Okay, ALICE IN DISSONANCE, you win. Next time I see a Kickstarter with your name anywhere near it, it’s getting my money.
Released earlier in September by Sekai Project, Fault -milestone two- Side:Above is the first half of the second game of what promises to be an amazing odyssey. Taking place seconds after the end of the previous title, Side:Above introduces the Inner-Pole of this fictional world, and also provides some commentary on very real social issues in the 3D world. And it does a great job of it. Here’s what you need to know:
If this title foreshadows anything, it does so right at the beginning. At the end of the previous Fault, our trio of Selphine Rughzenhaide (the Princess of Rughzenhaide), Ritona Reighnvhasta (her bodyguard), and Rune (a human android), are ambushed by the very group that had forced them on their journey in the first place. Things start to take a turn for the worse when something very peculiar happens – Selphine’s “Empress Syndrome” takes over. Essentially, since she is the owner of the “Path-Down” Manakravte (which is their word for magical spell), she has the memories and mentalities of everybody before her. When she feels threatened beyond a certain threshold, these ancestors’ mannerisms and thinking can come to the forefront.
As a result of this, this happens, and the exact words that came out of my mouth were “Holy shit.”
This is how you break a fourth wall. This is absolutely how you do it.
After this encounter, both girls start to feel the effects of manashock (essentially, the lack of mana is destroying them), and realize that they need to go someplace with mana, and they need to do so quickly. The adventure picks up pace until the trio end up in the city of Port Sasary. Upon getting off the boat, a young boy named Sol walks up to them and offers to be their city guide in return for payment. Not seeing any reason to refuse his offer, they accept, and the young boy takes them around town. When Ritona inquires about lodging, the story takes a very sharp turn.
Meanwhile, a bunch of side stories begin to take place, which I’m going to assume will serve as major plot points in later titles, but currently all they do is bring up more unanswered questions.
In Port Sasary, there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. If you look at the cover image above, you’ll see that there’s a city under the surface. Neo Sasary is an underwater city, and only the wealthiest can afford to live there, and in turn live incredibly long and happy lives. As potential “prospectors”, you are allowed in, but only after paying a ton of money. While out on the town a day or so later, Ritona gets separated from Selphine and Rune, and fearful for what might have happened to her retainer, Selphine’s “Empress Syndrome” kicks in again. The rest of the story is the aftermath of this event. And no, it’s not fluffy aftermath. Not at all.
That’s because I didn’t want to spoil the rest of the game, old man. Shut your face.
Now, I understand that this specific arc had a lot of stuff going on, but if I’m going to complain about something, it’s going to be this. The first game in the series served to provide all of the backstory and getting the main characters introduced – that’s fine. That’s great, actually. But you can’t do that with the next chapter. When you leave a game on a cliffhanger (and since this arc is being split into two games, that should be obvious), there are going to be loose ends everywhere. Since I don’t want to spoil the game any further, I’m just going to point out that a lot of small things happen in this game that are incredibly important, and if a single one of them is missed in the next title, the whole series is going to fall flat on its face, and that worries me. I’m worried I’m going to be let down or underwhelmed by the next title. Don’t get me wrong, the story without all the extra loose ends (that all could have been cut from this title entirely, and nothing would have changed) is beautifully executed – it’s a tearjerker that doesn’t force the feels on you (something the previous title in the series did), but as it stands, it really feels like an extended demo version. It’s very short (I clocked in at around three hours), and with such a high price point, it may serve as a deterrent to those who want to play the entire series.
But where this game did improve is building on the positives from the previous game, and fixing many of the issues it had as well. The writing is still very fluid, and all of the (still unvoiced) characters still have are brought to life with the writing. There was no real infodumping to speak of, which will hopefully only be a problem with the first title, considering how much was required to set up a world as vast as this one. I also really like how the story uses manakravte as a substitute for tools, and not just for theatrics or to make “this group of people” superior to “that group of people.”
What the game didn’t improve on is the fact that you cannot load a quick save from the main menu. The load menu does not include the “Quick” slots. Kinda odd…
And the soundtrack… This game would get a 10/10 easily if I were basing it solely on the soundtrack. I expect this trend to continue – a number of tracks are wisely reused, and the new additions continue to add that extra dimension to the story as a whole.
Selphine’s “Empress Syndrome” is very scary. You do NOT want to piss this woman off, or meet her in a dark alleyway.
In an attempt to improve upon the game’s already beautiful (but sometimes generic) graphics, the game adopts camera angles. The game is no longer a static screen, but includes a lot of camera movement, which doesn’t seem like it would add much at first glance, but in reality it makes the game feel almost like an anime. The timing for all of these mold together perfectly, and the presentation of the game is bettered as a result.
In short, the game has everything it possibly needs to be a 10/10 game, but the problem is that this title, as is, is incomplete. It introduces or reintroduces characters that have absolutely no role in this title, even though it’s highly likely they will later. It raises a lot of questions that are not answered, and due to the fact that there’s going to be some time before the second half of this title is released, I’m going to have to be forced to replay certain sections of the game just to get reacquainted with what exactly is going on.
Granted, it’ll be a ride I will enjoy, but I can’t speak for everybody on that.
~J “Ryechu” R
Is that meant as a compliment or a shot at my cooking?
Thank you to Sekai Project for providing us with a review key!