Monday, July 30, 2018

Attack on Titan Season 3 Adaptation Thoughts

I've blogged about Attack on Titan multiple times before, so it should come as no surprise that I've been watching Season 3 of the anime.

This is the beginning of what fans generally refer to as "The Uprising arc" or "the political arc" and if people are going to complain about the series, this is generally the arc where they say everything goes downhill.

I liked it, but I can see why other people didn't.

For this post, I will only spoil up to the current anime episode (39), but I will be making several manga references and comparisons for events already covered.

Until this point in the story, Attack on Titan follows the pariah branch of the military, the Survey Corps (also called the Scout Regiment). Most of humanity lives behind a series of gigantic walls, to separate them from the man-eating titans on the other side. The titans can't climb the walls, so humanity (at least until the series started) was safe, and the Survey Corps consisted of the only fools crazy enough to go outside the walls and fight them.

Over the past two seasons, things got really complicated with the revelation that there are people who have come from outside the walls and they can turn into titans themselves. However, regardless of any plot developments, there was lots of titan fighting; soldiers fighting titans, titans fighting each other, and so on. The series is called Attack on Titan and there was definitely attacking and titans going on.

The Uprising arc is different. As anime viewers now know, the danger in the upcoming episodes has nothing to do with external threats, so much as internal ones. The government is now out for Eren and Historia, there's a secret royal family, and a badass squad of Military Police has been deployed to take out members of the Survey Corps.

This arc is a lot of humans fighting other humans, which is arguably not what the audience signed up for. Some people enjoyed it anyway. Other people hated the detour.

And it turns out that Hajime Isayama, who both writes and illustrates the original manga, didn't like how this arc turned out either. So he gave his blessing for the animation studio to revise it.

This is the curious part.

Rather than simply condensing the work, the anime is now juggling scenes. Both Episodes 38 and 39 pull from a total of six chapters each. For comparison, each episode of Season 2 was based on a single chapter, maybe two. And they don't pull six different chapters either, so there's a lot of overlapping. Part of Chapter 54 is in Episode 38, part of it is in Episode 39, and part of it isn't used at all (yet).

It's like someone threw the first nine chapters of the Uprising arc into a blender and just pulled the various scenes that came out. Some were rejected, some were placed into various episodes, but even if they were, they were not necessarily in the same order.

For instance, Kenny's introduction was originally after Sannes is tortured into revealing that the Reiss family is the true royal family.

The result is that the first two episodes cover a lot of ground and touch on multiple subplots, but we don't get to see anything in depth. I can see some justification for hurrying things up. In the anime world Attack on Titan is known for incredible action set pieces, and left to the original manga's pacing, we wouldn't get our first combat scene until the fourth episode at best (assuming two chapters an episode). For a primarily visual medium and to sell the series based on what has become its signature style, the anime needed to accelerate that scene to the first episode.

And it's a great fight. People like the new character Kenny, and his squad of elite Military Police certainly impress with how they take out members of the Survey Corps before they can even respond.

If the original complaint about the arc was that the pacing is too slow, that's gone now, but in its place is the fact that nothing has any depth either. The scenes are quick and they jump around a lot, following various groups of people and ever-changing locations.

Some of the characterizations suffer. Jean looks like he has a case of nerves rather than a well established aversion to killing people, and Dimo Reeves's change of heart no longer makes sense now that the story of how he helped Trost has been removed.

We have weird instances of knowledge traveling between characters with nobody actually informing the person involved. Hange bursts in on Erwin and announces that Eren and Historia have been kidnapped, without having been told that themselves. The scene occurs immediately after the kidnapping that same afternoon and I doubt Levi sent any of his squad off-camera to let Hange know because everything happened so fast.

And then we have the sleeping dart technology attached to a firearm that clearly should never have a shotgun-to-sleeping dart replaceable barrel. I might not be a gun expert, but I'm pretty sure that if you remove the barrel of a shotgun, you would not be able to add a narrower sleeping dart barrel and still have a weapon that works just fine. But the sleeping dart needed to happen to speed up Eren and Historia's capture.

None of these were issues in the original manga, but are the result of the blender approach to improving the pacing of the Uprising arc.

It's still possible that other issues I had will be addressed later in the season (there's definitely one scene that got truncated in what I thought was a meaningless fashion, to the point I think they should have removed it entirely if that's all they were going to show), but for these, the changes are in there and there's no undoing them.

I have to wonder what this is like for an anime-only viewer though. Is this too much, too fast?

