Hello, dear fellow gamers! Hope you're doing fine, gorging on delicious Christmas food and spending quality time with your loved ones. My own Christmas is shaping up to be quite busy indeed, which means that I probably won't have the time to play games, let alone write about them. That's why I've decided to take an official blogging break for the next two weeks. I'll see you in early 2019 with fresh and exciting new posts, dear fellow gamers! Until then, I wish you a Merry Christmas, with lovely moments and good food aplenty! ^__^
Here's my short and sweet report of Future Blessings' eight routes and stories, dear fellow gamers. Without further ado, let's go for it! (Spoilers ahead!)
The Sequel Routes
Those routes are incredibly short, but they all have one redeeming quality: they offer various solutions to Cardia's poison issue, allowing the lady and her beau du jour to enjoy physical intimacy — probably for all eternity, since all those routes also imply a wedding to come.
— Saint-Germain: After all the gloom and doom of Saint-Germain's route in Guardian of Rebirth, we get treated to a light-hearted route that fully shows Saint-Germain's kind and, dare I say, human side. Given his backstory, it's all too easy to treat the Count as a supernatural being of sorts; but the truth is that he started out his life as a human, and he remains a human despite his extraordinary longevity. His sequel route gives a welcome insight into his psyche and some of his relationships prior to meeting Cardia and the gang, and treats us to a really touching ending. Needless to say, I like Saint-Germain's arc much more after playing that route.
— Van Helsing: It seems that after painting Van Helsing as the resident douche in the original game, the writers wanted to show a softer side of him; that's how we end up with a route featuring an insecure, shy vampire hunter who frets and agonizes about how to convey his overflowing love for Cardia. The whole thing is quite consistent with Van Helsing's angsty personality, while still managing to be genuinely unexpected and surprising. I would lie if I said that I liked Van H's arc, but I have to admit that his sequel route redeems his character quite a fair bit. I only have one pet peeve with the guy: his darn glasses, which are way too feminine. Combined with his too-stylish haircut, those glasses make him look more like an butchy middle-aged secretary than like the 'human weapon' he's supposed to be.
— Impey: The crew's resident goof gets a lovely ending, rife with adventure and sweet, sweet romance. The writers keep weaving the whole Jules Verne thread, taking a page from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea and sending the young couple straight into deep sea exploration. Impey is more mature and assertive while still keeping his youthful, enthusiastic side; add to this an unexpected yet welcome bit of expertly handled steaminess, and you get much deeper and better character than the one we got to know and not necessarily love in the original game.
— Lupin: The gentleman thief's route is quite inconsistent — just like his whole arc in the series, really. It starts as a funny and playful romp, in which a pouty and mischievous Cardia tries to find a way to throw her all-too-confident lover off balance and make him blush and feel embarrassed. The whole endeavour half-succeeds, after which the tone gets all serious as Cardia muses about what kind of person her father used to be when he was still human and sane. The route then turns into a clumsy attempt to rehabilitate the late Isaac Beckford — which, then again, only half-succeeds. Lupin's route, half-baked is thy name.
— Victor: In my opinion, Victor's arc was just perfect as it was. The original game gave us tons of sweet romance as well as a fulfilling conclusion; there was really nothing to add, and the writers themselves probably realized this. But since they had to come up with those sequel routes for FB, they pulled out the whole Idea thing out of their hat and served us that heavy-duty, dramatic story in which Cardia's Horologium remains a ticking time bomb and the happy new couple must face the dire prospect of being separated sooner or later, with Cardia dying in the process. Hey, how do you like your honeymoon now? Still, Victor's route always had that bittersweet tone to it, and those new developments could be seen as a natural extension to GoR's events; that is, if said developments didn't house the biggest plothole of the whole game. The issue is: why is Cardia's existence considered a deadly threat only in Victor's route? There is nothing specific to Victor's route or to his love story with Cardia that justifies Idea's fears: the crux of the matter is that Cardia's Horologium is not fully neutered and that Victor, who provides the means to neuter it temporarily, will not be around forever to do so. Fair and nice; but this situation arises in all routes, not just Victor's one; so why the heck does Idea pop up solely in his route? Or do they try to recruit him in all routes, unbeknownst to us players? If that's the case, why do they leave Cardia off the hook? And why on earth would Victor spend potential eons brewing medecine for a woman he doesn't even get to bonk? If anything, Idea should appear in all routes but Victor's: it's pretty obvious that if he's with her, he's gonna try his hardest to heal her; on the other hand, if she's with another beau, life and circumstances will keep them apart and he's just not gonna try as hard. This whole situation is a big fat plothole and nothing else, full stop. I'll keep Victor's perfect route in GoR and treat that sorry sequel as non-canon.
