Thursday, 9 September 2021

被青梅竹馬抓來(略) (3):書上火球術下一頁百分之九十都是水球術

Character design: @kuonyuu, Illust: @蛍石 commissioned by forretrio. Pixiv
Editing and re-posting are prohibited // 無断転載、無断使用禁止です


除了班級本身特化的方向以外,學園大部分的課都是共通的。比如當作士官培養的學生會上專門為他們準備、有關政治經濟的課程,像魔法這些其他科目則會上年級共通的課。

魔法科也一樣,庫里斯只需負責魔法的部分,其他科目都是年級共通的課。當然考慮到魔法科的特殊性,開個小灶另外請一些大人物來客串並不奇怪。

魔法的存在與使用在這個世界並不是甚麼秘密,但魔法並沒有普及的原因不外乎擁有魔法資質人材的稀缺以及國家的方針。有魔法天賦的人如果想要學個簡單的火球術的話並不困難,大一點的圖書館都能找到相關的書籍。

那書本是怎樣教你的呢?

深呼吸、感受感受魔力的流動、唸出一段咒文、擺出姿勢後發射。沒經過訓練但身體有魔力的人大部分只要按著指示做都能射出火球。

你說射出來的火球跟火苗一樣弱?咒文不唸出來默念可以嗎?姿勢有點中二能不能換一個?抱歉,書上沒有寫。火球術下一頁百分之九十都是水球術,因為很多人不小心把火球亂射出去差點就把自己家給燒了。

在冒險者生涯中庫里斯遇過很多這種半吊子魔法師,尤其是在缺乏培訓體系的邊境那邊。這類魔法師多半專精於一個小分支的魔法而對其他魔法一竅不通,她們在隊伍中只能擔當固定角色而沒法為隊伍帶來質變。這類依靠天生神力的魔法師的天花板也就二三流隊伍的後排輸出,上級隊伍根本不會想要。

成為強力魔法師的關鍵在於使用魔法背後的理論基礎:為甚麼這樣可以那樣不可以,怎樣改進魔法之類的知識全被牢牢掌握在這所學園--或者說貴族與少數精英--手上。對於國家來說放著有魔法資質的平民在那成為平庸的魔法師有點浪費,把他們吸納進來成為權貴才可以確保階級的穩定性。

庫里斯對這個精英制度並沒有甚麼怨恨,更沒妄想過要打破這個圈子。既然已經接下了這份工作,思考怎樣才能教好學生才是最重要的。

能進入魔法科的有兩種人,一是高階貴族所推派的人選。這些貴族子女即便沒經過嚴苛的考試選拔也肯定在家中接受過良好的教育,包括魔法理論。唯一比較麻煩的是不少家族都在屬性上有所偏好,所以他們每個的知識背景都略有不同。另一批學生則是通過層層選拔進來的學生。他們體質上天生神力不用多說,學習能力方面必然也是最頂尖的。他們的缺點也很明顯,就是沒有接觸過像樣的魔法基礎知識。

要在一班裡處理兩批背景截然不同的學生一點也不輕鬆。自從他放出了將授課時間大幅縮減的豪言以後,來自學生與其他教師的質疑就沒有停過。畢竟這是個背負著國家未來的職位。

要同時照顧背景不同的學生們又要減少授課時數的話,照著舊有大綱走的方法肯定是行不通了。單純將部份課題刪去也不行,畢竟知識環環相扣,部份課題的缺失可能影響到剩下課題的理解。

那樣的話方法就剩一個了--重構底層的理論架構,使他們可以更快速地吸收新的知識就好了。

學園流傳下來的大綱中,理論架構是分成三年一層層疊上去的。當學生升上新的年級時他們就會接觸到更深一層的理論,然後在該學年剩下的時間裡學習這些新的理論如何應用在不同的領域上。

將這些理論基礎一口氣堆好並非不可能,只是學生會比較難理解而已。通過實踐自己學到的理論,他們可以理解到這些理論的用處和缺點。這些經驗都可以幫助理解深一層的理論。另一方面,不論是學習能力強大的平民學生還是接觸過魔法理論的貴族學生都具備「跳級」的條件。這樣教的話的確可以省去很多時間。

剩下就是教學風格的問題了。

雖然他只在學園待了半年,但他深知能不能吸引學生聽課的分別有多大。

當年教他那個老頭是個鑽研火屬性的狂熱分子。每次他上課都用最快的速度唸完,然後把時間都花在講解火魔法上面。想當然他教出來的學生中擅長火屬性的也是異常地多,多到大家都受不了而投訴,這也是傳聞中他退下來的理由之一。