At its heart, despite all the fight scenes and the increased sense of urgency, this is still a political arc that relies more on plot details than bombast. They're going to have to sit down and have a long talk at some point.

Monday, July 16, 2018

RPG Talk: Lost Dimension

In which I talk (write) about RPGs from a storytelling perspective...

Platform: PS Vita (though it's also on PS3 and Steam)
Release: 2015

Lost Dimension is an idea RPG, and by that I mean that it's based on a particular gameplay mechanic or gimmick to stand apart from the rest. Specifically in this case, the player and their cohort are climbing a tower to prevent the end of the world, and on each floor one of their party members turns traitor. The player needs to figure out who the traitor is and root them out before they get stabbed in the back, and the traitors are randomized each playthrough so it's not possible to use a walkthrough to identify them.

Needless to say, I wondered how this was going to work when your party is not a group of faceless mooks. Most RPGs rely on some level of interaction between characters to get through the game and if everybody other than the protagonist is potentially a traitor… how would the game balance that? Would everybody be a flimsy personality, or would it be possible to have a party that I'd genuinely care about by the time I got to the end?

There are eleven playable characters, ten aside from the protagonist, and a total of five will betray the the team by the end, which means that any given companion has roughly a 50-50 chance of being a traitor, with one exception. George is always the first traitor on the first playthrough. I don't know if this was a gameplay decision, because he also has the least developed skill tree out of the cast (for the life of me I can't figure out how his analysis is supposed to work), or because he has the least developed personality, to the point that I can best describe him as Japanese caricature of an American weeb.

Though George is a bit lacking, the rest of the cast is not, which is good because they're the highlight of the game. Each one is distinctive, with their own personality quirks and hang-ups, compounded by the fact they know there are traitors among them. They naturally have trouble trusting each other in the beginning, but bit by bit the backbiting falls away until they feel like a well-honed team.

I would have liked another female character though (the playables are 4 female to 7 male), because they do a fantastic job with the ones they have.

Himeno in particular has become one of my favorite female characters in any RPG, to the point that I feel bad that the only way I can hear her story is by constantly shoving Sho (the protagonist) in her face to bother her.

It's not just that she's as tough on the rest of the party as she is with herself, but I love her hilarious habit of trying brush off Sho with a little TMI. She recognizes that with some men, friendship is just cookies towards a sexual relationship and she isn't having any of that. By telling him things that aren't his business she intentionally makes the conversation as awkward as possible.

The premise of Lost Dimension is that a terrorist going by the name The End, has already wiped out two billion of the Earth's population with targeted strikes in large population centers. He taunts the UN and promises to nuke the rest of the world in thirteen days. In the meantime he waits inside of a mysterious and alien tower called the Pillar that appeared out of nowhere.

In response, the UN sends a team called SEALED to infiltrate the Pillar, and among the various members of SEALED are people known as the Gifted, who each have a different psychic power. However, shortly after arriving, the only members of SEALED to actually make it inside are eleven Gifted, our playable characters. Worse, they have memory loss as to how they actually got inside. None of them know each other, but they recognize they're part of the same team from their uniforms.

The central gimmick of Lost Dimension is the Room of Judgement. After a number of required fights in each stratum of the Pillar, the Room of Judgement is unlocked and the members of SEALED must vote for one of their number to be erased, otherwise the stairs up to the next floor will not appear. There is no way around it. They've tried searching for an alternate exit, but there isn't one, and their psychic abilities (pyrokinesis, teleportation, etc.) are neutralized in the Room of Judgement so they can't cheat their way out.

However, if they have to erase someone and one of their number is a traitor, it would be most convenient to erase the traitor, right? That is the reasoning provided by The End, and though they are reluctant to agree with that line of reasoning, it becomes the most logical choice.

Sho is unusual for a protagonist is that his ability is not the flashy kind. Himeno is the pyrokinetic in the group. Toya has electromagnetism. Agito is the guy who teleports.

What Sho has is precognition. It's an interesting choice, given that most stories put precogs in support functions, but Lost Dimension makes Sho's ability central to the game. At the end of each battle Sho hears echoes of his teammates' voices from a potential future. (The fun thing after having beaten the game a couple times is that I recognize the various conversations where many of the future lines come from.)

If there is a suspicious person in that group of five he can hear the discord in their thoughts. Being suspicious is not enough though. Given the fact everyone is on edge and knows there are traitors around, it's unsurprising that people would be watching their backs, so Sho has to use a deeper vision into a given suspect's mind to find out if they're the traitor. The game limits the number of times he can do this and autosaves on every use, so there's no cheating around it.

