Monday, October 10, 2016

VN Talk: Code: Realize: Guardian of Rebirth - Part 6: Lupin

After a brief break, we are back for the conclusion of my Code: Realize story breakdown.

Lupin ending up being my final playthrough not because I was saving him for last (if all routes had been open from the start I think Lupin would have been third, pushing Impey to fourth, and Saint-Germain last), but because he's gate-locked, I didn't have much choice in the matter.

While it's not uncommon to have a gate-locked romance, it's often the villain or the anti-hero; a sort of reward allow the player to see the story from a new perspective after having gone the proper way through. However, with Code: Realize it's very clear from the opening video and promo art that Lupin is considered the lead romantic option, the closest thing to a canon playthrough, and it's not possible to play his route without having gone through the game four previous times to see Van Helsing, Frankenstein, Saint-Germain, and Impey Barbicane's routes.

While there are players who will do this, not everyone will, particularly if there is a character they just can't stand. To be honest, Impey's route was slow enough that I almost put down the game a couple times and I pushed my way through mostly because I knew Saint-Germain and Lupin's routes would be better. (This is why I put Impey in the middle, because otherwise there was a good chance I wouldn't finish.)

I understand why Lupin's route is locked, after having played it. His story brings everything together for a grand finale that includes elements of everyone else's stories as well as the true reason for Cardia's creation, but it seems needlessly tedious for someone who buys the game because she wants to have a fluffy romance with the gentleman thief on the cover.

I thought Lupin might be a harder love interest to get to know, since he's typically portrayed as the consummate gentleman thief who never loses his cool. But because of that, he's a lot of fun. Sure, he can't fight worth beans and his idea of a dramatic rescue is appearing in a puff of smoke and then running away, but it was hard to play his route without a stupid grin on my face.

Seriously, one of the times he shows up, he says "It was never my intention to fight! This dashing thief's specialty is... dashing!" And then he does, dash that is, while the triumphant romance theme plays. (It helps that he's running away while carrying the woman he loves in his arms, but he's also running away from the "last boss" which is typically a heroic no-no.)

Lupin comes alive in his route in a way he doesn't in most of the others (save Saint-Germain's) and I think that's partially because he's very fond of grand gestures and the writing team might have been afraid he would overshadow the other men if allowed to grandstand. And that's too bad, since the result is that Lupin doesn't really come into his own until the player is almost done with the game.

Because Lupin's route is going to be the player's last, the writers throw in an awful lot of references to the other routes without bothering to explain them. The player will already be familiar with them at this point. Nemo and his Nautilus return from Impey's route, we see the deployment of the Zicterium Twilight had hidden in Victor's route, Idea from Saint-Germain's route shows up to help/hinder the heroes, and Van Helsing learns the true killer of his family and faces off against Aleister.

This the only route that closes off everyone's storyline completely with no further battles to be fought, and everyone has an epilogue that shows them moving on with their lives.

I'm pretty sure that if the announced Code: Realize anime happens, Lupin's route will be used and the final confrontation involving everyone's storyline has the potential to awesome when rendered in animation.

Lupin's route is blast, and everything I could have wanted from a romance with a gentleman thief who is very much both a gentleman and a thief. But there are just two things that nag at me about his storyline.

One is that Cardia is more helpless in his route. It's not because Lupin is a jerk about it like Impey, but she gets discombobulated in ways she doesn't in others. Normally she's good about keeping herself calm under duress. Yet for some reason, Cardia can't keep her head on straight when faced with the various dangers on Lupin's route.

Yes, they are unnervingly more personal in many ways, but she ends up being a helpless damsel a lot. This does come with the side benefit of giving Lupin frequent opportunities for a daring rescue. In fact Lupin has a boatload of scenes depicting him being dashing towards Cardia compared to any other love interest, but I can't help wanting more considering how awesome she is elsewhere.

My other complaint is that Lupin's motivation, once it comes out, is pretty weak. We know Impey is in London to steal back his anti-gravity device, Victor is there to destroy the remaining Zicterium stockpiles, Saint-Germain is there to stop Isaac's plan and destroy his creations, and Van Helsing wants to kill Finis (and later Aleister once he knows the truth).

Lupin's story should be the linchpin, since he's the only one at the start of the game who is specifically there to stop Isaac's plan, but his reason for doing so is because his mentor was a former Twilight operative who didn't like what Isaac was doing and ran away. While this allows Lupin to be aware of what Code: Realize (Isaac's secret plan) is ahead of everyone else, it feels very odd he would feel driven to thwart it.

It might have been different if his mentor had been an honestly good person, but he had betrayed Lupin's trust and fled from Twilight, making no attempt to stop Isaac himself because he was too scared to stay. Though Lupin still has fond memories of the man he thought his mentor had been, he doesn't delude himself about his betrayal, so it seems odd that Lupin considers it an obligation to destroy Code: Realize in honor of his mentor's memory.

I can understand wanting to stop an attack of mass terrorism for its own sake after learning about it, but Lupin's frames his involvement as specifically because of his mentor, and that's enough to make him pack up and move from France to Britain. It's really hard to buy into.

Lupin's story and involvement with Cardia is fun, but doesn't come out as intrinsically tied to her story as with Victor, which is really what stops Lupin's from being my favorite. Perhaps it's his nature as an interloper to not be tied with or to anything (save in marriage to Cardia in the ending), but I thought the romance wasn't as strong because of that. Dashing, yes, but not as deep.