出身一般的庫里斯小時候自然沒有專人指導,他當初可以打趴一整班正是因為他天生擁有的深厚魔力。但是讓他完全發揮潛力的卻是作為冒險者使他在學園那一丁點時光所學的逐漸領悟過來。所以要以實戰為目標培養他們嗎?顯然不行,實戰的危險性相當高,對初學者來說更是如此。況且他們一大部分人將來並不需要參與任何戰鬥,正如他們一大部分人並不需要成為火屬性大師一樣。

要吸引他們最直接的做法就是把理論跟他們有興趣的領域連結起來,可是初來報到的他不可能知道學生們的喜好。

只能見步行步了吧?他這樣想道。不管怎樣,然後對著學園流傳下來的課綱奮筆疾書了起來……

*

魔法屬性與適性,是今天的課題。

作為整個課程的開端,其他班級一起上的一年級魔法課是這樣的:按著課本將不同屬性的魔法簡介一遍,順便示範幾個坊間也能學會的小法術當例子甚麼火球術啦、水球術之類的。按課本的話來說就是感受一下不同屬性的魔法之間的區別。至於魔法適性就不過就是每個人最適合的屬性而已,至於適性的原理?以後再說。

按這種步調教的話能教完才奇怪。

「提醒一下大家,屬性不能光用表象去判斷喔。」

「我舉一個例子。」庫里斯像往常一樣坐在講台上開講。只見他打了一個響指,一團散發著強烈光芒的鮮藍色火焰出現在他的指頭上。只見他從不知甚麼地方掏出了一片花瓣,花瓣還沒掉到火焰上就已經化為飛灰:「這團火一看就是火魔法了吧。那這個呢?」藍色的火焰消失了,取而代之的是一朵小小的火花。另一片花瓣浮在火花上方沒有被直接點燃,而是慢慢地枯乾散開。

「覺得這個算火魔法的話舉個手~」不出意外,絕大部分有在聽講的人都把手舉了起來。

「看到有火光還是會覺得是火魔法也很正常。那這個又如何呢?」這次他攤開手掌,上面甚麼都沒有。他再次掏出花瓣,這次花瓣在手掌上方一個無形的旋風中打著圈。

「--雖然大家沒法看到,但是我掌上的空氣的確被我的魔法加熱了一點點,大概是洗澡時浴室的溫度吧。這樣我該稱它為火魔法嗎?覺得這個算火魔法的話再舉個手~」他們想了很久,最後只有三分一學生把手舉了起來。

「這次覺得不是火魔法的人比較多呢。可是我們到底該怎樣斷定甚麼才是火魔法呢?要加熱才算火魔法嗎?剛才也有加熱為甚麼不算火魔法,是因為不夠熱嗎?還是要有一團火才算火魔法?」

「要解答這些問題我們要先把魔法本身的特質與它們所造成的結果分開來看。」庫里斯意念稍動,黑板就浮現出一條線把左右分開來,左邊是「本質」,右邊是「結果」:「結果會隨外在因素而改變,而本質則相反。比如我所放出來的一團火焰把花瓣燒成飛灰,但如果我沒法花瓣拿去燒掉,化灰就不會發生。因此燒掉東西是這個魔法的結果。反過來說,這團火是每次發動同樣魔法都會生出來的,所以是這個魔法的本質。」

「我們一直使用的屬性是按魔法的本質分類的,所以你們剛才看到前兩個魔法都算火魔法喔。至於那個加熱空氣的魔法,魔法造成的空氣流動是本質,溫度的變化是結果。所以這個並不屬於火魔法喔。」

「我們將依屬性將魔法分類,不單是為了更系統地學習和研究魔法,也是考慮到魔法適性的問題。你們應該知道甚麼叫魔法適性吧?」

一位同學舉手答道:「是身體在發動不同屬性的魔法時對魔力所產生的阻力。阻力越低,施行魔法就越流暢,相對的適性也較好。」

「嗯,非常好。雖然我很想繼續討論分辨屬性的話題,不過既然提到了適性那就講一下這東西好了。畢竟你們的適性對日後個別指導的方針影響很大呢。」

「我沒記錯的話,入學測試都只會檢查你們申報最強屬性的能力吧?但事實上絕大多數人都會擁有兩個屬性以上的良好適性。即便是那些專精於單一屬性的貴族,他們的子嗣也不會因此失去其他屬性的適性。比如說皇家一直都有光屬性的傳承,但是次公主殿下的水魔法也相當優秀呢。」

