R1 -Doki Doki Literature Club - Visual Novel
Hey avid readers, and welcome to a new experimental series. In these reviews I will pick a piece of entertainment: a video game, TV-series, movies, books et cetera and well.. review it? Hey now, don't get any wrong ideas and let me finish talking.
The primary focus of this blog since the beginning has been to offer readers points of views to step out of the comfort bubble in which our beloved society has fixed us. Yeah, I'm not above anyone else and admit being in the same bubble as all of you are, perhaps even deeper. What I'm trying to say is, there's some really narrow-minded people out there who I want to focus on the most. Then again, there are those who are much wiser than me and could participate in a discussion. I would love to feature some discussions in one of these entries. I wish to be able to teach people or help them open their eyes to new things and ideas.
By doing this blog, I'm kind of throwing myself under the bus by being crazy honest to my audience and telling them sensitive stories. I've spent countless nights thinking about these posts and whatever consequences they might bring me. After all, I'm making myself vulnerable to a public audience with a legit nametag. As always, this is propably just overthinking.
Wasn't this supposed to be a review?
At this point you might be struggling to find relevance to the subject at hand. It's simple. These reviews will be centered towards the thoughts and questions elevated in terms of story, characters, environment and the overall concept, instead of focusing on the technical side of things. So, even though it's a game review, it's not targeted towards the gamer audience. This way I'll be able to hopefully keep the enticed audience satisfied by bringing the familiar content they've been receiving thus far.
One should expect mostly video game based reviews from the series, respecting the fact that I truly am a game enthusiast. For those who's more into discussing the technical execution and gameplay, I've also got plenty of reviews like that. We used to run a Tumblr review blog with a close friend of mine, where those reviews were originally posted. The blog is abandoned as of today.
Thanks for bearing with me through this lenghty intro. I felt an urge to educate viewers about this experimental format. The first review subject being a visual novel at heart, there's really not much to talk about apart from it's plotline. Okay, enough of that and let's finally get to the point. Oh, one more thing!
Doki Doki Literature Club.. Spoilers!
So, Doki Doki Literature Club is this fresh take on the visual novel genre. Released this September, a friend of mine hinted about a visual novel that could interest me. The link he attached featured a thumbnail picture of a cast of your everyday four anime girls. Dressed in cute schoolgirl outfits and cheerful smiles, I saw no particular interest in this. The cheery nature of this reminded me of another visual novel, which was utterly terrible.
I never bothered to even click the link and told this friend that I'd check it someday in the foreseeable future. Knowing me, that could mean anywhere from a couple days to five years. With all that said, I saw a video on Youtube which quickly mentioned a certain visual novel with an awfully familiar name.. Doki doki?
Did some research on it. This is a story camouflaged as a Japanese dating sim? Pure genius.!
"This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed."
It started as a normal story with our protagonist, Teppo, being dragged into a literature club by his childhood friend, Sayori, who also happens to be a member of said club. There are three other girls; Yuri, Natsuki and the club president, Monika. We'll get back to them in a minute. The story is basically about our Teppo having to adjust into these club meetings everyday after school.
Teppo also has an ulterior motive for staying, which would be to get close to one of these girls. The hopeless romantic he is. Sounds like me, anyway. Then, day after day you get to know these characters below the surface, reading their self-crafted poems. Poetry can tell an awful lot about someone. The most purest form of literature and poetry is when writing to one's self. You turn your inner feelings into text and that way, make yourself vulnerable to your readerbase and offer a glimpse not seen to the public eye. Again, sounds like me.
At first, all these girls seem pretty harmless with their own set of traits, nothing out of ordinary. Two days later, though, you have a pretty good idea of what's going on. Natsuki is experiencing anger management problems and abuse at home, Yuri has a tendency to cut herself and become mentally unstable when nervous and Sayori happens to have a crippling depression which ends up with her hanging herself. Monika on the other hand, seems to be fine and strangely aware of the other girls.
This game plays with your emotions, hard. First it gives you a heads up, "Individuals suffering from anxiety or depression may not have a safe experience playing this game." Like, thanks for the warning. As if I wasn't already mindfucked by all the bright colors and a title screen song that literally sings "Doki Doki!" in a cute way. And now this game is propably going to mess me up and leave me depressed? Okay, that's cool. I'm in.
