So, for those of you who pay attention to my Youtube Channel, twitter, or even read my first entry of the year, you’ll know that I recently played the game in full and it was one of the games I was most looking forward to this year.
Did it hold up to my expectations? It absolutely did. I had a lot of fun with it. I had a lot of fun with the references. This will go into spoilers so if you do not want to be spoiled, I’d recommend stopping at this sentence. I played through all the routes and most of the different paths (I say most because no matter how hard I tried, I somehow still managed to always get Sue on my side. I’m honestly too scared to have it go differently at this point. I’ve also mainly just played as Kind and with a “bad” playthrough (Essentially trying to do terribly with everyone), Gutsy, and somehow still passed having no idea what I was doing).
I’ll likely be going back and forth on what I liked and disliked based on my train of thought, but honestly, any flaws I will be mentioning felt really negligible compared to what I did enjoy. I can only think of two things that really felt off-putting to me a bit (and in general with that scene for most characters) and one thing that upset me a lot, but that’s all personal stuff and your mileage will absolutely vary . I don’t think most will have an issue with the latter especially–I’m just sensitive. That said, I think the game can have personal effects on a lot of people for various reasons due to its themes as well.
I always loved arcades so getting to work at one in the game was a lot of fun. Whenever we went on vacation during the summer, I would always go to the arcade and along with occasionally playing a racing or shooting game, I’d play the crane game. A lot. I usually would go back to our room with tons of plushies I won. The fact that I could not actually play a crane game in the game made me sad, but at least I could watch one in the arcade itself :P
My personal favorite routes were Percy’s, the friendship route (for one specific reason I’ll get to), and Teo’s. I actually didn’t expect to like Teo’s route that much as I generally don’t care much for overly flirty characters and he’s just a bit too much for me, but he’s actually balanced really great on his route and it’s a lot nicer than I expected and on a “how much did I enjoy dating this character”, he and Percy are kind of tied.
Going by character traits alone, Naomi, Ashley, and Percy were my favorite characters. I found there were things I could relate to with every character such as Naomi’s dreams, Ashley’s self-worth (though, my reasons are different than hers, Ashley is one of the characters I really found the most interesting to learn more about. There’s so much more to Ashley than I expected), and Teo’s inability to take a break. Seeing the characters grow is so interesting and I never really found myself bored on any of the routes as I got to learn more about the characters.
I genuinely didn’t expect to be too into QueenBee’s or Teo’s stories due to not being into eSports and, as mentioned before, Teo being a bit too flirtatious for me, but both characters had a lot more to them and I enjoyed learning more about them.
I would say the only part of the story where I felt a bit frustrated was during the grand opening of the new arcade. Regardless of route, some issue comes up right before the opening that makes things more difficult and also for the characters to realize how much the player character means to them after they get shot. I’m not upset with the timing or meaning or anything, but I felt some of the issues felt overly forced and that’s really where my issue is.
Naomi’s and Gavin’s situations vary quite a bit based off who’s route you’re on, but they’re highly focused on whoever you’re dating being in the wrong and having to let them know. With Naomi, she paints over a Pengy to look like Pengo and she wanted to put it on the arcade cabinet to get it more attention, but Pengy is essentially heavily copyrite protected and it being painted over like that could cause a lot of problems. And honestly, you know, if you want to paint over some other Penguin to look like the Penguin of a game you love, that’s fine, Naomi. You do you. But using it to advertise/get attention with essentially a painted over figure of something else is really not okay. You could have even asked Juniper and Ashley to draw something up.
As for Gavin, for whatever reason, he decided to up the difficulty on every single game. Arcade games aren’t that easy anyway. It wasn’t needed. And the main thing was to put on his focus about making a profit to keep dreams alive while also then bringing up their relationship when it shouldn’t have been. My main issue here was with the fact that it really felt he was getting better at compromising and then it was like we took two steps back. Considering everything that happened with the arcade, I’m not entirely surprised he went backwards a bit, especially as there is so much depending on the grand opening going well, but this still felt like too much.
Ashley’s is a bit of an odd one for me because I still don’t know how I feel about it. I think, for me, even though I am more comfortable with certain parts of myself, I suffer from that a lot. That everything is wrong and this just… frustration and hate of everything I’ve done. Any project I do, anything I write, (and the player character gives some pretty good advice there that I should probably take but instead I react pretty similar to Ashley so thanks for calling me out, game), and it was just kind of such a pinpoint for me to see because it felt like I was talking to myself. And especially after coming off Ashley being happy with just being herself, I was surprised to see that side. To see loathing like that and how she pushed the player character away. If anything, I would say my issue with Ashley’s was more that I don’t think I could understand how the shooting concluded the situation paired with it hitting me in a way I wasn’t expecting and am still dealing with myself.
With Naomi’s and Gavin’s, it was showing that it wasn’t something they should’ve gotten so upset for and figuring out their priorities so it’s the conflict itself that frustrated me a bit.