「入學測試只檢查一種屬性可以確保一般學生沒資源開發其他屬性而吃虧,也能保障專精於那些長期透過遺傳強化某一屬性的家族,是個很好的評分方法。不過在學校裡把時間都放在單一屬性上就太浪費了。」

「每個屬性組合之間的配合都不完全相同。比如說老師我冰和風屬性的適性都不錯。冰魔法顯然能附到風魔法上,夾雜著冰粒的風暴殺傷力可是十分可怕的呢。」

「又比如說火跟冰這兩種屬性看似不相容,但仔細想想的話這兩種魔法也可以互相配合的。我就看過有人用冰魔法製造濃霧掩護火球的打法,更不用說本來就有些冰魔法可以為對方帶來負面效果,配上直白的火魔法簡直是天作之合。」

「因為可以操作多重屬性的魔法師帶來戰術上的靈活法,這些人在隊伍裡都是難以取代的。就算不考慮戰鬥,我聽說可以純熟操作三種屬性的人都可以輕鬆成為宮庭魔法師。這對你們不少人來說應該是當初學習魔法的時夢想吧?」

「當然每個人的興趣和適性都不一樣,我也沒要打算讓在坐每位都要開發第二屬性才行。不過想象一下還是可以的吧?這就是你們第一份作業--挑選一個你們不是最擅長的屬性,然後探討一下修練那個屬性的魔法對你們有多大幫助。探討不一定要非常嚴謹,可以從你使用該屬性的魔法時的體驗出發,腦內模擬戰得來的結論也可以。」

「這份作業算是安排個別指導的一部分,希望你們認真想一下,老師我會逐一詳細回應喔。」

「那麼~今天的課就到這裡為止了。下午是社團活動的時間,你們玩得開心一點喔。」

……

*

這所校園毫無疑問充斥著階級的氣息。貴族與平民的入學難度不同,進來以後待遇也往往不同。

與之相比,社團活動是比較平等的部分。校方一直鼓勵學生按興趣去加入或者創立社團,而且對新人的友好程度也會影響每年社團的考核。在這種環境下一堆奇奇怪怪的社團如「轉生文學俱樂部」與「地下城食材研究會」等都得以存活下來,裡面甚至不難找到貴族參與其中。

反過來說,不經社團舉辦的活動的小圈子味道就重得多了。比如學生會定期舉辦收集學生意見的會議,一般只有每個班級的代表們才能出席。

又比如,茶會。

作會貴族們的社交方式,茶會的傳統也被帶到校園裡面。與一般下午茶不同,作為主人的主辦方必須親自準備茶點以示招待之道。除非是主人的朋友或者地位匹配的人,否則沒有受到主人邀請的話是不能參與該茶會的。受邀的客人日後有機會也會舉辦茶會邀請主人參加,以示禮貌。

剛剛開學高年級學生舉辦茶會敘舊,新進來的學生舉辦茶會招兵買馬,校園裡能舉辦茶會的房間早就被搶光了。誰也沒注意到,在導師辦工室大樓的休息室裡面,此刻也舉辦了一場「茶會」。

「……你這樣是不會有人來的,」在沙發上金髮女性輕輕喝了一口茶:「很多年沒喝過你泡的茶了,至少你現在的茶藝對得起茶葉的檔次了呢。」

脫去了披風換上西裝的庫里斯在一旁正擺弄著點心,他正是這次茶會的主辦者。茶葉並不是來自他的庫存而是剛買到手的秋天第一採,特徵是帶果仁香氣的前韻與花香般的回甘。點心當然不是他自己烤的而是在帝都中有名的烘培店訂回來的。這樣辦一次茶會一點都不便宜,所以這種活動當然不會在平民學生之間流行起來,不過這點錢對冒險多年的庫里斯來說還不算甚麼。

「第一個星期讓他們玩自己的就好了,我這個茶會算是試試水溫,願者上釣嘛。」

「你的學生下課就能找你了。其他班級的學生就算想接近你,在摸清楚你的性格以前也不可能參加你的茶會。也不說你根本沒有通知任何人,你覺得有人路過剛好很閒又很想跟你喝茶的機會有多大呢?」

庫里斯並沒有反駁。他從每個點心盤上都夾出一件依鹹甜逐一放到三層的點心架上然後放到她的面前:「嘛~你還是漏了一個可能性。我把你的名字也貼在門外了,比起階級幾乎跟平民沒兩樣的我,想要見你的人也許會多一點吧?」

