Trinary is a game that shifted tone and story a lot. Tsuchiya described it as a collaborative storytelling exercise, which I'll get into more detail about later. For the sake of talking about the game's timeline, I'd like to refer to the weekly episode releases (chapters 1 through 31) and then, after that, the re-releases of alternate timeline episode 1 through 31 on Kagura's channel. So, 1-15 means the 15th episode, 2-18 means the 18th episode of the second timeline (which actually makes it the 51st episode in real time, 31 + 18). I wrote my initial impressions post when we were at 1-6. Back then, our goal was given to us by the app's navigator, Chiharu - 'play this like it's a dating game, gain the girls' trust and support them for the hardships to come'.
I also want you to remember while reading this that each chapter was released at least a week after the previous one, so if you were playing up to date, cliffhangers kept you waiting a long time! It's not like a console game where if there's a problem you can just keep marathoning it to get to the solution, sometimes you just had to wait weeks for the story to release further.
As the player, you're connecting to their world using technology that lets you turn back the time axis and re-live events as you like, so you can see things from multiple viewpoints. In general, this means that you can see each episode from the perspective of helping Tsubame, helping Aya, helping Gabriella, or helping Miyabi. Each of them have their own troubles and worries that you need to help them with, personal emotional trauma and hesitation that you need to help solve so they can carry out their missions. You do this in a number of ways, from giving them advice in the 'real world', to diving into their subconsciousness and beating up manifestations of bad thoughts/feelings, to externally manipulating events.
The character interactions are just too charming for words, and reminded me of why I love Akira Tsuchiya so much. I progressed along Tsubame's channel first most of the time, so one example that I can give is her first secretary you interact with, Karen. Karen's personality is naive and overly trusting, a bit scatterbrained and clumsy. The first major drama that happens in her channel is that Karen, who up until then has run the necessary programming commands to find and solve Tsubame's problems, tells you that she's not going to be there next week because she's taking some vacation time (You have paid vacation? "Of course we have paid vacation! Our working conditions aren't that awful!"). Next week, sure enough, you dive into Tsubame's mind and she's not there - instead she's left you with administrator privileges and a list of commands that she usually executes to find the emotional problems, trusting you to use it them properly while she's away. The poor trusting sap even lists all the commands you're NOT supposed to use, saying that she trusts you not to do anything bad! Of course, I ran all the commands I wasn't supposed to run - I accessed classified information about Chiharu and saw parts of Tsubame's mind I wasn't supposed to see. The next week you come back and Karen is in tears - why did you run all those commands even when she specifically told you not to? You'll find out if you press her on an ominous remark about this week being 'her last shift' that she's been fired because of what you did, and will be being replaced from then on with a new secretary. I felt SO BAD. Sure enough, next week she's been replaced by a new secretary, but Karen's story doesn't end there - this is just one example out of dozens of sub-stories I couldn't possibly begin to list, but I really loved the secretaries and their antics.
And what do you want to do? Previously, you had choices, but they mostly led to similar places. They'd change things a little bit in the immediate future, but the story would converge back in time. And more than anything else, you could always change your mind and/or view other choices by replaying the chapter whenever you wanted.
By far the biggest shocker of Trinary, then, was when the game gave you a choice that you would not be allowed to change your mind on. In Chapter 27, when you'd been playing and investing your time into the game for over half a year, Chiharu gets a chance to explain her utopian vision to you and ask you to join her side. In a game where you could always change your mind and see all outcomes, the game warns you that your choice is permanent and irreversible, you can only choose once. This isn't a console game where you can make a save point and reload it, so this is a really heavy moment. The delivery was just amazing, and I doubt I've ever thought as hard about a video game choice as I did in this one, an irreversible one with half a year of gameplay behind it.
In a show of how much the playerbase liked Chiharu even after she seemingly stabbed you in the back, a breakdown of player choices: 14% supported Chiharu's utopian plan even if it meant the deaths of the Trinary girls, 34% supported her utopia but couldn't agree to her plan if it meant the Trinary girls had to die, 48% rejected her plan but wanted to let her know they still thought well of her even if they had to stop her, and only 4% rejected both her plan and told her to leave and never come back.
This second part was a bit of a mixed experience for me. In a long blog post after the game's shutdown was announced, Tsuchiya likened this second half of the game to playing a tabletop RPG with his players, where the players decided where the game went. Unlike the first loop where the only irreversible decision happened in Chapter 27, the second loop has tons of choices which every few weeks would be tallied up, and the worldline compressed to the majority or plurality choice to prevent the branching paths from getting too far out of control. Sometimes these choices were probably easy for Tsuchiya to predict which would be most popular, but some of them were pretty unexpected, close margins and difficult to work with, and the plot got pretty wonky at times as a result of trying to chase the loose ends from players' decisions. He also liked to use the polling functionalities to run thought experiments on the players, having the navigators give us variations of classic questions like the Trolley Problem or the Prisoner's Dilemma and then sharing the results later. I suspect that if Trinary had been a financial success, this is how they would have kept the game going - keep on looping and playing choose-your-collective-adventure with the playerbase.
The problem is that you didn't really need to roll the curan gacha with real money to progress - a good 'problem' to have for players of course, but a bad one for the company. The story can be cleared easily even if you never spend money on the gacha, and the time-limited events were also easily clearable without spending in the gacha. Most games cajole their players to whale by having PvP elements or leaderboards at least, but Trinary had neither, so there was very little motivation to spend any real money on the curan gacha to unnecessarily maximize your party's power.
As for the heart candy, you could get plenty of them for free by doing your daily quests and the events. What the heart candy did do is create a huge barrier for new players who joined late - whereas those of us who played from the start basically always had enough heart candy to do anything we wanted, players who joined late would be prevented from progressing in the main story without spending money or stopping to grind a long time, which probably made a lot of people drop the game.
In the end, you played this game for the story and characters. I played quite a lot, but I didn't come close to seeing all the content - there's just so much. The front page when you opened the app had little diaries written by the characters that were updated all the time, each Trinary girl had her own whole 31 episodes of main story to through and over 100 skits each in their romance path if you decide to go for that. I stayed true to Chiharu until the game's closure was announced and the final episode was released, at which point I had enough resources pooled up to at least go for one of the main Trinary girls and decided to see what Gabriella's path was like. I kind of wish I had liked one of the main 4 girls from the start so I could have experienced waiting a week between skits, since blowing through all 120ish of them wasn't quite the same. Anyway I don't play dating sims much so I can't really comment on the content compared to other games, I preferred the spirit world secretaries to the actual Trinary girls themselves, but some of Gab's skits were still enjoyable. While most of the main game isn't voice-acted, the girls do send you audio clips over the game's messenger system in their routes, which is a nice break from just reading. Why, Gabriella even made me go use Google Translate for Polish -> English translation half a dozen times since she reverts to her native tongue sometimes when upset or embarrassed.
This blog post probably makes very little sense, because it really needed to be about 10x longer to explain Trinary's world and characters, but I'm not patient enough to write that - I just wanted to blog something about it, for my own sake as much as anyone else's, as a sendoff to a soon to be dead mobile game. Thanks for reading.