don't take it personally, babe, it just ain't your story

Usually I prefer to leave visual novels to Scarlet, but this turned out to be fairly interesting. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it would be its place of origin – it’s a free visual novel developed by Christine Love, who lives in Canada. Needless to say, it’s rare that we see visual novels coming from the western hemisphere, and no one usually expects anything much from Western visual novels. However, this was actually a fairly deep and intriguing novel, with lots of love at its heart.

I’ll try not to give away too many spoilers in this post, since I think it would be best if you just went out and played this. Actually, if you haven’t yet, I’d like for you to go play it right now. It doesn’t take very long to play through – I managed to finish it in just over two hours, which is not long by any standard I know of.

Are you done playing yet? Good. dtipbijays is set in the somewhat-not-so-near-future, in the year 2027. The setting is apparently a prestigious high school, though that’s not really important and isn’t clarified. You play as a teacher who’s new to the job and only doing it for the money/because he has no alternative(At least, that’s sort of the impression I get). Despite that, he cares deeply for his students and does his best to teach them, even though he’s kind of fail as a teacher.

I’m sort of lazy so I’ll be stealing some screenshots from the home page rather than launching the game again just to take screenshots.

One of the most distinct differences in dtipbijays is the computer system, which allows you to periodically read up on messages and wall posts and other social stuff like that. Because you are a teacher at the school, you get access to all of your students’ messages, even their most private ones. The distinctive “ping” that the messages make is rather similar to modern distractions like IM/Mail/Twitter/Facebook, providing a constant stream of non-stop interruptions and distractions, which adds a pretty realistic touch to the setting.

I don’t quite like that you’re forced to read the messages whether you want to or not though. The game forces you to intrude onto your students’ privacy, and it really does make you feel like a bit of a voyeur at times. It’s impossible to play through without using the system at all – the game simply presents you with the same few repeated “reminders” to check your messages.

While it might make sense on the surface that it would be useful for a teacher to read his student’s private messages, it hinges upon the notion that either the students don’t care, or they’re completely unaware of it. Both are a bit weird to say the least. This issue is tackled in the ending of the novel, but in a way that feels rather half-hearted and weak to me. It does a good enough job of raising the question of “Why do you need privacy?” which is always a hard topic to answer, but it doesn’t provide a solid answer at all and just sort of cops out at the last minute.

The cast in dtipbijays is really quite intriguing, too. Most Japanese visual novels tend to follow set archetypes by now, with the same old character tropes being played over and over again. Of course, these same tropes don’t really exist in the Western visual novel world, mostly because there isn’t one, so dtipbijays has rather refreshingly original characters. While it does have the stereotypical bookish girl, the quiet girl and the popular girl, it introduces two characters that are “weeaboos” as they refer to themselves.

I don’t really think that dtipbijays really understands the concept though. It seems as though it’s a very shallow representation of the “weeaboo” culture, lacking many important aspects to it. The game incorporates a website within itself, 12channel (not 12chan), which is essentially 4chan’s /a/ and /jp/ boards merged together. This is where most of the “weeaboo” information is released, with discussions on the last episode of an anime, general waifu discussions and visual novel discussions. While it does capture the surface appearance of most actual 4chan-based discussions, there’s a fair bit of emptiness behind the initial facade, with most of the responses being very shallow and not making too much sense.

In short, I don’t think it’s an accurate portrayal of either weeaboos or 4chan in any way. The first is simply lacking in vigour, while the latter is not nearly ruthless enough. It needs more things like “get out of 12channel” or “QUALITY CONTROL”. While it references some common trends like greentexting(which is used to point out implications, or to refer to something in a more third-personish view), mfw(essentially a pointless statement that says you can’t believe it), and reaction images(do I really have to explain this?), it doesn’t capture the true spirit of these boards and it’s just disappointing in general.

