August 4th, 2016
You know what screams cyberpunk? Highscool harems!
Given the lack of anything to do during the week with Regalia canceled for the season, I finally got around to taking a look at Baldr Heart's trial since it's been delayed to the end of the month and I can still pretend like I'm sort of ahead of at least something. Boy, if you thought Sky was a baldfaced rehash of Force, then prepare yourself for the re-rehashening. I swear to almighty Nurgle, if I have to read, or God forbid translate one more instance of someone talking about how debris didn't exist in cyberspace at the start, but people wanted to pick flowers, so now there's wreckage and corpses that never disappear, I will personally fly to Japan and throttle someone at Giga with my own two hands.
Like Sky, it also begins with our protagonist,
Kou Sou having a dream about a mysterious girl. At least Force began with an infodump about a mysterious girl and saved the indistinct quasi-amnesia crap with a manic/maniacal pixie girlfriend for much later in the game. Budding mercenary Sou is cyber-crippled, and can no longer fight as a mech. He can still turn into a mech, but can't fight as one. Not sure what was stopping him from punching something or pulling a trigger. Never explained. Magic invisible cyber-gremlins, I guess. Except that he immediately meets a magic cyber-fairy who fuses with him and lets him fight again, even better than before. Because apparently now his giant handgun is fairy-magical I guess. All of this happens in like, the first 5 minutes of the game. It's not exactly convincing. Nor is her insistence that something big is about to happen, and he needs to get stronger, and therefore has to merge with all of her cyber-fairy girlfriends, who don't actually exist in any form except a picture of a girl associated with an equippable skill. It's all about as smoothly woven into the narrative as a cheeseburger would be woven into the Shroud of Turin.
If you thought we were done with the Sky similarities, then guess again. Hell, it even begins with the same "swarmed by viruses", then flashes back to the crippling, then flashes forward from that to right before the swarming. All of this takes about three minutes, but the in medias res opening was apparently just that important to have, no matter how dumb it made what followed. Anyway again, he's accompanied by his subordinate
Chinatsu Yuuri, who has Chinatsu's personality and Rain's cup size. I would assume Rain's skills too, but she does literally nothing in the entire portion I played but offer up random tidbits of information and shriek "aniki" or "onii-chan" at the protagonist every time she speaks. Together, the two of you take on a job infiltrating a cyber-high school that The Man says is harboring unsavory elements (from a Designer Child, in case you thought anything could go un-rehashed in the first 30 minutes).
Once there, Sou's immediately dogpiled by about five different girls, one of which I'm at least 75% sure has a penis, including one that mysteriously looks just like his probably dead but probably not quite dead and lives on in cyberspace dream girl. They force him to fight them, despite still being supposedly cyber-crippled, although they're interrupted by an extended timeout for him to talk to his invisible magic fairy girlfriend where everyone apparently just blankly stares into thin air. He beats all of them up at once and then, having not thought out his cover story as far ahead as someone asking what an ex-mercenary might be doing at a high school, blurts out that he's there to meet girls, prompting all of them all to gasp in aghast shock. That was the point where I had to stop and do something… anything else. It may have only been about 30-40 minutes into the trial, but boy, did it feel so much longer.
Sou's not the absolute worst protagonist I've ever dealt with (that honor remains and will likely forever remain with Seinarukana's Nozomu), but he's making a strong case against Wilfred for second place. While Kou was obnoxious at the start of Sky with all his insecurity and yelling his head off, at least that was somewhat understandable. Sou is just a nonentity utterly devoid of any kind of thought or personality. Oh, a magical cyber-fairy who only I can see that does magic-cyber crap I can't explain. Well, whatever. Oh, I almost died. Well, whatever. It's my old hometown. Well, whatever. He maintains Kou's obnoxious awkwardness around females too. It kind of half-assedly tries to play up Yuuri as a kind of maneater character for maybe 2-3 lines, but then he keeps going on about how his heart skips a beat every time she smiles while the writing itself ignores her constantly throwing herself at him in the most cloying ways possible. And repeat this for every other female too. Yes, got it. They're all beautiful as dolls. Open a goddamned thesaurus.
As for the gameplay, it's pretty much more Baldr. Granted, I only made it through two battles, and yet, they still managed to annoy me by having the main character repeat the same catchphrase ("Sucks you were up against me") after almost every single goddamned kill so I heard it thee times in a row over about five seconds in the first fight. There are some tweaks here and there, but nothing radically different like an ill-conceived and iller-implemented shift to 3D CGI and hideous camera issues. The fairy thing is idiotic and I'm 98% certain exists solely so they can put characters from other games/franchises in as fan bait, which is exactly what they're already doing with it. As far as I saw, its impact is to mostly slow do the post-battle screens by forcing you to sit through each one's special LEVEL UP crap. I can't remember if they shrieked any catchphrase when they do, but let's assume they did.
It didn't grab me at any rate. Most of it was transparently rehashing concepts from Sky, which itself massively rehashed stuff from Force. It had next to no identity or creative thoughts of its own, and the little that was new, like the magical cyber-fairy and the 21 Jump Street premise, fell somewhere between inducing shaking of my head and rolling of my eyes, and a sharp pain in my temple.