: I hope you’re ready for what is almost 30 minutes of straight cutscene.
: Our first cutscene is 33 textboxes, followed by a monologue.
: “Hi, I’m Rory. I’m a scene kid with a dead sister. Uh-- that’s it.”
: Historical note: no one would have described themselves as “scene” in 1999. That was more of a mid-2000s thing that sort of went hand-in-hand with “emo”. The worst part is, the game’s about to double down on the whole being set in 1999 thing.
: “Yeah, I work at this shitty video store, Planet VHS. We can get you any movie six to twelve months after its continental U.S. release on VHS. So basically, we suck.”
: “Any plans for college or anything?”
: “I don’t know if college is really in the cards for me.”
: “Why do you say that?”
: “Well, after my sister died, my parents aren’t really themselves. They’ve had a rocky relationship as it is. So I think if I left, everything would fall apart.”
: “But that’s not your job. You don’t have to keep your parents together.”
: “Do either of you have jobs?”
: “I used to deliver papers, but nothing lately. Now my dad pays me to proofread the things he writes.”
: Here’s what I really hate about this cutscene. They’ve already used a lot of words, and we’ve learned surprisingly little. I feel like Andrew Allanson must’ve had a motivational poster on his wall reading “TELL, DON’T SHOW” or something.
: “Oh yeah, and Alex is unemployed.”
: “I might be able to get you a job at Planet VHS.”
: “Oh yeah. No, I’m good. I’m just holding out for the right job. I’m not really in a rush.”
: “Didn’t you tell me on the way that your mom lost her job and you needed to help her out?”
: Wait, wha- did they just… did they just summarize to almost avoid repeating a plot point we’ve already known about? My god. Why couldn’t they have done this FOR THIS ENTIRE FUCKING CUTSCENE?
: “I think she was just saying that. But I know she wouldn’t want to push me into anything I’m not ready for.”
: “Did you go to college?”
: “Yeah, I graduated earlier this year. I have my B.L.A.”
: I have never heard anyone refer to a degree that way in casual conversation. It’s an actual term - Bachelor of Liberal Arts - but still.
: I wish I had kept a count of typos in the script, but that’s at least the third one I’ve noticed.
: “I’ll find something. I just need to hold out a bit longer til it feels right.”
: “Jetset City” is obviously a stand-in for Jersey City. I’d look up whether Frankton is a stand-in name for an actual place in New Jersey, but I’m too lazy.
: I’m not exaggerating. I didn’t want to remember any of it. It was so pathetic.The more I thought about my life up to then, the more I hated myself."
: “It wasn’t that I hadn’t been happy or hadn’t enjoyed my high school experience. I could recall a handful of really great times. But if you added them up, the shameful, painful memories far outnumbered the others.”
: “When I thought of how I’d been living, how I’d been approaching life, it was all so trite, so miserably pointless. When I made it to college, I knew this was a time for reinvention.”
: “All I needed to do was imagine the Alex I wanted to be and work towards him. Forget the old Alex and be someone worth being.”
: God, he is such a fucking tool! And the thing is, I don’t think the devs were doing this in a way that was like “Oh, that’s how you’re meant to see it, he’s supposed to be that way”, they probably thought it was actually good writing! Fuck!
: “So anyway, I got to college. Made friends with people I never thought I’d hang out with, got interested in poetry, started listening to Dylan.”
: “I was in with the hip crowd, but being hip doesn’t mean you have direction. That isn’t to say some of the kids I met weren’t going places and I hear many of them did.”
: Okay, so we’re at a train station that we apparently took the bus to? This looks way too anime. Let’s just take a break and grab that trash can and…
: Nope! The game forces us straight into another cutscene.
: “Yeah. I am.”
: “You don’t sound so excited!”
: “It’s just scary. Not the leaving home part, I don’t care about that. But you have four years to ensure that you have a future. That’s a lot of pressure isn’t it?”
: “When my parents were kids, you didn’t HAVE to go to college. I bet, in 10 years, you’ll need your master’s to even be considered for a job.”
: “I’m also scared of the debt, you know?”
: “Did your parents set up a college fund?”
: “Nah. They didn’t really have that kind of money. They did good for a while, but my dad’s work hasn’t been going so well.”
: “Do you know what you want to go for?”
: “It’s 1999 and the economy is terrible compared to my parents’ day.”
: The economy was actually good in 1999 due to the fact that the dot-com bubble was still a thing. Even after the bubble popped, nothing was really that bad until the financial meltdown in 2007.
: “Imagine what it will be like for our kids’ kids if we don’t get our shit together.”
: This reminds me of that one page in the Doom comic.
: “Yeah, it’s scary. But you need to face that reality eventually. What are you leaning towards?”