Of course, dtipbitays isn’t only about weeaboos. Most of the game revolves around the students, which might be surprising to some people who are too used to having their games revolve around them. While there is the possibly of a love route being opened, the game itself isn’t overly concerned with building a harem for the viewer, and instead focuses on the interplay between the different students and their relationships with each other. It also tackles issues like homosexuality with confidence, which is something that this game can tackle only because it’s an Indie game rather than a commercial Western game.

It’s rare to see so many gays and lesbians in a single visual novel like this – most of such visual novels in Japan are directed either solely towards males(Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo) or females(Cross Days) with plenty of H scenes, this game actually contains a pretty balanced mix of all types, with straight, gay and lesbian characters all out in the open and not ashamed about it. This is rather hard for the player(the teacher) to manage, since he himself only has experience with the other sex, so he doesn’t know how to advise the students in these situations.

The game also plays a fair bit around with the concept of homophobia, although most of the characters aren’t too discriminating. I found myself wondering whether or not to push a pair of males towards each other or to just step back and see what happens – essentially washing my hands of all responsibility in what happens. I ended up choosing the latter, simply because I thought it would be better not to get involved and risk being blamed if anything bad happened.

Interestingly enough, when the same kind of choice happened in a later act with a pair of females instead, I chose to give advice that would lead to a confession of love rather than steer her away from it. (This can probably be read into in a way that’s pretty bad for me, but I don’t really mind so much.) Both cases seem to end (SPOILER ALERT!) in the same way, with the characters falling in love and pairing up. I think it’s a bit disappointing that the game doesn’t seem to care what you choose for those parts, though that’s probably a realistic take on the matter. Just because you’re dispensing advice doesn’t mean that you have direct control over your student’s affairs, and you certainly shouldn’t be getting in-between people’s love.

One of the most interesting personalities in the game is Taylor, who is initially portrayed as one of the “popular” girls who goes out to parties alot and all that jazz. When the game starts, she’s suffering from a break-up with one of the males, and her reaction to it is rather obsessive. Her goals throughout the game involve going all-out to get him back, which has a strong negative effect on some characters.

Although she’s acting quite selfishly, her justification for it is actually rather interesting to hear. No one else is going to look out for her, so she should look out for herself! Why should she care about anyone else’s feelings, no one else cares about hers!

It’s an argument that’s inherently flawed – because she doesn’t treat others well, others tend to treat her badly. Taylor realizes this, and adds another justification: She tried treating others well before, but it didn’t change anything and she was still treated as a bitch. However, this isn’t really true – she treated others well in a way that she thought they wanted, but didn’t really realize that she didn’t do enough or that she wasn’t doing the right things. Her lack of empathy fuels her heartlessness and perpetuates the cycle, even though she really just wants to be friends with everyone.

It’s kind of sad.

I’m about done saying most of what I have to say about dtipbijays. It’s a pretty good visual novel by visual novel standards, and it has an interesting concept which it explores sufficiently.

However, since this is a Western Visual Novel meant for a Western audience, there are some issues that apply only to them. The first would be the inclusion of a love route with a student. While this is amusingly ordinary in most cases for Japanese Visual Novels, Western audiences are simply not used to this, and so many accusations of paedophilia(really?) were flung about after its release. Personally, I couldn’t care less about that. If you don’t like it you’re free not to pursue the route – the game doesn’t force it onto you and it’s something you have to embrace by yourself.

The second is the art style. While it’s of course normal for a Visual Novel to have “anime-style” graphics, some people seem to take offense at it. I have to wonder though, why? I’ll bet these people would have nothing against cel-shaded games like Crackdown, or have had no issue against watching Disney/Pixar movies. So why the sudden disdain for this style? Or rather, why even care? This game isn’t about the visuals – they don’t form the majority of the game, and they’re just there to supplement the traditional “imagination” part of reading novels. You can simply read just the text, and it would work just as well.

I think it would be best to end this review with a shout out to Rock Paper Shotgun, which is an awesome PC Gaming site that has a fantastic writing staff. PC Gaming since 1873 indeed. Here’s a link to their much more clearly written review of the same game, which is probably better than this one that you just finished reading. Sorry about that.