The world of visual novels is something that hasn’t really been embraced in the western gaming market due to the nature of the gameplay, or lack thereof. They’re more like interactive fiction that are text-heavy and less involving than even David Cage games (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls). However, they do tend to succeed in being story-centric, and developers of other genres could stand to learn a thing or two from it. Dysfunction Systems is another title that follows this vein, and it does well enough for itself.
Dysfunction Systems is being worked on by Dischan Media to later become a whole series of visual novels. If you’re not that interested in these kinds of games, then you may pass this one up. However, if you liked games such as Katawa Shoujo, then you should look into this one.The unusual title is quite a curiosity that later makes sense as players soon get into the story. Learning to Manage Chaos is the first episode, and it does seem like there will be a sequel due to how the story and pacing feels like, which is like an introduction to this series. It spends so much time in exposition to make the players understand what’s going on and what to expect that you only feel fully settled in as it’s just about to end.
The story is about Winter Harrison and Cyrus Addington, two mediators who were educated in the School Mediatorum on the trade of resolving conflicts in other worlds. Winter is a rookie who is still mostly innocent and finds the concept of other worlds to be rather hard to grasp. Cyrus is assigned as her partner, a veteran mediator with a bit of an infamous reputation. They have been sent to Brighton, a minor society in the industrial world of Sule, to resolve whatever is going on there. The futuristic dystopian setting sets the tone for what turns out to be mad and quite chaotic.
For starters, it does have pretty good presentation. The artwork put into this game is quite nice, with all the smooth lines and soothing colors that flesh out the characters and the in-game world. It’s actually better than a lot of the animation series that have been coming out of Japan lately. The characters are well-designed as they are quite interesting, not entirely one-dimensional, and do well in being a part of the story. There is also a Codex that contains all the information you may need to understand the in-game lore, which may be necessary since this game does introduce a lot of concepts in its world.
For a game that is supposed to be about choices, this one doesn’t offer a lot of them. There are two possible endings, which is perhaps not enough these days with other game genres having gotten into the whole multiple ending palaver. The story is pretty immersive though, even if it does take a while to get things going. Perhaps that’s one of the flaws in this genre as it’s all about being told whatever you need to know about the story, even though it’s supposed to be visual. Most other video games would just show it to you, which is what interactive media is supposed to be in the first place when it comes to narrative.
Since it spends most of its time getting players up to speed with the world and whatever goes on in it, a sequel is quite inevitable. The game’s profile feature will enable you to continue in the second episode where this one left off. You get to save a profile when you finish a game, so you can have multiple profiles to see more of how the story develops with different decisions made.
As a visual novel, it’s actually quite alright, although not as compelling as 2012′s Katawa Shoujo. The quality of this game will be wholly dependent on how good the next episode is. If you do want to get into this title, then you’ll have to wait for the sequel, and perhaps a discount as well. In any case, it’s on Steam for around $5 though, so it won’t be much of a discount anyway. Considering the price point, it’s quite alright.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6/10