「那其實還有第三個可能性,就是你只是想請我過來喝茶。對吧?」她只看了庫里斯一眼便從那極力掩飾的笑容中看出個大概,不過她並不討厭在公餘的時候跟他在一起。她拈起一塊三文治放入口中,好一會後她道:「嗯,這家不錯。畢竟不是剛做出來的,麵包的口感不能要求太多。不過如果是你的話應該可以把溫度降下去以保持新鮮吧?」

正要掏出本年度剛出爐「帝都下午茶指南」炫耀一番的庫里斯只好縮回去默默的為自己湊一份點心架。他把點心架放到她對面,然後為兩人斟好了茶。一切已經準備就緒,當他以為他的二人「茶會」可以正式開始時,門外卻不合時宜地傳來敲門聲。

「不好意思,這是庫里斯老師……呃……茶會嗎?」一名男學生推門而入,庫里斯當然認出了他就是那個想用水桶坑他的學生,克萊伊。

「嗯~可以這樣說,不過非正式一點也沒關係,你是老師我今天第一位客人喔。」他轉身走向食物盤,卻聽見身後傳來一聲驚呼。

「星星星星星韻小姐是你嗎?」好歹也算貴族的克萊伊毫無禮儀地叫喊著。

「是我沒錯,你認識我嗎?」她保持著優雅的笑容回應道。

=============

這篇很早就寫好了。但我對那個屬性的世界觀一直不太滿意,一直改才拖到現在。

15年前還是那個用MSN的時代,我不知為何莫名奇妙地在狀態欄上寫了一句「魔法存在的意義為何?」然後先後遭到學姐跟老師的「關切」。並不是那種罰留堂見家長的關切,而是被詳細介紹了存在主義不同學派的見解。可惜我愛的是小說的世界觀而不是這些哲學理論。

世界上魔幻題材很多,但詳細討論魔法本質的作品幾乎沒有,歸根究抵這不是作品的重點。比較接近是以校園為題材的作品,多多少少會在上課是提到一下,不過也只是輕輕帶過而已。出名如哈利波特,裡面與上課有關的內容多不勝數,但可以稱之為理論的卻是少之又少。雖然霍格華茲參考了英式中學的3-2-2結構與英式名校的教育風格,但羅琳筆下的教學內容與地球上同齡英國學童所接受的教育深度是完全不同的。

在這方面的探討上起點的哈利同人文顯然走得更遠。作為轉生者(大部分都是轉生吧,或者至少有哈利本傳的認知)在那校園裡不是學生就是教授。學生的話多半忙著取代哈利成為救世主,但成為教授的話就不得不提到教學的內容了。詳細是哪幾本我不太方便說,但以「哈利」和「教授」為關鍵詞的話應該能找到好幾本佳作的。

另一邊廂日本的作品顯然更速食,他們更不會把精力投放在這種沒有剌激感的內容上面。多寫一節上課還不如多寫一節龍傲天開掛耍帥泡妹呢。少數的例外可以數到魔法科高中的劣等生--我絕對不會說魔法科的名字從這邊而來。實際上我考慮了好幾個不同的名字,還是叫魔法科最順口。魔劣大前期的確花了不少文筆去描述不同的魔法系統。不過這種描述最大的缺陷是,由於魔劣屬於近未來的世界線,他們對魔法的理解是以目前地球科技力為前提而作出來的。這樣就十分尷尬,一些號稱魔法能做的事,用科技的角度來看卻是不合理的。不是「魔法做出科技做不了的事」,這很正常;而是「魔法做得了的事,配合現有科技水平顯然可以發揮出比書中更強的效果」。如何詮釋未知的「科技」本來就是科幻小說的難關之一,這就是為甚麼魔幻作品取工業革命前歐洲為參照會自然很多。

這裡插一句題外話。魔幻作品中也有不少探討魔法與科技之間矛盾的作品,當中又以麻瓜和魔法界天然隔絕的哈利世界觀最為方便。我看過最有趣的一個說法是,即使在哈利的官方作品中魔法界也是明顯地衰落下去:從初代黑魔王到老佛老鄧到哈利,三代人的整體戰力都是往下的。更不用提同人裡一般用到的

始世代(阿瑟王-四位創始人)--魔世代(初代黑魔王-一戰)--祖世代(老佛學生時代-二戰後)--親世代(莉莉-詹姆四人組-老石的學生時代)--子世代(正傳)--孫世代(哈利後代)

