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Played in 2023
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A promising start gets bogged down by one of the sloppiest undercover plots we've ever seen. It course corrects in the back half, but we spent a large chunk of the story burying our face in our hands, frustrated by the total lack of consequences for Ryoma whenever he refused to play along.
We're glad that we saw it through to the end: if you know a little bit of Shinsengumi history, your jaw will drop at some of the buckwild ways they bend reality. And when it's firing on all cylinders, it's fantastic! You just have to wade through a lot of bullshit to get to the good stuff, and we don't blame anyone who bows out before said good stuff arrives.
One of those delightful sequels that expands everything the first did well without coming across as bloated. The islands are drop-dead gorgeous, the puzzles are ingenuous and rarely frustrate, and there's so many little secrets littered about here and there.
More importantly, the philosophical questions that felt rote and shallow in the first game are given greater depth here. You're no longer reading what-ifs on terminals isolated from the rest of the world: you're surrounded by characters invested in your journey, as well as the future of their own city. Even when it gets obnoxious at points, there's a degree of humanity on display that makes each stray thought easier to swallow.
Anyway, this is one of the best puzzle games we've played in years, and we'd happily recommend it to anyone.