Tag Archives: DS

The Childhood Sweetheart Trope as Interpreted by 999 and Danganronpa

One of the most predictable and used tropes for anime, and in general other media, is the Childhood Sweetheart Trope (CST). A pre-ten year old boy and girl meet each other for the first time, acquire puppy love, and then are tragically separated due to extraneous circumstances before they meet up again as young adults. They fall in love again through a series of mishaps or adventures and then get married. There can be some fidgeting with this but for the most part this is basically the sub or main plot for a lot of romantic/semi-romantic anime ranging from the humorous Love Hina to the very gruesome Elfen Lied.

I am critical of this trope though for several reasons besides its foreseeable conclusions. One is that the characters, especially the female ones, are quite dull or one sided and have no overall personal goals or conflicting feelings that paint them as actual people. Two is that we as the audience already expect them to get together and thus when we see the boy or the girl dating someone else we know it will end badly. Three is that the trope has a very predestined feel behind it, especially if the boy and girl make a marriage promise, as the girl and boy are fated towards this end result no matter what they do. Finally, the girl characters are treated like rewards or trophies for the boy, especially if we primarily follow the boy’s POV, and not as actual humans.

Now I know this is not always the case (e.g., Elfen Lied) but CST is certainly prevalent in the story telling community. As such, I want to discuss two stories, the DS game 999 and the visual novel game/anime Danganronpa, and their unique interpretation of this dry trope. These two stories have an interesting approach to this tired theme and I wanted to gush why I think these two nailed it (and of course, spoilers).

Lower row, directly in the middle is Makoto and to his right is the blue-haired Sayaka. Image from http://www.egmnow.com/articles/reviews/egm-review-danganronpa-trigger-happy-havoc/#

Let’s start with Danganronpa, our main character, Makoto Naegi, likes Sayaka Maizono, a pop idol girl, whom he became acquainted with in middle school. The two hadn’t seen each other until the events depicted in Danganronpa and they hit it off well as they’re the only people they’re familiar with in the whole cast of characters. There is an implied mutual attraction and support between the pair.

Though they didn’t know each other before middle school, this is still the CST at heart as they were separated at a young age before being reacquainted several years later. When the terrible events of Danganronpa unfold, the story seems to set up the notion that their relationship will only get stronger before they become an actual couple.

However, this does not happen as a fellow student murders Sayaka and as such, we see the first twist Danganronpa offers for the CST. Makoto and Sayaka’s relationship will not blossom but Sayaka now becomes a martyr for Makoto, a beacon to for Makoto to triumph in the end.

Although Sayaka’s death may be inspirational, she is still a rather flat character. That was the case until an episode after her death revealed her hidden intentions. Sayaka, in all her innocent goodiness, was planning on murdering a fellow student and then frame Makoto for it. Of course, the murder doesn’t go as plan and she got murdered instead. This shocks both Makoto and us the viewer. We are set up at the beginning that Sayaka would be an innocent, loving girl and yet her actions had proved otherwise. Why did she do it? Well, we’re shown in the previous episode that her band members were severely hurt/already dead and probably would not be saved unless she murdered someone and successfully got away with it.

This…is awesome.

Her reasons for murdering actually seem sensible (besides, you know, the whole murder thing). Her band members are in grave danger and she has known them for years, they’re probably like family to her! Seeing them in peril prompted her to act the way she did so she could try and save them. She tricked Makoto into switching rooms with her, lured a student to the said room for the promise of teaching him music, and then attempted to murder that student and blame it on Makoto. Since she barely knows Makoto, she didn’t have any strong emotional attachment to him and thus didn’t have a problem in framing him for murder. I actually want to see an alternate universe where she did murder the student and and how Makoto would react to that.

Though I kind of thought she would be the first one to get murdered, I definitely did not see her ulterior motives coming and was nicely surprised by it. These first few episodes definitely set the tone for the rest of the series. Well played, Danganronpa.

Guy in the middle frame with the blue vest is Junpei and to his right is Akane.  Image from http://zeroescape.wikia.com/

Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors just takes this trope though and blows it out of the water. Now, this game has so many ideas, themes, and morals behind it that I try to find any excuse to talk even just one of them. In this case, I want to talk 999’s interpretation of the CST as it’s just amazing.

Our main character is Junpei, a 21-year-old college student who is found on a rigged-to-blow cruise liner and must play the “Nonary Game” in order to escape from it. He meets eight other characters after escaping from his cabin room, one of which is Akane Kurashiki (alias “June”), whom he knew when they were kids. IMMEDIATELY, when Junpei explained who she was I was like “Ah, crap, here we go, another Childhood Sweetheart story.” I was not looking forward to Akane and I actively avoided her early on in the game. She seemed like such a flat character, another one of those innocent, sweethearts or whatever.