: “Computers, probably. Maybe I’ll make computer games.”
: OH! Michael’s a self-insert too. I hadn’t realized.
: “Huh. I have no idea. I wonder if they have to translate programming languages.”
: “They don’t. All programming is done in English, unless you’re working in pure binary. Then you have just ones and zeroes.”
: 01010100 01001000 01001001 01010011 00100000 01000111 01000001 01001101 01000101 00100000 01010011 01010101 01011000
: “How do you know this?”
: “Oh yeah. I’ve tried making games before. I used Objective C. It’s pretty fun. Not great at making graphics, but I’m getting there.”
: Just going to skip the next five textboxes because even the game admits they’re pointless.
: This part is particularly fucking egregious. See how there’s stores here? We can’t go in any of them until we’ve gone to Burger Joint. You can’t see it very well, but right next to the “Toys & Sports” store is the Planet VHS Rory ostensibly works at. Worse, after we do the Burger Joint cutscene, we STILL can’t go in any of the stores except the Record Stop next door.
: “Michael, concerned about the future. Rory, who had something to aspire to.”
: “At the time I told myself I had a purpose: I was looking for Semi Pak. I was going to find her, save her, I don’t know. Something was going to happen. Somehow there would be meaning in all this craziness.”
: I really can’t think of anything more exciting you could do in a game than watch people make uncomfortable small talk.
: “Really seems like the world is going to shit, doesn’t it? First Alex loses Sammy, I lose Carrie, the economy is tanking. Future looks bleak in 1999, boys.”
: By mid-1999, local news stations would run shit about Y2K all the time. It was 1999’s equivalent of those days where they have the weather guy standing on the tarmac at the airport so they can say there’s a heat wave. The fact that this is the first time they even mention the thing their game is named after, and that they do it in a completely irrelevant small-talk segment, does not bode well.
: “This will cause various problems with dates and finances, and will probably cause a big mess. People all over the world are panicking.”
: So, let’s talk about the real Y2K ‘crisis’ for a bit. It wasn’t really a crisis. The problem had been thought about for years before 1999, and by 1998 the U.S. government had an entire task force devoted to solving any Y2K-related issues before they popped up. It got to the point where there was even an international body called the International Y2K Cooperation Center that formed specifically to address this problem.
: Most private organizations that had systems that might’ve been effected had long since patched it or found workarounds by the time January 2000 hit. By the time all was said and done, according to the BBC over $300 billion had been spent globally to mitigate Y2K.
: So, did anything actually happen? Not really. Wikipedia has a list of possible Y2K bugs, and the worst was a minor issue at a nuclear plant in Japan that may not have even had anything to do with Y2K in the first place. In fact, there’s a lot of people who argue that the entire Y2K taskforce was a gigantic waste of money because plenty of systems that hadn’t been “Y2K-prepped” never had any issues.
: Really, the only silver lining to the Y2K ‘crisis’ was that it helped mitigate the effects of 9/11.
: One other thing I found that was kind of amusing was that apparently, there was a miniature “Y2k10” crisis in Germany revolving around a credit card system not being able to handle a date of 01/01/2010.
: “What’s wrong with you guys?! That could cause serious problems! This is crazy. How have I never heard of this before?”
: “Probably because you live under a posh little rock and only hear about the things your mommy wants you to hear about.”
: “Screw you, man.”
: “Maybe that’s why everything is going to shit. Maybe the world will end in the year 2000, we’ll all die, and our souls will float up into the Soul Space.”
: Maybe I died in 2000 and this is what hell looks like.
: “Could you imagine?”
: “Do you really think Y2K could have something to do with Sammy’s disappearance?”
: “No, I mean, that’s a computer problem, right? But then again, the world does feel like it’s falling apart - all that war and what not overseas.”
: “What wars?”
: I really, really don’t get where the fuck this conversation is going, or why they’re having it, or really anything at this point. My brain shut off like thirty text boxes ago. I also took the liberty of fact-checking this, because at this point doing research is less boring than this game is. All of them check out, but with the time skip the Kosovo War would either already be over or be very close to being over - it ended in June of 1999.
: “I had no idea there were so many wars happening. What are they fighting over?”
: In order: the border between Ethiopia and Somalia, Communism, the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, separation from Yugoslavia and the persecution of the Albanians by the Serbs, the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and overthrowing the government of Sierra Leone but also diamonds and PMCs.
: “Isn’t that what war is usually about? War for war’s sake?”
: Who the fuck are you, Kazuhira Benedict McDonell Miller?
: “I’m so uninformed. Geeze, I used to read the newspaper in college, but now all I read is ONISM 1999.”
: I feel like this was supposed to be the setup for a stupid Family Guy style “joke”, but they never deliver.