分類,每過一代魔法戰力與傳承都呈斷崖式下跌。好幾篇同人都不約而同地問:這個是拒絕科學的後果,還是天道(有/無意識)所為?(類似的問題還有修仙題材裡面太古時代必定是靈力充沛神魔亂舞的時代,不過那個時間跨度太大也完全脫離地球框架,實在難以比較)

所以既然我有機會寫到教學的東西,當然不能錯過這個描述世界觀的機會囉。雖然我的重心還是放在自己領悟到的教育理論和方式就是。

另外很感謝各位接我委的繪師,最近的是蛍石老師和塩魚老師!托你們的福我對庫里斯有了更立體的想象,寫起來更有動力了!他們的繪圖應該會也配在小說中發出,不過看我推特就已經能看到啦。

接下來我會先回去寫夢.十夜吧。那邊的時間線也該推進一下了。

*庫里斯這次使用的是MF的秋收大吉嶺Autumnal Valley,同樣非常推薦喔。

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Neo TWEWY review (4): story and thoughts

*Spoilers alert! This part of review containing spoilers all the way up to the secret reports.

The final part of my review, on the story itself. So be warned that all spoilers are possible!


Again, it is not easy to give a full contextual analysis on the development of Rindo in the story, but I agree with what the secret report says: this is a story of Rindo taking responsibility in contrast to Neku trusting his partner in OG.



Structure

The structure is simple following the 3 weeks framework. Week 1 is an orientation and of course they failed to clinch victory. Week 2 is the transition because they now know about the game but they still failed to win, and they find something shady behind. Week 3 assuming a big story we should be facing someone above the GM level, and whoever to be the boss must have done something extraordinary that is unwrapped during the week.

NEO follows such frame closely. They spent time learning to play as a team in week 1 "just short of" reaching the top. They did well in week 2 taking other teams head on and still failed to clinch the top while discovering the truth about the Ruinbringers. Week 3 is a plain 1v1 between the team and Chiba (and his underlings). 

Puns from the past

Oh and the producers throw OG memes here and there. Whenever that happened it brings a smile on my face. 

"Focus---"
"Yo phones!"
"Tin pin slammer!"
"Still remember reaper creeper?"
...

If you want to give a message, you will probably need better encoding than a plain ternary system.

Jokes aside, most of the 2000-ish elements were gone from the game. Not only Tin Pin Slammers but also reaper creeper (which is mildly popular in the pre-computer era), folding phones (and gadgets modification like in OG), stories around phone booths (so popular in the 90s) and so on. For those who know OG so well like they have played OG yesterday like me, it's just weird to find that all the old technology had been replaced in 3 in-game years whereas it has been 13 years in reality. This is not a criticism and this is necessary, the only to blame is Square Enix who halted NEO development back in 2012.

Time reversal

What differs is how the missions are solved. This is due to the difference in mission style (as the GM changes) and also how teams interact. More importantly, how the rewind skill is utilized.

In theory you can do very complicated things with such talent. By going back and forth, one can obtain pieces of information seemingly impossible to be known in the past. These information can be used to lead the user to the correct path in the future.

This approach is observed in a number of detective games like Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney or Zero Time Dilemma(/Escape) where players have to decide which timeline to jump onto and what to do in those timelines in order to grind something fresh out of them.

Of course NEO is not a detective based game so the produced didn't bother to trick players -- in fact, the instruction to players is extremely clear as dropped by Rindo on his mental notes. (The hardest non-combat part lies on the consecutive multiple choices. Reaper's review is easy but the conversations with a Pureheart and with Shoka are so hard!)

As a result the game took a much simpler approach to how Rindo uses his talent if he found that the sequence X->Y->Z didn't work then you can first rewind and correct Z to Z'. If that's not enough you rewind further to correct Y to Y' and X to X'...then you just proceed with everything corrected. That applies even to the grand final on W3D7: the team is exhausted after fighting Shiba and they won't be able to take down Soul Pulvis (the bird noise), so they go back trying to avoid the fight with Chiba; to avoid the fight you need to get someone to persuade him, so you find the reapers...

Such story is linear and easy to understand. Although some players may found that repetitive as your last conclusion coincides with your next action. I also wonder that in a number of days the rewind is actually triggered because "you possibly cannot defeat the opponent" -- but we players have proved that we are so good in the combats. Why can't we just take the fights in the hard way? Of course Rindo didn't know clearly that rewinding come at a cost, but it would be fun if we can do those fights by ourselves say in postgame. For example on W1D5 I wouldn't mind taking 20 DRS members (bet they don't have such a big team) plus the golden pig. This is just a matter of diffusion beam massacre right?

