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Review: Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage ChaosDysfunctional Systems visual novel Dischan Media PC indie
Developer: Dischan Media
Publisher: Dischan Media
Platform: PC (Web)
Release Date: March 4, 2013
ESRB: N/A (14+ recommended)
A review code was provided by the publisher for this review
Visual novels are becoming more and more popular now. Publishers are more eager to localize them and indie developers are wanting to jump on the train (especially with the advent of Kickstarter and other crowdsourcing sites). With the rising presence of visual novels in the gaming community, they’ve become a hot debate topic. “Are they even video games?” “How can it be a game when there’s no gameplay?” Regardless of what you may think, there’s one fact about them that rings true – your decisions influence and shape the story.
Dysfunctional Systems is a new episodic visual novel that embraces the element of game-changing decisions. Not only that, but it decides to try something other than the typical romance and slice of life visual novels that we’re accustomed to. Dysfunctional Systems is labeled as a science fantasy type of visual novel, with some drama thrown in. You might be thinking, “science-y stuff might be a bit too much for me to gather in all at once.” I thought the same thing, too, and was intimidated when I first looked at the in-game codex that harbors information on fictional planets and so forth. Dischan does a great job at making it all easy to take in and comprehend, though, so don’t worry!
So, what is Dysfunctional Systems about anyway? This particular visual novel is the story of a 14-year old girl named Winter Harrison. In Winter’s universe, there are numerous worlds – many of which have troubling problems that need to be dealt with, lest they end up affecting Winter’s world as well. Those that that carry the responsibility of maintaining order among these planets are called “mediators,” which Winter has just become one of. And it’s just in the very first episode of Dysfunctional Systems, during her second “shadowing,” that the assignment is much more troubling than previously imagined.
Not only is the subject matter pretty unique and interesting; the writing is phenomenal as well. It does a remarkable job at grabbing your attention, completely engrossing you, and invoking a wide range of emotions. As a visual novel, there are also multiple paths in Dysfunctional Systems as well. Usually there are some different sentences here and there, but in this game, the sentences are written differently despite it being the same scenario in both paths. I thought that was a particularly nice touch and shows how much effort has gone into the writing. It’s quite a shame that Dysfunctional Systems happens to be episodic, and that the first episode feels too short. Waiting for the next episode is agonizing!
What initially grabbed my attention and really convinced me to play Dysfunctional Systems: Episode 1, though, was its art style and the animated scene in the trailer (which also makes an appearance in the game). It presents very crisp and beautiful anime-styled characters and backgrounds. The animated scene was amazing; especially considering this is coming from indie developers. I really hope there are more of those to come in future episodes. The soundtrack also compliments the art and mood (it is very much worth the additional purchase).
If you like visual novels even a tiny bit, Dysfunctional Systems is one that you should play and keep your eye on. Extraordinary story, writing, art, characters, and music. What more could you ask for? And with that, I feel like it could very well be the next Katawa Shoujo.
+ Unique subject matter with powerful writing/story; grips you completely
+ Well-composed music that does an exemplary job at setting the mood
+ Gorgeous art style
- It’s episodic, meaning you might be waiting a while in-between episodes
- This first episode feels rather short, even when going through both paths
Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)
Dysfunctional Systems is an indie visual novel that has the potential to become a fan favorite with its high-quality story, writing, art, and music.
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