: The record store cutscene is a whopping eleven textboxes long, and all they really needed was this one. So we’re free of the godawful cutscenes now, right? …right?
: Nope, because we need to get on the bus again!
: “There was something fun about our little quest for this record.”
: No there isn’t! No there fucking isn’t!
: “Far from my mind were the things that brought me here: Sammy’s disappearance, the entities, Vella.”
: You thought about Sammy in the fucking burger place! You know, where you just were not even minutes ago! You fucking assclown!
: “Vella - she was probably still mad at me, fuming away at her arcade, taking out her anger at me on unsuspecting tweens. I wondered why she didn’t want us to find the record.”
: “I wondered if she had some bad memories associated with it or if there was something about entities that I didn’t know My mind turned to Y2K. Could the world really end this year?”
: “If you asked me six months ago I’d have laughed at you. But now that I’d seen so much strangeness, I could honestly say that stranger things have happened.”
: Welcome to Flag Town. There’s… really not much of a point to a lot of this place. The shops sell the same stuff we can get in Frankton, and nothing new has been added to them since we left. Let’s go hit the record store.
: "Hey man. I’m looking for this record, you’ve probably never heard of it. It’s called ‘Mystical Ultima LP Legend.’ I have the jacket, but I’m missing the record.
: This is Claudio, one of the two people who will shortly be joining our party. Claudio is… quite literally a black Travis Touchdown. The thing is, he’d have to be REALLY into anime to have a shirt like that in 1999. Importing stuff from Japan was not nearly as easy as it is today. I also like how they had to rip off Travis’s shirt rather than make something even vaguely original.
: “What?! Yeah, I mean. I go on there but how did you know?”
: I kind of hate all the characters in this game for being badly written, but Claudio has one thing going for him: he uses an actual weapon… even if it’s a katana.
: “I’m guessing it wasn’t you who posted it then, was it? Haven’t you checked the forum today? Someone posted a photo of this record jacket, and they’ve been asking people if they have a copy. They said it has to do with Semi Pak’s disappearance.”
: Typo counter: at least 5 that I know of.
: “I go on the forum too, obviously. Yeah, I’ve been following Semi’s story for a while. But aren’t you the guy who posted the photos of her last known location?”
: “I am. But – wow-- it’s just-- I had no idea anyone around here even knew about Semi. I’m just shocked.”
: RIP punctuation.
: “I’m Alex. This is Michael, he is the one who took the photos. This guy here is Rory. He also lurks on ONISM.”
: “Great. So you’re looking for Mystical LP, huh? Well, sorry we don’t got it.”
: “But I do know where you can get it! It’s going to sound a bit odd. Hell, you know what? I’ll come with you. I own this stupid place, I can take a break whenever I want.”
: “Yeah, we’re down. Where do we go?”
: “He’s a really chill guy, a bit out there, but he has the biggest record collection on the east coast. He’s bound to have it!! Let me just grab my sister.”
: Gotta love how they go ahead and repeat shit we’ve already heard IN THIS SAME FUCKING CONVERSATION.
: The menu is now a clusterfuck. The four people on the left are our active battle party. I immediately dumped Rory for Chondra, because she has an actual attack. However… let’s talk about what happened when I tried to equip Claudio and Chondra.
: “Timrod,” I say to myself, “You should probably get some battle footage with Claudio and Chondra, and maybe show off their stats to cap off what is otherwise going to be an entire update of nothing but cutscenes.”
: First, I went and explored the town. Flag Town is very big, in that it’s bigger than Frankton, but also very empty in that the only “hidden” chest is in this dipshit maze over here. It’s a pog.
: Then, I say to myself “I’ve been pretty stingy with money, but we’re fucking loaded. Let’s go get some proper equipment for the new party members because we have none.” What you’re looking at right here is a softlock.
Apparently, the game has a bug where if you are within interaction range of an NPC that brings up a menu (basically any shop owner) and attempt to open the main menu to, say, equip your characters and take a look at their stats, the game stores the menu state and then locks up if you hit F2 (the menu key) again. I got a video of this. You’ll notice menu sounds - that’s me pressing buttons. I took this as a sign from the gods that this update would not in fact be the update where I show off any actual gameplay.
: I’m going to end the update on that softlock, but here’s something that also pissed me off. See these? This is the equipment store’s loadout right now - the only things missing are the default weapons for Claudio and Chondra, which aren’t visible. They sell flip-flops THAT DO FUCKING NOTHING. JUST LIKE THIS GODDAMN GAME. IT’S LIKE A FUCKING METAPHOR!
Next time, we’ll head to the mountain and hopefully get some actual gameplay in, and not softlock a third time this game.