By TheNesta 0 Comments
It's strange how I keep stumbling into games that initially elude me, but that I become quite obsessive about later-on. Analogue: A Hate Story certainly fits the bill there. I can't remember why exactly I decided to download the demo version of the game a few months back, but I did, and was met with quite a bit of confusion. Upon starting up the game you are met with a mysterious text crawl. Your objective. Investigate the mysterious circumstances behind the downfall of the space-ship colony Mugunghwa, extract any useful data you can, and get paid. Simple enough. Following that, and the game's title screen, you are thrown into an old school command prompt system. This is... a big obstacle for me. Look, it's not that I hate text adventures or anything, no, actually, I guess I kind of do. The reason for that though is simple, or maybe complex, or at least I can't explain it. Blah, whatever. Point is this... I hate entering text commands. Present me multiple choice and I'll be glad to play through a text adventure, but having to type commands is another thing. I think it's a combination of laziness, and being utterly confused about my choices in such situations. Regardless, this wasn't the best first impression.
So there I sit, trying
desperately half-heatedly trying to figure out what to do. I was starting to lose my patience with it when I finally figured out what to do. Upon completing that I ended up in the game's main interface, and found myself having a conversation with a cute schoolgirl named *Hyun-ae. After a brief bit of dialogue I was free to tackle the meat of the game. Reading through the various data logs of the Mugunghwa, trying to find the admin password I apparently needed, and hopefully uncover the mystery of what happened here.
All this stuff sounded good to me, but I was left feeling confused, and more than a little put off. See, the game is heavily based on the real-life Korea Joseon Dynasty. Eventually this makes the game more interesting, but at a glance it's really confusing for someone ignorant to the culture, and the history. You are assaulted with a wave of Korean names, and pronunciations that can make it hard to keep track of what's going on. And the way the beginning of the game is presented, it really is hard to parse out "What am I doing here?" Even though the game is fairly short, the beginning still manages to be a slow burn as you familiars yourself with the setting. However, at the time, it was just too much for me to take in. So I put it down for a few months.
I guess that's all a bit fragmented. A retelling of my initial impressions, and vaguely describing what the game is all about. Sorry about that, I'll attempt to describe the basis, in my own words, a little clearer in a moment. However, after that point I'm afraid that you'll find little use of this document outside of spoilers, or sharing in my mirth if you've played the game yourself. Yes, I'm going to go into full on spoiler territory, and just discuss parts of the game that ressonated strongly with me. In an attempt to express my love for this game, since there's not a whole lot of people I can talk to about it, and I can only tweet so many times about how much I love the game, without going into any specifics. With that said...
What you need to know
You could just as easily check out wikipediafor an explanation about the games basics. So in my own words I just want to sum up what you'll be getting into with Analogue. It's a visual novel created by indie game designer Christine Love. It's heavily inspired by the visual novel genre that is popular in Japan. This presents two potential obstacles to primarily Western gamers. 1) Do you like, or are at least okay with *anime?, 2) Are you okay with *Japanese visual novel games?
*Note 1: So in this case, when I ask you if you're okay with anime, it means a few things. First and foremost, are you okay with the visual aesthetic? That's pretty important, because both the game's characters, *Hyun-ae, and *Mute are cute anime girls. They're not presented in a "creepy" way, if that's what you're worried about, but I know some people will stop dead in their tracks at the sight of "animu". For me, personally, I tend to lean towards enjoying an Eastern aesthetic more than a Western one. That's just my background, and I enjoyed the characters. But I thought I'd warn you first anyway. Are you cool with hanging out with anime ladies? If so, good!
*Note 2: Basically what you need to know here is that Japanese visual novels tend to have a certain flavor to them. They're usually pretty crazy, and also they lean into the romantic aspects a lot. Analogue has both of these things. That said, Analogue is first and foremost a mystery story, but that said, there are romance aspects to that. If you're too manly for that, you might want to bail out now. If not, you're in for a treat!
That aside, the game involves reading a lot of data logs that tell the story of what happened on the Mugunghwa. According to wikipedia there's about 59,000 words in the game, so your mileage may vary on length of the game. For me it took about 5 hours to see everything the game had to offer. There's a few brief instances of issuing commands on a text based command prompt. And there are multiple endings. I'll once again refer you to wikipedia for a story summary, but the long and short of it is that you're in the distant future, Earth has expanded into space-ship colonies, this one the Mugunghwa, was put out of commission many years ago, and it's up to you to figure out why. Along the way you'll unravel the heart-wrenching story of The Pale Bride, probably feel pretty uncomfortable about the oppression of women in this culture, and fall in love with two brilliantly written characters.