Well, as you may know, there are multiple endings to the game. After the first time through (I died of course), I went a different route but this time I actively engaged with Akane more often.

Holy crap, she’s funny, and a bit crazy too. Her sexually suggestive quips embarrassed Junpei (lol) and her crazy metaphysical concepts made him question her sanity. I was happily surprised how untypical she was while I was playing the game.

In fact, the more I played the game the more I realized that there was something really special about Akane but I couldn’t figure out why.

And then, wham, I came across the true ending to the game and my mind was blown. It was revealed that all along she was the one behind the “Nonary Game” and it was all an elaborate setup to not only get back at the people who hurt her ten years ago but also to save her from her own death.

Okay, where to begin.

When Akane was a kid, she was trapped in a room that was going to burn her alive. Her only way out was to solve a puzzle that she didn’t know how to answer. Her only way out was to telepathically communicate Junpei and have him solve the puzzle instead. How? Well, this is the part where things get crazy. One of the themes of the game is that the past is set but the future has multiple paths laid out. Akane tapped into that idea by communicating to Junpei ten years in the future and have him solve the puzzle instead. Her future self created an environment that was exactly similar to her past’s environment. This allowed Past Akane to look into the different future paths and try to steer Junpei to the puzzle that she could not solve. This is why the game has multiple endings (which blew my mind, this game did that a lot for me), Akane is trying to find that perfect ending. Once Junpei figured out the puzzle in the exact same environment, he telepathically communicated the answer back to past Akane and then she was able to figure it out.

This is actually why present Akane would inexplicably collapse when she and Junpei were exploring their environments. If the player chooses a wrong path (i.e., the path that takes them to the life-or-death puzzle) then present Akane would become sick because Junpei is not exposed to the puzzle, which means he can’t solve it, which means he can’t communicate the answer back to past Akane, which means she will die in the burning room, which means present Akane will die as well. Wrap your head around that one.

There are internet articles out there that like to deconstruct this concept into pieces and explain why this is so amazing so I won’t go into that. But what I do want to say is that all of this…the telepathy, the puzzles, the multiple endings, and the character herself just utterly destroy the CST. Whether done intentionally or not, 999 builds up CST and then just tears it down piece by piece and I really liked that. It’s not often that a storyteller has effortlessly guided my initial opinion of a character into making me think one way of them and then pull the rug from me and reveal what truly lies there. So good.

Image from Amazon.com

Okay, so what do these two stories have in common?  Why do I like them both?

Both of them set up the boy and girl’s relationship very casually, almost as if they were simply cookie-cutting the trope into their twisted plots but still keeping true to CST.  In Danganronpa, Makoto and Sayaka would get out of the murder game alive and become a couple; in 999, Junpei and Akane defeat Zero through the power of a emerging love.  However, this does not happen.  We are given a scenario where both Sayaka and Akane have ulterior motives and are trying desperately to win no matter what the costs.  We see what makes them tick and why they acted the way they did.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that these two females felt like actual people to me.  They feared, they planned, they made hard decisions, and they are not defined by simply trying to find that special someone or being in love.  That may be a part of them yes but it’s not the full picture.  I really liked that but it’s unfortunate that these characters stood out to me because they directly oppose a rather flat trope.  Regardless, because of their actions, they are what help make 999 and Danganronpa great as they took this trope and punched it right in the face.  Now that is awesome.

Unapologetic Nerd will be on hiatus next week in preparation for an extensive Star Wars article for Star Wars Day.  It will focus on one of my favorite novels in the series.  Don’t forget to check it out!

Favorite Games I Played in 2014

2014 was the Year of the New for me as I never before had played this many games that were either just released or released within a year that I played them.  This mainly stems from my 3DS which even though I got in October of 2013, I wasn’t able to exploit the games on it until 2014.  Another small boost came in the form of my used Wii U which I bought it and Mario Kart 8 at a decent price.

Even so, I still played many games that were released several years or more ago including quite a few for the DS, one on the PS3 (Arkham City), and one on the Gamecube (Metal Gear Solid: the Twin Snakes).

With this being a noteworthy year for my video games, I will give you my list of the new games I played for the 2014 year along with small awards for the “Best of” for that category.  Here’s the full list of them:

DS: 999: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors, Professor Layton and the Last Specter, Miles Edgeworth Investigations, Phoenix Wright Trials and Tribulations

Gamecube: Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes

PS3: Batman: Arkham City

3DS: Bravely Default, Pokémon ORAS, Fire Emblem Awakening, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, Pokémon TCG (via Virtual Console), Super Smash Brothers

Wii U: Mario Kart 8, Super Smash Brothers

Most Hyped: Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright

Okay, this was pretty close for me, it was either PLvPW or Super Smash Brothers.  True, I’ve been waiting for Smash Bros longer than PLvPW but I just love the professor and the lawyer so much.  It was very agonizing for me to just sit here in the U.S. seeing Japan get the game…and then Europe get the game…and we don’t!  I was sure it wasn’t going to come…and I was soooooo happy that it finally did.  You see, I knew Super Smash Bros would get to the U.S. eventually but not PLvPW.  But opening up that game and turning it on and hearing that music and seeing that title screen and seeing the characters gloriously animated was quite a treat and would have been hard to top.