The rewind structure is mostly simple. Rindo basically have to correct 2 or 3 things before he can go ahead and change the fate except on W3D7. On that day it's 90 minutes of pure cutscenes (under autoplay) without any fights repeating the "correction" process. 

Some players may find it too long, especially who wants a damn long dialogue when you are on full gear towards the end. I had the same feeling when I first cleared OG back in 2008: it was a family gathering and I started the game with the Konishi fight after dinner. I played and fought all the way through, but it took me much longer than expected. When I finally saw the end of the day it was already 12:30AM with a few adults grunting outside. It's easy to understand why people are not happy with that. 

Still I would say such approach is good in terms of storytelling because you want to focus on Rindo and his team as much as possible throughout the 3 weeks. It is already much harder to unveil the story around Rindo as he now has many more characters around him comparing with OG, and you don't want to add further disturbance on it. 

The key characters on the final time reversal is certainly Kaie and Rhyme. The producer knew that and had them showing up at the end of the days time to time. It's like having the ingredients prep'd beforehand -- sensitive players would have already known what's going on, then the actions taken on W3D7 would come smoothly.

Impressions on the OG characters

The OG characters undoubtedly took an essential role in the game, and accounts a crucial part of player's love on the game. To those ingame characters 3 years have passed but to the players outselves 13 years have passed. This difference could cause deviation on how player expects the characters to behave in the NEO timeline. I want to express my feeling on some OG characters briefly here.

Neku: he seemed much more mature than expected. Even with his mental growth in OG (and in the new days in the final remix) he never behave like that. He is more like a big brother only giving advice when necessary. I think that's a correct decision because we need space for NEO characters to grow -- just look at what happened to Appollo Justice Ace Attroney when Phoenix Wright refused to step down.

Beat: I never noticed that his hair is blonde in OG till I looked back after his appearance in NEO. He stays the same as in 3 years ago and this is kind of expected.

Rhyme: cute and heartwarming as ever. We didn't know much about her in OG other than her interactions with Beat but her personality shown in NEO isn't very surprising either.

Shiki: she deserves more air time other than her two encounters with Neku. It would be a nice starting point for the producers to fill the gap on what happened during the 3 years. OG, the animation and the final remix all failed to explain the change in appearance for her and I kind of want to know why too.

Josh: my impression on him is seriously distorted by his outlook and voice, both much more mature than expected, even though his personality stays the same considering that he isn't really a teenager.

Sho: the mysterious character in both OG and NEO, but his background and intention is prelly clearly explained by Coco, the secret report and himself. Luckily now he is under the supervision of Coco.

Eiji "Prince F" Oji: yes please continue to F everything :D

I wonder what was Shiki doing during the fight. She can't stand in the middle of the crossing right?

Questions unsolved

The nature that everything is caused by moved made from the "higher planes" decided that the story can't possibly be decoded in full, thus the need of secret report. However the reports were in an oblique style and some questions remain unanswered. Here are the few that always tick my heart during the years:

- Josh's stance on the "old" Shibuya in OG was never clear. Was it the lack of creativity/imagination or is it simply boring that he decided to destroy Shibuya? 

- In a similar way what happened to Shijuku's inversion? This is a question even deeper: the inversion happened after the 3 weeks timeframe in OG. Is the motivation of Haz related to Josh's? Why must it be an inversion, a bold act with severe consequences, rather than purification or other form of cleansing?

- While my memories on the final remix has been fading away, I think we need more details on Coco to complete the story because she's one of the few that has clear association with both the Shibuya and Shinjuku branch. According to secret report (Neo#22) she's (not sure why it was written as "he" in the report) the one who drew the Shinjuku inversion report. If we were to know more details about that it's probably from her mouth.

- The "fact box": producers saying that NEO was made based on the facts covered by the anime. I expected an enormous amount of information (like, 10 episodes for 3 weeks plus something extra for the 2 episodes) in my anime review, but the anime turned out to be a plain reiteration of OG with little simplification to some unhandy details. The amount of detail covered in the anime is far from sufficient to withhold NEO, not to mention that the anime talked nothing about the Shinjuku inversion. So what were actually assumed in NEO? 

