Monday, June 4, 2018

VN Talk: Code:Realize ~Future Blessings~ - Part 2: After Stories Cont.

Sorry! Holidays always throw me off, so I missed my usual Monday post last week. This time I'm going to continue through Code Realize: ~Future Blessings~ and the last three of the After Stories. You can catch up on my thoughts regarding Victor and Van Helsing's After Stories here. As before, there are spoilers both for the ~Future Blessings~ content and the original ~Guardian of Rebirth~.

After Stories Continued

Arsene Lupin

Lupin is not route locked this time! While I liked his original route second to Victor's, I didn't find Lupin himself as compelling a love interest as Victor or Van Helsing, since most of his personality is bluster and righteousness. He's fun, but he doesn't have much depth.

His After Story picks up after Cardia and Lupin's marriage to find out that despite tying the knot, they don't have a place of their own (they're still living at Saint-Germain's) and they aren't even sharing a room like a proper married couple. This is mostly because Lupin finds it fun and romantic to sneak into her room at varying times in the middle of the night to surprise her. (If I was Cardia I probably would have yelled at him after a few days of that!)

Annoyed that Lupin is having all the fun, Cardia decides that she wants him to be as caught off balance and flustered about her as she is about him, which basically sets the route up for shenanigans as her friends try to help her. If you like the idea of Van Helsing being a total goofball because he draws entirely the wrong conclusion as to how to help a couple become closer together, this will scratch the right itch.

The first half of the route is pure silliness. Since every character's storyline was wrapped up in Lupin's original route there is no danger to speak of. Everyone is living their best life. And due to the whole Cardia and Lupin not seeing eye to eye about their romance, Lupin's route starts off feeling very similar to Van Helsing's. Eventually after enough of their friends acting out of character (and Lupin getting twinges of jealousy seeing Cardia on a "date" with Impey and Saint-Germain), the two have a talk and he admits he has a poker face because it's part and parcel for being a gentleman thief, but on the inside he's completely crazy for her and that seems to be enough for Cardia.

This initially feels like the end of the route, but there's a second half to the storyline, and this part is more interesting because it has to do with Cardia's feelings about her father, Isaac Beckford.

Since Lupin's ~Guardian of Rebirth~ route is the only one where she meets Isaac, his After Story is the only one where she can unpack what her father means to her, considering that she is not the "real" Cardia that Isaac mourned over. She wonders what kind of man he was before he became a villain, and whether he ever loved her. His earliest words in her memory are caring, and nothing at all like what he was when they finally reunited.

It also spells out what was implied in Lupin's ending, that Isaac's reason for Code:Realize wasn't just to advance civilization through endless warfare, but also to reunite with his lost family (presumably because technology would eventually advance to the point that was possible). Even if the romance in Lupin's After Story was pretty flat, the second half makes up for it with its theme of finding and cherishing family.

One thing of note though, that I found really strange, is that Cardia keeps calling Lupin by his last name even after they get married. While I understand in some places and eras a wife would call her husband by his last name in public, saving personal name usage for when they are in private, I don't think that's what the game was going for here since Cardia calls him "Lupin" all the time and he never asks her to change it. I assume this was done for the player's sense of familiarity, but it still feels weird, considering that she freely calls Impey by his first name and she's not married to him.

Saint-Germain

Saint-Germain's route was good. I really like when there's something to these After Stories besides problems adapting to a deeper relationship. Though Saint-Germain also has communication issues, his route handles them a lot better, because of his reason for not communicating. While Van Helsing and Lupin are largely being romantic dunces in regards to Cardia's feelings, Saint-Germain is a being who has been alive for thousands of years and is all too aware he should be talking to her. He's just afraid he won't like the answer.

This route introduces us to Saint-Germain's backstory. It's implied he was originally a slave who labored on the Tower of Babel and was met by an Apostle of Idea who had been the one to destroy the tower. His After Story deals with the wish he made in exchange for service to Idea (to know an ordinary happiness, since he'd had none as a slave) and his inability to die like normal men. Though his lifespan is reduced to that of an ordinary human in his ~Guardian of Rebirth~ ending, he is still very inhuman in other ways, such as his regenerative abilities. Since Cardia is not cured of her poison in his original ending, this leaves him as one of the few people who can touch her, because even if she melts him, he'll just heal.

