Dragon Quest V: Happy ending
35 fulfilling hours, my DQV playthrough comes to an end. That's not to say that I defeated the last boss and saw the credits roll, though; because the truth is that I didn't. I found said last boss at the bottom of his lair, and engaged him unprepared to test the waters; and while vanquishing his first form was easy enough, his second form wiped out my whole party in a matter of turns. The right course of action would be to go back at him with an vengeance and a solid strategy; however, I just cannot bring myself to do that. To be honest, I don't really care that much about beating Grandmaster Nimzo to a pulp. For once, he's not exactly my sworn enemy: the first time I met him was precisely during the final showdown, and it feels weird to kill a big baddie I just met. Sure, he more or less destroyed my MC's whole life through his minions' actions; but he remained such an elusive presence throughout the whole game that it's hard to resent him genuinely. Slaughtering Ladja was a thrill because of all the bad blood between us; but slaughtering Nimzo feels more like your obligatory Final Boss Fight. And then, there's the issue of me being lazy: there were so few boss fights during the game that I basically grew complacent, and I just cannot be arsed to rack my brain for strategies and try again.
— especially my little jailcat Jayla, i.e. the best party member an RPG player could wish for. (She was fast, strong, versatile, and totally adorable to boot; what's not to love?) I won't lie and claim that I loved DQV more than DQIX, though. My DQIX run was one of my most epic RPG playthroughs ever, and DQV simply cannot emulate the sheer scale of DQIX. DQV is more of a domestic RPG, with basic mechanics, a small game world and a mundane yet endearing story. The overall simplicity of the game bordered on shallowness at times, and there was a bit too much flirting with fake longevity; but playing DQV made me happy all the way through, and that's all that matters.
So what's next, you may ask? Well, I just secured physical copies of the 'Summer of Mystery' otome games from Aksys; and since I've had my fill of grinding for the time being, I'm gonna unwind by playing those ultimate Aksys offerings. (I cannot imagine any physical Vita game coming out in the West in the months to come, let alone an otome game.) I'll see you soon with tidings of romance and mystery, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Dragon Quest V: Soothing late stages
middle stages of my run, I finally made peace with the game. No longer do I even try to figure out where to go or what to do next if the story doesn't kindly direct me; instead, I run straight to an FAQ and move on. That
So here I am, in the final dungeon and nearly at the last boss' door. I'll grind just a bit more, as promised; and then, it will be time for the final showdown. See you soon for my ultimate DQV tidings, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Dragon Quest V: Mixed middle stages
No boss fight for hours on end: I honestly cannot remember the last time I faced a boss. Grinding is all well and nice, but it somewhat loses its edge when the game doesn't offer you mighty bosses to use as touchstones. I know bosses are bound to come back before the end of the game (like, literally), but that long boss-less stretch is a bit disturbing nonetheless.
Where do I go next?: Yup, that dreaded old-school RPG trope is alive and well in DQV. While early quests always explicitely told me where to go, current quests are much more elusive, giving me only the faintest of clues and letting me figure out by myself where I'm supposed to be headed. Mind you, this wouldn't be so bad if the world map hadn't fully opened at the same time, giving me countless opportunities to get desperately lost. And yes, I did check walkthroughs once or twice — because hey, I have metric tons of other games waiting to be played and I cannot decently waste precious hours scouring every pixel of a game world.
— special mention to the stone statue episode, which made me feel genuinely desperate as a spectator and as a player worried for the future of their party. It's just that I had this crazy hope that maybe, just maybe, the game was going to keep things domestic and treat me to a family epopee while giving the world a break. Oh, well. We'll see how the whole thing plays out, I guess. I'll see you soon for more DQV tidings, dear fellow gamers; and as usual, thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Dragon Quest V: Dreamy early stages
Trails in the Sky. My titular hero has been the only fixture in my party so far, aided by a number of extra party members that come, fight by my side and go as the story unfolds. I really love that setting that allows me to enjoy the best of two worlds: I get that extra oomph in battle thanks to those guests, yet I can still lavish stat-raising items on my MC without a second thought. This also gives me the opportunity to try different fighting strategies, which is something lazy me probably wouldn't have bothered to do otherwise.
— or at least not ruffle anyone's feathers, unlike very distinctive RPG settings such as FFVII's steampunk world — and it somehow manages to capture the very essence of fantasy RPG. You know what to expect right from the start: set foot in a town, talk to the locals, agree to solve their big problem (there's always a big problem going on), go to the nearby dungeon, solve the big problem, collect your reward — rinse and repeat until the end of the game. And then you have the mandatory grinding, which may be stifling to some but is also quite soothing and reassuring: no matter how strong the foe, it can always be ultimately defeated with a healthy amount of grinding. No complicated strategies to master, no luck involved: just grind enough and you're set. In an RPG landscape full of increasingly outlandish fighting systems, such simplicity and predictability are a breath of fresh air.
