Fridays are cool unless you work weekends, but since I do not I’m always in the “Fridays kick ass” camp. Anyway, what games are you playing this weekend?
Not to kick things off with a bummer, but my oldest cat (Zuul, 16) was diagnosed with breast cancer and just had surgery last Thursday to get it scooped out. We got her results back yesterday and it’s… bittersweet. Her cancer was determined to be “low grade,” meaning it was growing slowly and they don’t think it’s spread anywhere. The cells surrounding the tumor were said to be “good cells,” so they definitely got *all* of the cancer out.
Long story short, she has to wear a cone of shame for two weeks and my partner and I need to give her our full attention during that timespan. We’re splitting it up into 12-hour shifts, with mine watching her from 8pm to 8am. This works out perfectly since I’m a night owl, but it also gives me a LOT of time for gaming to get my mind off of things. She’s my baby.
On to the games, though!
Cross The Moon (Switch)
Ratalaika Games publishes like 4300 games a year and their visual novel selection isn’t always the greatest, but I honestly think they struck gold with Cross The Moon.
Here you have a diverse, inclusive cast representing various races and sexual orientations, all wrapped up in a story full of murder, romance, and coming-of-age slice-of-life stuff. It’s about being imperfect in a world that sees you as a lesser being as much as it is struggling to follow your heart and uh… doing vampire shit. It’s very cool.
The story begins with a trio of vampire friends meeting up at a bar and “convincing” a human to become a living Slurpee. There’s clearly a love triangle thing going on with the three, but that’ll come into play later. After two of them drink the human Kool-Aid they’re alerted by police sirens and disperse, but when they return to their meal they find them… gone. However, the next day their corpse is found by the waterside with a gnarly stab wound and both of their eyes removed. Oh, and bite marks on their neck. You see where this is going?
Vampire lore rarely strays from the familiar, but Cross The Moon plays with it in interesting ways. For starters, an event called The Awakening caused the moon to crack, become red, and literally create and mutate people into vampires. These vampires live amongst humans, but they’re forced into the poorer cities of France because the game has a topical political tone with stances on racism and classism. They can also walk around in daylight, which makes them physically weaker, prone to exhaustion, and vulnerable to raspatory issues like asthma, while the moon has the opposite effect (healing wounds and making them more horny, I guess?).
There are no choices to be made, though, so unless you’re cool with 10 (estimated) hours of nothing but reading, listening to the incredible soundtrack, and unraveling mysteries then you may want to look elsewhere. It’s only $5 USD and of the 5 hours I’ve played so far I’d say it’s better than a large majority of expensive VNs on the Switch’s abysmal eShop.
Seriously, this that good shit.
Daedalus: The Awakening of Golden Jazz (PS4)
This visual novel/detective mystery hybrid (part of the Jake Hunter series) released a few years ago and I just never got around to it until now. Here you play as a Japanese man who arrives in New York to investigate the murder of his grandfather. Said grandpa was a prolific private investigator who was also the main character’s closest relative. As such, he passed down his investigative know-how to you over the years and you’ve become quite the detective yourself.
It all starts with a flashback at summer camp where you and two of your best friends solve the disappearance of a camp counselor, acting as more of a tutorial than anything. The gameplay flow has you visiting different areas of the camp by clicking icons on a map, talking to people, finding clues, and eventually putting the evidence together to solve the case.
Oh, how I wish it were that easy, though. This game is INCREDIBLY slow going, with a large portion of the conversations being overly verbose and repeating the same information you just learned. It holds your hand way too much, in my opinion, by reliably telling you exactly where to go next. So the only player engagement ends up being in the dialogue system. Which is kind of terrible.
Certain questions can be answered in a few different ways and you’re supposed to figure out which one is correct by knowing what kind of person you’re conversing with. Do you go with flattery? A neutral response? Maybe a more assertive approach? It’s never that easy, though, because none of the dialogue gives you an indication of the correct choice. Ever. So it’s just a guessing game.
For such a slow-moving narrative, it also tries to speed relationships along way too fast. For instance, you meet a friend of your grandfather’s and get off on the wrong foot, but the next time you meet you’re basically best friends and he’ll comment on “how much you’ve changed” already. It’s been 5 sentences, tops, and I’ve changed? How? Similar scenarios occur with other characters too, like a friendly cop telling me he understands me more on our 2nd meeting, or how I have a “good eye” for finding one of three interactable items within an apartment building. A few other things rubbed me the wrong way, like your grandfather living on the 5th floor of a highrise apartment, but his windows are on the 2nd floor of a two story building. During the 3rd case I was visiting a “house on the hill” that turned out to be a cramped suburban street with no hills in sight.
I don’t want to say it’s insulting my intelligence, but detective games are supposed to feel like mysteries, not… whatever this is?
Anyway, I’m halfway through the game and I’m too stubborn to just abandon it, but we’ll see. It’s a bit longer than I expected and I’m not sure I can stomach it for another 5 hours.
What it DOES do very well is its overall presentation. All of the 2D character illustrations are high quality, but the true standout is the 360 camera mode that lets you view each little area in a sort of Google Maps way. They’ve basically taken 360 degree photographs of real places, applied a watercolor filter, and and let you rotate the camera to interact with things. It’s a cool feature that I’ve never seen before, so I shared some footage on my Twitter account.
That’ll do it for me, though. I hope you enjoy whatever it is you’re playing and I’ll see you here next Friday!