By now everyone knows, I’m certain, that 428 is going to be localized by Spike Chunsoft next year. This event, the magnitude of which has been unseen in decades, has consequences twofold for me. First, it gives me a chance to experience the sequel to my personal game of 2016 (yes, Machi came out in 1998, I know). Most importantly, it means I can drop my plans to use the on-screen translator on the emulated Wii version.
I’m somewhat worried, though. I can’t help but think that the sheer amount of effort required to play Machi while translating on the fly, trying to interpret those words the OCR couldn’t recognize, and overall spending a very long time with the game, has been instrumental in my enjoyment of it. Now that 428 is going to be easily available, that crucial element is going be missing. Perhaps… perhaps I should translate it myself again, instead?
Another thing that required a lot of effort was War and Peace, which I finally finished a few days ago. Started in December, finished in March… not bad. At least now I know that Tolstoy was totally a Napoleon hater, and Kutuzov fanboy. The first half was really good, and one of the best written books I’ve ever read. But the second half, when the war starts, quickly goes downhill. Even the writing falls in quality, with Tolstoy often repeating himself five or six times in the same paragraph. It doesn’t even feel like I was reading the same book. Too bad, because it had started so well. Oh well, the hype can’t always be real.
Of course, there’s a new book in the pipeline already. Did you doubt it?
Another year comes to a close, and once again everyone makes their GOTY lists. I always feel awkward when I have to do one of those. I’m too stingy to buy games in the same year they are released. I do buy some, of course, but inevitably not as many as everyone else. So I ultimately end up putting some fillers in there, just because I have few choices.
So I propose something different. My Game of the Year should be the game I liked the most this year, regardless of release date. The only rule: I must have played this game for the first time in 2016. If you think you can just go “I finished OOT/FF7 for the 54th time this year, and it’s still the best game ever!”, I have bad news for you. Let’s at least keep it restricted to new experiences. I’ll list 5 games. Not necessarily in any order, and not necessarily the best ones: just five games I especially liked.
Machi (Saturn, 1998)
I’ve been bothering you, and all of my Twitter timeline, with Machi for most of the summer, of course it was going to take a spot, right? With so many visual novels being generally predictable affairs that almost always follow a set pattern of visual and story tropes, it is refreshing to see something with so much humanity in it. The peculiar live-action look and its refusal to focus on a single protagonist or delve into harem material is welcome. And it’s damn long, to boot. I’ll have to start 428 at some point, but I can’t muster the courage to do so. It would be another very, very long ordeal.
Final Fantasy XV (PS4, 2016)
Much has been said about FF15. I don’t think I have much more to add that someone else hasn’t already mentioned. For me, it run a wide gamut: from amazing to terrible. The terrible part, however, would eventually end. The amazing parts would last longer, and stay with you until the end. The story might have sucked, but the finale was great. The combat system might have been very approximative, but it was just frantic enough to work. Much has been said about FF15, so I’ll say that it deserves at least a spot.
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox 360 Kinect, 2014)
Among other things, 2016 was the year when I rediscovered the old Xbox 360 Kinect. I’ve been vocal about my dislike of the Xbox One Kinect, and that was because we never really got anything that seemed to justify its inclusion with the console (and the consequent price hike). But the 360 was a different matter, as Kinect was purely optional, and still supported fairly well. There are several interesting games worth picking up now that you can find them for a pittance. But the one that impressed me the most is the one that was available on both platforms: Disney Fantasia, probably the most inventive rhythm game in a long time. With the 360 still doing its job well, did we need another Kinect? Arguably not.
Forbidden Siren (PS4, 2016; originally on PS2, 2003)
Forbidden Siren is a bit like Final Fantasy XV, in certain ways. It’s got some great ideas, and the execution at first is good enough that you could actually put it in more than a few game of the year lists. But just like FFXV, if you keep playing, the cracks eventually start showing. Sightjacking becomes less important than quick fingers, the second half of the story makes no sense, and the mission requirements past the halfway point become increasingly obtuse. Thought you could play without a guide? Think again. But while there are some very big flaws, the overall realization is strong enough that you won’t care for a long while. Nevermind that strange ending.
Terracide (PC, 1997)
This was a bit of a surprise. I remember not liking the demo when I first played it, but it was… what, almost 20 years ago? People change, I guess. It’s almost unabashedly a Descent clone, the story is stupid, and the space sections (gotta have something different) don’t work very well. But hey, it’s fun. More than I expected it to be, and that’s gotta count for something. Your shots change direction depending on your movement (think Binding of Isaac), so you can’t just strafe, fire and forget. And the more linear level design is a boon, since it’s less motion sickenss-inducing. Still playing through, but at this point I’m quite confident it can make the list.
