Analogue is a Visual Novel with dark undertones and a seemingly cheerful veneer. There are two characters to pursue and five possible endings. You go to find the ghost spaceship the Mugunghwa and read through the logs to find out what happened to her (ships are traditionally referred to as female.)
As far as gameplay goes, Analogue uses a similar system to Digital, but with a twist. While Digital has you reading BBS posts and private messages and replying to them, Analogue has you read log posts and removes the ability to reply. You can show them to the AI who is currently assisting you, and they can talk about it or just give you some more related data logs.
The two characters are *Hyun-ae and *Mute, and they are the only two characters in the game. Well, the only other character is the player, if you want to count that. You never see any visual of the player character, and with a multitude of questions that *Hyun-ae and *Mute ask about the player, there is an open-ended way to play the character, as there is really no pre-defined idea of what the character should be like. This is a welcome change from most visual novels, where they let you make some choices, but in between, they still characterize the player character in whatever way they wanted. In Analogue, you have complete freedom of what type of person you want to be.
I previously mentioned it was dark, and truth be told, it starts as merely dark, but gets worse. It’s made worse, and far more powerful by the fact that you know what happened in the absolute end, as the ship is a ghost ship. As you read the logs, you begin to piece together details about the life aboard the Mugunghwa and the important people aboard her. You begin to piece together details that start to give you an idea what happened, and the only thing that you are unsure of is just how dark it will be when you find the details concerning exactly what happened.
The Mugunghwa had, over time, turned into a patriarchal society reminiscent of feudalism, specifically that practiced in Korea and China. Actually, it may be more accurate to say it had degraded back to a feudalistic society, going as far as to possess an Emperor. *Hyun-ae was broken out of a stasis/cryo-sleep chamber to be turned into a bride for one of the very important people, while *Mute was the security AI on the ship. *Hyun-ae eventually died and turned into the AI *Hyun-ae.
*Hyun-ae as a character comes off as being rather sweet, friendly, and innocent. She has the whole thing of being unable to state her feelings for the player at first, merely hinting at what she thinks, assuming you have been nice to her. *Mute, on the other hand, is rather interesting. *Mute seems a bit harsh and brash, and is quite willing to speak her mind, which I found to be rather interesting at parts, with such notable quotes about long dead characters that I cannot repeat. Both characters are interesting in their own right, and are highly compelling. As a benefit, the compelling characters take an already compelling story and simply multiply the effect. It takes a very short time before you begin to care about what happened to the Mugunghwa and to not only *Mute and *Hyun-ae, but to the rest of the people (to a lesser extent.)
The girl on the left is the AI *Hyun-ae, while the girl on the right is the AI *Mute. In case it isn’t very obvious, *Hyun-ae even dresses in a way that shows her objection to the feudalistic Korean society. Yes, it is Korean, as shown by not only the names of the characters and long-dead persons, but by the dress and manner of *Mute, as well as the use of Korean characters in the opening screen, and the log entry from *Hyun-ae showing you how to pronounce the Korean names.
Some people might say that the lack of other characters and the ability to interact would detract from the story, but, well, they would be wrong. The logs are interesting enough, especially when coupled with the fact that the Mugunghwa is a ghost ship makes you want to figure out just what went wrong.
Well, hopefully, enough jumping around topics. One of the strange bits is where *Hyun-ae, if she likes the player (it may also be a story event. I was nice to her.) rewards the player with a command that lets you…change her outfit. To either a maid outfit or to a detective outfit. While strange, actually using the command starts a new conversation for both the maid and the detective outfits, both of which give a little more insight into the character of *Hyun-ae. Other than that, there is nothing really to complain about. In fact, given that that overall event helps further define that character, I’d say it’s merely an odd way to add depth.
Again, like Digital, Analogue keeps details around in the logs that are things you will need to know and remember. This helps ensure that people actually read the logs and find out the story instead of just trying to forward through it, which will result in you simply being lost later on in the game, with no idea who they are talking about, how they are important, etc. For instance, the one log early on mentions that the name of The Pale Bride was used as the admin password for the computer. Another log mentioned the name of The Pale Bride. Without reading the logs, you would miss the details and be unable to log onto the main computer. Finally, a visual novel where you need to pay attention to details for use at a later date.
