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  • John Bush

Game Review #518: Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: John B

Developer: Idea Factory

Publisher: Aksys Games

Category: Visual Novel

Release Date: 4.23.2020

Price: $39.99

Watch the Trailer

Buy Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

Visual novels are not exactly a genre that is high on my list of favorites. I don’t have anything against them, necessarily; their similarity to graphic novels – of which I am a huge fan – should translate into some degree of fondness, but the difference is significant enough that it doesn’t. The graphic novel panel format makes for a more dynamic visual presentation. While VNs do provide some pretty cool event images one in a while, the overwhelming majority of the games are presented in straight dialogue boxes with mostly static character portraits and backgrounds. Basically, the storyline for a visual novel has to be completely friggin’ awesome for it to catch and retain my attention for very long.

Cracking the Code

Code: Realize ~Guardian of Rebirth~ is a visual novel that first released on the Sony systems a few years ago. The elevator pitch for the game is shoujo Penny Dreadful; several characters from classic literature – Arsene Lupin, Victor Frankenstein, and Abraham Van Helsing, just to name a few – rally around a mysterious young woman named Cardia to stop a secret organization from plunging their Victorian-era steampunk world into eternal warfare. It seems like a cool premise; I haven’t played it, though. Today’s review is for the fan disc follow-up, Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~.

We All Need Somebody to Lean On

The game is pretty cool, even if it’s more of a visual short story anthology than visual novel. No, the biggest issue with the game is that it’s not a standalone experience; upon picking it up for the first time I was expecting a sequel to the original game; maybe there would be some callbacks, sure, but it’s not like everything about the game would depend on knowledge you don’t really have if you didn’t play the first game, right? WRONG. What I got was a short epilogue and some vignettes featuring side characters. You can play through one of five epilogues featuring each of the five romanceable characters from the original game, as well as three additional short stories; two of which feature characters from the original game, one of which features some new minor characters who aid Cardia in her run-in with the mafia.

You Really Had to Be There

Again, the story, world, and characters from Guardian of Rebirth seem really cool – but I haven’t experienced their original adventure with them. Playing Future Blessings is like trying the watch the last season of a show when all you’ve seen before is the Wikipedia plot summary. That doesn’t make it bad, but it just feels incomplete if you haven’t played the first game despite all of the recapping the game does. There is a library mode that fills in some of the blanks on the world’s lore and terminology; it helps a little, but the feeling that I was missing something still permeated the whole experience.

Visual Blessings

And it’s a shame, too, because the game’s production values are pretty high. It features some very attractive anime-styled art for its character portraits, backgrounds, and event scene CGs. The big problem is one I find in all VNs; a lack of visual variety. Once a character is introduced, there is little to no variation in their character portrait, meaning the game can get visually dull for long stretches of exposition. Event CG provides some relief, but these are few and far between. The game’s audio features some top-notch voice work (I assume; it’s all in Japanese but it sounds fine to me). When there is music it largely fades into the background, as do the game’s occasional sound effects.

Gallery of Rebirth

~Future Blessings~ features a lot of extras for players to enjoy, as well. You can view CG images, listen to the game’s soundtrack, and watch the opening and ending movies in the game’s gallery. Finishing each of the game’s eight different storylines unlocks a short scene in the Delly’s Room mode. Delly is short for Delacroix II; he’s a young boy who is part of Cardia’s circle of friends and lord of all vampires in England. Despite his power, he’s mostly played for laughs and the Delly’s Room extras are just lighthearted examples of his awkwardness and youthful folly. They’re still pretty fun.

If You Guarded the Rebirth, You’ll Enjoy Your Future Blessings

I really wish the original game’s story would get grafted onto an RPG of some sort; Idea Factory produces some great RPGs and/or works with some studios that do good work in that area, so it’s not a total pipe dream, right? As far as ~Future Blessings~ itself, I think it would probably be a great experience for fans of the first game. If you don’t have any exposure to ~Guardian of Rebirth~, however, you’ll get some good art and decently entertaining vignettes, but you’ll spend the whole time feeling like you’re missing something important while the characters dance around explaining previous events as clinically and succinctly as possible. Pick up Guardian before trying this one; the story seems really good and ~Future Blessings~ doesn’t stand alone at all.

Score: 6/10

Buy Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.

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*A game code was provided for review purposes

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