So! With all that, my early impressions, brief explanation about the game's mechanics and story, fair warnings about the content and subject matter of the game, and this- my assurance that my first time with the game was a mistake. That upon revisiting it during the Holidays, and playing through every ounce of content, I strongly feel that this was one of the absolute best games of 2012. I wish I played it sooner so I could have put it on my list, as I feel it would probably fit snugly at Number 7, bumping down Sleeping Dogs, Binary Domain, and Dust: An Elysian Tail, while simultaneously knocking Tales of Graces f off my list, which admittedly I didn't feel nearly as strong about as the rest of the list. And even then, at least right now, I would want it to be even higher than that. Because the range of emotions I have for Analogue are truly outstanding. It was unexpected, it hit me hard, it became a nightly ritual of sitting down at my computer, in the dark, sipping on a drink, and being glued to the screen until I had to pull myself aware for sleep. It's hard to express anymore love for it without going into specifics, but, please. I urge you, if anything I have said has sounded interesting in any way. If you're interested in my total 180 degree shift on being boggled and frustrated with a game, to loving it wholly and completely. If you know anything about me and my opinions, and you think I'm on the same wavelength as you. Please. Check out this game. It's totally worth it. And then proceed to talk to me about it, so that I'm not forced to write a several thousand word monologue about why I really dig a video game. That would be good. Swell, even.
Alright, here be spoilers. Though to be fair, depending on how you feel about spoilers, you might feel inclined to keep reading. I will openly be discussing anything that comes to mind, which, hey, might influence you more to check out the game, all the better! However, there are certainly some big twist in the game that I would hate to spoil for the more inquisitive reader. So, with that said, I will try to accommodate you as much as possible by spoiler-tagging the big ones. Unfortunate side effect of talking about this game though is that every piece of info can detract from your enjoyment of the game, and I can't spoler-tag everything. So as the discussion progresses there will most likely be references to stuff the transpired earlier on. So, basic guideline for reading this section for new players should be: I'm going in chronological order of how the story progresses. The early bits will, thus, be less spoilery, but as it progresses, you might want to bail out if you have any interest in playing the game. I also won't be going into every little detail of the game, and in fact will keep discussion brief about some of the "filler" parts of the story, as they didn't effect me as much. Basically, what I'm saying is, if you read a few paragraphs in, and you think it sounds interesting, maybe go play the game for yourself. And for the people that have already played the game, well feel free to resonant with my impressions of each portion of the story I discuss.
Upon my reintroduction the the game, I realized how much I liked *Hyun-ae, and that's before shit even really takes off. She has a cute design, and an adorable mannerism. Her excitement at coming into contact with a human being after 600 some odd years is infectious. For me, I started to formulate feelings, and opinions about the character immediately. And while it's possible to treat her poorly (how dare you!) it's just natural to be nice to her. And then she does the cutest thing... she starts to fall in love with you. I didn't realize this at first, but it's a really cute quirk- essentially *Hyun-ae will start speaking to you, and in her dialogue she will briefly reveal her affections towards you, but almost immediately edit her own dialogue to make it sound more casual. So, for example, she might say something like "It's not like I'm trying to please you or anything, but I would be happy if you liked me..." and quickly edit it to say something along the lines of "It's not like I'm trying to please you or anything, I just thought you should know!" It's really cute, and helped to establish an early foundation for my affinity towards the character.
In the opening parts of the game you are presented with the setting of this story. You learn about the two major families in play here, The Smiths, and The Kims. For *Hyun-ae's part, she was part of the Kim family. The first few messages you read through, as I stated earlier, are a bit misleading. At least they were to me. The game is really just trying to establish the world, but it's, I hate to say this, maybe not as interesting to start out with? In retrospect it helps you to understand this weird culture, the minor players in the story, and the goings-on of the Mugunghwa before The Pale Bride became the spotlight. I encounter this problem a lot with novels (you know, real, paper based ones) where the openings of the story are a hefty barrier to entry. It's hard to start caring about something before you get to the part that actually makes you like a story. Eventually you, the reader, the player, are rewarded for getting past that once you get into the thick of things, and looking back that context helps set the tone for everything that follows. Still, Analogue had the additional hurdle of foreign names. I will fully admit, I am totally ignorant about a lot of Korean culture outside of the swath of free to play MMOs that come out of that country. So, seeing names like Kim Ein-mi and Kim Sun-hi presented next to each other, in the form of a conversation is a bit boggling. At least for me, your mileage may vary. Obviously though, as I'm writing all of this, I was eventually able to power through it, but man, that was the one big obstacle I had to overcome.
Shortly after the setup, you're introduced to The Pale Bride. And this is where the game really starts to take off. TPB stuff is central to the mystery t the whole game. When first introduced to it, you see a somber story for The Bride. It's easy to pity her plight, a sick young girl woken up in the future. A future that was supposed to be able to cure her of her illness. Instead she is tossed into a political move to gain favor for the Kims. The beginning of the tale isn't tragic or anything, but I felt bad for TPB none the less. She's practically a genius compared to these people, who've somehow gone backwards on education and technology. She's used to a a culture where women aren't treated like complete shit. She was also a child. A child who had dreams, and goals. And on top of all that she's been "sent" however many hundreds of years into the future, away from her family or anyone she's ever known.
This whole part with TPB is where I really started to think about the game. I know that sexism is a real hot button issue right now. I'm not really going to go into that, other than to say it's not really something I ponder most of the time. The whole One Reason Why stuff? Not really my thing, not really my place either. So I usually avoid such things. I also consider my boundaries on when and where I start to get offended, or uncomfortable about stuff to be pretty broad. It's a pretty stark comparison to the outcrop of "social justice" rants that go on nowadays. Though for what it's worth, I think those issues are real, and worth talking about. However it seems to me that a lot of times these discussions come up it's people taking issue with stuff that happens, or is portrayed in fiction? To that, I say, chill out. I digress. Basically what I'm saying is that it's hard for a work of fiction to really get under my skin. Yet somehow Analogue did.