The traitor is obviously not interested in being erased, so they will be manipulating the opinions of the rest of the team as well. Being a precog, Sho can call up a prediction of how the vote would turn out if everyone voted at that very moment, so if he sees an innocent person is currently slated for erasure, the player can do something about it to sway opinions.

The game doesn't call it out, and Sho himself is not inherently a manipulative person, but what he ends up doing is socially isolating the traitor on every floor and ensuring that they're the one erased rather than one of his allies. But as I played, I began to wonder why Sho never tries talking to a traitor prior to erasing them. There's no time when everyone votes, since the giant eraser beam activates shortly after voting, but narratively he should be able to try beforehand.

George actually brings this up in his character dialogue (which means it's only accessible on a second playthrough) and though Sho doesn't directly spell it out, it's implied that the reason he doesn't speak to the traitors prior to voting, is because even if he knew the other person's motivation, it wouldn't change the fact the team has to erase someone at the end of every stratum. If he knew their reasons, it might be too hard to erase them.

This is understandable given Sho's personality. He walks a nice balance between wanting to believe in his companions and being realistic enough to know that sometimes he can't. But as a player it's frustrating, especially on a second playthrough and the answers just aren't coming.

Lost Dimension's greatest fault is the pacing of its otherwise intriguing premise, requiring at least two playthroughs to see the true ending. Worse, the first ending is the unsatisfying kind that gives no answer. Sure, Sho and his surviving band of psychics defeat The End, but even they know that there is a significant part of the story they're missing. The End claims that with their choice they've condemned billions of people to death and Sho has a strange vision of a meteor crashing into the Earth. But the world is still there. He doesn't knows what happened.

The true end is locked by two factors. The first one is that Sho must correctly erase all traitors, and second is that he must befriend all his companions. The latter is only possible across multiple playthroughs since early traitors will be erased before their storylines can be completed.

On top of that, the randomized traitors mean that the second condition for obtaining the true ending (becoming friends with everyone) is a potential gamble (*). Two playthroughs is the minimum for the best ending, but by no means a maximum.

And the second playthrough is not immediately enlightening. Other than the fact a certain mysterious child shows up earlier in second and subsequent playthroughs, and the player can pick up new research files, there's nothing new in between the start of the game and the fifth stratum on New Game+ unless the player is on the path to the true ending.

So why are people betraying the group? Once you get past the premise of Lost Dimension, finding traitors and rooting them out, that's really the question worth asking, isn't it?

It's actually a nifty idea, which is why I dislike how the execution in game was so poor, and if not for the teaser tidbits I probably would've stopped sooner.

The thing is, a long time ago all of the Gifted were ordinary kids until they were implanted with the Fate Materia, which is a set of stones that protects Earth from extinction level calamities (just roll with it). There are twelve stones and twelve Gifted. The End is the twelfth.

When a giant meteor threatened to destroy Earth, the scientists of the time built TOF, otherwise known as the Pillar, which is a sort of link between dimensions, specifically that of their Earth and a new one they replicated (without the meteor attack). The Gifted were instrumental in the creation of the new world, but because of certain qualities of the stones, not all of them could cross over to the new one, otherwise the new dimension would become a complete replica of the one with a meteor attack. To stay meteor free, six of them would have to be left behind on a world that was doomed to be destroyed in the next ten years.

Being a precog (though still a child at the time), Sho was given the task to select who would stay behind. One of them was The End. The children's memory of this was later erased.

The SEALED members who show up at the tower at the beginning of the game, confused and with partially missing memories, are from both dimensions, both the original meteor-stricken one and the newer meteor-free one. Sho is always from the meteor-free dimension, but at the beginning no one is aware that they're from two different dimensions, which is only possible because of the tower they're in.

The traitors are all from the meteor dimension, and The End enlightens them one at a time as they go up the tower, which is why they all turn on Sho at the end of the game if he has not erased them on the way up. Because the Earth was only replicated, the original dimension is still in need of saving and the traitors are willing to kill Sho to do it.

What isn't clear is how the meteor dimension can be saved by defeating Sho. In the super bad ending where Sho erases all his allies instead of the traitors, The End implies he will somehow acquire Sho's power and go back in time, but that really doesn't explain how he and the others will stop the meteor.

