It’s me, draggle, here with my latest excuse for failing miserably at anime blogging.
As you all could probably guess, I like anime. Like many in our circles, I also enjoy Japanese RPGS and manga. But I think light novels are dumb. And I don’t even care enough about figures or cosplay to bother insulting them. And visual novels… my god. What an atrocity. A crime against humanity?
I’ve tried to enjoy visual novels. Probably my first gentle introduction was Utawarerumono. Yes, it’s kind of an SRPG / visual novel hybrid so maybe it doesn’t count. That’s probably the only reason I managed to finish it. It certainly didn’t help my opinion of visual novels that I didn’t realize it was 18+ (I only downloaded it because I had enjoyed the anime without really researching it at all) and my roommate walked in right as the first sex scene started and my computer crashed. Awkward.
Since then I’ve tried to to read a number of visual novels. Kanon and Clannad. Tsukihime and Fate / Stay Night. Muv Luv. Cross something or other. And I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. I was tempted to try Grisaia after all the hilarious screenshots but I resisted. In the end, I hated every visual novel I ever played. Tsukihime and Fate / Stay Night were the only ones that I was able to get more than half an hour in. It’s just… long and boring. It’s like reading a book. Except the book is even more poorly written than your typical light novel. This shit makes Mushoku Tensei look like a literary masterpiece. And what’s worse, you can’t even skim through the boring parts. (Which is 95% of the writing. Even F/SN and Tsukihime… my god those fight scenes and sex scenes were awful.)
Anyway, this brings us to the game I played this week. Life is Strange. My brother told me I needed to play it.
He was right.
It pretty much shattered all my judgmental opinions of visual novels and of video games as a general medium. Video games / visual novels always have dumb stories? Lol no. This is better than most books I’ve read. Video games / visual novels are better played with the volume turned off? Nope. First thing I did after I finished the game was went and downloaded the soundtrack. Video games / visual novels have atrocious voice acting? Nope. (Although Joyce and Warren in particular were a bit forced.)
The use of choice is amazing. Ordinarily in video games your choice is to either be Jesus Christ or turn into Hitler. In this game, for the vast majority of the choices… I had no idea what the right choice is. There’s also a great sense of immersion. I’ve felt more empathy than I’ve ever felt playing a video game before. I wasn’t myself, I was Max Fucking Caufield, Time Lord. It’s full of twists and turns. No character is as good or as awful as they seem.
And I don’t want to spoil anything, but the game is amazing thematically. It heads into some pretty dark places. But always with that glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel…
I’m sure some people will dispute my labeling of Life is Strange as a visual novel. And sure, maybe it’s not. At least not what visual novels have been. But it’s definitely what a visual novel should be. (I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the high school setting. This is in a high school setting and still has amazing characterizations and a fascinating story. Why is every manga and anime set at high school so dead and lifeless? American high school may be hell, but at least it’s not so unbelievably boring as the Japanese portrayal of high school…)
In short, absolutely amazing game. Deserves a Grammy and an Oscar and whatever the hell the other one is called. Go play it. With this and Undertale as just a starting point, this has already been the greatest year for video games in human history.