Best Multiplayer: Super Smash Brothers (WiiU)
This should be pretty obvious, Mario Kart 8 was super fun and it’s nice to play against your friends on the 3ds version of this game but come on, 8 players!  That just seals the deal for me right there.  Playing with my friends on a variety of controllers with a variety of characters was just simple fun with simple madness.  Can’t be beat.

Best Game to Play with Mary: Animal Crossing: New Leaf

We smashed, we raced, and we played Pokemon together but Animal Crossing is the best game to play with her.  True, I love doing all three of the previously mentioned games with her before but Animal Crossing is different.  We are in a town together with our own homes interacting with our own villagers.  And though we can’t directly interact with each other, our interaction with the town and its quirky villagers makes this a nice gem to play.  Animal Crossing towns do have a vibe of loneliness if you’re the only human player but this is cured if you have other people inhabiting your town, it makes it feel more active.  Plus it makes funding projects that much easier!

Best Story: 999
I played games that had a good story in them whether it was the trials in Phoenix Wright, Snake infiltrating Shadow Moses, or Professor Layton duking it with Phoenix Wright but none took me on the twist and turns of 999.  Perhaps it was because I was not familiar with the series but the game took me on a wild ride and that never stopped (until I failed an ending and had to restart).  I was legitimately creeped out by some of the moments in the game and I regretted playing it while I was in bed.

Special shoutout though has to be done for the story behind PLvsPW as that story took me on an emotional roller coaster with some good twists.  Another special shoutout has to be done for PW: Trials and Tribulations because that final trial was definitely a doozy and remains among the best in Pheonix Wright’s cases that I have done so far.

Unexpected Hit: 999 and Pokemon Trading Card Game
These two are on top of the list for different reasons.  I knew 999 was critically acclaimed but I just didn’t get why until I played the game.  I devoured this game in less than two weeks (normally it takes me at least a month to finish games).  On the other hand, Pokemon Trading Card Game was just so much fun to play.  I first played this game more than ten years ago and I suuuucked at it even with the cheat codes.  My brief dance with the TCG in real life made me learn how to play the TCG and so when I bought it on the Virtual Console it was just too much fun.  Creating your own deck was fun and beating the game (which is hard mine you) was quite rewarding.  I definitely hope Nintendo decides to release an updated version of this game!

Biggest Disappointment: Bravely Default

For all the hype and praise surrounding this game, I was honestly burned out by it.  The amount of grinding I had to do was intense and it just got to me.  I haven’t played the game in awhile but I’ll probably pick it up again later.  The same thing happened for Fire Emblem Awakening (which was fantastic btw) where I got frustrated by it and stopped playing for three months.  I picked it up again, powered through it, found out I loved it, and finished it rather quickly.  I’m hoping BD will be the same thing but I won’t be touching it again for awhile.  I’m still surprised by people’s praise, anyone want to give me their thoughts on this game and why you might have liked it?

Best NPC: Joker from Batman: Arkham City
999 had a host of characters that I enjoyed interacting with.  Most of the characters I originally passed off as Trope characters that had only one particular trait, however, as the game went on, they would continuously surprise me by the things they did, their knowledge, and their history.  Number 7 was one of my favorites.
However, Joker was by far the best NPC.  Mark Hamill was as usual great in his role as the Clown Prince of Crime.  Plus, Joker’s role in the game was a I think better than his main antagonistic role in Arkham Asylum.  His joking personality was at his height here and let’s not forget those hilarious answering machine messages he left for Batman.  Classic Joker.

Best Line Delivery: Twin Snakes

Enough said.

Best Sequel: Pokemon ORAS
I played a lot of sequels during this year of franchises that I love.  A good sequel in my book is one that retains the original charm of the first game while adding new stuff to it that makes it a refreshing experience.  For that, Pokemon ORAS was probably the best sequel of them all.  ORAS not only was a good Hoenn remake but a good step forward in the evolution of Pokemon games.  The sneaking mechanic for Dexnav made catching pokemon a whole new level of fun!  Hidden abilities, special moves only learned normally through breeding, and held items made it fun to find the best pokemon.

Not only that but the map and pokedex features improved a lot making you want to catch odd pokemon even if you didn’t want them in the first place.  The New mega evolutions are great and Hoenn getting a full 3D remake was just amazing.

