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.