starred an American transfer student who joins a school kendo club. PixelFade Studios released a short Kendo Crush! demo on February 9, 2014 (the demo is still available). I played through the short demo, which featured some of the mechanics that made it into ACE Academy, and came away impressed. I was following the project, which was being funded on Kickstarter, when not too long after the demo release, PixelFade Studios announced that they were abandoning Kendo Crush! and re-doing the project in a futuristic setting with mechs. I was disappointed at the time – preferring kendo to robots – and I had my doubts that the project would ever see the light of day.
I noticed ACE Academy on Steam a few years later. While I forget how I did so – I eventually figured out that ACE Academy was the project that had started as Kendo Crush! I was still not particularly inetrested, but it kept showing up in my recommendations and I noted that it had very good reviews. At some point I bought ACE Academy, and I finally got around to actually playing it for the first time in March 2022 (I finished all the routes about a week before publishing the review). While I did not like the thematic change in 2014-15, I ultimately think that PixelFade Studios probably made the right call in switching from kendo to robots in 2049. They did a terrific job of depicting a charming futuristic setting and the story benefited from being set in college. Moreover, while I noted some unfinished aspects of the science-fiction and robot plots in ACE Academy, I can see how it was likely easier to use the original GEAR concept in setting than to haggle with a kendo club. I happily concede that my 2014-15 assessment of the move from Kendo Crush! to ACE Academy was incorrect.
(Note: Many of the images on the Visual Novel Database page for ACE Academy are from the Kendo Crush! demo. That should be fixed.)