Best Item(s):  The Brave Weapons from Fire Emblem Awakening
In the Awakening game, weapons matter a lot to you especially for the higher ranked ones as they can give more damage with better bonuses as well.  The brave weapons as such were among the best weapons in the game that I liked to equip my warriors with.  True, they may not be the strongest ones, but they’re among the best weapons to buy and that goes a long way.

Best BossThe Grand Masters from Pokemon Trading Card Game

As said before, defeating the Pokemon TCG was challenging mostly thanks to the Grand Masters.  All of them were packing Legendary cards that I couldn’t access yet.  Getting my butt kicked by Courtney, the first Master, several times made me rethink deck strategies to the point of dismantling them entirely and working from the ground up again.

Ironically, one of my easier battles came from the final battle against Ronald, your rival in the game.  He flat out refused to call back his Zapdos despite the fact that he only had fire and water energy cards.  I chose not to kill him on a gamble that he wouldn’t return him so I just outwaited him.  He ran out of cards before I did and I won.  One of the most hilarious victories I ever had.

 

Spoiler Free Review of 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999) is a visual novel game released on the Nintendo DS in 2010.  It is widely hailed as one of the best games on the Nintendo DS.  After hearing so much about it, I decided to try it out over the summer.

999 centers around nine people and their struggle to escape a sinking ship in nine hours.  They do this by going through a series of nine rooms.  These nine rooms are locked though and require you to solve a set of puzzles to unlock these rooms.

I’ve never seen a game use the Nintendo DS’ capabilities to this degree before.  The touch screen is lovingly applied and both screens are equally employed so there’s not a strong focus of one screen over the other.  I have also never seen a game take the DS’ hardware and twist it around in the game’s mind blowing ending.  It’s great.

999’s biggest feature though is its choose-your-own-adventure-style gameplay.  There are several endings to the game.  As you progress, you have to make a series of decisions that can affect the outcome of the game.  I guarantee you that you will not get the right ending the first time.  And don’t stress out about that!  The game highlights what decisions you have already made so when you reach that branching point, you can choose another path without having to worry if you had already made that choice or not.

Unfortunately, this means you have to go through a lot of dialogue and a few puzzles you have gone through before.  Luckily, you can simply press the B button and the game zips you through the dialogue and drops you to the first decision point.  You can’t skip through puzzles you have already done but since you know how to do them, you can breeze through them easily.  Even so, redoing of puzzles is probably the biggest criticism I have of this game.

Since this is a choose your own adventure, certain themes, ideas, and plot devices that are alluded to near the beginning of the game can be emphasized or dropped completely as you play through the different stories of the game.  That’s kind of cool.

The whole game has a definite creepy vibe to it.  I would say it’s tone is similar to Myst though with a great deal more character interaction and less mind-frustrating confusion.  I guess I should expand on this and say it reminds me of the classic point and click adventure games as the constant use of the touchscreen combined with the unsettling music really bring out the dire situation the characters find in this game.

999-nine-hours-nine-persons-nine-doors-box-artwork-ds

Speaking of which, definitely the biggest plus for this game would be the nine characters.  Each character is associated with a number such as the protagonist who is number 5.  Their numbers play a strong role in the game as you can’t progress through the nine different doors without using a certain combination of characters via their digital root.  So I can go through Door 5 for instance if I have say number 5, 6, and 3 (5+6+3=14, 1+4=5).

It’s through these different doors that you can interact with the nine characters on a more personal level.  As you play through the games, their slowly revealed backstories shed light on the mystery of why they are trapped on this sinking ship.  And boy these characters are great.

My favorites characters are probably Seven and Snake.  Seven at first seems like a dumb oaf but the more you get to know him the more you realized that he’s smart and pretty funny.  Snake, who’s blind, is a sympathetic character but is still nonetheless quite capable in taking care of himself.   Even the protagonist’s love interest, June, at first seems like the stereotypical, childhood friend-turned-sweetheart but holy crap the things she says to the protagonist can be either very funny or insane.  At first I outright didn’t like her because she seemed like a flat character but that slowly crumbled before my eyes.

In fact, most of the game is like that, things aren’t as they seem and certain ideas and assumptions you may have are thrown into a vat of water and dissolve before your very eyes.  I’m going to shut up about that because I don’t want to ruin any more of the fun you guys may have playing this game.

As you can tell, I like this game a lot.  If you are a fan of Phoenix Wright or Professor Layton, give this a shot.  If you haven’t played those two games then let me say this, there’s a lot of reading in this game and that can turn people off, I totally get that.  You don’t want to read you want to play a game!  But, if you don’t mind sitting back and take the story in, then you won’t be disappointed.  In the future, I’ll give my full thoughts on this game but for now, go to Amazon and buy this game!  It’s only 20 dollars new, you can’t argue that price for a game like this!

As a side note, I accomplished a unique milestone with this game.  I started it on my trip to Europe and finished it on my trip back in two weeks.  First time I completed a game out of the U.S.!