Namjon yeobi, or, Men are honoured, women are abased.
This is an early note you get from *Hyun-ae. This is how society on the Mugunghwa was viewed. The men were the only important people on the ship. Women were just there to give birth, to be bargaining chips for the families. They were expected to support their husbands, and do little else. If they couldn't provide a child, especially a son, they were largely considered a waste of space. Daughters are raised to server this purpose, and are usually thrown onto a suitor before they even reach the age of 16. By 18 they're expected to have children. The whole thing is just bananas. At this point you, and TPB are probably feeling the same thing. Culture shock. The craziest thing? This is all based on history. This stuff really happened! I mean, sure, I've heard about such things before, who hasn't? But I guess this just threw it in my face. I was appalled. It was great. No, the situation wasn't, but the fact that it invoked such a strong feeling inside me, and really made me stop and think. I think that's something special.
The Pale Bride was young, and rebellious She fought against all this, stood up for her beliefs. Admittedly she was a little childish in some of this, but who could blame her really? Eventually after reading through this series of messages you get hit with the first twist of the game...
With the mystery of The Pale Bride solved, that still leaves you wondering what happened to the ship. Aside from finding out about *Hyun-ae, there are a few other bits of pieces of information in this part of the game. Nothing I really want to discuss that much about, like I said, a lot of it was sort of world building, but some of it is interesting. You hear about the downfall of the Smiths, which play a larger role in the next part of the game. I think you also get access to messages that the Queen sent Hyun-ae before the wedding. Admonitions, or basically things Hyun-ae should expect after being married. This lays the groundwork for the relationship between Hyun-ae and Ryu Jae-hwa which, again, I'll bring up later.
One final thing I'll say about *Hyun-ae in this section is that she shares her interest in cosplay, and asks if you'd like to dress her up in different outfits she designed. It seems like a random fanservicey thing, which, I guess it is, I won't deny it. But it's actually really cute, in that she never got to do cosplay while she was alive, and is excited by being able to toy around with it now. There's a few different costumes you can choose from, and when you go back and talk to her you have a bit of dialogue with her where she role plays a bit. I dunno what to say, it's just a really cute scene! Though there is one costume I'd definitely recommend trying, and that's the hanbok. This is how she was forced to dress in life, and it's actually a pretty sad scene where she's clearly disappointed to be wearing it. I couldn't bring myself to keep her dressed up like that, so I quickly switched to something more fun. Small moments count too.
During all this, you find a message which essentially gives you what you need. The admin password. With this you can download the logs and be on your way. More on that later. Aside from that though, *Hyun-ae has asked you to decrypt Block 3 so she can see what's in there, this gives you the nod to go back to the console and try to do that. When you do though, you also end up activating the game's other character. The AI *Mute. So at this point you can go talk to her.
*Mute is an interesting contrast to *Hyun-ae. She's crass, she actually believes in the whole oppression of women thing, and provides a different perspective on the whole situation. *Mute also happens to fall into the popular Japanese anime troupe of the tsundere character. 'tsun tsun' means to turn away in disgust, while 'dere dere' means to act lovey dovey. So, basically, if you're not familiar with the concept, a tsundere character will typically act cold, usually cruel towards the person they like, but sometimes they'll let their guard down and show how they really feel. At least, that's the simplest explanation I can give. I'm not usually a big fan of the type, but *Mute pulls it off well. It's more subtle, not quite as extreme as it normally is. If anything *Mute is just trying to do her duties as the security AI to the ship, but in many ways is just as happy to see you as *Hyun-ae was.
This is where things start to get intense though. As soon as you start talking to *Mute...
So *Mute presents an interesting twist. Do you start to doubt *Hyun-ae and choose to accept *Mute's accusations at face value. Or do you dig deeper into the mystery and give *Hyun-ae a chance? For me, it was a no-brainer. How could I start doubting *Hyun-ae at this point? Also, since I've been around the block a few times, it was pretty easy to suspect that there's a lot more to this than meets the eye. Still, it's a startling revelation, and I suppose it should give room to pause, if you didn't have some sort of blind sense of loyalty to a fictional computer lady.
The remainder of this portion of the game isn't as eventful, not until the end of it at least. It's certainly interesting to hear *Mute's side of things though. She was a friend to the Smith family, has some pretty interesting things to say about their downfall. Particularly interesting is her relationship to Smith Sang-jung. Actually, you know what? Fuck it, that part is pretty good. Basically, in *Mute's words Sang-jung was like a husband to her. Keep in mind that unlike *Hyun-ae, *Mute has always been an AI. So their relationship was purely on this emotional level. Even though she does make a few comments about "having the body for that kind of relationship". By all accounts, everyone else seemed to hate Sang-jung, but *Mute loved him. And when he died she dressed in mourning for him. She cried. She showed real emotions as a computer AI. All of this is just this random little aside in the game, but dammit, it's interesting, and kind of touching. It doesn't hurt that she has sarcastic little comments about his behaviour. In one conversation with *Mute, Sang-hung goes into explicit detail about his waitress's tits. To which *Mute tells you "I could have done without the comments about her tits", but you know she just rolled her eyes and smirked. Yeah, actually that stuff was all really good, apparently overlooked in the grand scheme of things too, so glad I pointed that out.
