By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), an Old Wizardly Wizened Woolly Writer
Today was your unlucky day to face such fierce pastels!
Visual novels are fast becoming a dime a dozen these days. Perhaps its no wonder why when you look at the industry as a whole. Anyone can offer up an epic tale with a basic combat system. But in today’s age of half million dollar games, few have the budget to afford the expected 3D modeling, sound track, and more to actually bring their story to the masses. Thankfully the visual novel has arrived from its hugely popular upbringing in the east, and stories that otherwise may have been lost are now arriving. Is Antagonist one such story you shouldn’t miss? Well after sinking a couple hours into it, I have some thoughts.
The first boss is the final boss… or something like that.
The shining star of the Antagonist visual novel… is surprisingly its semi-real time combat system! Antagonist makes it hard! RNG molds with allies you can’t control to force you to think on your feet, and roll them dice in the name of RNGesus to hope for victory. I ran into game overs against foes I certainly didn’t expect to lose to. Despite the 2D visuals, there’s a lot to keep up with going on.
Your skill points are hard to plan as heavy attacks will bolster your total much faster than you’re expecting. Slows in the action meter can also throw your swag off, causing critical timing misses with allied combo attacks. And combo attacks are the key against most later foes to have a chance of survival! Which again circles back to RNG, as your AI opponent sometimes calls for combo attacks that you simply have no way of joining up in time for! It’s chaotic, and at times unfair, but seriously a ton of fun!
The character skill sets are pretty well thought out as well. And never detract from the story. The world seems well thought out, and let’s talk about that for a minute.
You’ll rue the day you crossed, Chefiroth, the dark and terrible master of Final Cooking Mama Fantasy VII Deluxe Arcade 3rd Strike Super Edition… Remixed!
Like twists and turns in your story? Like being left in the dark? You better, or Antagonist is going to lose you hard, fast, and then run you over from a direction you’re not expecting. Granted that’s just what I’ve encountered through my decisions, as I haven’t put in the time to retry other decisions to see what changes may occur. I don’t imagine huge ones, but this game does have a tendency of surprising you!
The long and short of it is that you’re an actor evil villain that does cutscenes for the video game industry. Or possibly does? Perhaps the ‘video games’ are all real, as are the heroes that rise to fend off the chaos that… is just CGI right? …RIGHT? The hero’s dead family certainly doesn’t think so. But when neither the villain’s production company nor hero’s allies mesh in a single plotline, what is real and fictitious begins to blur in mind mashing ways. Can you convince others to side with you? As an actor? As a villain? Perhaps by acting as a villain? Or just go gay and seduce the hero? There seems to be some interesting routes teased thus far to change your fate.
They stole my personal thoughts about Ralph roughly 20 minutes into the game.
First of all, Antagonist is clearly an indie love child. Don’t expect Monster Girl Quest levels of polish (hmmm… don’t think too closely about that line). There are no options to adjust your game. To fullscreen I had to set the game to launch as fullscreen. The initial opening of the game had a broken save button that fixed itself as time went on. But perhaps worst of all, the dialogue sound is a few octaves down from nails on the chalkboard. If you are slightly distracted, it isn’t so bad. But because of it, this isn’t a game I’d recommend playing with a headset on. That sound WILL get to you. And no, you can’t turn it off.
That said, the artwork is unique. A bit more humor could have been splashed in here and there, but old school gamers will appreciate the references and interesting blends of famous characters splashed throughout the world. The character that is a mixture of Jam Kuradoberi and Chun Lee will end you with her kick, as you might expect. Though it was a breath of fresh air to have an AI controlled partner use a revive from my inventory to save me from gameover. What a concept! Unfortunately the background is rather rushed and forgettable. But the many characters’ many many art form positions and facial expressions help alleviate the strain of suffering through poor background locations.
Pulling off clutch combos in the combat system just feels soooo satisfying.
Closing Thoughts: Good
Antagonist is a step above the usual indie visual novel. But if you’re in unfamiliar territory tackling a visual novel for the first time, that might not be enough for you. This likely isn’t the game that will make you fall in love with the medium. But if you’re a chiseled veteran of visual novels that is looking for a change of pace that isn’t all fanservice and titty jokes, Antagonist brings enough of a package to be worthwhile. The initial action packed opening may actually hinder the game’s enjoyment, and the first awkward twenty minutes of gameplay will feel a bit sloppy. But this game and its characters clearly grow on you as you dive further on and the real twists begin to take shape. With its masterfully paced combat system, true fans of the visual novel will find this to be a gem worth having in their collection. Check the game out for yourself on Steam, coming March 17th!
Nerdom Sidenote: This story would work out fantastically as an anime. I feel that’s the true calling of its narrative!