I could make a few other mentions too, such as Obduction (PC, 2016); Secret Agent (PC, 1992); Ys Origin (PC, 2006). And more. But I’ve gotta go play the new Shantae. So I’ll end the post here. And when 2017 arrives, I have plans for more games. Of course, most of them won’t be 2017 releases. But that’s what it means to be stingy. You get to be hip.
So it has been quite the ride. But just as every story has a beginning, there must be an end too. And these eight persons have had their fair share of trouble: it was about time they got some rest. More or less.
Perhaps one fault with Machi, is that the endings are relatively disappointing. Perhaps it’s just a side-effect of spending such a long time with the scenarios: there was no way the ending could be satisfying. And yet, there’s something that makes me shake my head.
Perhaps it was because Numa’s motives for the bombing was a fair bit cliched – simply taking revenge on incompetent or greedy policemen. Ryuji got killed right after he had made his resolve to leave the city and start a new life – and while effective, you could totally see it coming a mile away.
Ichikawa’s scenario dives straight into X-Files territory as the days go by, and he arguably gets the worst ending of all – at least Ryuji looked satisfied with himself upon dying. Ichikawa cuts off his own left hand, almost dies of blood loss, and yet it looks like his “enemy” simply moved to the right hand. Talk about a downer! But it was fun seeing him go all Bruce Campbell, and then mailing the left hand to the TV producer.
It also gets a bit weird in Masashi’s scenario, which in spite of the craziness of the previous four days, in its finale enters a strangely serious discussion about the nature of a totalitarian state and the potential of mankind for greatness. I suppose it’s a good ending though: Masashi manages to understand the whole plot, and while he leaves without destroying the organization, the last shot of Sunday shows she’s not nearly in control as she thought. And Masashi meets Wednesday again. Of course with a punishment. Which is exactly what he wanted. Lucky him.
Yoshiko gets her good ending where Yoichi understand he made a really stupid bet, and apologizes, and they run off into the sunset… to eat donuts. Predictable again, and a bit too short. But the craziness of her scenario, especially the last day, kinda makes up for it.
Yohei solves his scenario… except not really. I mean sure, after the wedding gets interrupted (obviously it was coming), he mans up and announces to the world , via megaphone no less, that it was all his fault and he loves all the girls and all the kids. Well, that’s it, pretty much. Everyone makes up to each other and all is right with the world. By the way, Minako had his child too. This guy just can’t catch a break. And to think the game did give out two subtle hints in the first and second day.
Oh, and the fireworks which appear at the end of every character’s route? They were organized by Ryuji’s dad, who apparently decided to give this one last gift to his son – and just to make sure he will see it even if he left the city, he had them launched all over Japan. And hey, he doesn’t know that Ryuji is kind of dying, but at least he managed to see the fireworks lying on the ground and bleeding out. Works for them.
By the way. The last extra scenario, unlocked upon finishing the main routes, follows Aoi’s adventures around some of the main characters and is presented entirely in 90’s anime game style. It’s also very ecchi. I thought it was strange that the game got a Cero D rating. I didn’t bother reading this one, but I did play through quickly to take a few screenshots. Look at that Masashi. Just look at him. This is the closest we’ll ever get to a Machi anime. And hey… technically, even this scenario is canon.
So, what do they say… the most important thing is the journey, not the destination. I really had fun playing through the game, even if I wish the endings could have been more fleshed out. What’s next for Shibuya? From what I kow, 428 is not a sequel (supposedly Machi, despite its cult status, didn’t sell all that well so Chunsoft decided to make 428 an entirely new story), and none of the characters return. So this is the end of their story. A disappointing end perhaps, but a worthy journey.
And hey, the endings themselves might not have all lived up to expectations, but the credits were the best. After so many hours spent with those characters, seeing the cast during the filming was just so much fun.
It was fun, but I’m burnt out on visual novels. Now it’s back to twitch shooters and platformers for me.
See guys, full immersion really works. I managed to finish the 3th day between Saturday and Monday. My neck kinda hurts now. But nevermind that. After all, we are so close to the end.
Contrary to my expectations, none of the characters had the scenario end in the 4th day, so we still have six problems to deal with. However, now we are almost at the climax, several things have come out in the open.
Keima has reached a pretty big breakthrough – he found who appears to be the bomber. His plan to lure him out actually worked pretty well, which is surprising because when a plan is explained the audience beforehand, it rarely works. Now they know where the culprit lives, they only have to get him red-handed. I guess the fifth day could still have some surprises though. After all, Machi is a bit like that Schrodinger experiment. You don’t know what will happen until you see it for yourself.