Anyways, the other interesting block of messages *Mute brings up is, well, honestly it's not that important to the story, but I'd be remiss not to mention it. At one point *Mute asks if you want to know more about a really scandalous event in the Smith family. Now, on one hand you might think *Mute wouldn't want to talk bad about her family, but on the other *Mute is a big gossip. So I think it's funny that she couldn't resist showing you something that would potentially make you think even less of them than has already been established. But she really can't help it, can she? After all she's been isolated with no one to talk to in 600 years aside from *Hyun-ae, the person she hates more than anyone in the universe. I just felt like that was a nice touch.
What's the scandal than? Well, it's pretty intense actually, and I wasn't expecting anything like it to be honest! You read through a series of unsent letters between Oh So-jin, wife to Smith Sang-jung's brother Smith Sang-min. and Sang-min's courtesan Hana. One would expect that Oh So-jin would be jealous of this woman that steals her husband's affections, but in fact Oh So-jin finds herself being jealous of her husband for spending time with Hana. See, she starts developing feelings for Hana. Well, more accurately, it's probably a psychical attraction at first, but it grows into something more. Surprisingly, to me at least, the story actually gets pretty erotic, which is what threw me for a loop. I had to take a moment and think "Wow, Did that really just happen?". It wasn't a bad thing by any means. I won't lie to you and say I didn't enjoy it, but I will try to justify it a bit if you don't mind. I've made it pretty clear that I'm a big proponent of game's expanding out and doing new things. Tackling different subjects. And while this certainly isn't anything new to the visual novel genre over in Japan, it's something Western developers shy away from. Personally? It's fucking ridiculous that more people are comfortable with gore and violence than anything sexual. One thing is a natural way of life, and the other is something the human race could do without. To be clear, I don't have anything against violence either. Just, let's be reasonable, okay?
Uhg. I digress again, sorry. So the steamy action aside, the end of the story is pretty sad. Oh So-jin and Hana get caught by Sang-min. Sang-min's reaction to this is about as appalling as it gets. He doesn't give a shit. He thinks it's a big funny joke, and makes several rude comments about how that relationship even "works". Eventually Hana gets disowned, and neither of them see each other again. While Oh So-jin is stuck with her piece of shit husband, who doesn't even care about his wife's feelings, and Hana who gets rented out to another man. It's fucked up. *Mute's commentary on this is all pretty interesting too. She was good friends with Oh So-jin, and felt pity for her. While at the same time thinking that Hana was an ignorant whore who interfered with her friend's marriage. While also simultaneously thinking that Smith Sang-min is a total jerk-off. "Do you want to know what I think of Smith Sang-min? Fuck that guy!" *Mute says to you in an exceptionally powerful bit of dialogue. As far as I can tell, that's one of two total uses of the word "fuck" in Analogue. I only bring this up because they were both really imperatively to me. That makes it sound like I'm a child who just heard a dirty word, but, no. I've always had a reverence for the sanctity of the word fuck. Aside from totally terrible racial and bigoted slurs, I've felt that it's kind of the ultimate curse word. You use it too much and it just loses it's meaning. You use it sparingly and... well, that can be special. Granted, I'm not an advocate of this policy myself, but I appreciate it when others show some restraint. I'm sorry again for side-tracking...
Last bit I'll say about the whole "block 2" saga is that there's actually a bit of funny dialogue you can have with *Mute in regards to it. When you first speak to *Mute she asks you some questions about yourself, including asking your gender. That in and of itself plays out in some interesting ways, because if you say male, she accepts that. Obviously you're out here in the middle of space by yourself, you're a man! What can't you do? Or so she's been taught. That isn't to say she is in any way insulting towards you if you're a female. On the contrary, she seems inspired by the fact that you're so capable. I thought it was another nice little touch. Anyways, once you finish reading all about Oh So-jin and Hana *Mute asks you what you thought of the whole thing. The sensible answer is that you thought it was terrible. The other answer is that you thought it was hot. Unfortunately I didn't carry out that conversation with her as a male, I should go back and do that I suppose. However, *if you're a female it can lead to a pretty humorous conversation.
*Note 3: I played through as a man in all of my playthroughs, except one. While I've made a pretty convincing point for pursuing both options, I have to admit why I did it. There's actually two Steam achievements tied to interacting with *Mute as a female, and this bit I'm talking about happens to be one of them incidentally. I just wanted to clarify that.
Right, so, the conversation goes something like... You saying that you thought that was hot. *Mute responds by saying "Wait, what? Seriously? You really thought that was hot?" Admittedly a fair line of questioning on her part, the previous story was not really something that warranted a sleazy reply like that, but still.... You assure her that you did in fact find it was hot. In which she replies with "...but wait, you're a girl? Are you into that stuff? Wait, is that why you've been so interested in me?" Which, of course, I said yes. "No way! That's unacceptable!" though she has to admit... "I mean, it would be alright if that was the case..." and finally "No! Let's just forget this ever happened. Never bring it up again!" Of course I'm heavily paraphrasing here, but you get the point. Good moment.
