Today, I will be discussing some of my criticisms and opinions about the OELVN, Mystic Destinies: Serendipity of Aeons which can be found on the Steam store page. It is a free demo that is supplemented with character packs (of which only one is available so far at the price tag of 5 dollars) and has a light fantasy, magic based setting.
I’m not new to world of “Visual Novels” and I will out right say that yes, I have played Eroge/H-games before. That can range from stuff like Little Busters, all the way to untranslated stuff that I’ve played with the use of a tool and a dictionary, so I’m not flexing any muscle here at all in superiority, just a clarification that I’m no expert, but I can speak my peace. Since the game I will be talking about, Mystic Destinies: Serendipity of Aeons is also a Otome game I will come clean and say I don’t play them at all and probably won’t get the appeal. Though I will ask an “aficionado” what her opinion on the game is.
Hopefully to provide a mirrored reaction to this game so its not all just me bashing it for things I don’t understand. (A bit of sarcasm, and I hate that just because something can be designed for females, automatically invalidates your opinion or criticism of it just because you are a man.)
Did I mention we have a female media expert here on Moe-Alt? His name is DDK, a serial offender and cereal lover his forte is Precure and its varied female cast. Please send all hate mail and inquiry to him please.
OELVN’s are a different monster however, mostly because of the name itself: Original English Language Visual Novel. No part of the process in the creation of one of these visual novels is done in Japan, or by Japanese people. It’s mostly just describing a Western game, made by Western developers, for Western anime fans. This includes an extreme distillation of tropes and character design, assigned hair colors and personalities.
One of my favorite gags is having the game take place in Japan, even though the game has Western origins, there’s just something magical and mysterious about the illustrious and enigmatic Orient (previously held ancient beliefs by people 300 some odd years ago) where you can become a Wizard/Witch and fall in love with your 2D personality assigned carbon based unit of your choice.
Hair color, you say. You want vim and vigor, youth, rash behavior with a fiery personality?
Pick the red one. It’s like Kool-aid, but less satisfying and less blood sugar intensive.
I digress though, and now for the meat of my opinion.
Truth of the matter is that if you don’t have good characters in your story, then your story isn’t good. It’s far too easy to blame the lack of variety and depth when you have a full cast, but I would honestly rather there be just one interesting character with moderate depth than have a bunch of puddle deep eccentric colored haired idiots. Superficiality tropes, stereotypes, and just plain lack of knowledge can sink a character, and it especially can if you ask a reader or watcher to describe a character without describing their appearance.
It’s a otome game, it’s not real, it’s stylistic, yeah yeah. That still means that your characters need to be at least believable in their own universe and not stick out from a perceived norm in the setting; the boys and girls can have stylish and colorful hair as long as it’s never brought up as a focus or odd detail about the character. Who’s to say that this is weird, does this mean the other background characters are normal because they were born with brown or black hair? The author I guess, and that’s type of bad logic that just shoehorn your characters in prescribed roles and the same old stale designs that permeate the Western anime community.
There are ways of doing this correctly, for example look how Yotsuba&! does it. Yotsuba has odd styled green hair, and some of the characters think she is a foreigner, but the character do not dwell on it, they don’t assign a stereotype, or see Yotsuba and an odd, eccentric little girl who also has bizarre hair. It’s part of her charm and design, and she never brings it up herself either.
When your unreliable narrator (the female protagonist in this case) is mentioning the characters odd way of dress or hair color, this presents questions.
- How odd is it?
- Is it dye?
- Natural hair color?
- Do Japanese people have recessive rainbow hair genes?
- What is normal? The protagonist or the rest of the cast?
Can these questions be answered? They can if the story takes the time to, but that internal logic fair too complicated and unnecessary for the type of game this is rather than be an elaborate and explainable eccentricity that could lead to some character development. Instead if reads rather like a scene from Pinky and the Brain. (sic. HURR LOOK BRAYNE HE’S GOT SO PRETTY LOVELY PURPLISH PINK HAIR DOESN’T HE!)
Color theory aside, the characters are straight up flat. That’s not a 2D joke either, they’re about as stale a character as could ever possibly be; while existing as nightmarish Frankenstein monstrosities cobbled together from memes, tropes, and other superficial elements from other games. Tokimeki Memorial has the same deal going on, but I at least remember a lot of the males from that game from just beyond the color of their hair and the personality.
Demo or not establishing characters is a craft in itself, and if it doesn’t engage right way and your characters seem likable, well I’m sorry they suck. This can be a huge problem when the entire point of the demo is “if you want to see more of this character, pay $5”. I feel like I’m paying for a hostage rescue.
Overall I get the feeling this isn’t set in Tokyo, the real one, but the anime one I’ve seen in all my favorite Japanese cartoons. Nothing particularly new or interesting, which is a shame because it would be interesting to see a Western take on being in Tokyo as an outsider and interacting with the seedy magic underbelly. Alas, I am continually disappointed.
Not much to put here, but I particularly don’t like the music or the backgrounds as they don’t fit the setting (It’s a university in Tokyo, most of which are very prestigious and full of life, but instead it feels like a ghost town Japanese high school.) Before you can even really get jiggy with the setting you’re plopped into “Hay-thatched roof “”traditional”” Japanese village” which has an orange sunset in contrast to the whitish and sterile backgrounds of the intro. See kids, Siren was right. All the cool stuff happens in these places locked in time. (Ancient blood curse brought on by the wrath of an angry god not covered by your insurance!)
I get the same feeling that I do from the Ace Attorney series, I’m completely foreign to this land, why are people eating burgers in Tokyo branded as L.A. and why am I going out for a casual night of drinking sake, eating sushi and tacos. I feel like a senile Jerry Seinfeld; who am I, why am I in Japan, who are these people?
There’s a particularly odd CG they use for the background to show a character talking to you in a car, where their upper body portrait is facing you in this gigantic car. I much preferred the way Ever17 did it, where there were unique CG’s to accompany the text and story as it saw fit and made it a more enjoyable and engaging way of telling the story beyond just slapping characters in scenes with various backgrounds. Makes it feel like a puppet show.
Various Complaints that will not be formatted:
- Boring and insipid writing. I would not even recommend this to even the most stringent Otome/VN fans.
- Dull, boring, and bait like character who only serve to be slightly interesting eye candy so you can do their love route.
- The game is not finished. (Not all character routes are available for purchase)
- The developers have a problem with criticism and like to silence critics on sites like YouTube with false copyright claims (Supported from the reviews of the game on steam itself)
- It honestly felt like I was reading a really well put together fanfiction.
- At least it’s in 60 fps.
- The artist is decent, and all my love to them for their talent. I would like to see more of your art in a non-Japanese setting/media based style and see more diversity.
- I understand that this game was probably a labor of love (It had around a 3-4k budget) but it feels like it should have been free and not on Steam. Otherwise I would not be bashing this game so hard.
- Star Maiden Games, please continue your work and make better material. There is no such thing as bad writing in perpetuity, only writing that can be improved.
- Change your stance on criticism.
I did not like this game, and you, our loyal Moe-Alt readers would also not like this game. I volunteered my time to save you the trouble of bothering, and I will attempt to cover some of the faux-anime or otherwise nukige trash that’s been flooding Steam for a quick buck or otherwise had an indie funding campaign.
With much love and respect for the creators,
P.S. This game is not moe.