Also unlike other visual novels, it requires you to actually do some action to complete something. While the earliest example is the fact that you actually need to type in the login command and the password into the computer interface to actually use it, a later sequence happens to be one of the best examples of this. Later on, the reactor begins to melt down, and you have 20 minutes to stop it. Neither AI really knows much about reactors, you need to go to the computer menu and figure it out by typing in commands and trying to figure out the puzzle of how to stop a melting reactor. It ends up being both a panic-inducing and highly memorable sequence, which greatly impressed me that the game had managed to get me to care about the characters, which I normally try to remain unbiased and disconnected.
As far as endings go, there are five possible choices.
Number one is the ending where you have to reject *Hyun-ae when she confesses to you. Number two is where you accept *Hyun-ae and take her with you. Number three is where you just take the data and no AI, you don’t even need to get very far in the game to do this one. Number four is where you get the ending where *Mute is the one you take along. Number five is where you get the ending with both *Mute and *Hyun-ae.
I personally liked number two, four, and five. Number three was sad, and I simply decided not to go for number one, given the fact that number three was sad, and I somehow found that I just didn’t want to reject *Hyun-ae. Well, that and the fact that my save for *Hyun-ae was after the point where I could reject her. While I did have a save previous to that particular event, I found that I would rather not go back and have her confess, only to crush her hoped.
How did I start to really care about this? I have to give some major credit to the developer, they got me emotionally invested.
As such, my favorite ending is number five. Ending five, where you need to use some mental skills and memory to get it, is also the best harem ending I have ever seen. Lets put it this way: *Mute and *Hyun-ae dislike each other *Mute knows stuff about *Hyun-ae, as well as things about her form some of her logs, and holds *Hyun-ae in rather low regard. *Hyun-ae knows about *Mute only by reputation, where that reputation is *mute as a gossip who spreads rumors and is rather crude and crass. Number five is where you show *Mute some logs about *Hyun-ae that she previously didn’t know about, giving her details about *Hyun-ae that she never knew, resulting in her having you put *Hyun-ae into her memory, where they discuss things, and find that they can get along. In short, you actually get the two to reconcile their differences, which is actually a very vast gap. Taking both AIs with you gives you the ending, which I found to be the most satisfying. You not only saved both characters you somehow grew to love over the short timespan* of the game, but you managed to get two characters who pretty much wanted nothing to do with each other to get along, all because of the fact they are shown details about the other that causes them to sympathize with each other.
*Actually, I have no idea how long the game takes. While it feels very short due to the fact that it isTHE most immersive visual novel I have ever played, the fact that the 20:00 timer can get fairly low in such a manner as to have you positive it isn’t counting at the speed time is actually progressing, I would guess the game takes between an hour and two to complete all endings.
A high level of immersion due to an interesting story that makes you keep playing, characters which are genuinely interesting to interact with, and a dark tone to the story that helps make the moral ambiguity all the more powerful, as well as the decisions of the player past that point? Yeah, this is probably going to get the game of the year award I will be putting up. I was going to do an indie game of the year and a regular game of the year, but I think I’ll be narrowing it down to just one (this game.) In other words, Analogue is better than Aselia the Eternal and Deus Machina Demonbane.
Actually, Analogue may be the best visual novel I have ever played. I have a felling that ‘may be’ will turn to ‘is.’
Score: 5/5, only because it can’t go higher
Pros: An amazingly compelling story with compelling characters who manage to get you emotionally invested into the events. Couple that with an unusual setting (spaceship, feudal Korea) and many other interesting events, memorable events and characters, and you have somehting worth playing.
Cons: the only complaint is that there is nothing to complain about.
Unlike Digital, Analogue is around $10 on the Steam service (and is probably the only visual novel there.) Not only that, but they sell the soundtrack, which is actually worth buying. Somehow, this game impressed me enough to make me a fan. Did I mention that it was made by pretty much one person? Yup, another game by Christine Love.
I am impressed.
You can check out the game from:
If you don;t have this and you play visual novels, you should get it. Saying that the game is worth the price is an understatement. If Steam cost a monthly fee and the game still cost money, it would still be worth getting Steam just for this game. But Steam is free, and the game is only $10, so really, if you don’t buy this, it is either because you don’t speak English or hate a good story (and fun.)