Alright, so that ran a little longer than I expected, but it's finally time to move on. Before you finish with *Mute she gives you a series of questions to ask *Hyun-ae. I guess now would be... well, a little late to explain this, but it wasn't really important til now. When you first talk to *Hyun-ae you get a text prompt to respond to her with. Now, since that would be asking a bit much even from the biggest developers, she conveniently can't understand you. So instead, your interactions with both AIs throughout the game are a series of binary responses. It works well, but the reason I bring it up here is to emphasize the importance of the questions *Mute gives you. Nine questions, eight of them prompting casual conversation with *Hyun-ae, one of them being the big one. With that, you are presented with a choice...
At this point you're on track to get any of the endings of the game. There are five in total. Once you have *Mute's questions you have an important decision to make. What do you do with them? On the one hand, you could do the natural thing and go ask *Hyun-ae the questions. On the other, you can stick with *Mute and get her final verdict on the whole mess. Whatever you choose, it triggers the next part of the game. Once you present the questions to *Mute and ask her opinion, or if you go back to *Hyun-ae something bad happens. The ship's reactor is about to melt down, and when it does, the Mugunghwa blows up. At this point you can do a few things. What you have to do to proceed with the game as normal though is take care of the situation. This basically involves you using the command prompt to manage certain aspects of the ship. I won't really go into the details, but it's simple enough once you think about it, and you have twenty minutes to do it. Even I didn't really balk at that. In fact I think I could recite the order of commands you need to give right now since I've done it so many times in the past few days. Either way, it ends with you stabilizing the ship. But, at the cost of one of the AIs. You're forced to choose which one you want to stick around and chat with, and that's the big split in the game.
However, there are a couple of other options. I failed to mention this earlier, but at any point when the reactor isn't about to explode, and you have the admin password you can download everything you need from the ship and just walk away. Yep, it's the loner ending. You get the job done, but then you have to live with the fact that you not only didn't solve the mystery, but you just left both ladies there to blow up. Nice move, dick. The other option is even worse, but ultimately kind of funny. See, when you go to download all the ship's logs the game says it'll take about three days to complete the transfer. So... if you were to initiate the download during the melt down.... you blow up, because you're stupid. I thought it was pretty funny. Those aside, you get to decide which real ending you want at that point.
SPOILERS some more!
Alright, I've admittedly only used the spoiler tag a few times in this, as I think I was able to tiptoe around spoiling either of the previous major plot twists in the previous sections. Instead of spoiler tagging just about everything for the next three sections, I'm just going to give you a fair warning now. SPOILER WARNING: I'm going to be talking about the endings to the game now, so just about everything will be a major spoiler. If you haven't played the game, and you've made it this far, but are interested in experiencing at least a little bit of the story for yourself, turn back now! Don't say I didn't warn you.
This is *Mute's route and in my opinion the weakest of the three "real" endings. In this you find out the "how" of the mystery which is to say, how Hyun-ae killed everyone. You do not however find out "why" she killed everyone, so ultimately you're still only getting half of the story with this ending. Now, real quickly, I'll tell you that I got this ending after the *Hyun-ae ending, so take that for what you will.
If you insist on having *Mute answer the questions for you, she agrees to. She first shows you a message written by Hyun-ae where she confesses her plan. There are a lot of blanks to fill in here if you choose to go with this ending first, but I guess that's what you get. What did you expect after talking with someone for a couple hours, meeting someone else who tells you that the previous person is a crazy murderer, and then you choose not to investigate it and jump to conclusions? You're going to get a pretty inconclusive explanation for things.
So, the message shows us that Hyun-ae has been sent back to her foster parents home for some reason, this is of course after her marriage to the Emperor. She's dying from her disease, and is all but helpless at this point. The message recounts a conversation she had with her foster father, Kim Jung-su. Things have inexplicably changed for Hyun-ae, her previous mannerisms of being a rebellious child have been quelled. Jung-su speaks to her, telling her that he's proud that she turned out well in the end. This opens a floodgate of memories for Hyun-ae. She tries to remember what she was like when she was younger. She thinks back to how she used to have dreams, and goals. How she used to resent this society's insane way of thinking. And then she remembers. Hyun-ae for whatever reason is overcome by a seething rage boiling inside of her. She realizes how much of a farce this is, how this man, her foster father is responsible for ruining everything in her life. Responsible for silencing her. And that he should stand there and comment on how proud he is of her. How proud he is of what he did to her. It's too much for her to take. She wants to grab the knife thats nearby, she wants to at least try to kill this man before she dies. She can't though. So her father leaves her there, in her grief. And then that's when she realizes what she can do, what she has to do. As I've said previously, Hyun-ae is from the past, a past where it was completely common knowledge for a person to operate complicated machinery, like a ship's main computer. Hyun-ae decides that to end all this miserable bullshit, she'll cut off the ship's life support.
Now, I'd like to comment on this more, but like I said, I saw this ending after I knew the whole story. So I can't honestly get into the mindset of someone who had that presented to them in that context. Would you be horrified by her actions? Would you overlook the detail that something potentially horrendous happened to Hyun-ae to make her feel this way? Would you essentially be *Mute and come to your own conclusion. "She's a psychotic bitch, she murdered countless people, and for what reason? That she was a spoiled child!?" It's hard to say either way what a person could think. But in any case, if there was any doubt left in your mind about how this colony died...
