Saturday, February 9, 2019


I finished playing Anodyne!  Not only did I get through the main game, but I also went ahead and used a guide to get through all of the post-game content as well.

Anodyne is a bit difficult to explain.  It is somewhat of a cross between Link's Awakening and Yume Nikki, with a hint of Earthbound.  But it is not really any of those three things directly.  To call it a "zelda-like adventure game" would be most accurate in terms of its gameplay, but you wouldn't really play Anodyne if you are simply looking to play something like Link's Awakening.  I think the people who enjoyed Yume Nikki would be most likely to enjoy Anodyne.

I actually quite enjoyed going through the game.  I thought exploring the various different areas and interacting with all of the auxiliary NPCs and such was pretty interesting, especially once you got to some of the darker areas such as the Red Sea and Young Town.

Anodyne doesn't lay anything out clearly and plainly for you.  You know that metaphorically, you are supposed to be exploring different areas of Young's consciousness/inner mind, and thus you are getting a look into various aspects of his persona, conflicting parts of his troubled mind, glimpses into what could represent traumas or issues in his life.  But as with a game like Yume Nikki, none of it is really explained for you, it's all very tangential and a bit obtuse.  But I think that really worked for me.  Since the game uses a lot of dialogue, there is a lot more to grasp onto than something like Yume Nikki.  In Yume Nikki there are a lot of really crazy environments and things to drive your imagination wild in terms of speculation -- "Why is there a disembodied hand with an eyeball in the middle of it?".  However there are also a lot of scenes and situations where unless you're really trying, you might not read into it as much.  There's a scene in Yume Nikki where you can see three Toringens having a party of sorts, but you can't reach the actual area where they are.  A lot of people interpret this to point to some sort of social isolation (Madotsuki's isolation is a central theme from the very start of the game), which makes perfect sense.  But I can also see people stumbling across that scene and not really thinking that deeply about it too.

So while Yume Nikki kind of plays like a visit to an art museum about abstract art, Anodyne with its dialogue leaves you with a lot more metaphorical bread crumbs, so it's a bit more like reading poetry.  You still don't know what it's about, but I think you feel a bit more guided.  That is certainly not to say that Anodyne is better or worse than Yume Nikki, I just wanted to illustrate the difference in the two that I felt since I think Yume Nikki is the closest thing I can think of in order to draw a comparison.

In terms of gameplay, Anodyne actually offers a surprising depth of simple puzzles and dungeon exploration for a game which really isn't about the mechanics.  There really isn't any part of Anodyne's gameplay that really "impressed" me per se, but it did a great job of keeping me engaged enough to keep proceeding through the world as I gathered the different collectibles and such.  So that's what I mean in terms of it being halfway between Yume Nikki and Link's Awakening, where the gameplay isn't nearly as deep as you would expect from a full-on adventure game, and there isn't as much to explore and lose yourself in as there is in Yume Nikki, but there is about 50% of both, and somehow that actually combined to form a pretty enjoyable experience for me.

That said, Anodyne is not without its flaws, and this is echoed by this post from Sean himself.  Interestingly enough, I found the auxiliary quests and exploration to be pretty fun, but the main narrative thread with Sage and Briar was a bit lost on me.  Perhaps this was the one point at which I felt like the game was simply spread too thin into perhaps one more bucket than it felt was right.

Going through the post-game content was interesting -- I feel like it was definitely the least fleshed-out portion of the game (understandably so).  I think going out of bounds and such was interesting and spoke to a more Yume Nikki-like aspect of unbridled exploration, but at the same time there just isn't enough content there to make it feel like it really is unbridled exploration in Yume Nikki.  So it boils down to more like "oh, there are some hidden secrets that I can access now", which is why I felt compelled to just get at them using a guide.  Interestingly enough, I felt like the 50-card door (which is unopenable and doesn't have anything else after it anyways) was sort of a more fitting "conclusion" to Anodyne than the "normal ending".  Perhaps the issue with the normal ending is that it's too much of a shift in tone (?).  For most of the game it really felt like I was exploring -- experiencing, Young's inner conflicts, feelings, subconscious thoughts, etc.  But at the end of the game there is a shift to more of a sense that you are conquering the problems, and taking a step forward towards something new.  I think it was difficult for me to really connect with that payoff in the end because as a character I feel like Young hadn't really been changing or developing through this process of exploration.  You could say that the thing that allowed Young to change was collecting all of the cards, "making new friends" and in a sense feeling not alone anymore, or to confront his inner demons (the guardians of the dungeons, perhaps?).  But both the guardian bosses and the final fight played so much more like traditional top-down action bosses, I felt like it was more like "oh, okay, suddenly I'm the hero fighting a monster".  And I think that caused some dissonance with the narrative of sorting through this troubled inner subconsciousness.

Anyways, that's what I have to say about that!  In the end I did enjoy the game and what it did have to offer, so I have no regrets about playing it.

I've started playing Dead Cells now, so we'll see how that ends up panning out!

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