Teo’s and QueenBee’s, in a stark contrast to my issue with Naomi’s and Gavin’s, was actually an issue with the player character’s response. For both of them, I was genuinely happy for them. I had no issue with the idea of them going off and just long distance and occasional visits, but I had no way to express that. Teo’s actually gave me one answer to, but somehow it still delved into the Player character not really meaning it and I just kind of wanted to shake everyone. It was such a good opportunity for both of them and I couldn’t really understand the Player character’s selfishness here. Like, yeah, they compromise in the end, but I don’t think they needed to in such a way.
Juniper’s is possibly the oddest to me because, while she does explain how this just finally blew over as for why it’s coming up now, it really did just feel… so poorly timed and odd to bring up. Like… you go to wish them luck on their big project and then add on all these things they aren’t doing. I’m not sure what caused it to just kind of… explode there as it really didn’t feel like the right time (and it gets brushed off again at the hospital anyway and the player character can’t do much on crutches) and just made me feel terrible for something that couldn’t be handled at all at that moment. It’s not like I could leave back to the apartment real quick.
Finally, Percy’s which was the one I enjoyed the most here. I played Percy’s first (and his route is the one I have up on my channel) and due to just how well his flowed, I didn’t even think there would be a conflict there for each character.
Percy rejecting a chance to possibly extend his life/cure his condition because his sister didn’t make it is so heartbreaking, but also makes a lot of sense with his character. His big goal is getting that score she couldn’t have herself and that is all he focuses on. He doesn’t feel he deserves that life. And only when he nearly loses the player character does it really hit him how selfish he was being. It just felt such a natural progression and due to his heart condition and how long he has being the main personal conflict in his route, the player character’s life being what kind of flipped the switch for him felt like such a perfect trade-off that I really didn’t expect every route to have things happen the same way.
That scene is literally my only writing complaint though (outside of Percy’s which I felt was perfect and Ashley’s which hit too close to home). Everything else I found really great.
As for the other scene that hit me a bit, it was Francine’s death. While I was worried that it could happen, I really hoped it wouldn’t. Having lost both of my grandmother’s within the last year and a half, it made me cry quite a bit and I really didn’t handle it too well.
Going back to some of my favorite scenes… Honestly, part of the issue was I truly enjoyed too many scenes and options and you can’t actually do them all in a single playthrough. Every scene helping out in the arcade, whether it be playing detective to figure out an issue or using your body as a cupcake shield, is a lot of fun. And there were so many moments to really learn more about the characters. Similarly, all the scenes at MAX were also really great.
Even during the auction. I loved both of the hanging out scenes with Naomi, but I also loved bidding on everything with Gavin. But if I bid, I couldn’t help save the kittens. These decisions were very hard. Not to mention not being able to hang out with everyone on the boardwalk…
And even when the new arcade was being planned, it was pretty difficult. All of the ideas were great. Being able to stream directly from the arcade? Amazing. Better prizes? Always good. Tickets for everything? YES. I wish it was possible to say yes to more options to make things even more amazing.
I will say though, it made me sad that if you do end up going in a relationship, whoever your two lowest friendships are will just kind of… leave. I tried so many things to keep friendships up only to realize you can actually only keep everyone around on the Friendship route. And to be honest, I felt like I spent less time with the characters during the friendship route so I was surprised that was the only way they stayed.
The only thing I wish the game had is a gallery feature of some sort. While I loved the prizes and concept art, I would have loved an area to see all the illustration moments with my character.
At least I took a lot of screenshots. And also recorded my first playthrough.
Anyway, this is getting long so I’m just going to sum it up a bit:
-If you like games, there’s a lot of fun references that you can enjoy even if a visual novel isn’t your type of thing!
-While the customization is a bit simple (And I wish at the least my character could be a bit shorter), I feel all the color options and the niceness of being able to pick your pronouns makes up for it–yeah, maybe the character isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but an ambiguous character helps lessen anyone feeling left-out.
-Why couldn’t I actually have the Mr. Moopy plushie I got at the beach in my room? Why isn’t there an actual one I can have in my real room? These are the real questions. (don’t worry, they’re rhetorical :P)
-All the characters are really interesting and I loved getting to know their stories.
-The ending varies a lot more than I expected based on your main personality trait which is really cool.
-I AM SO HAPPY YOU CAN TURN ON INDICATORS. I have a lot of trouble understanding sarcasm so it was really helpful for me to pick an answer that meant what I thought it would and not get blindsided by something like a “Hi” being turned into a “Hi you suck go die” without warning.
-It’s nice being able to just stick to friendship if you want.
-Francine’s family is overly spiteful T__T why would you do that ;~;
-Even though I kind of had an idea of what would happen plot-wise with Deco Nami (and most of everything with Sue–just… not the relation even if I figured her gang was working for him), it didn’t ruin any of my enjoyment of the plot.
-I need my own IRIS.
The game really does make you think about what you would sacrifice for your dreams and it’s hard. I’ve been struggling a lot in real life with a job that really takes a lot out of me and makes it hard to really focus on things I do enjoy (like… 100%ing games, writing, reading, baking, and cooking… And especially traveling which is the most expensive thing on this list) and it’s so hard to juggle if your dreams are really worth it sometimes. There’s a lot you really need to put into it and sometimes you forget just how much work you do. You can’t always just wait for it and you need to be ready to take that step and the game genuinely makes you think more than you’d expect it to.