Speaking of Schrodinger, Ichikawa also drew an interesting conclusion. It looks like he’s convinced his left hand is to blame for his misdeeds. Well, he also meets up with his old flame. Who is like 10 years younger, and apparently had a past with Ryuji too. Of course he acts like a freak during the whole dinner. That’s how you reunite with a girl you haven’t seen in forever.
Ryuji himself doesn’t fare much better. He has no passport, no ID card, no place to go, he punched his dad’s jaw repeatedly so he can’t exactly go home either, he only has his ex-girlfriend left, and what does he do? He acts like an even bigger jerk. Well, he does get to spend the night in prison because of a brawl, so now he truly has nothing left, we’ll see what he decides upon the dawn of the fifth day.
Yoshiko has probably reached the lowest point yet, after fasting for a few days (nevermind that her weight just isn’t going down), and then seeing her best friend talking with his boyfriend. Weird encounters with a crocodile, a cheerleader casanova-wannabe, and a bunch of aliens who refuse to pick her up for harvesting because she is too fat, eventually push her to the edge. Now she only has to lose 13 kilos in one day. Of course, when the coworker and the boyfriend were talking, she probably chewed him out for suggesting the bet, so I guess she’ll get her happy ending… after some more trouble.
Masashi, thanks to some new material, finally manages to extort the last 10.000 yen from Shiramine. Once again, the yakuza boss, despite the appearances, turns out one of the most humane characters in the game. Still, there’s one last meeting with the Shichiyokai tomorrow, so something has to happen. Chances are, Masashi will become the new Sunday. And there’s still the matter of Wednesday.
Yohei’s scenario was surprisingly touching, as Yohei and Ami end up caring for a sick Yuusaku (who’s actually Yohei’s son, but of course she doesn’t know that) and he makes some actual progress in learning the responsibilities of being a dad. By the end of the day, it does look like the situation is solved: the wedding with Minako is tomorrow, Ami reveals that she lied and the child was never actually his son, and Yuki learned about the wedding and decided to leave them alone. Surely however, as even Yohei himself muses, it was all too easy. The wedding will likely have all of the girls coming together, finding out the truth… and hopefully reaching an understanding.
I’m leaving for a vacation next Monday, so I’m hoping to finish the game before that. With six days at my disposal, it should be feasible, unless the last day is ridiculously long for everyone. I hope not, though: it has been a fun ride so far, but now I really want to see how it ends.
So the third day is over, with a few surprises to go along with it. Perhaps the biggest one was seeing Umabe and Ushio’s scenarios end with a good two days to spare. I was expecting all the characters to finish at the same time, perhaps with one big scenario to make them all unite together against some common obstacle or whatever. But then, this isn’t Sonic Adventure 2.
As I said, the biggest surprise is that Umabe and Ushio are now out of the picture, the former after exposing a plot against the Shiramine boss by his underling, and the latter after clearing his name and getting the true robber arrested. Fittingly, it all ended with a play. The last few hours of both scenarios require the player to jump between Uma and Ushi continuously. It was actually pretty exciting.
So, now The Wrong Man is over, how are the other characters doing?
Several of them are now starting to meet more often, but they are still in bigger trouble than ever. Ichikawa is still at odds with his disappearing manuscripts, and probably caught onto the idea that he might have a split personality who is doing all the deleting for some unknown reason. Ryuji reunited with a high school friend and actually had a good time for once, but at the end of the day it’s clear he doesn’t want to involve his friend any further.
Keima still hasn’t caught the bomber, and this time Shiori got hurt too, which leads to his doubting himself and his inability to act. Yoshiko keeps trying to lose weight, and keeps failing horribly – at least she told her co-worker friend about the diet, so maybe it will lead to something. But with two days left, how do you lose 17 kilos, short of cutting off your own legs? (I’m not suggesting that she will do that)
Masashi bites off more than he can chew trying to blackmail the Shiramine boss, and has to run away to regroup. Meanwhile he suffers all sorts of abuse, but then, it was Friday the 13th. Tomorrow can only be better (maybe he won’t keep getting punched in the face, for example). As for Yohei, he still can’t shake off Ami, and his attempts to make her disgusted at him (so she’ll agree to an abortion) fail repeatedly. Not to mention, Yuki just told him that she wants to marry soon. And Shiramine just outright told him that if he should ever make Minako cry, he’ll pay dearly. I swear this guy is so screwed. I don’t even know how this situation could lead to a happy ending – but given the humorous nature of the scenario, a tragic ending is out of the question. We’ll see.
What’s next then? Chances are at least one or two more scenarios will end before the fifth day. I couldn’t say who, though. Anyway, with some characters out of the way, the game will get a bit shorter, and I might even manage to finish it within the next week. But I’m too optimistic here. I keep getting bad endings. I think the last one I saw was Bad End #68…
After much reading and translating very loosely, the second day has reached its conclusion too. Cheers to me!
