Part 38: Part R: RomanceROMANCE
Spend your time talking and giving gifts to people in town! Try getting along with them! Just remember, before giving a gift, check to see what they like and don't like!
If you're lucky, you could have a lover before the tournament! That oughta get you pumped! Ho ho ho ho ho...
"Girlfriend" is fine. "Sweetheart" is okay. I'd even accept "shnookumwookum" in a pinch. But you are never, ever allowed to use the word "lover" when referring to a barely adolescent crush.
Please die, Vis.
So. Romance. Although you can catch a character's interest whenever you like, Chapter 5 is where things come to fruition. You have five days after returning from Samiad before the tournament commences, during which you can dupe an eligible townsperson into going steady.
And then they die in a whirlwind. Love is cruel.
For the ladies, your potential love interests are Rex, Duran, Anwar, Heath (no no, he's an ephebophile!) and a character we haven't met yet. As Yumil, our options are Fana, Dorothea, Nanai, Sylphy and...
Now, as a writer of Let's Plays, this is not my area of expertise, but I believe romance in the real world manifests through spending time with someone. You have conversations, eat food, and eventually you take appropriate, ethical steps to get them naked. Here in video game land, of course, it's gifts and sidequests ahoy!
I mentioned early on that I did not like the gift system in this game and planned to say mean things about it. The time has come.
Any weapon, item, accessory or flower can be given as a gift. Every character has their preferences; Fana, for example, likes hair decorations and dolls, less so tools of destruction.
If you give a character something they dislike, their affection will decrease. Also, they won't accept the same gift more than once per chapter.
So what's so bad about this? Seems like any other game where you get to give presents to someone. It's superficial, sure, especially since you only have to read a character's page to see their wish list, but it's hardly giving gifts costs MP.
Yes. There's the problem. All presents will set you back 50 MP. The exception is items; they cost as much MP as it does to use them yourself, which is often more than 50. That means you can only give four or five at a time before you must run off and recharge. Even fewer in the earlier chapters.
And how do you recharge? Either leave town and judgment link monsters to death, or find a dungeon and run through all the rooms to reach the magic urn, then run all the way back again.
Or you could go home and rest. Except, as I pointed out in Chapter One, this won't bring you higher than 50 MP, which means you'd have to return and rest again after every single gift. And if you want to give an item worth more than 50 MP, it's still magic urns, judgment links or nothing.
I'm in a town, for god's sake. There are no enemies, no obstacles. A quick, simple means of recovering MP here will not unbalance the game. Why are you making it such a hassle?
But as much as I complain about that, the real issue is that giving gifts costs MP in the first place. It doesn't stop me handing out axes and accoutrements left and right like some unhinged fashion-conscious Viking Santa Claus. It just makes it more tiresome. Why waste my time?
In fact, why have this whole system at all? Why not have one or two meaningful presents scattered through the game that we can buy/find? Instead, whenever we want someone to like us, we have to visit them chapter after chapter and say "HELLO, I BROUGHT YOU A GUN, AND A FLOWER, AND A HELMET, AND A CAKE, AND A TEDDY BEAR, AND SOME GRASS," which is dumb, unnatural and tedious.
This isn't just for romances either. Most NPCs won't offer sidequests unless you cough up some goodies first. That's right. You have to give people presents before they'll grant you the privilege of doing favours for them. You even have to give Olly presents before she'll tell you where the Throwing Star is. Fucking Olly.
ANYWAY. That's gifts. This update is supposed to be about l'amore, so let's get back on track.
Once you've appealed to materialism enough to make someone notice you, they'll start talking to themselves after you leave the screen.
Each character will make eight of these comments as
Eventually, after you go home and sleep, you will hear footsteps. Then, this will happen:
I AM DEEPLY HURT, MINUS TWO HUNDRED POINTS
What are you doing in my house? It's like two in the morning.
OUR LOVE COULD HAVE TRANSCENDED THE BOUNDARIES OF CLASS
YOU FILTHY PEASANT
Are you even a love interest?
Do you want your underwear back?
Depends how long you've had them.
The singles in Avalon code are sensitive souls. If you can't identify them based on their voice alone, from a two-word phrase, immediately after being roused from a deep sleep, it kills the romance then and there. I hope you've been playing with the sound on.
However, if you guess correctly, you win the grand prize!
They also leave a letter asking you to meet them at the fountain, where they will profess their love for you. Again.
Even now, though, you're free to blow them off and go back to bed, skipping straight to the tournament. One assumes they'd be upset about this when you next get to talk to them, but I'm not playing through all this again just to check. Once was enough, and doing this LP makes it twice.
So what's the outcome of all this? Nothing, really. The only thing an active romance changes is who gets sucked into the tornado after the tournament. Aside from that, your boyfriend/girlfriend will laugh when you approach them instead of their usual greeting (their dialogue otherwise remains the same) and will sometimes break into your house again and ask who they are. That's it.
Once that's over, though, there's nothing stopping you from courting the remaining bachelor(ette)s. You can't get the scene at the fountain, but you can get the enamoured musings, the Guess Who "game" and the giggly greeting. And since the game doesn't prevent concurrent romances, this means you can have multiple suitors sneaking into your house every night and this just keeps sounding more and more wrong doesn't it.
But what about Heath, or other people who don't show up until after the tournament? How and when do they become available?
