Sunday, February 4, 2018

REVIEW: Mystic Messenger (game) - Zen's route (plus After Ending and Valentine's Day)

[This post includes a slight spoiler.]

I played Zen's route through once and got his "good" ending. Zen's route deals with two major problems: first, Zen injuring himself, which may ruin his chances at a musical role he's very much looking forward to doing, and second, the unwanted attention of his co-star. Zen spends a good chunk of his route at least a little depressed - apparently his depression in his Christmas route wasn't out-of-character after all.

Although I enjoyed this, I was also disappointed on several levels. First, it underscored that Jaehee's route was a good deal simpler. I'm pretty sure it had fewer images, fewer Story moments, and fewer complications. It would have been nice if the player character could have met Jaehee prior to the party the way she was allowed to meet Zen. Second, the emotional labor involved in Zen's route was more noticeable. For some reason, I didn't mind or notice the number of times the player character had to tell Jaehee that Jumin was treating her terribly the way I noticed the number of times I had to tell Zen that he really was a good actor, that he was worth more than his good looks, etc.

The player character had only just met Zen and didn't know much about his acting career so, honestly, nothing she said about his acting versus his looks should have held any weight. And yet for some reason it did.

I was a little surprised to find that I didn't enjoy Zen's route as much as I did Jaehee's. That said, I certainly didn't dislike it. His voice actor was wonderful, and I liked the artwork in his route (although I may have missed out on a bunch of it - I'll have to play the other routes at least once through to be sure). Sure, Zen was a bit of a narcissist, but he generally came across as more playful and fun than annoying and egotistical. He was more flirty than I'd ever be able to stand in real life, but in this game environment he was usually fun to interact with.

The subplot involving Echo Girl, Zen's co-star, was a bit of a flop for me. At one point, Echo Girl decides to get back at Zen by telling the media that he sexually harassed her. It's a complete lie, and the rest of the subplot is devoted to figuring out how to clear Zen's name and/or keep his career from getting tanked. Considering the current media focus (in the U.S., at least) on sexual harassment and the way some have responded that women who said they were sexually harassed were just trying to get attention, this subplot didn't go over well with me.

All in all, Zen's route was nice but didn't work quite as well for me as Jaehee's, even though it was clear that more work had been put into developing his various subplots. I suppose I should play Yoosung's route next, in order to get through all the Casual routes at least once, but ugh. Yoosung doesn't seem like a bad guy, and he matures a lot throughout the two routes I've played so far, but he's nowhere near the top of my list of Mystic Messenger characters. I'm not looking forward to spending a large chunk of his route oohing and ahhing over his gaming habits.

Oh! One thing I learned during this route: if you click on the guest info for people who attended the party the last time you played the game through to the end and then listen to the RFA member comments, you can earn hourglasses. This only seems to work the first time through, but it's a great way to earn lots of extra hourglasses if you're trying to avoid spending money on the game.

After Ending:

Zen's After Ending included absolutely no decision points for players. Maybe Jaehee's After Ending was the same way and I just forgot about it. At any rate, it, like Jaehee's After Ending, was a bit disappointing. Players got to be on set with him during his first TV drama role. Whereas it was kind of nice to be Jaehee's business partner in her endings, it bugged me a little that the player character was relegated to the role of Zen's occasional manager (at best?).

Ah well, at least Zen looked good.

Valentine's Day:

This starts off with Zen and the player character watching a TV commercial that stars Zen. You have the option of being accepting of Zen's agency's requirement that he not talk about having a girlfriend (the player character), or you can be jealous (like, TV smashing jealous, which seemed a bit excessive to me). There are rumors about Zen and another actress, and Zen is worried that those rumor are upsetting the player character. The route ends with Zen giving the player character a special Valentine's Day gift.

Again, the artwork and voice acting is nice, but ugh, the storyline. Jaehee's Valentine's Day storyline felt a lot sweeter, overall, than Zen's, which was just a tad too focused on reasons the player character might be jealous. And once again, it seemed like the player character didn't have much of a life outside of waiting for Zen to come home from work and trying not to make it too obvious that the two of them were dating.

Both Zen's After Ending and Valentine's Day cost 20 hourglasses, but Valentine's Day definitely had more to it. I just wish it hadn't had so much "even though Zen said you were his girlfriend at the end of his route, people still think he might be dating or interested in just about anyone else." ::sigh::

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