And it doesn't explain why everybody except the Gifted appear to exist in both worlds. Why would people create a new world that survives when theirs doesn't? It's not like "Well, at least a copy of me continues existing somewhere else" is much comfort. And why are the six Gifted left behind randomized except for The End? Their powers are always the same, so they should have the same stones inside them no matter what. Is it that multiple combinations were viable so child Sho could actually make more than one choice?

True ending was disappointing. After all that anticipation, all that build-up, it doesn't entirely make sense, and makes even less sense once Sho decides to find a way for The End to live. He essentially combines his power with The End's and somehow that allows him to teleport to the meteor dimension and literally punch out the meteor before it hits, thus sparing life in the original dimension.

At that point my brain fried. Did that really just happen?

Sho is a precog and The End's ability allows him to witness other dimensions (which is how we get the randomized traitors, any given playthrough is a different reality The End is witnessing), so how does he do any of this? We see chunks of rock falling down, reaction shots of The End and the surviving party members, and that's it. No sign of Sho. Is he dead? Did he stay in the meteor dimension? Nobody knows.

I feel like this is a game where the mechanics were made first and then they forced the story around it. It has some really nice ideas. I like people being from two different dimensions and not knowing it. I like the randomized traitor as a gameplay mechanic. The worldbuilding with the research notes was excellent. It just needed more of it, and for the story to be better thought through so it would come together in the end.

And seriously, something better than teleporting into space and punching a meteor.

(*) Gameplay Note: I don't usually mention gameplay, but walkthroughs don't cover this and I had really bad luck with randomized traitors. As a result of my many playthroughs, I can say with some confidence that traitors are not truly random. They're picked based on battle rankings at the start of each floor from the second stratum onward, so someone at the bottom who is at risk of being voted out is not going to be the traitor, even if they are a suspicious voice. Traitors will only come from the middle or top ranked characters. So if there's someone you really want to survive, use them only the bare minimum to keep them from being erased. I was able to spare two people this way (three may be pushing it). Starting with the fourth stratum up, when the final traitors are decided, you can safely put them back in your party.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Violet Evergarden and the Emotionless Girl

I started watching Violet Evergarden this weekend. I'd been meaning to since it came out, but I'm not a regular Netflix subscriber so I waited until there was enough content in general for me to "binge" on for a month before unsubbing again. (I just don't watch much of what Netflix has to offer. A good binge is about 15 hours of TV and then I'm done for a year.)

Violet Evergarden is about an emotionless teenage soldier who does not know what to do with herself now that the war is over and her superior officer is no longer with her. I'm only up to the third episode so far, but it's pretty clear that he didn't survive. Normally I dislike such important information being withheld from the protagonist in the name of kindness, but in this case, even though I think it's a bad idea, I can understand why Hodgins is reluctant to tell her. The titular Violet considers herself a tool, and tells him that a tool that is no longer useful should be thrown away.

She initially thinks the major has cast her aside because she lost both of her arms, and they've been replaced with mechanical prostheses. Hodgins is probably afraid that if she knows the major is dead she will self-terminate, so he informs her that her fighting ability is no longer needed since the war has ended. He lets her know that the major asked him to look out for her, and he takes her away from the hospital and into the city.

At first, I thought that Violet was an artificial creation, not because of her arms, but because she has so many "does not compute" moments. When Hodgins takes her to the major's relatives, the Evergardens, it's with the understanding that they'll become her new parents and look after her. However it doesn't work out when Violet bluntly says that she has no need to replace parents she never had and she will not be a replacement for the Evergardens' lost son. It's not that Violet is trying to be cruel, but she literally does not understand what the point of her being in their household is.

Hodgins ends up lodging her in the attic of his business, where he gives her a job. For her it is like taking on a new assignment in the military, which she understands how to do. However, as expected, she goes about it mechanically and without breaks. Hodgins runs a private postal company and her first day she ends up delivering mail well into the evening without understanding that it's possible to leave things for the next day (and this mail wasn't supposed to be delivered until morning).

Eventually, Violet asks to be moved from the delivery room to the Auto Memory Doll department, which is a fancy word for a typist who will put together a dictated letter specifying the client's message the way they intend say it, even if it's not what they're actually able to say. Many people in Violet's world can't read or write, so they rely on the Auto Memory Doll to compose important letters that they can't send themselves.

The animation is beautiful, and the series does a fantastic job at showing how a person says something can change the meaning of their message. The Auto Memory Dolls have to read between the lines because what their client tells them isn't always what they're saying, and Violet thinks that if she becomes one, she can finally understand the last words the major ever said to her.