The brand-new stuff:
— Shirley's Story: This is by far the longest story in that sequel, and it's an obvious attempt to give Cardia a female friend and craft a heart-pounding adventure around it. The whole thing kinda fails, mostly because of poor writing. Cardia and new girl Shirley become friends a mere two hours after meeting, after which their friendship is taken for granted and never questioned again. That instant bond would be marginally fine if the rest of the story were solid, which is unfortunately not the case. First, the featured mafia clan is as unconvincing as it gets: what kind of mafia doesn't kill anyone and refuses to dabble in drug trafficking? The writers themselves probably realized that the whole thing sounded unrealistic, because they tried to rebrand the clan as 'vigilantes' of sorts halfway through the story. Too little, too late, I'm afraid. Then, Lupin's crew demonstrate their whole range of superhuman and utterly ah hoc abilities; but that's pretty much business as usual, so I'll let that slip. What I cannot let slip is the fact that the big baddie, who killed hundreds of innocent citizens and was ready to flood Britain under a lethal drug, turns out to be evil because of a childhood trauma, after which he's nearly instantly forgiven. The fact that he's killed off-camera in some kind of freak accident, just so that Shirley won't dirty her pure white hands killing him in a bout of revenge, doesn't sit well with me either. That whole story is weak and unsatisfying, and it brings little to nothing to the Code Realize lore — all the less so as that precious friend of Cardia was never mentioned in GoR's story and is never mentioned again in the sequel routes.
— Holmes' Route: This is probably the most derivative, 'fanfic-y' route in the whole game: not only do we get Sherlock and his foil Dr. Watson, but we also get Moriarty and the Reichenbach Falls, all things canon in the universe created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It's extremely hard to play that route without making constant associations with the BBC's Sherlock; Cumberbatch's and Freeman's faces popped up in my head every now and then as I played, and that's with me never having watched a single episode of the series. Good luck playing that route without mental interferences if you're a hardcore fan of the whole thing. Apart from that, Holmes comes across as a bit flat; I'd wager that this is mostly due to the toning down of his character, with the writers getting rid of such otome-unfriendly idiosyncracies as Holmes' drug habit and antisocial behaviours. The shortness of the route, combined with the fact that Holmes is a mere supporting character that we don't get to know that much in GoR, probably also plays a part in making Holmes the most transparent and unconvincing of all the Code Realize beaus.
—Finis' Route: A fascinating and engrossing route, if only because it's non-romantic and features a brother and sister pair that don't end up cavorting with each other. Well, I guess Otomate adverted their own tropes pretty neatly with that one, now didn't they? Of course, Finis' route remains an Otomate creation through and through: not only is it FB's trademark confinement route, but it's rife with drama, despair and denial. Oh, the thrill! Getting Finis back from the brink of insanity and saving him from his own masochism is no small feat indeed, and the route kept me on my toes until the very end. It's pretty much a perfect route in my book; and although the game describes it as a story that "could have been", I'd be tempted to view it as the canon of all canons as far as Code Realize's overall story is concerned. I mean, Cardia can easily hook up with any of the beaus after she's done rescuing her dear brother, right? My only pet peeve with that route is the fact that Finis never changes his haircut or outfit, even after being rescued by Cardia. Sure, the other characters don't do that either; but their outfits and hairdos are more normal, while Finis' whole style is utterly bizarre and unpractical. I would have loved to see him without his Princess Leia-buns and his corset thing, if only in the ending sequence.
