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A Review on Pokemon Rejuvenation: When Love Lies

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Well it's about that time I talked about Rejuvenation again. Rejuvenation to me is kind of like Kingdom Hearts. The story at points makes me want to chuck the game at a wall and never look at it again, but it somehow manages to come crawling back and I somehow am still playing both. I really have a rollercoaster with this game but it's gotten better. It's like eating a fantastic meal while standing in a pool of black tar. It's an experience you can find quite a bit of enjoyment out of but at the end of the day you are in a pool of black tar which certainly isn't somewhere you'd want to be right now. That really sums up my thoughts of When Love Lies (or WLL for short).

 

This is normally the part where I put a score and send you on your way, but we have an interesting situation here. Should this be considered part of the official game or a standalone game? You may hear the term DLC for this game, but perhaps it could be considered a spin-off instead. From a player standpoint, this idea would mean little, but from a critical standpoint it can make a huge difference. In fact, I think I'd have different scores for each basis. There's a lot of pulling and pushing due to this in which I'd give it a no score. I do not think a number would really give a reasonable comprehension of my thoughts on this game. But so that people will actually read this review, the two scores would be 8.5/10 and 5/10 which does not mean the actual score would be like 7.25/10. These numbers will only make sense if you read what I say.

 

Let's just start with the basic stuff that's similar to Rejuvenation. The maps are kind of what you'd expect but they'll likely feel like a massive downgrade compared to V11. The graphics are good, but you might be slightly disappointed they aren't always at the level of V11 due to this being made in V10. The trainer sprites also share this fate not having Zumi's new style which likely is pretty glaring. It's like playing Kingdom Hearts 3 and looking at Kingdom Hearts 2. The graphics aren't bad, but they may give off a dated look. Personally it didn't really bother me all that much but I do have to bring it up because graphics are an important part of any game. Also I'm like the one crazy person who think Kingdom Hearts 2 looks way better than Kingdom Hearts 3. The simpler style I felt was more attractive to the eye. The music is what you'd kind of expect given this is a Reborn-esque (I hope I spelled that right) game. If you know of Reborn or Rejuv, you'd know what to expect here and honestly this isn't why you'd even try or download this fan-game.

 

WLL is kind of an odd duck since it's the type of fan-game you don't really see. When people talk about fan-games, I think the minds of people have been warped into believing that they have to be these grand adventures where you explore lots of badges to get strong and become the champion. This is actually entirely false because a game's length does not determine how good it is. A game's difficulty doesn't determine how good it is. It all grinds down to the experience. That's why I feel it's a dangerous and destructive mindset to limit what a Pokemon game can be. WLL pretty much took this image of Pokemon and simply walked the opposite way. It's a short game where the narrative comes first and the reason you'd even play it. I actually wish more projects went with an approach like that because a really well done short game absolutely creams an okay long one. It's not always a simple task as making a short story is easier said then done. You have to tell a complete narrative in a small amount of time.

 

Let's first start off with the gameplay as it's pretty simple to explain. Instead of the freedom of choice to select whoever you want, we go back to good ole Colosseum where we have a limited selection of mons to choose from. They are all quite good, but you will be rather restricted until about mid chapter 2 as you start out with only Lucario and you do get locked into a party of 6 for a specific chapter. It's actually pretty cool as you have room to experiment and are forced to use mons you might not normally use. What you think is good and what is good may be two different things (bless you Shuckle). I do like how you go around and search for Pokemon even if you do get one wildcard if you find a hidden Ultra Ball. This limited selection of mons really helps incorporate them more into the narrative which is not possible using the normal Pokemon formula. People into difficulty are going to be disappointed as the game is much, much easier compared to Rejuvenation. I personally enjoyed this as it let me mess around and experiment with little worry it'd bit me in the ass and I'd have to grind on wild Pokemon. The final boss is quite a challenge but you are given plenty to help fight and take him down. I actually would enjoy something more along the lines of this difficult over Rejuv's normal mode. Not hard, but not easy enough where you don't have to think to get by. Also I worried about movesets with the level jump but thankfully there is always a free move tutor on hand to make use of just in case. I actually prefer this limited selection type of gameplay as it gives you room to experiment but you actually experiment more under those restrictions.

 

The reason to play this game isn't for the gameplay but the narrative design. Everything is made to flow well in a story as areas are small, you level up quite fast, and exploration is a minor focus (except for Route 3 hell). This change of style works quite well. In fact, I really, really enjoyed it. It feels more along the lines of a VN with combat incorporated over a Pokemon game with a story tacked on. Kenneth, the main character, actually speaks and he interacts with every NPC whether it be a generic one or even a trainer battle. They aren't like award winning strings of dialogue but the touch really does add an effect you normally don't see with Pokemon. It's the interactions that make me even spend time reading what generics say. Though I never did find out what was in that one locked house in Sheridan thinking back on it. But in all honesty, the talking protagonist really sold it for me to try this out. What's even cooler is that mons are involved in the story such as Kenneth's Lucario and Lapras.

 

Let's finally get to the meat of this review: the narrative itself. The story is separated into 4 chapters for a total length of roughly 10 hours I'd say. It's quite short with very little to do outside of the main story. That's not a bad thing. So we start off with Kenneth leaving 4 island giving us a backdrop of why he's going to Gearen City. If you've played Rejuvenation, you already know how this is all going to end. WLL is a tragedy which the title is both and not deceiving. Even if you haven't played Rejuvenation, the plot is actually pretty predictable in which you can probably figure out all the plot twists well in advance before they actually happen. I figured out the true end very quickly at the tail end of chapter 3. Even though all the events are predictable, I'd say that nearly everything is executed quite well from the buildup of Tesla and Kenneth's relationship to his marriage in Chapter 2 to even his breakdown in Chapter 4. These interactions often really hit home and remind you that you can do quite a lot with RMXP over the standard stand and one place and say generic save the world lines. I'd say chapter 2 had me going "Wow, this is actually really good" and I kept forgetting to take screenshots.

