Sunday, July 1, 2012

Visual Novel Review: Angel Beats! Third View

Since I reviewed Angel Beats! Bonus Chapter two weeks ago, I've been meaning to post this as well.  Angel Beats! Third View is a visual novel by the same people who made the Bonus Chapter visual novel. (Technically, it might be more accurate to phrase it the other way around, since Third View is was their primary project, with the Bonus Chapter adaptation being a side-thing).  While I mentioned in my Bonus Chapter review that the story could be understood well enough by people who weren't already familiar with Angel Beats, the same statement does not carry over to this project: If you haven't seen the anime, don't expect to understand anything that's going on.

Storywise, Third View is basically an adaptation of the first half of the first episode of the Angel Beats anime, told from the perspective of an non-battlefront resident of the afterlife. It doesn't really bring anything new to the story yet, which may be because the project has only covered the very beginning as of right now (or ever, since the project seems to be deader than the characters of the series it's based on).  The authors were fairly careful to never place the Third View's Main Character in a situation where the anime already established that he wasn't in.  Unfortunately, there are still problems with the scenes that the character is put in: Namely, the character is a Sue.

At this point, it will probably be necessary to define the term "Mary Sue" as it will be used here.  This is a term with multiple possible meanings, depending on who you ask.  It could mean "Character who is very powerful", "Character who is an author-insert", "Character with an unrealistic background", "Character who never fails", or "Character the speaker doesn't like".  The common thread of these, however, is that the term is pretty much always a Bad Thing to have applied to ones work.  I do not think most of the above-listed definitions are inherently bad things, so I reject those definitions.  When I say "Mary Sue", I am talking about a character who elicits a reaction that doesn't logically flow from how the character is written.  An undefeatable swordsman is not a Sue, it's just a powerful character (who will likely become a boring character if the author doesn't realize that there are ways to generate conflict that are not physical combat, but still not a Sue).  A Sue would be a character who is an average swordsman in a group of people who will not suffer a severe loss of ability from said character leaving, but who is nonetheless treated as being irreplaceable to the point that the group would drop everything to get this person to rejoin if they left (This is assuming that the characters did not have other reasons for doing so, like the character being a friend/relative/having other irreplaceable skills)

Disgression aside, that last example was pretty much how I felt about Third View's Main Character.  The battlefront members are all crazy over the idea of getting him to join up with them.  Why?  The anime seems to indicate that battlefront has somewhere in the vicinity of 80-100 members, so why give so much attention to a single person who has definitively stated that he doesn't want to join them?  (Recall that they only made two attempts to recruit Otonashi, and the second was because he literally walked up to their base of operations).  One path of choices in Third View has the Main Character fight against Angel using a gun and grenades.  Where did he get such things without access to Guild?  (Alternatively, why does he know how to make such things himself?)

Moving on to technical implementation commentary: While Third View lacks the problems that Bonus Chapter had with the excessive commas and screen shaking, there are frequent fade-out/fade-in effects.  These are probably supposed to indicate a long amount of time passing between scenes, but when said "scenes" are only a few lines of narration long, it feels like they could have been compressed into fewer scenes.
The opening uses a rain effect that looked fairly crappy, which was a shame because the rest of the visuals were pretty good.
The title screen uses the title screen music from Persona 3.  It would be fitting music, but the association with another work is distracting.  Using fitting music from Angel Beats!, composing an original piece would be much better ideas that would eliminate this problem.  Using fitting music from a less-known source would reduce the scope of this problem, although not completely eliminate it.
The author's note at the end was a rather tacky addition.  Such things are much better served by being placed as a separate thing that can be reached via the main menu.  Narcissu and its sequel are an example of this done the right way.

Overall, I don't think I can really recommend Third View.  I realize that this was only the start of the project, but until such a time that the rest of the project is created, this first chapter really has nothing to attract readers.

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