- Continuing my question on the facts, one of them stood out and is quite important in my eyes. The latent power is unique to players like Shiki's ability to attack with Mr.Mew, Fret's reminder or Nagi's dive. Does Shoka's teleportation counts as "player's latent power"? Or, can we say that latent power isn't exclusive to players but also reapers or UG residents? At which point do the players receive such power? 

- If Shoka's power is confusing enough then Neku's power is even more confusing. According to OG Neku has the talent to utilize various pins for different psychs which is incredibly rare...but wait, is everyone in NEO doing that? Or by saying "utilizing various pins" refers to utilizing them simutaneously like in OG combats? Or, is the Rindo team *that* special that they all have such ability to use various pins? -- this couldn't possibly be true though because Beat can't use multiple pins in OG. So back to my earlier question: what's truly assumed in NEO?

- Imagination, a term made up possibly to describe characters' potent, is never properly explained. How do we understand imagination, for example by the literal mean (Wikipedia: ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses)? Or according to secret report (OG#1) the "true intention" of the characters...? Is that something that can even be quantified? I never found any trace about imagination in OG TWEWY nor in NEO.

Philosophical thoughts

To conclude this part of the review let's look at the story again from another perspective. There are two issues that are worth discuss based on the TWEWY world.

Uhhh...ok.

"Higher existences". The OG game was a bet between Shibuya's composer and conductor. The NEO game was a bet between an angel (presumably Kubo, NEO#1) and Shibuya's composer Josh. While it may deemed as "game" from the higher existences, it's bringing disaster to UG and RG.

One may asks the thinking process of those "higher existences" or if the consequences on UG/RG ever their consideration. On the other hand what would human (who have been associated to UG/reapers) think about those "higher existences" given their action? We have seen such conflict at the very end in OG between Neku and Josh, also on Josh's trick on Rindo at the end (although this is less consequential). 

Similar questions are asked very frequently in some religions in the form of "if your God is universally powerful then why isn't the Earth an utopia". Things aside, it would be nice to see similar discussions at the end of NEO like in OG, although the vibe may not fit too well for these topics...

"Rationalism". Haz has a completely off the ground sense as from human's judgement via his conversation with Josh and Rindo. He asked Rindo why would he risk Shibuya being destroyed just to rescue his friends and called that irrational. As a player we know that we will win and have both Shibuya and Rindo's friends saved, but what if that's uncertain? What's the "rational" answer?

If, instead, we know that we don't have both saved in the new timeline anyway what's a rational/moral choice? 

It was explained in W3D7 how time reversal worked: it's basically a shift to a parallel world to achieve whatever they want. But when they leave that parallel world it was destroyed, hence the bird noise coming from the overflowing vibes that had nowhere to go. Is it rational then to sacrifice the undesirable parallel worlds for your ideal outcome?

The exact same question was asked in the ADV game Zero Time Dilemma which I have mentioned above as well, and is a very nice game to play.

Conclusion

I am very surprised that I wrote more about the story than the mechanics because game design is always my first priority when it comes to games. That's probably because I loved the franchise so much and I know the story too well.

How is NEO's storytelling? It's an enjoyable story fitting the themes preset as in the secret reports. It might be true that the huge cast caused difficulty to develop enough on each of the protagonists, but the producer had done a good enough job on the matter. The flaw is inherited in the script that they failed to explain things in full detail. They took the same approach as in OG so similar unsolved mysteries were left behind.

Final words

Unlike solo, live or final remix, this is the true sequel to the original TWEWY game. It tried to adopt the stylus free environment and did a great job with it. 

The combat is fun and endgame content is truly challenging unless OG, albeit sometimes a bit repetitive and time consuming. Still, there are more unique bosses this time.

The artwork design is again great with more pins and brands, although the pins and threads combination sometimes feels restrictive. Songs are less striking than last time, or maybe not. 

It's a master storyteller -- any completely new player can easily dive into the story, and OG players will absolutely love it.

In overall this is a sequel that matches the quality of OG. If OG deserves a 9.5/10 as a best in an era game, then NEO will get a 8.5/10 from me.

I like how you have both unmodified and modified drop rate in OG.

The obligatory collection.

*

Further reading: 

There are toooooo many games that are Tokyo based with teenager protagonists and sell stories about growth. P5 is the most popular one, but there are many more like trip to Akiba, Megami Tensei and so on. A direct comparison between TWEWY and P5 is kind of controversial, but it's worth a read.

Kind of true and false. We have a number of these games especially from Asia. They are just not as popular. Heroism is just too popular in the West.

