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In a lot of circles, Trails to Azure has garnered itself a monolithic reputation as a legendary title within the genre. Suffice to say, I had some really big expectations for this game. As someone who absolutely loved both Sky SC and Zero, I was just about ready to join the choir and sing this game's unending praises.
That being said, did Azure manage to meet said expectations and fully deliver? Well, it's a complicated answer. Because while it did end up becoming my favorite game in the series, the flaws Azure and it's predecessors possess have been made more evident than ever before.
For all intents and purposes, I think Azure is a fantastic game. It's an incredibly refined experience with some of the best scenario writing and most bombastic storytelling the genre has to offer. The stakes are incredibly high and the fact that this game was even able to deliver on most of its ambitions is an absolute marvel to me.
That being said, I think Falcom can be a bit... overzealous with their storytelling in regards to this series. They're always trying to shake and subvert the foundation that the narrative rests upon. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but in retrospect I think they could have exercised a lot more restraint in the process.
Here's a few spoiler free examples of what I'm talking about in the context of this game alone:
Certain half baked conflicts are introduced late into the game, and swept back under the rug just as quickly as they're introduced.
Certain events are played up very heavily, but are lacking in proper consequences which fails to sell their impact.
Certain characters have their entire backstories hidden behind optional scenes that of which you can only see one of per playthrough.
There's a certain plot twist during the finale (If you've played the game you definitely know what I'm talking about) so pointless and diminishing that I've seen it flat out just kill the game for some people.
I say the word "certain" a lot here, because I don't want to sell Azure's completely off the wall writing choices as a ubiquitously bad thing. For every dubious scene or questionably unnecessary plot twist in this game, there's about five more that are completely astonishing and perfectly executed. If Azure commits to anything, it's the proposition of a narrative not content with sitting still and letting things slow down. From the Trade Conference onwards, I was on the edge of my seat for the entire game and never once was I bored.
I can't promise you'll find a perfectly written masterpiece within this game, it's got too many cuts and bruises for me to say that with good conscience. However, what it offers in spite of that is so utterly captivating and unforgettable that I can't help but completely cherish it all the same.
Spoke to some friends about this game right after I'd just wrapped up my first playthrough. I don't think this is a game I'll ever stop thinking about.
It's dense. It casts a wide net on what it talks about and all it portrays. Addiction. Paying for poverty. Wounds. Disco. Love.
"I don’t know how to properly put this into words, but the only word I can think of when I think of disco Elysium is just love."
It's an autopsy on love.
Its examination is largely clinical, accompanied with the sterility and blunt precision of a medical professional. There is no tidying things up. No saving face. No euphemisms. It will manage to dig into many different parts of you and tell you what it sees. Your politics, habits, your engagement with others. It will find your mistakes and put them under a magnifying glass for far longer than you think is necessary.
It does all this because it loves you, and it doesn't want you to give up on that.
Muppets Party Cruise
The core story is good, but its terrible pacing makes it difficult to actually last long enough to reach those good parts. The anime is probably the better option since, even though it suffers from most of the same flaws, the total runtime is much shorter so its not quite as big of a deal.
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