After reading that, and discussing it with *Mute, she presents you with three messages from her point of view. Two of them are logs One of them where *Mute casually records that all activity on the Mugunghwa is normal, and that it will be a dull day. The next one taking place the day after when "it" happens. The log shows that Hyun-ae convinced the handler of the main computer to let her in, and she proceeds to hack the Mugunghwa. She begins by executing her plan to shut down the life support. Following this she proceeds to disable *Mute as the primary AI for the Mugunghwa, and somehow programs an AI version of herself into the computer that takes control of the ship. There's even a heart-wrenching message in there from a father who says goodbye to his young child.The final message is *Mute's final thoughts before she gets overrun. She sees Hyun-ae doing all this, and is powerless to stop her, as everyone she cares about suffocates to death. Admittedly it's all pretty horrific.
After reading all that, *Mute asks your opinion. You can side with her and condemn Hyun-ae for her terrible crime. Or you can make one less attempt to sympathize with The Pale Bride. *Mute refuses to accept that Hyun-ae's crime is excusable in any way, and since you don't really have a solid argument for it, you're forced to conceded. At that point, you've accomplished all you can on the Mugunghwa.
Just as you're about to leave though, *Mute asks you if you'd ever consider taking her with you. Of course she says it'd be completely unacceptable, not only because of her duties as the ship's security AI, but also out of a sense of loyalty not to abandon the ship where all the people she knew died. But, maybe she'd really like to leave, because she doesn't want to be alone anymore. She asks you one last time if you were serious when you said you'd take her. And she seems satisfied with that answer. She then says that she's going to shut down and run a diagnostics check, and that it would be terrible if you downloaded her while she was helpless to stop you and left with her. And with that you go out to the command prompt, type download, and leave with *Mute.
As I said before, it's not my favorite ending because it leaves so much open, and it's sad that you both just write off Hyun-ae as this psychopath. But at least it finally lets *Mute have some peace. She went through a lot, and it's at least nice to think that you've brought her out of that hell.
Now I'll discuss the *Hyun-ae route. This is without a doubt my favorite ending, it wraps most everything up, it seems like the logical ending, and it's also the point in the game where I realized that I was in love with the game. This is the first ending I got, so keep that in mind while reading through this part.
You return to *Hyun-ae with *Mute's questions and begin the end game, or, probably more accurately the second-half of the game considering the amount of content in this ending route. As I said before, the questions *Mute gave you ask a bunch of casual questions. "How are you?" "What do you think of me?" Some of these questions lead to cute little conversations, and serve as a great build-up to the final question on the list. Some of the questions are related to *Mute and it's interesting to see *Hyun-ae's reactions to her. It seems that the hatred is a little one sided, as Hyun-ae never really hated *Mute. *Mute just never bothered to talk to Hyun-ae. Though it's clear that Hyun-ae feels guilty for her actions, at least in regards to how *Mute must feel. Finally you ask her the big question "Why did you kill all those people?". It's a powerful moment. The question is important, and it comes as a surprise to *Hyun-ae. She's ashamed that you found out about this. She didn't want you to know, obviously she thought you would hate her if you found out. However justified Hyun-ae felt for her actions before she died, she's clearly had a long time to think about it.
Such a weighty question couldn't possibly be answered so simply. *Hyun-ae has an explanation, but you need to pull back the layers on it to fully understand it. Thus, she unlocks a new block of messages for you to read. These ones are messages written in Hyun-ae's diary after she was wedded, and a few interactions with the Queen, Ryu Jae-hwa, who was her only friend. The messages retell the last part of Hyun-ae's life. Again, we don't know why, but somehow Hyun-ae has become a much different person than when she was younger. She's quiet, she's timid, she doesn't put up any sort of argument at all. She's the perfect wife in this society. We get to hear about how Hyun-ae and Jae-hwa became friends. Previously I mentioned Jae-hwa sending Hyun-ae a bunch of messages before her wedding. At the time Jae-hwa was concerned, maybe even jealous of The Pale Bride, but once she met her, she changed her mind. Hyun-ae was clearly no threat, she was an obedient second wife, she was a scared child, and Jae-hwa felt she could trust her.
There are several rather sweet messages in here detailing the two's friendship. Hyun-ae also expresses her situation in life. She's dying, she's getting weaker. The only pleasure she has in life is her conversations with Jae-hwa, and sex with her husband. She's basically holding on to those things for dear life, even though she knows she doesn't have much time. In one critical message we find out a shocking truth. Hyun-ae is mute. No, not *Mute, she's actually mute, she can't speak. It was at this point that I started to second guess myself. Earlier in the game it was evident that Hyun-ae was a spirited child, she argued with her adoptive family all the time. She wasn't... she wasn't mute then, right? We also learn another tragic truth about Hyun-ae, she can't read or write any of the characters people use in this time. Most people just considered her to be a stupid child, an ignorant female. In truth, she was very brilliant for her age, and continued to write all these diaries in her native language. More importantly though, it was literally impossible for Hyun-ae to communicate with anyone in any meaningful way.
