|Genre||Text-Heavy Visual Novel|
|Score||4 Gameplay: 4
Fun Factor: 2
|Buy from Amazon|
Lux-Pain is a visual novel game for the Nintendo DS. Novel is an accurate description of this game's length and amount of reading. Lux-Pain took me about 21 hours to read/play through and compared to the other popular heavy reading games on the DS like Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk, has much less interactive gameplay and unfortunately, a much less polished translation. Visual novels are a big genre in Japan, but have never really made the transition overseas outside of the Ace Attorney series. Honestly the big difference is that Ace Attorney gets the localization it deserves whereas Lux-Pain's seems rushed and bland.
Anyways, Lux-Pain is not all bad. If you're a fan of this genre and like mysteries, this is probably right up your alley. It has a big story and starts off as a delicious cross between Persona 3, Phoenix Wright, and Heroes. It's a pretty serious game but has some great art and actually tons of voice acting. Lux-Pain offers a lot... if a bit scattered about. Let's get to my full review.
All scores are out of 10.
Not too much in terms of gameplay in Lux-Pain. You move to different locations via a town map, and then start a conversation with someone there. Talking with the locals typically goes on for at least five minutes, and even longer if you start getting distracted by the real world... Every once in a while, you'll find someone in need of help by reading their mind and seeing their Shinen. Shinen are strong emotions that start to bubble over. There's joy, sadness, anger, etc. and once you spot it, the conversation is over and the gameplay begins. You're given 90 seconds to "scratch" at the person and uncover their Shinen worms roaming about their body. It typically took me about eight seconds to accomplish this making me wonder how awful you have to be to take ten times that long.
So you've scratched out your friend's worms (...) and then you're allowed to see their inner thoughts. Words flash, float, and fall across the screen with different effects. There seem to be far too many people with anger issues that all they can think about is "DEATH" and "KILL", but that's Kisaragi city, it's a pretty messed up town.
Once in a while, someone will be so angry that their thoughts and emotions will be dangerous and they're ready to kill or commit suicide. At this point, you're going to face off against their Silent. A Silent seems to be a bunch of evil Shinen that have taken over the body and it's your job to exorcise them. A giant bug character appears on the top screen and you have to poke at its vulnerable spots on the bottom. It's very weird and there's absolutely no hint on what to do in the game. Basically the vulnerable spots are just circles that you have to use different strategies to defeat. Sometimes you poke at them as they glow white, other times they need to be shattered like glass, and still others need to be stretched out like some weird bondage experiment. There's only three different Silent circles in the whole game, it's really disappointing. The developers just up the difficulty by putting more on the screen at once, lame.
Fun Factor: 2
This game has an absolutely horrible localization that makes it very difficult to follow. The story itself is pretty convoluted and while I'm sure things made more sense in the original Japanese, laziness prevailed. There are a million inconsistencies, from the way character's names are spelled to exactly what country the game actually takes place in. The locations and characters are nearly all Japanese, from Kisaragi City to local girls Rui and Nami. Problems begin when they ask the main character if he can speak Japanese, or ask him about living in Japan and sometimes the United States. It's all so bizarre but only the tip of the iceberg.
Spelling errors abound, sometimes multiple times in one sentence. Grammatical errors are the norm and more often than not you're just wondering what the heck the other characters are talking about. It's obvious the localization team was in a rush when translating, I highly doubt there was even any proofreading. Sentences were probably translated and forgotten, and with an entire team doing this simultaneously, things just don't add up. Lux-Pain is a serious game, at least it tries to be. You'll find yourself battling the text more often than the Silent.
This is even more disappointing coming from a Phoenix Wright veteran. I've played all four games in that series and they're all masterfully translated. Characters are given new and appropriate names, and there are a ton of pop culture references to keep the dialogue fresh. It's pretty much the opposite in Lux-Pain. All the characters preserve their original names (I presume). Even at the end of the game I still didn't know who Yumiko or Tomoyo were. I don't mean to sound like I'm totally for Americanizing all the names, but I just couldn't get into anything when name after name flashes by without any point of reference. I think the issue is that there are simply too many characters that can appear at any time.