Short and simple; I don't know. As I said, this is only my second time through the game, and I haven't played as the female protagonist. Maybe they ask to meet at the fountain at some later stage, or maybe there is no fountain scene and "Guess who?" is all you get.
Also, because you people can't keep your bad-breath-having mouths shut, you know that it's possible to pursue the spirits as love interests. This doesn't work the same as the earthly candidates, and it can't be done until later in the game. And you are ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN TO TALK ABOUT IT until I say otherwise!
I'm kidding about Meenya, by the way. Girl #7 is another character we haven't met yet.
I haven't followed any romance paths, so they won't be appearing in the Real Deal updates. Therefore, I suppose I can't end this post without showing you at least one of these damn things. Let us rewind time and see what would've happened if, at a certain critical moment, we'd chosen differently.
Huh? Yumil...? What's happened to me? I suddenly feel so much better.
I...I don't know how to thank you.
I first misunderstood my father. I blamed him for disappearing and putting everything on my mom. But now I know differently. My father was a good man. It takes more than that to break the bonds of family. You've shown me the truth. Thank you so much.
I'll keep on living for my father and mother's sake. After all, you've given me a whole new future. Thank you so much, Yumil.
Yumil should not have been mute.
I have as many preferences as the next person when it comes to games, but this not a matter of taste. Having a silent protagonist was the worst decision they could have made for this game. Worse than sliding puzzles.
Avalon Code emphasises characters. Almost all of them have at least one sidequest or optional conversation that reveals more about them or changes their circumstances, particularly so with the fourteen different love interests. Though they may not always get it right, the writers want you to care about these people.
And yet, all the dialogue is crippled by its one-sidedness. Take a drink every time someone answers their own question or starts a sentence with "What's that? You say you..." It is hard to care about people when they don't act like people.
After the conversation above, you leave. And she's still in bed when you come back, saying her usual lines. Unless you follow her romance path, that's as far as this goes. Somehow, I do not feel accomplished.
We don't even see Yumil's face through any of this. For all we know he doesn't give a damn, he's just waiting for her to stop talking so he can go.
Now you might say that even without taking Yumil into account, it isn't great. Pretty mild reaction from someone who's just been cured of their incurable disease. By her best friend's magic book. That she didn't know he had. This should have been a powerful moment for both of them, but writing "powerful" for two characters is difficult when only one of them has a personality.
Think about what they could have done with that scene if Yumil was his own character. If, after Fana said she was feeling better, he smiled and told her what he just did. She's sceptical at first. Maybe she's had brief moments of reprieve in the past, only for the pain and fatigue to come slithering back. Then he shows her the book. Shows her what it can do. Shows her her page. She starts to believe him, getting more and more excited until she finally accepts it and oh my god, I'm cured, I really am, I can get out of this room and live.
Instead, we get "I see. You cured me." That is not something anyone would say in that situation. That is a line they were forced to include because Yumil doesn't talk on-screen. Its only purpose is to inform the reader that yes, he did just explain that he cured her.
Instead, we have a monologue that could have been preceded with "Here is a summary of my thoughts on this development," without disrupting coherency or tone.
Instead of being right there with the characters, we're staring at a small, handheld screen and saying "Well, that's nice. I guess."
I'm sorry to go on, but this really was a disappointment on top of a disappointment.
Anyway, this isn't part of the romance as such, but it has to be done first. The next day...
You came again, Yumil.
Listen, Yumil? When I'm sleeping in this bed...I think about the world I can see outside my window.
To me, the outside is like a foreign world. Even though it's so close, I can never reach it. The sounds of the town, and laughing voices...I'd give anything to be out there with them. But my entire world is only within this tiny room. I feel like the world's placed a curse on me.
That's true. You still visit my tiny world. Nothing makes me happier. As long as you're with me, I feel like I can...go anywhere.
You can. You're not sick anymore, remember? Or did you just forget about the single biggest turning point in your life?
I have a favour to ask, though. Would you come outside with me? I'm...scared. What if I get sick again just going outside? Please? Will you go outside with me?
So this is the outside air! There are flowers everywhere!
Yes! We've been over this!
Christ, maybe she really did forget. I don't even know anymore.
Yes. Thank you again!
Oh. Thank you "again". So she didn't forget. So we're having this conversation again because...
Hey, Matrix Software. I don't know if I've brought this up yet, you know, maybe it hasn't come across, but I'm not 100% sure you're doing this properly.
After this, she does the "guess who" thing, then you meet her at the fountain.
Th-there's...there's something...that I need to tell you. You've healed my sickness, and given me a future. The miracles you performed are what saved me.
I really like you. I can feel you...filling my heart. And if...if it's not too much trouble...can I ask you if...if I can stay by your side forever?
! ...I'm so happy!
Now I wish that time would stop forever.
"I can feel you filling my heart."
I've thought about that line. It might actually make sense. Someone young and innocent stuck in their room, who's maybe spent a lot of time reading romantic novels, could perhaps think that was a good thing to say. Considering that, I was almost ready to forgive it.
I still can't. It is that corny.
Once you win the tournament, there's one final scene by the fountain. After that, though, I'm not getting my hopes up. Not that I ever did after the first couple of chapters.
Yumil...I'm so glad. You came to see me.
The whole town's talking about you. First Kaleilan hero, now champion! It's just...too incredible.
Are you happy going out with a simple girl like me?
Fuck it. I can't get mad at that. Good for you, guys.