Unsurprisingly, Violet is terrible at this. The first time she tries a letter, her client is a wealthy young woman who has the attention of a eligible young man in her social circle, but she doesn't want him to think she's easy to get, so she wants a letter that will prompt him to do a little more to chase her. This sort of nuance is way beyond anything Violet can do, and the resulting letter tells the woman's potential beau that she's not interested and he would have to offer more.

Bit by bit Violet grows, and by the third episode she composes her first good letter, aided by the fact the "client" (actually a classmate at her Auto Memory Doll school) told Violet exactly the words that needed to be said without intending to. The important thing is that Violet was able to pick out the necessary words from the unnecessary ones, and though the letter is brief and very much like a field report, the words themselves carried the right message, so the letter works.

But, as I was watching, other things started needling me.

It became apparent from the flashback of when Violet met the major, that she is not an automaton, but an actual girl. Though the major was apparently kind to her and taught her to read and write, he also did not have a problem training her to be a soldier and taking her on the battlefield with him. There's the implication that he might not have had much choice in the matter (seeing as she was some kind of shady "gift" from his brother specifically to become a tool on the battlefield), but female soldiers seem to have been unusual since nearly everyone who meets her describes her as being "like a soldier" as though it's not possible she ever could have been one. It seems like she never should have been deployed, let alone as some sort of crazy bodyguard/aide to the major.

Also, there's the fact that the major's last words to Violet, after telling her she should live and be free, are "I love you." Violet doesn't understand what that means, and wants to become an Auto Memory Doll because she thinks if she can discover how to read other people's feelings she'll know what the major meant. (Keep in mind she's a teenager and the major is probably in his late 20s and this gets rather squicky.)

What I find most surprising, is that when Violet tells this to people (and boy does she tell just about anyone who's willing to hear her life story) nobody tries to explain it to the poor girl! They just kind of look at her sadly as if there are no words. I realize they might not be able to give her a good explanation, but nobody will even do the dictionary version. Hodgins might be reluctant, given that he's aware of her history, but Violet's new friend Luculia has no reason not to say something as simple/asinine as "It's when somebody really cares about another person."

Lastly, a thought occurred to me as I was watching. I've seen a number of stories now about emotionless girls who need to be "fixed" in some fashion, because girls are supposed to be full of emotions, right?

I wondered, how would this story have played out if Violet was a boy? If a teenage boy came home from war, damaged and unable to express emotion, would anybody be going to this length to see that he's well cared for? Or would it be assumed that because he's a boy, it's all right for him to not understand his own emotions or how to read those of others?

All the Auto Memory Dolls are women. There are no men among them.

Monday, July 2, 2018

VN Talk: Code:Realize ~Future Blessings~ - Part 5: Lupin's Gang

This is the last entry in my series of Code:Realize ~Future Blessings~ writing discussions. The previous parts can be found here. This morning I'm covering the game's sole Another Story, which is a non-romantic interlude that takes place during the original story, and I'll finish up with a quick look at Delly's Room.

Another Story

"Lupin's Gang" takes place during the shared route of ~Guardian of Rebirth~, after the airship race, but before the group goes to Isaac's laboratory. It's long enough that it would have been a distraction if it had actually been included in the original game, but as a side story after the fact it's a decent amount of fun.

There are no choices to be made though, so it's a lot of non-interactive reading and while I didn't time precisely how long it took me to get through, it's probably as long as six Code:Realize chapters, give or take, and there are no chapter breaks, which makes it for a long read.

It also has no romance, which is probably the largest strike against it having been placed in a romance game. (Especially given the length!) But if you're willing to read the characters for being themselves, without necessarily having romance involved, I think this is overall a fun addition, though it probably could have used some editing to trim it down.

In a nutshell, Cardia and friends get tangled up in mafia dealings while Lupin is doing his business of stealing back vampire treasures for Delly. We meet the Gordon family; the boss, his daughter, and one of the men, who probably would not be called mafia if this had been written by an English speaking author, since they all appear to be British.

Though they're called mafia, run around with weapons, and get into fights with other gangs, they're comedically considerate mafia who don't kill people and don't commit any crimes. Sholm├Ęs says they're really underground vigilantes. (They also apparently run an herbalism farm.)

They do have a problem with an actual mafioso though, and it turns out this guy is behind not only the Gordon family woes, but the forging of fake vampire treasure and a drug empire. For various reasons, everyone in Lupin's gang decides to help out, and Cardia is particularly happy to get to know Shirley Gordon, who becomes Cardia's first female friend.