 

Something I don't think will ever get the praise it deserves is just how well this all flows even with the timeskips. My biggest complaint would be with the Tesla squad as we really don't get to see much of them outside of chapter 1 despite them all playing quite the roles in Rejuvenation itself (some minor with others major) where I still have a number of questions such as why Chasity's hair is purple. These are minor questions which I'm never expecting an answer. I said Jan has a knack for the side arcs and it really shows here as plot point to plot point really connect and all tie in together before burning up in flames...literally. I will say that some scenes were so well done that they are kind of unforgettable as that Sheridan Village Help Center will never look the same ever again. It is a tragedy after all, but even then I didn't expect something like that to come up and sting as much as it did. We even knew it was going to happen was the worst part. It's such a nice flowing narrative and I'm really glad I played through it.

 

Now it's time to talk about the black tar pit we're in. I highly recommend plaything through V11 before trying to tackle this as things will make much more sense then...somewhat. This has to do with the ending. This was a tragedy orchestrated by a group which I believe has some connection with the storm chasers though we know very little about it. You get a large dump of info explaining this was an orchestrated set of events based on a lie in order to change the future. It tries to shed some light on what they had to die and why in order to alter the future but I think it's best for all of us for me not to go into that pit of tar and make sense of it. There's the simple explanation and then there's the longer more headache one. The simple one is this: love conquers all and love will be what changes the future. We are left with small hints on who the big bad is and who caused those fires. In other words, there's still many unanswered question that would be nice to have known. Also don't like how a single Pokemon manages to do all these things and is that powerful but that's Pokedex entries for you.

 

This is the point where I get a bit controversial but this should answer that looming question over everyone's head. WLL is the retelling of information we know in a more redundant way. Remember how I said the plot was predictable. Well, it's probably even more predictable when you know how everything pans out. You only get one single thing lore wise out of this that wasn't in Rejuv: why were the fires created? Tesla and Kenneth could be argued about whether or not we'll ever find out but all the information we gained in WLL is in a better and more suitable format in the main game which we're likely to find out more about the fires later on. After all, a certain death bird has been making quite the appearances in there. I hate being blunt but I feel chapter 12 answered the questions that WLL answered better and in a much more interesting format and it's the story behind the interactions and knowledge beforehand what made WLL interesting in the first place.

 

Do I dislike WLL? Far, far from it. I'm merely saying scores are nonsense as it's simply a grade of how effective it is at it's job. WLL fails at being an expansion of the Rejuvenation story in which there's no point in playing WLL if that's what you care about. Personally, I believe it to be more of a separate side story that could be enjoyed on its own, but is actually enriched by having knowledge beforehand in which you and live and travel through a journey with a character you've grown to know over time. If you go into playing WLL, you should go into it expecting nothing more than simply an experience. Simply expect a story with a beginning and an ending with nothing more than simple tie ins with the main plot. It is a nice meal and one I really, really enjoyed. It's when I look at the big picture I see the many faults it carries hence the pool of tar. I really do enjoy these types of games and it's such an odd duck that I hope people take inspiration from this and approach Pokemon Fan-games differently.

 

Now that we're at the end, I suppose I should answer the question on the score. I totally think it's an 8.5 out of 10 game, right? Yeah...I hope you don't or you missed the entire point. Scores are simply a measure of faults. A 10 out of 10 means the game has little to no faults, right? I think that's a terrible system. I prefer to give something in which I believe how many people will enjoy the game. 8.5 would mean 85% of that particular group would enjoy this. We have an odd case as their are quite a number of factors to look at. It's a tragedy which manages to get a happy ending, it's a side game based off the content in Rejuvenation which can stand on its own for the most part, and it's a short game focused more on the narrative. While I enjoyed it more than Rejuvenation itself, I can certainly say it's not better which how do you score something like that? My complaints are also mostly wishes as I wished there was more dialogue and expansion of side characters like Chasity or we got to see the fire started from Venam and Amber's perspective. But the reason I say it's a no score instead of an 8.5 is actually this:

 

Spoiler

One of the numbers that first popped into my head was a 9. Yes, a 9 out of 10. I want you guys to understand two things: it's not worthy of a 9 out of 10 and I rarely ever would give anything the 9 or above score. 9 is going above and beyond what is expected in a flawless manner. WLL certainly reaches beyond expectations and really sets its own rules what can be done with the game. The issue is with the flawlessly. I don't mean the game is perfect but the faults are minor and don't take away from the game. Unfortunately I feel WLL is rough around the edges sometimes whether it be the AI, the graphics, weird tilesets, or the goddamn encounter rate. Ending with unanswered question isn't something I took into consideration as the ending did answer everything we needed to make the game feel complete. It's not a 9, but I don't want to give it anything less than a 9.

 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go build a shrine for Knuckles the Shuckle ('cause he don't chuckle) the MVP of the run. May your legacy live on.

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I feel like this style of  getting lost in the world of the game and being left to enjoy it without thoughts like "how im going to incorporate this part in my written run"   lets you have more enjoyable experience, and come back with more clear minded criticism when you write one thorough review in the end.  

 

WLL caused me feels in the end,  The only other game that caused them to a similar degree was PMD explorers of sky

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16 hours ago, DemICE said:

WLL caused me feels in the end,  The only other game that caused them to a similar degree was PMD explorers of sky

 

and that's how I see it as well. No other pokemon game made me feel as much as WLL did. That in itself tells me how much I really enjoyed this game.

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