Tuesday, 29 October 2013

A chance to unwind

  Thunderbolt’s boy form is Dylas, who remains passed over night with Dr. Jones and Nancy.  He escapes, and when Nancy discovers him gone, the whole town is in an uproar, sending Lest (of course) running around to find him.  When Lest catches up with Dylas, he is passed out again in Ventuswill’s chamber.  Venti asks Lest to retrieve the new arrival, but the friends’ brief exchange hints that Ventuswill is surprisingly exhausted.  Once again hauling the body unconscious back to the Clinic, Lest is discharged of duties for the day, and permitted to work quietly on the farm, or on his crafts.  My calendar called for a Fishing Tournament, and fun was had by all while the NPCs thoroughly out-fished me!  Grumble, grumble…

  Rune Factory 4 treats its players to another Saturday morning anime-Jump story, as Amber, the girl I was sure was going to be trouble, pulled something I’d never expected.  Her guardian, Illuminata, comments off-handedly about a random spot in the fishing pond and that it feels like it is missing something.  The next morning, Illuminata is tearing her own way through town proclaiming that some of her flower stock is gone, and that there must therefore be a thief!

  Xiao Pai, for whom this really isn’t her business, asks Lest to believe her, that she knows that whomever took it must have had a good reason.  Lest is given a choice to believe her or not, but believing her adds Xiao Pai to the party and sends them of looking for the thief, trying to beat the mystery-addicted Illuminata to the punch.  The next scene is a comical, but highly cliché scene proving that it is not wise to get between Illuminata and her mark, as she blows them down without a care, tearing off into the fishing hole.  Belatedly, Xiao Pai and Lest give chase.

  The source of the trouble turns out to be Amber, who must have heard Illuminata talking, and took the flowers to decorate the random spot on the map.  Players have to look reeeeaaal closely, and sort of imagine them there.  I kid, the spot continues to look for all the world, like a random rock on the wall.  Continuing to play up the family TV vibe, Amber explains her indiscretion.  Illuminata does the only thing a responsible business person could do… she smacks Amber, then scolds her for taking the flowers without asking, then agrees to support her decision to spread flowers.

  The slightly hammy plot lacks nothing for charm, but there are many problems that emerge from this type of narrative delivery.  Setting aside the parental abuse issues, Lest and Xiao Pai are both conscripted into witnessing this scene directly, but don’t actually contribute that much to it.  Their roles are pretty … well serving as a witness in a child services investigation is a full narrative role, maybe something will come of it later.  For right now, it feels like there is no real point, and I can’t say the game generally is feeling any better than this one small scene.

  What would I have done differently?  Hard to say, but …

  Okay, so Illuminata is still tearing up the town, and Lest and Xiao Pai leave unmolested towards the fishing hole.  When they near the fishing hole, Illuminata is still somewhere else, anywhere really, but it is still implied that the two will have to hurry to beat her to the culprit.  Once in the fishing hole area, they find Amber, and with patience and understanding, they talk Amber into confessing what she has done to Illuminata.  Maybe she agrees, maybe she stares blindly and uncomprehendingly.  Maybe they go find Illuminata, maybe Illuminata finds them.  I’m 50/50 about the bitch-slap scene.  The scene, and its message, is largely unchanged, Amber learns a valuable life lesson, let’s go get some flowers.  The difference is that Lest and Xiao Pai now play an active role in this drama, with the key word being “active.”  This is a video game after all… actions are everything!  Aside from witnessing some shockingly bad parenting, the player and his accomplice haven’t *done* anything. 

  But what do I know of drama?  Such a scene probably wouldn’t stand out in memory so starkly if I’d been in it, rather than trampled under it…

  The next day Dylas is back on his feet again, and a totally amnesiac.  After giving Dr. Jones, Nancy, and Lest a heaping dose of attitude in his thank you, he wanders off, complaining that he needs to know who he is.  Porcoline intervenes, announcing that he requires a new waiter, and has a room to spare if Dylas can be persuaded to take it. 

  Amber is a character who largely shrugged off her memory problems, but Dylas has much more trouble accepting this state.  He hints that he was doing something important, but of course can’t recall what.  With more tall hints at the larger metaplot thus dropped for Lest and the player to ponder over, RF4’s designers must have taken immense delight in dropping the next micro event virtually on top of Lest, and sweeping him into his next big adventure.

Next time: Selphia is haunted!

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