You know, when you start playing, there's nothing even remotely threatening in the first hour or so. It's basically a dating sim and writing poets. However, when you're aware of the horror coming ahead, it's difficult to not feel uncomfortable by the subtlest of hints, which otherwise would seem totally harmless. Paranoid much? Fast forward three days. You're starting to feel like home at your new club; perhaps with a bunch of questions in your head but generally everything's fine.
Then your close friend Sayori decides to drop the bomb about her severe depression. Teppo, our white knight in shining armor, will be persistent to do anything he can to help Sayori over all of this, no matter how long it takes. After a touching moment of intimacy and reassurance, they become a couple. That relationship falls short, though, because Sayori decides to HANG HERSELF the next morning. For personal reasons, this gave me some serious chills afterwards. But yeah, not everything is fine in the Happy Happy Book Club. Those who haven't played the game wouldn't know the quirks of this game.
So, what basically happened there was the game giving you a comfortable chair to sit in, just to slowly cut off it's legs, quietly so you wouldn't notice until falling head first on the hard floor. The story starts again. This time without Sayori, or even a memory of Sayori. Now it's only Teppo and the three other girls. Only difference now is that the matrix is glitching like hell and you're still supposed to bond with some of the girls when there's clearly NO GOOD CHOICES LEFT. Let me clarify, just a minute.
With Sayori gone and Monika being the ring leader, you've got only Natsuki and Yuri left to impress. Over time, you'll see that Natsuki is having some serious glitch attacks with a tiny side-effect of her speaking over Teppo's mind. Like the demon itself, she says things that can only be heard by the player, which is rather spooky. Teppo remains completely unaware.
Yuri on the other hand is a whole different story. Although Monika clearly has her own set of issues, she seems like the only one you can feel slightly safe with. Lovely Yuri here has a crush on you and gets a little.. excited when spending time with you. If you interpreted being excited as saying things like,
"You dropped your pen the other day so I took it home for safekeeping, I really like this pen.." and later on going psycho on you, telling how:
"I want to slice you open and crawl inside you!"
Aaand ultimately being unable to handle all the excitement, she decides to stab herself to death right in front of you, then congratulations, you got it absolutely right!
At this point you should really be careful who you date with, for they seem to always end up killing themselves. Might as well have the same disclaimer "Individuals suffering from anxiety or depression may not have a safe experience" tattooed on your forehead. It turns out Monika was pulling the strings all along and killed off the other girls for her lust for love.
Monika knew always what's up and now you're stuck with her for all eternity, staring into her eyes and listening to her talking about random subjects. Worst of all, she knows your name. My character was named Teppo but she still called me Miko at some point. I had so bad chills, my neighbor could feel it. Is nothing sacred anymore?
So was the tale of Teppo and the four cute girls who pulled a successful festival where all of us read self-crafted poems and inspired new members to join the club. No feelings were harmed in any way, I swear. This game in fact, has inspired me to turn my own ancient game project into a visual novel sometime in the future. I can't do coding and never really had any specific gameplay elements figured out, but had the overall story and setting ready.
Visual novels are a great way to tell an impactful story and still treat it like a video game or a movie. Titles like DDLC show that if you've just the working idea and be the first one to deliver it, you can become viral without a bigger budget. It's insane! These people inspire me for their talent for writing really quality scripts. I'm still getting there but already am kind of proud what I'll be able to do with "Joyology", a Youtube series I debuted about a year ago and plan to continue for two whole seasons, producing future episodes when possible.
Not that I have much personal experience with it, but I've wondered how it's possible to write a script featuring a whole cast of different characters. I only have written as myself and have a hard time imagining writing such a story with multiple characters. Not only that, but because you're forced to step out of your regular writing style and sound a little more like someone else. Just a little confusing wallnut for me to crack. Most likely I'm just thinking too deep into it.
That was Doki Doki Literature Club analyzed as I played it myself. Now to wait for the next major mindfuck that is the spiritual successor to DDLC. Meanwhile, I'll just have to settle on some other stories, which hopefully treat my emotions a little more gently. Thanks for reading my first review here, love ya! If you got feedback, send me an E-mail. Stay safe, and remember..! Just Monika. OK?
"Sometimes you'll find yourself facing a difficult decision.. When that happens, don't forget to save your game! You never know when you might change your mind.." -Monika
Listen to my pain and delight: DDLC Main Theme – Dan Salvato
December 21th, 2017