I have 10 hours under my belt already; and while I'm pretty sure that my DQV run won't ever be as long as my DQIX one, I still think I have a good number of hours of enjoyable play ahead, if only because I'm grinding so, so much. But hey, I can't help it: battles flow so swiftly with the maximum text speed that I find myself stuck in an transe and unable to stop; and the battle backgrounds are so gorgeous, I just want to gaze at them over and over again. In a nutshell, I'm hooked, and I love being hooked. See you soon for more DQV tidings, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Nurse Love Addiction: The route report
Nurse Love Addiction offers four love interests and nine endings. I have no qualms about admitting that I resorted to an FAQ to land all the endings, and for good reasons: unlike its fellows romantic VNs Norn9 and Amnesia:Memories, NLA doesn't provide any clue to help the player figure out if they're on the right track. On top of that, the relevant dialogue choices are often quite random, and you cannot really figure out the 'right' answer by yourself despite all the patient character development present in the game. Last but not least, most of the bad endings (and some of the good ones as well, for that matter) come completely out of left field and clash vigorously with the story's overall sweet and heartwarming tone, leaving you gaping at the screen in sheer incredulity. Having said that, on with the show! (Giant SPOILERS included!)
Itsuki: My least favourite route by a very long shot. On top of disliking Itsuki's design, I was left totally cold by her character (non)development and relationship with Asuka. We're basically dealing with two people that are initially in love with someone else rather than with each other, and it takes an awful lot of crafty storytelling to make such a setting work — storytelling that NLA sadly doesn't display. Itsuki and Asuka find themselves in love with each other out of the blue, and they don't even seem to enjoy it that much — in fact, they seem rather reluctant to be with each other, which certainly doesn't encourage the player to root for them. The big reveal about Itsuki posing as a bold and brash girl when she's actually a shy introvert was interesting; however, the writers made a serious disservice to her and to her story by not letting her switch back to her initial personality when alone with Asuka, which would have made her character much more nuanced and touching. Instead, she keeps her bratty facade on at all times, and comes across as utterly unconvincing in the process: as a reader, I simply cannot believe for a second that she managed to overhaul her own personality so thoroughly and maintain that change for ten-or-so years. And if she does switch back at times, well, she's just insincere for not doing it in front of Asuka. At the end of the day, Itsuki is a painfully one-dimensional and superficial character, and her talking mannerisms (i.e. "uso da yo" repeated ad nauseam) and clichéd otaku-ish hobbies really don't help her case. Another thing that doesn't help her route at all is her bad ending, which is so ridiculously improbable that you might miss what's actually happening here at first (I sure as heck did). Prior to this event, there is absolutely nothing in the story that hints at the fact that Asuka could become a cannibal-meets-necrophile upon losing her lover, and the tone shift is so brutal that it kinda fails to register and leaves the player more incredulous than shocked.
Sakuya: As the game's resident 'hime', Sakuya gets a route that fits her personality to a T: mysterious, dramatic and romantic, with a super-duper plot twist to crown things. This could have been one of the best routes, if not for the story's excessive reliance on the whole 'destiny' theme. The premise goes as such: Sakuya and Asuka were in love with each other as kids; and that love, far from being your usual puppy love, was a fated romance bound to transcend time and space. We're dealing with the most overused romantic cliché of them all here; and unfortunately, NLA doesn't manage to make the most of it. The main issue is that interactions between Sakuya and Asuka at the nursing school are few and far between; and when said interactions occur, they are usually cold and superficial. Because of that, the game relies overly on Sakuya and Asuka's shared past to craft a romantic vibe between them; but since we, the player, never get to see that shared past with our own eyes, we just cannot get involved and feel the love. This is a classic case of telling instead of showing, and it makes the route quite flat and unbelievable. To make matters worse, the writers pushed the 'fate' thing as far as they could — up until the point where it becomes utterly grotesque. Sakuya's route is the only one in which the bad ending is actually better than the good ending: having Asuka hold a mariage ceremony on the hospital roof with a dying (or freshly dead) Sakuya is just a thousand times more romantic and touching than seeing Sakuya reincarnate as Kyoko's and Asuka's daughter and state in no uncertain terms that she's gonna make a pass at Asuka as soon as she's sexually mature, which makes Asuka giggle in delight. Seriously, game? You wanted to shove in your fated love story so much that you had to dabble in incest? And sure, maybe that new Sakuya is genetically related to Kyoko rather than to Asuka; but the whole thing is vomit-inducing nonetheless.
