I was wrong - I still feel as confused as I was last year. I had hoped to wait until after all the games previewed last post were played to make a follow-up, but with Nights of Azure delayed to August 31st, it may as well fall into the 'next batch' of Gust games at this point. With that being said, let's take a look at the four games I mentioned in the last blog post and how I feel they ended up. For the two with reviews (Firis and Blue Reflection), you can click the names to go to the reviews.
Most of my thoughts are covered in the review linked above - I thought it was ambitious and enjoyable, but didn't quite mesh together as well as it should have. I also didn't like the characters as much as I usually do, but other than that I thought it was a great game.
However, that's talking about the PS4 version. From what I have seen of screenshots and heard from other peoples' impressions, the Vita and PC versions have serious flaws - much more serious than a few crashes that were fixed in later patches. The Vita version is, to put it simply, not able to keep up with the design and engine at this point. The Arland games were great on the Vita, with the 2D character portraits and less demanding engine, but it's becoming clearer with each installment that the Vita simply can't keep up with the power needed to run these games cleanly.
The PC should have no excuse, and yet the PC port has inexplicable oddities (I've heard that many of the assets used for it are actually from the Vita version and not the PS4 version, which would be a very strange decision if true - can anyone confirm?).
Either way, technical problems combined with a low initial PS4 sales count make this look bad for Gust's bottom line. I don't know how many sales they needed to break even on Firis, but I doubt they reached the target.
How about the next Atelier game, then? Well, I'm a bit tired of the Mysterious series, part of me hopes they just make it a 2-game arc and start a new setting next release. If they go with Part 3, though, there are a few things I hope for:
- Closure on the Sophie/Plachta story arc about Sophie trying to get Plachta a human body. One complaint about Atelier Shallie was that it felt like very few story arcs were tied up from Ayesha/E&L
- Better characters. I realize how incredibly subjective this is, so maybe I just mean 'characters I end up liking more'.
The problem of the game having incredibly low difficulty (even on Hard setting) continues to baffle me, though. It still hasn't been patched, either. The game could be so much better with an extremely simple difficulty adjustment patch, it's a real shame it hasn't happened yet.
Even more baffling, however, has got to be Gust's DLC for this game. They have a whole schedule lined out, 5 months in advance, for when different costume DLC is going to drop. They make a big deal of each DLC release on their social media. The glaring, obvious problem? There is no replayability in the game, and therefore no reason to buy any of the DLC! It's mind-boggling how they haven't done something to fix this if they actually expect to profit off their DLC. Let's list up how worthless this costume DLC is:
- There is no New Game+ component
- There is no new Very Hard difficulty to replay the game on.
- The costumes only show up when wandering around the school, when you fight the characters are in their magical girl outfits, not the DLC costumes.
- There is no postgame dungeon that people who didn't fully finish things up earlier could maybe come back to and complete. You can easily finish everything in 30 hours.
Just recently in Atelier Sophie, Gust had added in a 'Despair' difficulty a few months after release, and of course they also release new dungeons too. I had expected the same for Blue Reflection, especially if they wanted to make bank with their DLC, but there's nothing. What's going on? Make money properly off your products, please!
Garbage mobage combat aside, the main characters are all great, I love them. You can feel that it's a Tsuchiya game, and it reminds me again that fun characters are one of the main reasons I love Tsuchiya's settings so much. Maybe I'll write up more about it later, right now the game is still in its story's opening phase, with drama about to drop soon (at least, it feels that way).
Am I in danger of slowing down on reviews of console games because I'm playing Trinary? No, absolutely not, don't worry. I load up Trinary and use up my stamina in quick battles and then log back out, only committing more time than that to it once per week when a new episode comes out. The recent slowdown in reviews is more due to there just being no games I want to play and review at the moment besides Dungeon Travelers 2-2 (which I am currently playing, but saving most of it for an upcoming overseas trip so I can bring my Vita and use it to stave off boredom while over there).
When they first revealed this sequel, my first thoughts were "Huh, so a love triangle at the center of the story? Might be interesting, even though the rest of the plot sounds like a rehash of the first game."
Each time they've delayed the game, though, they've added new 'Lily' partners as 'compensation' for the delay. Now look, I'm not a professional writer, but if the game had a coherent plot and gripping drama between the main 3 characters, it would not be possible to just toss new girls (who, if the 'Lily' system is any indication, will probably have at least some romantic subtext with the protagonist) into the plot.
No, we've firmly entered territory where one of the following two things is likely:
1) It's become a harem game. Hey, nothing wrong with that - but was it designed that way from the start? The initial promo material made it look like a lot more interleaved personal drama between the main 3 girls, not a yuri harem with drag-and-drop love interests.
2) Plot breakdown, where oddly glued-on extra character arcs and romance options that feel out of place compared to the first two girls are haphazardly littered about the plot because they weren't part of the original narrative.
I'm not sure which is worse - a straight (ha-ha) up yuri harem might be the least awkward option at this point.
At the very least, we can at least expect some very, very polished up gameplay! Come on Gust, you've had an extra ten months to work on the gameplay, so we can hopefully expect some great action RPG combat.