I can deeply feel that as a Nintendo fans. Extreme 3D quality is not necessary to make a good game, and they sometimes even backfires. A game is good because it entertains, not because of your billion dollar worth model or what your bullshit sociopolitical concept that you tried to bring in.

Saturday, 28 August 2021

Neo TWEWY review (3): artwork and music

*Spoilers alert!

The third part of my review, on artwork designs.

OG TWEWY stresses heavily how special is Shibuya as a place where mind collides that is observed by the wide range of artistic expressions around the city including brand products, music and so on.

As story progresses, NEO no longer focus just in Shibuya. Although Rindo and his team still embraces the Shibuya value this is much less obvious for the rest of the characters. 

But that shouldn't stop the producers from making good designs, right?

It's too hard for me to talk whether this pin is well-designed or that song is technically nice, so I tend to mention my favourite here. 


There were so many weird threads that can be accessed via secret reports in OG, unfortunately we do not get those in NEO. This is the funny set that I have for Fret.

Brands

The pins are well-designed and their style align with the brand impressions. With the game now being 3D, the producers also put effort on pin effects to align with the brands. 

It's easy enough to find online for a complete analysis on the brands (like this - thegamer: all brands, ranked). Instead of the 12 brands corresponding to the 12 zodiacs, there are now 15 brands in NEO. Most of them are well-made except for the brand "Black Honey Chili Cookie" that looks half-done with very few pins and threads.

My favourite is for sure Monocrow because this is what I personally like to wear: a black and white themed, simple, cool and mildly sporty wearings. Now if I have to choose another brand it's probably Cony Cony because I like Gothic rock...? Although it's likely that I do not fit to wear those fancy butler suits.

As mentioned the significance of brands is really compressed in NEO. This is bad in terms of storytelling because brand is a major sign of clashing signs in Shibuya, as glorified by the everywhere seen brand logos. In OG the shopkeepers had a stronger personality (reaction against different VIP level); the popularity boost is gone, and the brand set boosting is minimal. Why would you abolish something that important?

Of course one mystery left unsolved -- where were all the brands three years ago? All except natural puppy and Neku's favourite Jupiter of the Monkey had been "erased" from Shibuya. Yeah I know fashion is extremely competitive but a mass extinction even in 3 years? Quite unlikely.

Character designs

No complaints in the new characters. The bottom-line is that they fit the taste of 2021. 

It's clear that OG players like me would care more about how OG characters look like in three years of time. Let's say that most of them looked as expected except Josh. He looked a lot closer to a mature adult like Haz then a grown adolescent. Granted he is definitely not 15 or 18 years but like 3000 years old, but that simply violates the "3 years later" impression.

Beat, Sho and Rhyme looked as expected. Shiki's quite interesting: we know her change as in OG, but she really looked so pure in contrast to what her products under the brand of Gatto Nero.

The new outfit of Neku looked nice and it fits the mental change he underwent in OG, although I am not fully convinced that mental change could also lead to such a big change in trendy taste. It's also clear that his costume is designed by Gatto Nero...which is from Shiki, but it looks different from the rest of the clothes from the same brand.

Oh for Kariya and Uzuki I can't tell what were they wearing in OG, but they now look nice.

Character with the most significant change from OG to NEO imo.

Soundtracks

This is the hardest part for me to comment on. It's almost impossible for one to appreciate the songs ingame while keeping full pace clearing the game, so let's say I can't give a full review on the matter.

I like how the music amplifies with extra beats when you surf around the city and it's a nice way to enjoy the music, but most of the time you just want to get through the city faster...

They certainly did a great job producing music of all kinds. Hip hop, J-pop, EDMs, raps and many more already in OG with extra genres introduced: nu-metal for the postgame final boss fight. Granted I am not a big fans of that, but it fits a boss that would drive you crazy and any mistake would kill you in an instant. Another instance where I like the use of music is the BGMs for the dives. They made a few different songs that come in rounds during the chained fights to fit the 'emotion' of the noises and that's a fresh experience to me.

But are there any (new) songs that strikes my soul that I fell into love the first time I hear? Probably not. My all time favourites still lie in the OG tracks like Calling and Someday. 

To be fair when I first played OG I played the game muted, so my first impression on the OG tracks did not come when I first played the game. Instead I got them from the blooming Youtube community as well as from Osu -- TWEWY is my first Osu skin used. 

The good ol' days.

So my comment may change in the future. But as it stands the NEO (new) soundtracks are less attractive unfortunately.