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*sighs* more ladder-style complaints


Clephas

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For those of you familiar with my tendency to bitch and moan about this kind of story-structure, I don't really need to explain... but I'll do so anyway.  The 'ladder-style' story structure is the style used in games such as G-senjou, Aiyoku no Eustia, and Sen no Hatou.  While it does make it easy to fit in a 'true' path (the true path being main street) and breaking things down into 'arcs' makes for a more expansive story, that is at the cost of increasing irritation in a way that would never have come up in a kinetic novel (which all VNs using ladder-style should be). 

What is that irritation?  Meaningless heroine routes. 

There are two types of heroine in a ladder-style VN.  There is the true heroine and the 'fake' heroine.  I'm not kidding... all heroines other than the true one are fakes, as are their paths, in most cases.  Amatsutsumi was an exception, but it was a rare one, lol. 

Now, in order to explain this, I'll outline how most of the games using this style tend to play out.  There is a main story going on, both in the foreground and the background.  In most cases, the background elements of the story that don't come out until you are in the true heroine's path preclude all possibility of the sub-heroines' paths actually existing in the context of the greater setting. 

Another quality of these games is that the true heroine is almost always one of the least-interesting/attractive heroines in the group, both personality-wise and setting-wise.  Airheads, ditzes, weak-willed victims, naive princesses, and overconfident self-proclaimed geniuses with an impenetrable belief in their own correctness (if you haven't figured it out Eutia>Hatou>G-senjou)... the list goes on, but you get the picture (again, Amatsutsumi is the exception rather than the rule).  I honestly have no idea of why all these companies that choose to use this style do it this way...

Now, frequently the true path itself has excellent storytelling with round antagonists and protagonists whose value as a character far outweighs the weakness of the true heroine... but this brings up another issue.  This issue is: the other heroines.  The elements of the setting, the personality and objectives of the antagonists, and even the personality of the protagonist sometimes render all other heroine paths as literally impossible in most cases.  If you don't mind SPOILERS for Eustia and Sen no Hatou, I'll give you some examples below.

 

In Eustia, the world is dying and Eustia herself is the only element that might allow for humanity's survival on that floating island city.  Unfortunately, without Caim at her side, alone... the chances are about 100% that she would give up long before she managed to reach her full potential.  In Sen no Hatou, the antagonist of the piece is pretty much a sorcerous mechanism, implacable and unstoppable.  There is no possible element in the other heroine paths that might cause him to fail in his pursuit of the suffering and destruction of the main characters.

Now, as to why that's a problem... I know it is nitpicking... but when I empathize with a heroine, fall in love with her by proxy, and see her off to a happy ending, there is nothing that can possibly drive me more insane with rage than the 'true' ending of the heroine path completely invalidating the possibility of that small happiness even occurring.  Eustia's best heroines are all 'fake' heroines, the same goes for G-senjou and Sen no Hatou as well.  The Leyline trilogy also suffers from this particular issue.

So do you understand now why I hate this type of VN structure?  I have good reason to despise it.  I still respect the makers of Namima no Kuni no Faust for choosing to make the game kinetic and just add the other heroines 'endings' as 'what if' scenarios in the extras far more than I will ever respect the makers of the games I mentioned above.

This isn't even mentioning that, by having heroine paths split off earlier, you lose a great deal of the story meant to develop the characters in the first place.

 

Why did I bring this up again...?  Because, for the fourth time this year, I've come across a VN that I was interested in that uses this never-to-be-sufficiently-damned story structure, Sora no Tsukurikata.  Damn all non-charage makers who follow fads like this particular one to hell, I say.

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About Eustia (spoilers)

Spoiler

You can treat other heroine endings as "what if" scenarios just as well. For example, in Licia route, Licia and her group fight and kill Gilbert inside the palace, without going to the tower to deal that final blow to the angel. You can assume they just caught him before he could do that. It's a bit harder to do this for other routes (if you chose an earlier heroine), but imagine that Caim kept going from there and helped Licia with the uprising.

 

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40 minutes ago, Funnerific said:

About Eustia (spoilers)

  Reveal hidden contents

You can treat other heroine endings as "what if" scenarios just as well. For example, in Licia route, Licia and her group fight and kill Gilbert inside the palace, without going to the tower to deal that final blow to the angel. You can assume they just caught him before he could do that. It's a bit harder to do this for other routes (if you chose an earlier heroine), but imagine that Caim kept going from there and helped Licia with the uprising.

 

My problem is the form in which they included those stories, not the fact that they were included at all.  Since they don't make sense within the context, they should never have been branch-offs in the first place.  Instead, they should have been 'gifts to the reader' in the extras section for having played through the true ending.  As it was, I literally snapped my copy of Eustia in half after I finished Eustia's ending and used a blow torch to melt it down into a lump of silicon. 

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35 minutes ago, Clephas said:

My problem is the form in which they included those stories, not the fact that they were included at all.  Since they don't make sense within the context, they should never have been branch-offs in the first place.  Instead, they should have been 'gifts to the reader' in the extras section for having played through the true ending.  As it was, I literally snapped my copy of Eustia in half after I finished Eustia's ending and used a blow torch to melt it down into a lump of silicon. 

That would mean having to play through the entire game, and it is quite long, to get to H-scenes (and with 4 H per heroine + 3 bonus scenes, you really want to spread it out), greatly reducing the amount of H (which would make it a non-August game and kind of put that art style to waste), or making it a Eushully game (with the "bang everyone" model), which would kill the romance and turn off a good deal of players - and it just doesn't have the amount of H content that makes Eushully games work.

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I never concern myself about which routes are canon, which are impossible, etc. I treat all routes exactly the same, whether they're in a typical multi-route moege or if it's g-senjou no maou. It's all fiction, it's all fake, none of it ever feels "real" to me in the context you describe. So I don't get bothered by some routes obviously taking a backseat to others in a game's canon. The only time that bothers me is when it's clear those routes had very little effort put into them and they feel like stub routes.

