Posted: May 5, 2014
Early Access Review
NOTE: This review will only cover episode 01 and therefore contains no spoiler of later episodes. Spoiler of episode 01 is not guaranteed. This review is written from my experience playing the first English version of the game and after a quick technical test of the Steam version.Quick story summary
: In the far future, the Moon has been conquered and turned into a self-sustained colony. It quickly gathered wealth and became a capitalist haven. Haru/Hal wants to get rich quick in this Luna colony, so he does so by gaming the system through stock market trading, Episode 01 of this game follows his teenage years, accumulating his first successes at stock trading.My view
: The premise may make you think this story is gonna be like a boring Wall Street Journal article, but it really is not. This is really a drama. The game spends a lot more time with the relationships between Hal and the people around him, how they live their poor lives outside the center of wealth of the world, how capitalism affect their lives, how the pressure of a materialistic society pushes them into dark corners, and how the dream to get rich made Hal cynical of his circumstance. This is less Capitalism: A Love Story and more Wall Street (the Oliver Stone movie).
I like the character development a lot, although the game takes its time to play this out. I like the relationship between Hal and Hagana, they started out with a misunderstanding (to the point of physical violence) and remained hostile toward each other in the first part of the game. But as it goes along, both of them slowly softens up to each other, and it's pleasant to see this gradual shift in their relationship. I like how beneath the surface, our protagonist is not really greedy as the capitalist bosses that he resents so much. He actually has a noble purpose by getting rich which is revealed in the last part of episode 01. To many, money is their goal, to Hal, money is a tool to serve his higher purpose. I like Lisa and how she acted like a mother/older sister figure to the protagonist. I even like the money lender Toyama in this game, the game portrayed him as less of an one-dimensional loan shark, and more as just another victim of capitalism.
Another thing this game really succeeded at is how it engages you into stock market trading, which should have been dry and boring. Even if you don't understand any financial terms, the game explained all of them in a layman's language, from the basic terms to advanced trading and analyzing technique. And it goes really deep, explaining how the market is influenced, how the stock numbers form a pattern and how the common mentality is taken advantage of (the mentality to always bid at 10-rounded price marks, for instance). This game made me really get it, that thrill of trading stocks and taking risks that might give a big payoff. This is why people are obsessed with stock trading, I really get it now.
Yet despite indulging in the stock market theme, this game does not glamorize it. This is ultimately a cynical social commentary about capitalism. We have all seen this before in real life. The stock market ruins as much lives as the lives it paid off big. In this game, it ruins not only lives, but relationships as well. Without spoiling the specifics, episode 01 ends on a bitter note, prompting the next phase in Hal's life in his adult years in episode 02.Graphics
: The game runs in glorious 720p resolution by default, but you can resize the the window of the game on smaller screens. As a result, art assets in the game are made in native 1280x720 resolution. The backgrounds benefit from this the most. They look gorgeous, especially the views of Newton City, it's as much of a sight to behold as the narrative described it to be. There is not much variety in the scenes so you will end up getting the same backgrounds a lot of time, but considering this is an independent game, it's still quite impressive. The character sprites look okay if a bit lacking in poses, but they have some weird pencil sketch lines on their neck shadows. If you're bothered by this, do be noted that episode 02 onward no longer have these weird pencil sketches.Audio
: There is no voice acting. The soundtrack have some scifi bleeps mixed in here and there. For the rest of the time, they are mostly calming and not very memorable.Technical report
: I'll be commenting on technical aspects of this particular version in this segment. This is the 2nd English version of the game. And here are the differences:
- Config menu and pop-up messages in the first English version was in Japanese. The whole interface is now in English.
- The game now allows you to pick a much wider range of text font. The default font (Times New Roman) looks quite unpleasant. I recommend the font Flamenco for this game, it looks really nice.
- The original version had some game crashing bugs that occur when you open the About window or try to play a track in the music mode. Also, the gallery and the music mode are bugged in the original version (no images and tracks unlocked when you finished the game). All of these bugs have been fixed in this version.
- A slightly new translation. I can't comment on the translation quality, but I can only hope it would be better then the first English script. My experience of the game was from before it received a translation patch and an edit pass by sekaiproject.
Also do note that the game is bilingual. The original Japanese script is included, a great resource for language students.Early Access status
: Steam integration is incomplete. Steam overlay is not working in windowed mode right now and features like Screenshot is not working either.Release version status
: Not much different from the Early Access version. The same issues are still here and the game still uses the same engine. A bit disappointing, but at least the meat of the game is still intact.
I hope my review helps you making a decision whether to purchase this game.