The first day set up everyone’s personal scenarios, but kept them relatively apart. The second day developed these scenarios further and also set up the connections between the characters. The full tale is now starting to take a somewhat uniform shape, although too many questions still don’t have an answer at all – and with 3 days left, that was to be expected.
Let’s take a quick look at each protagonist’s second day to see how they are faring.
The bomb threat continues. Once again, a race against time… and once again, another dud. But now Keima has become suspicious about everyone around him, including his friends. We saw him being spied by a person in a phone box, but it’s not revealed who it was.
He was already in trouble with Sanj, now he’s in even more trouble: after an unpleasant encounter with the Shiramine yakuza boss (Minako’s uncle), and now it’s either capture Sanji within the next day, or be executed. Oh, if he does manage that, he’ll get to marry the boss’ daughter, which doesn’t sit too well with the current second-in-command. Also, we discover Umabe gets *really* violent when drunk, and starts spouting quotes from yakuza movies. By the end of the day, he managed to reach the troupe’s hotel, so something will happen soon.
Ushio still has it relatively easier than most other characters, though not without trouble. The shooting went on for the whole day, but Michiru secretly proposing to him (thinking he is Umabe) has made the situation a bit more difficult. Now Umabe is in the same hotel, they are probably bound to meet soon. Or maybe something will happen before that.
Meanwhile, Ichikawa discovers his manuscript is gone. Not knowing what happened to it, he thinks it must have been someone from the outside, and sets up an infrared camera to know for sure. He returns to work, but in the meantime, he’s clearly afflicted by his family situation. The next day we’ll see what the camera sees, hopefully.
Things are still fairly depressing for Ryuji. He reaches his old house, and then beats the crap out of his jerk dad. And then his sister and his mother obviously throw him out (but man, the jerk dad totally deserved that). Now he has nowhere to go, and nothing to do. I suppose his story will tie to the others soon, especially since his sister is the girl Ushio originally wanted to propose to.
Poor Yoshiko isn’t doing much better. Despite some genuine effort, she is nowhere closer to her original goal, though her mood often jumps between utterly depressed (thanks to her empty stomach) and hopelessly optimistic (thanks to the power of one-sided love). Her last blunder was to buy a bunch of diet proudcts… and eat a couple kilos of them. However, at the very end of the day, it looks like she has reached a new conclusion. What is that? We’ll know soon.
This guy is probably the unluckiest in the bunch. On one side, he has had to juggle all day between the three girls he’s somehow tied to: Minako’s crazy uncle could cut him up, Ami herself could cut him up since apparently’s she gets into fits of rage when she’s angry (possibly with a scissor). And Yuki (with his own son) appeared at home and looks like she will be sleeping there for the rest of the week. He also had to masterfully handle a chance meeting between Ami and Minako. Oh, if that weren’t enough, he’s promised all of the girls to take them out the next day. This guy keeps on digging his own grave.
The Shichiyokai’s tale continues to impress. Funny, touching and mysterious at the same time. Masashi takes care of three targets this time: a drug-abusing barber, a bank clerk who turns out to be a stripper, and a lonely old geezer. Masashi looks like he’s growing quite a bit during this whole ordeal, and some slightly saucy bits add some fun too. An after-dark meeting with the bank clerk possibly sheds a light on some of the mysteries, especially how the whole thing could be a pyramid scheme. But it’s just a theory, however likely, and I doubt that’s all of it. And Masashi’s last target will be the hardest yet: the Shiramine boss.
The third day will start soon. And as apparently it’s contained on both discs 1 and 2, I expect quite a bit of disc swapping. I sure hope I’m wrong though. I don’t wanna go back to the floppy disk days.
I may have spoken a bit too soon. I previously said that, even though Machi is a very complicated game in terms of structure and connections between characters, there’s enough signposting to make one understand when a choice is gonna be important. A red caution sign appears whenever a scenario-changing decision needs to be taken: that will make sure people can never get into too much trouble. Right?
Well, not so quick. Turns out, the red sign was only around for the first day, as a sort of tutorial. From the second day onward, all choices are unmarked. Even the important ones. That will definitely make things harder.
It’s still playable, but it does mean I’ll need to keep a semblance of organization. I can’t just play the game blind anymore. Therefore, I’ve started keeping tracks of all the choice hours and zapping points in the game. I expect the table will look quite busy by the end.
But damn, a spreadsheet file for a sound novel. This is the first time I hear of something like that. The average visual novel just has a couple choices before locking you into a specific route that “overwrites” all the others. Machi has a truckload of choices, zapping points, bad ends, and there aren’t any real routes: it’s a single story that unfolds, all of the characters contribute to it. Truly, Machi was the “innovation of sound novel”.