Because of this, his After Story is flashback heavy and more about him than Cardia. It follows his induction into Idea, his vitriolic friendship with Hermes Trismegistus (a historical figure, and in Code:Realize, a fellow Apostle of Idea), and how Trismegistus's research into the Philosopher's Stone eventually led to his death at Saint-Germain's hands under orders from Idea. Cardia's Horologium is the premature incarnation of the Philosopher's Stone, so in the present day Saint-Germain plans to find Trismegistus's research in hopes it can be used for a cure, since those were the terms he and Cardia made with Idea to spare them.

It's a lovely way to dovetail his backstory into Cardia's, and Trismegistus had a limited ability to see into the future. Though it's not spelled out, Trismegistus told Saint-Germain he was doing his research to grant a friend's wish, and given what happens in the end, that Victor is able to take Trismegistus's research and complete a cure for Cardia, it's not hard to read between the lines and conclude that Trismegistus did this for Saint-Germain.

And lest Trismegistus come off as incredibly self-sacrificing just to grant Saint-Germain his wish, he also admitted he was getting tired of being immortal and dying might be nice after all these millennia.

The problem with Saint-Germain and not communicating is that while he wants to free Cardia, he's also afraid that he'll lose her. He told her back in the first game that he was the only one who could accept her touch, due to the poison, and now with her possibly losing that poison, he starts to panic thinking that maybe he won't be special to her anymore. Of course, that's not true, but it's possible to understand why he would be insecure when curing her would potentially open up her dating pool to just about anybody.

Lupin is the one to beat that notion out of Saint-Germain. It's nice because aside from taking point in Saint-Germain's original route when he left the gang, Lupin also brings up the fact that he was the one who promised to fulfill Cardia's wish to touch another person. Lupin was fine with entrusting that promise to Saint-Germain when she began to favor him, but if Saint-Germain won't do it now, Lupin will. It gets Saint-Germain to reprioritize himself and it's a nice touch seeing that Lupin is still sweet on Cardia even though she eventually chose someone else.

Though she's not fully cured by the end of the After Story (this is the only non-Lupin storyline where Victor does not get a hold of Zicterium to make his cure), she expects to be fully detoxed within a year, after which she and Saint-Germain make plans to marry.

I also liked this route for being the only one not primarily set in London, which made for a good change of pace. Cardia and Saint-Germain went traveling at the end of his route in the first game, so it's not surprising they're in France for about half his After Story.

Impey Barbicane

I left Impey for last because he was my least favorite of the original love interests, since his machismo left me cold. Fortunately, he has two things going for him in his After Story: 1) there's nobody for him to fight so he can't be obnoxious about protecting Cardia from threats she can very well handle herself, and 2) his After Story has a storyline (putting him ahead of Lupin and Van Helsing). His After Story is also the only one that is 100% relationship problem free.

We pick up with Cardia and Impey still living in Saint-Germain's mansion while he travels abroad. They're working on Impey's plan to get to the moon, but have hit a funding snag, because as it turns out, building all the tech necessary to get to the moon is expensive. With help, they manage to secure Queen Victoria's patronage in exchange for helping her make a new submersible Britain can showcase at the next World's Fair.

Victor Frankenstein plays a large part in this route as Impey's co-designer on the submersible, which he has done to get resources for a secret project he's been working on with Impey. It's not outright stated, but it's pretty clear what he got was the Zicterium needed to fashion the cure for Cardia. (Seriously, the writers leaned really hard on Victor to patch up the other non-Lupin After Stories.)

Much of the story is going from point A to point B, but the thing is, it's fun along the way. Impey is a comedic character and the group's butt monkey, and the writing isn't afraid of making fun of him at his expense. His After Story is a complete hoot, especially when he learns about all the "safety" measures the rest of the guys have left with Cardia in case Impey ever gets too randy with her (ranging from shotguns to tranquilizers to secret escape routes).

The best part is when Cardia is finally cured and Impey leans in for the obligatory kiss scene. The screen goes dark to transition to what should be the kiss CG, but instead it brightens to show a speechless Victor and Royal Guard Captain Leonhart, who just walked in. The timing was pitch perfect. (And they do get that kiss later after the embarrassed parties leave.)

Impey's After Story is capped off by a post-credits, skydiving with anti-gravity wedding between him and Cardia. Since they're planning on going to the moon together, he wanted it as high as they currently could get with the rest of the guests below them on an airship. It was sweet and after playing this route I could buy into their romance much more than I could in the original game. Cardia teases Impey just as much as anyone and I'm glad somebody got married in this game given the artwork.

Next week I'll dive into Sholm├Ęs' route!