Maybe the worst of it all is that there is at least one game killing, your-save-is-worthless chapter where if you save after you mess up, it's permanent and there is nothing to but restart the entire game. The game does warn you that you should create multiple saves, but simply the fact that the game tells you to do it is messed up. Why is your game so broken that you have to warn the player that unless they make multiple saves, things are going to go really bad? As a tip, the chapter to watch out for is Chapter 7 (also about seven hours into the game).
Also, if you're a completionist, you may be ticked off to find out that there are three endings, bad, normal, and good. The good ending is not too hard to achieve (I did it without any help, and without even knowing it was the "good" ending"), but there are a couple missable things that will cause you to miss it if you're not careful. I can't imagine getting the normal ending and having to play this game all over to get the good ending... so much text, ugh.
Graphics and Sound: 7
There are a ton of characters in this game, I'd put it at around 40, and most of them have speaking parts. The voice acting isn't exceptional, but it's nice to listen to that instead of the endless text sometimes. The weird thing is that it's obvious some other team was responsible for writing the dialogue, the general tone is similar to the text... but it's spoken totally differently from what's written on the screen. It's actually a bit distracting. This game desperately needed a better localization and the team was unecessarily spread too thin.
Graphically, Lux-Pain finally excels. The character art is really well done and even if I couldn't pick someone out by name, their portrait typically did it for me. With a lot more than a handful of characters, the art team did a great job creating a wide range of recognizable, likable characters. The women are cute and it was always nice to talk to Rui or her sister Yui.
Can't forget the great background art, there are around 50 locations in Lux-Pain and each one is distinct, even if it's just a static background. What's Kohodo? Oh yeah, it's the bookstore. Even if the localization wasn't the best, the game is carried a bit by its art.
It's long, slightly confusing, and has a ton of characters that you will never be able to place by name, but Lux-Pain was still enjoyable enough for me to see it through the end. The story itself revolves around a town in Japan (or was it the United States... see the Fun Factor section), Kisaragi, suffering from a string of murders and suicides beyond the norm. A government organization called FORT is called in to investigate and resolve all the nastiness going on. FORT's investigation team is made up of a trio of mind-readers and Silent battlers, with Atsuki Saijo being the strongest. You control Atsuki as he enrolls in high school to get closer to some of the potential killers and victims while exploring the surrounding city.
Traveling to a location, whether it's in school or around town kicks off a conversation with someone, sometimes it advances the plot, but most of the time they just complain to you about their current life. Often there will be a group of kids talking and you'll listen in, Atsuki is quiet but he's not a silent protagonist. Once in a while you'll have the opportunity to react to something someone says by choosing an emotion, but unfortunately this is barely used after the first half of the game. Maybe that's a good thing though, most of the time the translation kind of ruins things. One character told me she was sad and asked what she should do to cheer up, I chose the laughter emotion and she got ticked off that I was laughing at her. Whatever.
The story of Lux-Pain is definitely interesting, there's a bit more dialogue than I could stand, but it was really held back by the poor localization. A bit of proofreading and consistency would have done wonders.
On paper, I don't think Lux-Pain has much going for it, at least for non-Japanese gamers who are typically more interested in battling demons with swords rather than words. This pretty much holds true while actually playing it too. Unless you're really into this genre, I think you'll just be tossing this game aside a few hours in. I'll point out again that if you're going to bring a game like Lux-Pain overseas, you need to translate and localize it properly. This is simply not an area that can be skimped on in such a text heavy game.
Remember, on the First Hour a 5 is simply average, so this score isn't all that bad, but I think you really need to consider whether you're up for 20 hours of reading before purchasing Lux-Pain. If you're a fan of Phoenix Wright or Hotel Dusk, definitely consider it though, as that will just consider publishers to bring more of these games over. And hopefully do a better job at it.