As the story was unraveling dozens of thoughts and theories for popping off in my head. As I mentioned, I was already second guessing myself on if she was actually mute this whole time. But if she wasn't, what happened to make her that way? This is it folks, this is the heart of visual novels, and any sort of graphic adventure game. When you start thinking, really thinking about what's going on. What's going to happen next, and how invested in this are you. The good games in this genre should always have the player hooked, left on the edge of their seat wondering about everything. The best games make you think about the game for weeks, months, years to come. It was time to see how Analogue would play out.
Events quickly spiral out of control after this. For reasons that I'm unsure of Jae-hwa dies. This is of course a devastating blow to Hyun-ae's morality. One of the only things she had to live for was now gone forever. In her grief she looked for the only comfort she had left. Her intimate encounters with her husband. In one of the last messages in this block Hyun-ae retells the final blow to her sanity. While the ship is expected to mourn for the passing of Jae-hwa, in which, of course Hyun-ae does as well. She still seeks the comfort of her husband. He eludes her for days, shooting down any of her advances. On the final day he finally has had enough. He scolds her for being so selfish, telling her she is acting indecent. He finally says that she will have to leave the palace for a few months and move back in with the Kims. The most wretched fate imaginable for Hyun-ae becomes a reality, and she is shipped back to her foster home.
We're almost at the conclusion of this story, we've almost got all the answers, but there's one thing that remains. Why did she kill everyone? *Hyun-ae braces you for the last bit of the story. Not wanting to share this with anyone, probably not even wanting to relive the horrors of her life. She reluctantly provides you with a few new messages. These messages are from a block that was previously incomplete from the very beginning of the game. The block detailing Hyun-ae's revival, and her life with the Kims. At first you read a few messages about how Hyun-ae returned home. How her mother and sister treated her like trash. They weren't happy to see her back just as much as she wasn't happy to be back. Hyun-ae is helpless to do anything but wallow in her own miserable life, or what's left of it.
Following that, we get to the big stuff. The "why". Hyun-ae provides a few more messages. More pages in the diary of Hyun-ae when she was a child. Back to the times when Hyun-ae was healthier, had dreams, and still argued with her foster family. Hyun-ae's father reveals to her one day that he's going to marry her off the the Emperor. Of course this puts her in a tizzy and she refuses to cooperate. And then one day, the day when Hyun-ae is supposed to go meet with the Emperor for the first time, she makes her last stand. At first her sister comes to help her get ready for the meeting. Hyun-ae flat out refuses, and the sister storms off. Later the mother comes in attempting to reason with her, again Hyun-ae refuses to back down. Hyun-ae is surprised by how seemingly easy it is for her to hold her ground, but she's suspicious of it. It couldn't be this easy, right?
Finally father setps into the picture. Again, Hyun-ae stands her ground. Father slaps her hard across the face, but she builds up her courage, suppresses the pain and still refuses. Father quietly leaves the room. Hyun-ae has won this fight, but what now? Another message. Days after Hyun-ae's last stand, Father and mother are discussing what they should do about Hyun-ae. They need this marriage, it's the only thing that can save them. But she's too rebellious she'll never listen. Mother suggest that it might be time to take drastic measures.
Hyun-ae is called out to the kitchen to meet with father and mother. Father pleads with her "Please, you must obey. We need this marriage." Hyun-ae refuses once more. Father begs her "This can end peacefully if you just cooperate.". In desperation Hyun-ae tells them that she will tell the Emperor that the Kims are conspiring against him. Father says "No. You won't.". Mother then grabs Hyun-ae and forces her down. Hyun-ae is powerless to resist with her frail body, as father puts his hands inside her mouth and pulls out her tongue. He then takes a knife and cuts it out. Silencing her forever. "You will never argue with a man ever again." and she didn't.
Fuck. I had to take all that in, process it. I sat there stunned for a good while thinking about how horrible it was. I can't speak for everyone obviously, but as for my own personal emotions, I felt rage. In that instance, I felt that whatever Hyun-ae had done had been justified. As if I needed more convincing. This shithole of a ship, with it's backwards ass people. The Emperor, The Kims, they needed to die. I'll admit, it wasn't the most rational train of thought. As I've discussed in the *Mute route, what Hyun-ae did was still awful. She killed plenty of innocent people, women, and children. Countless innocence suffered because of a couple of really terrible people ruined a little girl's life. It's... it's not really justified, but, I guess I don't care. What could she do? Die silently, empty, having to live out the rest of her tortuous life with these fucking scumbags who destroyed her. I'm sorry, I guess I just can't get past that. I guess I can't outweigh the needs of the many against the needs of the few.
After spending several hours interacting with *Hyun-ae, who is just a brilliantly written character. She's a sweetheart, and hearing the tragedy of The Pale Bride was too much.I think this is really what it comes down to with Analogue for me. A short, five hour experience. Not even a lot of time in the grand scheme of things, but enough time to grow attached to this character. And get invested in this story. It was glorious.
