You know, with everything we have to do to catch up around here, I was seriously considering not doing this. However, I had no option but to bring this particular feature back. The creator of the game on the block today sent me a link to my feature on Kendo Crush and specifically asked I do the same type of feature for their game. I’m not even joking! Here’s the e-mail if you don’t believe me!
Hi i read your preview on kendo crush! and seduce me. And i was wondering if you could do one for our vn that will go on kickstarter in about 2 months.
That’s right my friends; welcome back to YOU ASKED FOR IT! The only feature in gaming where not only is the hatred and rage of developers my breakfast cereal, but their tears of anguish are the sugar in my morning coffee. It’s been far too long since someone asked for my opinion on their work in progress and I plan on taking full advantage of it with Sekaiju: Yggdrasil…and let’s all be happy this isn’t a video or I’d butcher that title.
Sekaiju is apparently Japanese for ‘World Tree’. Yes, that means you can read the title as World Tree: World Tree. Yeah you can insert your own jokes on that one. As for the demo itself, well, I probably would be able to give you a detailed critique of it if I knew what the Hell was going on. Strap on a cup amigos because this is going to be quick and brutal.
Let’s start off with the obvious: the synopsis. Usually here I’d take the carbon-copy plot synopsis attached to the demo itself and see where it leads to in the game, but the truth is that the ‘synopsis’ attached to World Tree: World Tree isn’t the real plot. If you want the real plot, you have to go to the official World Tree: World Tree website, where you will see this:
The story of Yggdrasil started as an insomnia play and joke about displaying different anime scenes in Unity. A friend said he likes it and I should turn it in to a real VN.
Yes, you read that right. The plot of this game started as an in-joke about different anime. This, in and of itself, isn’t bad and can be used as a launch point for decent fiction. That is nowhere near the case here though as every scene in the demo is so completely random that clearly the game never strayed from its in-joke roots. Technically there are two paths to explore. A ‘romantic’ path where our clichéd protagonist, Yamazaki Kusanagi (yes that is his name) decides to start dating his clichéd childhood friend Sachi. It lasts roughly fifteen minutes and I’m sure the creative team thought it was hilarious.
The second route is the true route of the game where, after being a jerk for no real reason other than to be a jerk, Yamazaki is rendered comatose after he cracks his head against the pavement during an Earthquake. Said clichéd childhood friend (make sure cup is strapped on nice and tight) hears a rumor about a magical scroll that could heal Yamazaki. So she breaks into the hospital to steal this scroll, survives getting shot by the security guards because apparently that’s how it works in hospitals in Japan. She then is patched up (again no real comment on the military tactics used for the HOSPITAL) only to find out that Yamazaki died, then uses the scroll to send him to a land of elves who bring him back to life.
SO, everyone’s Daddy and/or Mommy Bag still in its anatomically correct position? Good.
As you can see, there is little rhyme, reason or explanation for what is going on in World Tree: World Tree. Crap just keeps happening and, as explained on the game’s website, it happens this way because that’s how it happened on the anime the scene was taken from. I know it is often said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but there has to be a line between that and just chucking in ‘stuff I like from the show I liked’. Unless they actually planning on explaining what a magic scroll was doing in a public hospital under apparent military guard with orders to shoot on sight anyone near it, only to fail without any further repercussion on the perpetrator.
I know some will defend it as ‘funny’, but here we call it what it is: lazy. While it can be a funny in-joke, it shows extraordinary disrespect to your audience to expect them to follow something this incohesive and, really, it shows a shocking amount of disdain for the source material the creative team claim to love. I mean, let’s be real: if you think you can pass off a bunch of cut-and-paste scenes from various anime as an original work, that means you think those anime are so dumb that anyone can use any bit of them outside of its original context and it would still work.
Anyway, after Yamazaki’s resurrection in elf world, we get to some kind of centralized tale despite the fact that all immediate threat is withdrawn by having Yamazaki stabbed clear through the heart without it being fatal. Nice. This is where things get truly ridiculous on two fronts. The first front is that it is explained that the resurrection isn’t permanent: well at least de jure. In the elf world, for some reason, you can only bring back the dead for limited amounts of time. While the practicality of that rule makes no damn sense of the surface, let’s really dig into the de facto side of it because you can achieve immortality here. Someone just has to re-up the spell every now and then to make sure you can still move around since it apparently also has no side effects.
So, why not just have a straight up resurrection here instead of this de facto bullshit? Better question: why does the kid die in the first place? The premise, weak as it was, could work if the developers decided to drop the in-jokes and just told it straight. An earthquake happens and somehow he wakes up in this other world. Sure it was old when Inuyasha did it back in the 90s, but at least it would make narrative sense. Or we could just continue the game on like this because, yeah, that is working out very well so far!
The second front is that a major plot thread of the story is supposed to be a threat against the life of the elven princess. Many of you see where this is going, but let’s continue on with this for thoroughness. If you have magic that can heal fatal wounds and perfectly resurrect anyone without any repercussions, how is any threat against anyone in this world legitimate? You can heal them on the spot or, in the worst case scenario, raise them from the dead and remember to keep your life quarters on you when the meter is about to hit zero. How can we take the story seriously and invest our interest in trying to keep the little brat alive when it doesn’t matter if she dies?
Outside of, well, everything, all other issues can be fixed with a dedicated development cycle. The question we are asking ourselves today is if it is even at that point? This demo is supposed to be the backbone not only for a Prefundia campaign but also a Kickstarter campaign. This tells me that, if approved, this will be the launch point for the game proper. So, is there anything here that is worth your time and money? For me, the answer is a resounding ‘No’.
Anyone willing to have me go through their work deserves a tip of the hat, but the team behind this had to know this would be the outcome if they had actually read the features they said that they did. Even if I didn’t ignore the clichés and art issues, the fundamental lack of care with the plot by itself is enough for me to vote this one down. So, allow me to say this publicly: I know why you asked for it. And congratulations, between your pressing me to do this article and me being a man of my word, I’ve given you exactly what you’ve asked for. Now, for everyone else reading this; this project has nothing to offer you.
‘But JP! It’s clearly meant to be a joke!’ Maybe, but the joke isn’t funny. It is fully dependent on us all liking the exact same media to the point where a blatant copy of that material will interest us enough to fund its development. That is as much of a statement about the people they want to take money from as it is a statement about the material they ripped off. So you’ll forgive me if I have a hard time joining everyone else in laughing.
‘But JP! It’s only a demo!’ Again, this is supposed to be the backbone of two crowdfunding campaign. This demo should be what sells us on putting our money towards its development. This is Proof-Of-Concept: actual evidence that the team can deliver on what they promise. And what we get is this: clear evidence that they can’t do it. This isn’t something to sweep under the rug and hope that enough time and money will fix the fundamental issues surrounding the game. If it cannot get past this point, then it shouldn’t be allowed to go any further.
There is a voice-over team and other talent who are trying to make World Tree: World Tree happen, so I’m going to say there is a sliver of seriousness somewhere in this production. If that is the case, then the best thing the team can do is start over from scratch. Get all copies of the current script and shred them, then burn the shredded paper and scatter the ashes into the sea. Drop the bad in-jokes and find out what, if anything can be used in a new story. Then, and only then, should anyone consider treating Sekaiju: Yggdrasil as anything more than the joke it started off as.
Here’s hoping that much better projects come down the pipeline for YAFI this year. I’d like a pleasant surprise for this little feature again. Until then, JP3: OUT.