Part 11: Short Essay for Level 11
Ah, the level of our dreams. Or in this case, Konoko's nightmare. As should have been obvious from start to finish, this entire thing is in side Konoko's head as the events of the past few days catch up to her, starting with her finally getting some answers to questions she never thought to ask. Who were her parents? How did they die and she became a ward of the state?
And from there, things only get worse. She's already not in the best mental state right now, and finding out that her mother died because she did something stupid, something that caused her father to spiral out of control, seeking out the aid of the one person left in the world that he - that Konoko herself could trust.
We're not yet to the McGuffin of the story, that's next level. What we do have is a vital piece of worldbuilding going on in the opening scene. The cities are safe, for a given definition of safe. Yes, criminals, low resolution TVs, bad food, and even more criminals await you, but it's better than the alternative.
Outside the cities, outside the range of the atmosphere processors, the biosphere has gone mad. These so-called "nature preserves" are the places that the World Government can't or won't try to save, to reclaim or otherwise try to stop. While the manual makes it clear that the government isn't doing 100% to try and save the world, they know that they can't leave these problems alone either.
Also, I was in Scouts. People taking a hike with bare legs into places they have no idea what's there? Yeah, that's dumb. Getting scratched was inevitable. Getting dead...? That's tragic.
As for the dream / nightmare itself? Well, I mean, I may be a Philosophy Major, but even I know when random things happen because it's a goddamned dream and you shouldn't take such things seriously. So I'm not.
The biggest thing here is her lack-of interactions with Shinatama. Konoko, in her nightmares, is always chasing after her, never catching up, and fearful that she will be harmed when she's out of reach. You know, like what actually happened.
Look, I'm not trying to make light of anyone's real problems. I am pointing out that any in-depth analysis of a dream level in a video game is doomed to fail because it's just a way for the writer/level designer to drop the 'sub' from Subtext and call it 'profound' or 'deep'.
Konoko is having a nightmare about all the bad things that have happened to her in the past week, and that's normal. Not a lot of games touch on the mental toll that comes from being the protagonist in these sorts of situations, And while this game isn't the best suited to it, it's telling that how the level shifts and changes with time it just seems.... wrong.
The three Boss Fights are probably the really interesting part. We start with Muro, transitioning from the real-world lab (where is it? Why is it like that?!?!) into the dream. Here, we come face to face with her most obvious enemy, the one she can most easily hate and fear in the same breath. The fight against him is in a small, cramped space, and there is no light. Muro sucks all the light out of the room once you start fighting him, and from there, things only get worse.
Griffin is her next enemy, representing, in a way, her authority issues. And he's not alone, for Konoko perceives herself as being outnumbered and alone in the TCTF. She's an outsider in her own way, and Griffin treated her just differently enough that it may have rubbed off on other Agents. The lines he says in her nightmare show what she things Griffin thinks of her. A failure. That she could have done better, been better. That maybe he would have trusted her with the truth, and he would have trusted her to save Shinatama and she wouldn't have failed her either?
If Muro is the obvious focus of her failings, Griffin represents the larger scope of her problems. The things she can't fix.
Then there's Konoko. The real Boss Fight.
In the end, the only thing Konoko can really blame for her failings, for her faults and her fuck-ups is herself. She's the one who chose to defy orders, she's the one that pushed just far enough to cause Muro to go after Shinatama in the first place. In the end, she can blame Muro and Griffin all she wants, but the one who is at Fault is herself.
That, and Konoko is Basically a Red Fury++, which makes her the best fight in the goddamned game, bar none. I just wish it wasn't at the end of a brutal slog of a level. The high intensity combat, the frikken' invisible ninjas, and the lack of health can really back you into a corner where you don't have the resources to survive a fight. And that means restarting the level fresh.
But man, getting to punch your inner demons in the face never gets old.
By the by though, does anyone know what this means? It's in the Lab section of the level, and I don't speak/read that language.