While Shirley is fun and a type of friend that Cardia has sorely needed, she's also thirteen, which introduces some questionable stuff. For one thing, Cardia's age is never given in game prior to the discovery of her artificial creation, so her perception of her age is whatever she thinks it to be. The ages of her love interests are all in their twenties though, not counting Saint-Germain due to his immortality. From that I previously assumed that Cardia is physically in her early twenties.

However, Cardia happily declares that she considers herself and Shirley to be the same age. Maybe Cardia is a terrible judge of age (being artificial and having no true concept of how old she is), but nobody corrects her, and even thinking of her as an older teenager puts an uneasy age difference between her and her love interests. Shirley does look significantly younger than Cardia though, so there's a good chance we can write this off as Cardia being off by several years.

This odd suggestion that Cardia might physically be a teenager comes up in Finis's route as well, though not as obviously. I don't believe ~Guardian of Rebirth~ ever called the original Cardia and Finis twins, but they're considered such in ~Future Blessings~, even though Cardia looks older than Finis. Finis is quite clearly referred to as a boy in dialogue, and looks like a younger teen, while Cardia is never referred to as a child.

Being artificial creations and the originals having died in childhood before they got to the physical ages of the homunculi themselves, it's possible that Isaac simply made the Cardia and Finis we know different ages, but it's still a weird sort of rolling back of how old her appearance is supposed to be.

Aside from that, the Lupin's Gang route is pretty good about giving every love interest a moment to shine (complete with a CG), which is especially nice since the lead up to the finale involves everyone getting new costumes to blend in with the game's idea of what steampunk Victorian mafia would look like. They're so nice to look at it's a shame they're only used in this one route. Since this is pre-route lock, Cardia is a little dense when Shirley asks her if she's interested in any of the men and doesn't admit any romantic feelings towards them.

Shirley also makes a particularly amusing side comment when she realizes that Cardia is sharing a house with five unrelated men. From the outside, that does look rather unusual, and it's also funny because I don't think anyone in game has ever brought that up before. Cardia would have no reason to think the living situation is unusual, but the men don't bring it up either.

Being a side adventure that can't break canon, most of the end drama comes down to the face off between the Gordon family and the Italian gangster, Avido, and this does unfortunately take the camera off our usual protagonists for a while as all the new side story characters have it out with each other.

I think I would have been fine with it if Avido was not 1) really stupid about letting Lupin and company run around unfettered on his ship (it was mind-boggling idiocy from a guy who has the capacity to kill as easily as he breathes) and 2) he didn't come back for a second round confrontation after his initial defeat on the boat.

While it was mildly interesting having a car chase with a tank involved, it didn't really add anything to the story, and I think the most impactful moment on the part of the side story characters was Shirley deciding to take her revenge by destroying Avido's wealth rather than taking his life. And that happened back on the boat.

Everything after that was more giving her dad an excuse to grandstand and hearing Avido's sob story about how his father used to be a member of the Gordon family and how Avido's mom died of disease when he was young because his dad wouldn't resort to illegal means to get the money to save her. I don't think Avido really needed any depth added to him, because it doesn't change our perspective of him. He's still a bad guy with a horribly messed up worldview, and by having Darius Gordon deliver the final punch it feels like it takes away from Shirley, who is the one who actually grew over the course of the story.

I think I would have enjoyed Lupin's Gang more as an OVA to the anime than as part of a visual novel, because it would have been compressed more and the lack of interactivity with something this long hurt. Otherwise it was a nice way to have another adventure with the gang all together again.

Delly's Room

Delly's Room is a small series of shorts that open up with every route completed, for a total of eight parts. They seem to all take place during the shared route of ~Guardian of Rebirth~, except that apparently Cardia already knows about Van Helsing's inability to cook, which she only learned about in the epilogue for his particular route in the original game.

I can't complain too much though, because the results of his lethal cooking are used for excellent comedic effect when Delly is unwittingly left with the results of Van Helsing's baking. Cardia returns finds Delly has eaten everything and expects that he has been horribly poisoned to death, but it turns out he just ate way too much because he loves it, so much that he wants to take lessons from Van Helsing.

Cardia, Delly, and the dog Sisi are the only characters who show up in the Delly's Room segments, and Delly's love for Van Helsing's cooking is really the only thing that carries over from story to story, with the rest being vignettes of Delly happily adapting to his life with Cardia and company.

They're mostly forgettable, unless you just really like Delly, so it's odd that the Delly's Room shorts can only be unlocked by doing the larger, meatier routes. If you're going to complete everything else anyway they're not bad, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do so.