Taking it Personally: a Visual Novel

There’s this game sitting on my backlog for months now, a visual novel created with Ren’Py engine which I downloaded out of a whim. Why didn’t I play it earlier? Frankly, I was put off by the title. Yes, it’s horrible. Would a game titled ‘Don’t Take it Personally,Babe, It Just Ain’t Your Story’? Not only it’s mouthful, it also doesn’t make any sense at all. Even moreso when you actually play it.

Last night I decided to test the game, once again out of a whim. I ended up finishing one playthrough. It totally exceeded my expectations (which is a corny high school love story) and blowed it out the window.
If you have penchant for text-based games, I suggest trying it out. There aren’t too much branches (the official site says there are three endings) and you’d not be barraged by countless choices. Pretty enjoyable, and it carries interesting morals too. If you haven’t catch on, no, this is not your usual ‘get the girl’ thingie.

You play as John Rook, a 38-years old, twice divorced, who quitted his job in computer to start teaching in 2027. In your class you’ll meet seven students, each with their own problem revolving around homosexual relationships, friendship, technology in education, and the fading concept of privacy. As a teacher John has access to every message and post sent by the students in the Facebook-like AmieConnect (shortened as Amie), and uses the advantage to solve students’ problems as well as monitoring their activities.

Graphics wise, it uses anime-style characters with CG backgrounds. Quite pleasing, though YMMV. There are some inconsistencies though between the in-game character graphics and their Amie profile pictures. The font is clear and big enough.

John can also access a 4chan’s parody named 12channel, which is filled with nonsensical posts that later prove to be a foreshadowing. The concept of foreshadowing is played really well here, and after you finish it once you’ll see just how much is already revealed from the start. The writing style is good, with dialogues and narration flow naturally, the same way you talk to your friends. There are some strong words and disturbing messages (especially in the exchange between Arianna and Taylor) but maybe it’s just me, due to cultural differences.

This is a rather short VN. You can finish a playthrough between 1-2 hours.If you’re homophobe, don’t play it or start flaming around. I’m not fond of this kind of relationship, but I’ve gone past outright hating it to accept it (though I still don’t exactly approve it).

If you plan on playing it, please stop reading now. I might reveal plot points. Here’s the official site.

My critics: Why in the world the developer gave such horrible title? How am I supposed to call it if my friend asks for recommendation? That aside, I’ve some pet peeve with 12channel. Reading the forum reminded me too much to real forum, very spammy. And why would people in 2027 talk about anime and series that were popular in early 1990s? Then John, despite being an interesting protagonist, is barely explored.

Done. I’m particularly interested with Isabella. I laughed a lot when I finally realized what happened in Kendall and Akira’s performance. Then there’s this issue about privacy. At endgame where John confesses he spied on the students since the beginning, the children appear to be perplexed, unsure what was he so afraid of. Being the generation of social media, they no longer understand the concept of privacy, as it leads someone to be ‘unsocial’. I might post about this on my other blog, as a follow up.

This game leaves a lot of afterthought. I was annoyed to hell with Taylor, but her reaction shook me. Also, Kendall’s bluntness and her once-in-a-blue moon wise advices got me pause to think. John who naively worried about his students’ grades and in contrast, the school’s reaction, brought me back to my long-time belief: school is nothing when grade is all it’s about. What the school do (curving the end result up to leverage the average) is something I’ve seen many schools do, even my own. John noted that his students were struggling in Literature. Yet their marks were absolutely high because they need it to enter college.

To close this post, I’ve chosen to paraphrase a quote  from Kendall which the anime lovers might relate to:

Watching an anime, feeling the attachment to the characters, then after 12 episodes it finally end, leaving you feeling empty. Then you replay the soundtrack again and again just to cling on the feelings. It’s a lot like love, really.

Second part here

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