Finally, after all is said and done, it's time for you to judge *Hyun-ae. I've already said my piece on it, but it's entirely possible to shut her down. She will accept her shame, and leave you to collect the data you came for. But that's a pretty shitty ending, right? So of course I accept her story, I forgive her for her actions, I tell her I understand. She is beside herself. 600 years of holding this in, and finally meeting someone she truly loved. And you accepted her. You can almost feel the tension wash away, the years of torment that she went through. She desperately tries to express her gratitude, and while she's caught up in all these emotions she confesses. She finally tells you she's in love with you. At this point the game splits again ever so briefly. You can turn her offer down, expressing in the nicest way possible that it just wouldn't work. Or you can accept her love, and express your feelings for her. Either way *Hyun-ae will ask you the same thing *Mute did. "Will you take me with you?" Of course I will. Once again, you exit to the console, download, and whisk away The Pale Bride, either as a friend, or lover.
2 Girls 1 Core
Okay, believe it or not people I'm almost done. There's just one more ending to cover real quick, and then we're just about out of here. This is the final ending, as tradition in many Japanese visual novel games, this is the "harem" ending. It usually refers to an unrealistic ending where the hero somehow gets all the girls. All of them. In Analogue's case things are a bit more realistic. For one there's only two girls. For two the ending actually makes sense. In a way, this is truly the best ending, but it's still runner-up for me compared to the *Hyun-ae route.
So, rewind all the way back to the original split. *Hyun-ae or *Mute? Who do you pick? Well, how about this. Given all the evidence, both AIs are right in their own way. But the biggest problem here is that *Mute doesn't believe there could be any justifiable reason for Hyun-ae to kill all those people. Unfortunately, after the split you can only talk to one girl. You either talk to *Mute and get her judgement, or you talk to *Hyun-ae and get her full story. Now, this requires a little bit of explaining, but I've typed this much, so why stop now?
As I've said, your interactions with the AIs are limited. Aside from the binary choices during dialogues, the only real way you can talk to either character is by presenting them the messages in the game. You show one of them a message, and they offer their insight on it. Now, if you're paying attention you will remember that if you take *Hyun-ae's route you get that one very, very important message that explains everything. The fact that Kim jun-su cut out Hyun-ae's tongue. Unfortunately you can't get that message and still be able to talk to *Mute. So what can you do? This is the last stroke of genius in Analogue that I have to talk about.
In the interface there is an option to type in a code. I never thought much of it the whole time I was playing the game. Why was it there? Well, apparently there is a alphanumeric code attached to each and every message in the game. And you could type it in there and find a message. Still, why would you ever need to manually search for a message? I mean, there aren't that many of them, you could always just page through them. There's a secret though - you can access any message in the game, at any time, as long as you know the code.
So, the trick is to start down the *Mute path, and when she presents you all the horrible evidence of The Pale Bride's crimes? You show her that important message. "What the fuck did I just read?" *Mute exclaims, dropping the last masterfully placed f-bomb in the game. All the pieces fit, everything comes together. *Mute is forced to come to the realization that Hyun-ae had a legitimate reason to want these people dead. It doesn't excuse Hyun-ae's actions, but... she can't just turn a blind eye to Hyun-ae's plight. Maybe, just maybe she could be forgiven finally, after 600 years.
By this point, you already had to disable *Hyun-ae though. However *Mute knows how to bring her back. She informs you that you can copy her AI to *Mute's active core and all three of you can talk. She goes to fetch *Hyun-ae while you carry out the action. Upon meeting up *Hyun-ae is overjoyed that you were able to solve the mystery, and convince *Mute that she had a reason for her atrocities. Yet, she wonders how you managed to do that. "Did you cheat the system?" Indeed. So then *Mute tells *Hyun-ae to ask you the last question. "Will you take us with you?" Of course.
Phew. I, uh. I don't know what just happened exactly. I originally set out to write an opinion piece about Analogue. I just wanted to share some of the joy that I felt about the game, and share some of my favorite moments. I didn't mean to retell the whole story. I'm not happy about that. That's not what I wanted to do. I feel like it's a good piece to read if you're looking for a
summary retelling of the game, or if you wanted to recap everything. But, I dunno. That's shitty.Unfortunately I just got to a point where I kept falling into writing out the whole damn story, and before I knew it I was half done. So, I couldn't justifiably delete all that, and start over. So unfortunately you'll just have to accept this for what it is. One big clusterfuck of praise mixed in with a reenactment of Analogue.
That bit of sadness aside. A few real, final thoughts. There's really not much more I could possibly say about Analogue that I haven't already. I know that after I finished the game I just wanted more of it. In some small way I guess this was a way to get more of it. Or an attempt to get it out of my system, since my emotions for it just kept welling up over the past several days. It's nice to have written documentation of that love I guess. However, I guess it doesn't actually stop there even. While I was checking wikipedia earlier I noticed that there's going to be some DLC for the game that is supposed to be released this month. It's called "Hate Plus" and it picks up where the story left off. With you going back to Earth and trying to figure out what happened during those years that Hyun-ae was asleep for. I cannot wait for it, but I probably won't do another War and Peace length rant about it. If that wasn't enough (it isn't) I was also pleased to see that Christine Love has a couple other games. Digital: A Love Story, and Don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story. Both of those are free to download for Windows, Mac, and Linux so there's no reason not to check them out. Unless they're bad? But, I doubt that.