Kaede: This is by far the most grounded route of the bunch, a perfectly normal love story involving normal people doing normal things; and it's also the only romantic route that doesn't mention Asuka's past at the Center at all. Since there is no pre-existing relationship between Kaede and Asuka, the game has to focus on the stakes of their current interactions; the result is an engrossing and subtle piece of story that deals with the perils of romances involving an age gap. As a young and inexperienced girl, Asuka dates Kaede out of admiration and lust, and focuses solely on the entertaining aspects of their relationship rather than on Kaede as a person; Kaede, on the other hand, is a full-grown woman with romantic experience that longs for a deeper and more serious relationship and is not quite sure that Asuka can provide it. From that situation emerges the only remotely predictable crossroad in the entire game: it either leads to the good ending, where Kaede and Asuka end up together, or to the bad ending, where Kaede goes back to her lover yet keeps bonking Asuka on the side. Not giving the letter back to Kaede confirms that Asuka is indeed just an immature brat with no morals who only cares about her own happiness, and leads Kaede straight back into the arms of her former lover — and the player straight into the arms of the bad ending. On the other hand, giving the letter back to Kaede shows that Asuka cares about Kaede's happiness first and foremost and is mature enough to renounce her if need be; such a display of selflessness melts Kaede's heart and secures the good ending. If I had to point a flaw in that route, it would be its overall mundanity and occasional corniness: this is a route that's more likely to induce yawns and embarrassed giggles than to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Nao: Lovely Nao-chan was my favourite character by far, both in terms of looks and personality. I had thus a mighty big bias towards her route; and well, I was not disappointed. Nao's and Asuka's love story is by far the deepest and most fleshed-out of the bunch: not only do Nao and Asuka have the greatest amount of interactions, but their romance starts in a really subtle way — little touches that feel more erotic than they should, double entendres that sound a tad too serious, declarations of love that are a little too intense for sisterly love, and so on. You can really feel the love between those two, and this is the only route that actually made my heart flutter and made me root for the pair in earnest. It's also nice to get a plausible explanation for Asuka's weird personality change over the years: although it's never fully confirmed, we can infer that Nao's repeated tampering with Asuka's memories also messed up Asuka's personality, transforming her into the scatterbrained girl she is nowadays. Nao's constant dotting on Asuka is motivated by a mix of intense love for her sister and gnawing guilt over what she did to her; and those conflicting emotional forces get to shine in the good and bad ending respectively. Not getting Asuka's forgiveness and redonning the role of the younger sister who takes guidance from the older one allows Nao to atone for her sins and let go of her guilt, ultimately leading to a fulfilling relationship with Asuka. On the other hand, being forgiven by Asuka increases her guilt so much that she starts somatising and cannot physically stand to be near Asuka; this leads to the most twisted outcome of them all, in which Asuka has to beat Nao repeatedly in order to quell Nao's extreme guilt and self-hatred. The only flaw I could find in Nao's route was the spoilery quality of the whole romance: since it's obvious that the game is not going to show genuine incest on screen, we can guess pretty much right from the start that Nao and Asuka are not biological sisters. Of course, this also generates a modicum of suspense, so maybe it's not that much of a flaw after all.
Asuka: Miss Jellyfish has her own dedicated 'owner of a lonely heart' route, which happens if you fail to romance anyone. It shows Asuka dutifully pursuing her daily life and her studies; upon graduating, she reflects on the past three years and gets a bittersweet feeling, commenting on the fact that she didn't "find her star". As uneventful as it is, this route is actually one of my favourites: it maintains the sweet, heartwarming and comforting vibe of the story all the way through and spares us all the gruesome stuff present in the other routes. It's kinda refreshing to experience Asuka as a perfectly normal girl, with no traumatizing past or twisted relationships to worry about; in a way, that somewhat dull ending is a perfectly happy one.
NLA apparently has no true route; however, I fancy thinking that Nao's route is the true route in disguise, if only because of the intensity of their love for each other. Nao's relationship with Asuka is ten times the 'fated love' Asuka's relationship with Sakuya ever could be, with them meeting as children and ending up in the same family without ever being separated since. Also, look at the picture above: Nao and Asuka are the same size and basically glued to each other, while the other girls' heads are bigger and kinda float in the background, like larger-than-life fantasies that have no real chance of ever becoming true. If we want to go really wild, we can postulate that Nao only manages to rescue Asuka from Kyoko's stabbing in her own route thanks to the strengthening of their love bond, and fails to do so in other routes because of the converse weakening of said bond; consequently, all routes bar Nao's are just the twisted dreams of an Asuka stuck in a coma. Of course, it's probably just my own fondness for Nao speaking; but in the absence of any officially anointed true route, I can let my imagination run the show. And these, dear fellow gamers, are my final words about Nurse Love Addiction. Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!
Posted by Isleif at 22:24 2 comments:
Labels: Gal Game, Visual Novel, Vita
Nurse Love Addiction: I'm on the fence
At the end of the day, would I recommend NLA? Hard to tell, really. There's some good in this game, but there's also an awful lot of bad. In the end though, I still like it more than I dislike it; and I'll certainly replay it one day, if only for the enchanting atmosphere, the lovely chara design and art, the engrossing segments about nursing and the few endings I enjoyed. I'll see you soon with a route report brimming with spoilers, dear fellow gamers. Thanks for reading, and be m guest anytime!
Posted by Isleif at 20:05 4 comments:
Labels: Gal Game, Visual Novel, Vita
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