G-Senjou no Maou's routes were pretty much fine in this regard, they all told somewhat involved and interesting stories, even if the most complicated story was obviously the true route. In Eustia, I've only played the partial patch so I've only read the Fiona route, which was really disappointingly short and uneventful. It's not the fact that the game will move on and progress the story past those points which bothers me, it's the fact that Eustia's routes are just bad which bothers me. 

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Totally agree with you on this. I also dislike games where the other heroine routes are just something like add-ons, tacked on as an afterthought, or worse, not considered worthy of giving a proper ending inside the world where they exist. If a heroine is getting a route in a game, she should have, in the very least, an ending that's possible, not a "what-if" kind of a thing.

Now that I think of it, aren't Rewrite' s (the original and main game's) heroine endings like this too?

Thanks for telling which games follow this kind of structure.

Another fact: This exact same feeling is what all the "heroine" routes in the anime-or-LN-turned-games give off. Case in point, Date a live. I have read only part of the first game, every single one of them gave a what-if routes, and it was as if the game itself was telling the same to my face. Kurumi's route was awesome though, and they adapted it into an OVA and decided to give it a "different" ending. I'm willing to bet the others are the same. Maybe this is the norm for this particular class of games, dunno. But going through them is quite suffering for me.

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It's sort of like Reminiscence... the best route in the game is Aki's, but the true route is Kizuna's and a romance-stripped version of that is canon leading into the sequel. 

Also, I liked Eris's route in Eustia... or should I say that I loved Eris?  I also liked Kanon in G-senjou...  and Elza in Sen no Hatou.

In some ways, it is just that these companies pick a weak heroine to be the true one and that has seemingly become a 'rule' for most of the VNs of the type.

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Those rare exceptions are more or less stories written well, or at least well enough to fit into ladder-style storytelling. Majority of games are simply horribly thought out and written; all thanks to those pathetic writers, who literally have no idea how to adopt their excuse of a story into visual novel medium.

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I think I'm with Decay here, the major factor that counts is the quality of the routes themselves not their place in the whole picture. And the supposed main heroine doesn't always get the best route either like Yumiko's train wreck of a route in Grisaia proves.

The only route structure I know which is pretty much doomed to fail is the one heroine per chapter system like in Chusingura or Supipara. The first being even worse than the latter, abandoning each heroine in every subsequent chapter in favor of another one.

Edit: Technically, there's only one way I know that certain routes are pretty much invalidated, and that would be an official sequel to a VN that takes a certain ending as a given like in Kara no Shoujo 2 or the Grisaia sequels.

Edit2: I also don't understand what the ladder route structure has to do with the problem of a main heroine. Clannad had a clear main heroine with Nagisa despite not using a ladder route system. If there's a problem, then it's the so called 'True Route' and those exist in VN's with all kinds of route structures, especially in Key ones and none of those have a ladder route structure.

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Speaking from a technical standpoint, if you want a good game which is something more than a kinetic novel and follows such model, you need a clever story with a lead heroine being the pivotal character in it. Someone, who's not only tied deeply with the events of the story, but also moves the story forward. That aside, the other girls' routes CANNOT act as "dead ends" for the story. They may be "what if's", but they CANNOT neglect, nor ingore the main heroine and whatever, that is happening in the background. All the events need to bo tied together, there can't be any lose ends; Side heroines and their routes should act as keys to solve the mysteries of the main route, or enchance/reinforce it, by giving the reader a possibility to look from a different perspective.

It's incredibly tricky to pull off and obviously, won't work with certain story types and genres.  Majority of japanese scenario writers are godawful at what they do, there's no doubt about it. They often create events and introduce characters, which are either ditched or neglected afterwards; more like a one time fancy, rather than interesting plot mechanisms, which move the story forward. Aioku no Eustia is a perfect example of such writing.

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Not really against it when the side stories are interesting. Then again I prefer this over games with an unlockable true route where only said route is actually good and relevant.

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Amusingly, the ladder-style structure reflects real life by far the best. I mean, what's more realistic:

1.) You meet five interesting girls in a disco and you either decide for one of them over the course of a few weeks or you'll be single forever.

2.) You meet an interesting girl in a pub and the situation could have gotten tense, but somehow the chemistry wasn't perfect. But a few months later you meet another girl at work and you're head over heels into her immediately. Then you meet another girl a year ago in holidays on Mallorca, but since you've already decided for the girl at work, nothing came out of it. But if you would have decided against the girl at work before, things might have gone different with the girl in Mallorca.

That's simply life. You just don't meet all interesting people at the same time.

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5 hours ago, ChaosRaven said:

Amusingly, the ladder-style structure reflects real life by far the best. I mean, what's more realistic:

1.) You meet five interesting girls in a disco and you either decide for one of them over the course of a few weeks or you'll be single forever.

2.) You meet an interesting girl in a pub and the situation could have gotten tense, but somehow the chemistry wasn't perfect. But a few months later you meet another girl at work and you're head over heels into her immediately. Then you meet another girl a year ago in holidays on Mallorca, but since you've already decided for the girl at work, nothing came out of it. But if you would have decided against the girl at work before, things might have gone different with the girl in Mallorca.

That's simply life. You just don't meet all interesting people at the same time.

lol... romance is the lowest common denominator for me...

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100% agree. With the dilution of the choice mechanic, and presenting a much greater "illusion" of choice than Bioware and Telltale could ever dream of, may as well make it a kinetic novel.

If there's a choice in a VN, it should be a valid option. It should never be a choice where all but one will result in you failing, that's called 'what's the point of even having a choice at all'?

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