—The Delacroix Skits: This is not really a route, just a collection of sweet little scenes that are often more humorous that anything else; and yet, it's unmistakably romantic in nature, if only in a veiled way. I mean, there is no mistaking Delacroix's blush when he realizes that his head is resting on Cardia's tighs, and there is even less mistaking Cardia's intentions when she starts imagining a handsome adult Delacroix playing around with a kid that sports the exact same hair colour as herself. Only time will tell if a full-blown Delacroix route becomes a thing; but if it does, I'd wager that the vampire king could become a new fan favourite in a flash.
There you have it, dear fellow gamers: my whole route report for Future Blessings. Gee, I probably spent as much time writing that report as I did playing the game! Now, will I succumb again to the lure of the Code Realize fandisc and purchase Wintertide Miracles in early 2019? Only time will tell! Until then, dear fellow gamers, a million thanks for reading as usual, and be my guest anytime!
I wasn't initially planning to purchase Code Realize's sequel/fan disk, because: a) this is far from being my favourite series under the VN sun, and b) it was said to be short and thus not worth its 40-bucks price tag. But then came the Black Friday sales on the PSN, and Future Blessings was granted a massive 50% discount; and since I was in the mood for careless spending and VN action at the time, I caved in and purchased it.
My verdict: FB is most definitely short, and pretty light on content. However, that is not the game's main issue; that main issue would be how utterly pointless and redundant most of said content is. Without spoiling anything, what we have here is:
— Five sequel stories involving the beaus from Guardian of Rebirth. Those stories are painfully short, and definitely not meaty enough to leave a lasting impact. They really should have been included in the original game, if only to provide a sense of closure that was sorely missing in most of said original game's routes.
— Two brand-new romantic routes involving characters that were not dateable in GoR. Those routes are pleasant enough, and one of them comes close to single-handedly justifying the purchase of the whole game. If the game came with a 10 bucks price tag, that is.
— One exclusive side story taking place during the events of GoR. Probably the weakest link here: despite the writers' best intentions, this side story comes across as asinine, pointless, and poorly written to boot. It's also ridiculously derivative: it feels like a fanfiction of GoR, which is itself very much a giant crossover fanfiction.
— A set of semi-romantic skits involving a non-dateable character from GoR. Oh, such wasted potential! Those skits could have become an epic romantic route, if only the writers had bothered developing the whole thing. Instead, they merely give us a teaser and let us imagine what might happen. Or is it rather a trailer, alluding to a future route in yet another Code Realize fandisc? At any rate, it's a cheap move. A frustrating cheap move.
If you read my last post about GoR, dear fellow gamers, you may remember that I had a whole list of things I wanted to see in the sequel. Now, was my wish Otomate's command? Well, it was indeed! Granted, I didn't get everything I wanted; however, I definitely got more than I dared hope for. (Spoilers!) I got my Leonhardt x Victoria love story, with the sequel routes firmly implying a greater intimacy between the pair; I got my Finis route, not romantic but still full of love; and I got the next best thing to a Delacroix route. The only wish of mine that wasn't fulfilled was an Aleister route; but I guess that hooking Cardia up with a psychopath old enough to be her (grand)father was a bridge too far, even for Otomate. (End of spoilers.)
All in all, Future Blessings is a bit of a rip-off, even with a 20-bucks price tag. It was not unpleasant by any means, but it's definitely not juicy and solid enough to justify a purchase unless you're a hardcore fan of the series. I strongly feel that Otomate is trying to milk the series as much as possible by withholding important developments and then delivering them in sequels. Guardian of Rebirth is not a self-contained game: if you want a fulfilling conclusion to that game's routes, you need to purchase Future Blessings. Now, do you want a fulfilling conclusion to Future Blessings' brand-new routes? By all means, please purchase Wintertide Miracles, the second Code Realize fan disc! I swear, Otomate is just ruthless. (And I may just cave in in the end and purchase WM indeed, if only because I'm a sucker for wintery settings.) Having said that, I'll see you soon with my route report, dear fellow gamers! Thanks for reading, and be my guest anytime!