When it comes to consuming and interpreting fiction, I am highly insecure. I’m almost always, always afraid I’ll have overlooked something vital that was immediately “obvious” to others, that if my opinion doesn’t match up with someone else’s then it must be deemed laughable, and I often just accept “This person’s right, I’m wrong”—only that’s not acceptance, that’s an admittance of defeat over a subjective topic that can’t easily be determined to be “right” or “wrong.” It’s something I need to get over, or at least talk to someone about, because it’s often what’s holding me back from sharing my sincere thoughts, and it makes me miserable.
That said, Virtue’s Last Reward. I loved this game, I loved it even more than 999. I liked 999 a lot, but it was a game I respected more than it was a game I was passionate about. Akane was the star and highlight of it for me, and while I liked the rest of the cast perfectly fine, I could easily sweep them all under the rug in favor of her. 999 was also a game that took me a while to finish, as it wasn’t until the “Safe” ending (the second to last ending I got), that I became especially intrigued by the game’s story.
All of the aforementioned wasn’t the case for VLR. While I merely “liked” most of 999’s cast, I was really taken in by VLR’s. The story hooked me much, much faster than 999’s; before I knew it, I wasn’t able to put the game down before I cleared every route and got every Golden File. I also found myself able to ease into the game’s sci-fi themes more comfortably than I did 999’s.
If there’s two things I missed from 999 that I felt VLR lacked, it was music and colors. 999’s soundtrack doesn’t rank among one of the best in my book, but it was memorable, and it set the atmosphere really well. I honestly can’t remember any tracks in VLR outside of ones recycled from 999. VLR, barring the Rec Room, is also a very grey-looking game, and while it’s appropriate for the setting and situation, it gets tiring to see the rooms using the same coloration. I remembered there being a lot more variety in 999.
But! This isn’t meant to be a post pitting VLR against 999 or vice-versa. Comparisons to the predecessor are inevitable, however, and I do think my enjoyability of 999 influenced my enjoyability of VLR.
Scattered VLR thoughts:
- Junpei has now risen from a character I "just liked" to one of my favorites. While it could be said it's older self that's my favorite, I think who he becomes helped in making who he was much more interesting to me. I was entertained by the thought of him chasing Akane for the rest of his life, but I really adored the game showing what it produced--and not necessarily reduced--of him. I loved the story behind him and Quark, his unwavering belief in humanity despite his apparent cynicism, and his letting go of Akane. I'm still debating whether I'd like to see his arc continue in the third game, or if I think his arc ended perfectly there, though I'm leaning towards the latter.
- K was another one of my favorites. If his "Being mocked for my compassion is a small price to pay for retaining my humanity" didn't win me over, his ride on Zero Jr. did. I was sad to leave the Rec Room because it meant that picture of him disappeared from my inventory. (SEE WHY HE BETRAYED YOU NOW, SIGMA?)
- Akane: still boss as hell, still the best character. I was really glad she didn't end up dead in the True ending, as I was afraid she was going to serve as fuel for Junpei's angst over her. And then it turned out death is just a mere inconvenience for her at this point.
- I was really surprised at how much I liked Sigma! The most I heard about his character was he was kind of a creep towards the girls, and he was, and I definitely won't overlook that about him, but the fact that it was clearly intended to register as a flaw and not an endearing "Oh that Sigma, what a scamp" trait--given the girls' negative reactions and calling out of his behavior--made it more palatable for me at least, for the lack of a better word. It was hard for me to pinpoint just why I liked Sigma so much at first, and I thought it was mostly because of what he becomes in the future (cybernetic limbs and a missing eye "That's TOTALLY COOL!" my inner-10-year-old screams) but then I remembered his compassion and sensitivity and sheer ability to emphasize with people he barely even knows and then I realize "Ah, yeah, that should have been obvious from the start."
- I really, really liked Phi too and think it's really impressive how the game goes out of its way to make sure you know nothing about her and she still manages to come across as a fully realized character.
- Alice nearly broke Dio's arm how can you not think she's cool.