EVE Burst Error (PC) review
"The strength of Eve Burst Error lies in how the pieces are assembled, revealing just enough to keep you excited without spoiling the surprises yet to come — and let me tell you, the writers really like to mess with your mind."
With the exception of a few stars that shine eternal, people have — given long enough to live — but one brief opportunity to shine more brightly than ever. A single grasp at glory like none before or after... be it the day one-time wrestler Bam Bam Bigelow pulled three children from a raging fire, or perhaps the day Jon Romero unveiled Daikatana — a new project at the height of his fame.
Sometimes these opportunities are seized, sometimes they are squandered. No matter the outcome, these are life-changing events that summarize a person's very soul.
Eve Burst Error catches a dozen or so characters at the most important times of their lives. And not in a "party of six saves the world" kind of way — each operates independently, with their own motives and aspirations, never quite working in unison (even when working in alliance). One searching for self-worth. Another trying to prove herself after a spectacular failure. Yet another striking a balance between shadowy past and present. Even a powerhungry maniac granted an unexpected chance for redemption... should he seize the opportunity.
The gameplay system itself enhances this disconnect among motives, while enhancing the connection between player and character. As the player, you can — at any time — switch between either of the two leads and continue the story from his or her perspective. Through this mechanism, secrets are doled out from one side or the other... granting you, the player, knowledge that the individual characters cannot know, knowledge that you so desperately want the heroes to know! Dramatic irony at its finest.
It all begins with Kojiroh Amagi, an out-of-work detective who now operates out of an abandoned shorefront warehouse. He's been without money for months. Coincidentally (or not) he's also been without women for months. A snotty reportress by the name of Akane brings him his first case in ages — a search for a rich schoolmaster's missing painting. And a rather crappy painting at that. But the financial reward is high. Unusually high.
On the other side we have Marina Hojo, an optimistic, energetic, and generally capable special agent. After a recent failure on the biggest case of her career, she's flown back in to Japan for a simple job as bodyguard to the Eldian ambassador's daughter. This job might not sound so simple to you or me, but for a super-secret special agent whose specialties are infiltration and espionage... it's the equivalent of popular starlets playing escort to C-grade porn stars. But your immediate supervisor is supportive. Unusually supportive.
These two beginnings comprise two corners of a much larger jigsaw, and the strength of Eve Burst Error lies in how the remaining pieces are assembled, revealing just enough to keep you excited without spoiling the surprises yet to come — and let me tell you, the writers really like to mess with your mind. Who is the mysterious killer "Terror", capable of besting even secret agent Marina? And when the same sinister voice surprises grungy detective Kojiroh, your heart will skip a beat... but when he turns the tables on Terror, you have to wonder: why is he able to subdue the assassin?
Surprising situations and intriguing twists abound, always with a plausible explanation. Elements from the first act come into play in the finale, tying the story together without any loose ends. This is well-written material. Even the English translation is excellent, although sprinkled with a few too many Clinton-and-Monica jokes. Thank goodness the game actually does take place in the late 1990's and not in the medieval fantasy world of Lunar (another great game poisoned by overabundant presidential political humor).
At some points, the same scene is replayed for both Kojiroh and Marina, each version posing important questions or unveiling significant revelations. In one viewpoint, a murder victim is just a dead body, begging the question — "who is this, and was he involved?". In the other hero's eyes, that same victim is an important character, someone whose secrets you were trying to unravel. The multi-sight system (the fancy name for the ability to switch between the two main characters) allows for greater depth to the storytelling than you'll find in most digital novels.
Not satisfied with merely presenting an excellent digital novel, Eve Burst Error's multi-sight system enhances the "PC adventure" aspect tenfold. Take a standard computer-hacking scene. By all accounts, hacking into a computer and looking up secret information, while informative, should not be particularly exciting. However, through the use of some amazingly kinetic music and frantic character-switching, this scene stands as one of Eve's highlights! Playing as Kojiroh and waiting, waiting, GODDAMMIT WAITING for Marina to buy a clue and help with the hacking, forces you to switch to Marina's view... where you find that there's a password block on her end. Once that issue is resolved, you can switch back to Kojiroh and let the shocking revelations flow.
And so the multi-sight system functions not only as a cool storytelling device, but also as a clever way to insert player interaction into the adventure. Wandering the streets will only get you so far — at some point, you'll have to switch to the other character and try something new, or else the story simply won't advance.
And damn it all, you'll want this story to advance. From simple streetfights, to covert infiltrations of a foreign embassy, to gun-blazing escapes in the dead of night, to assassins prowling claustrophobic boats set out to sea... Eve Burst Error never slows down and never lingers over covered ground.
It would be a grievous sin against music composers the world over not to address the soundtrack. While not necessarily the greatest work ever composed, the pairing between audio and visuals drives the story home into my jaded, cynical heart. While an adolescent and inexperienced girl, a girl standing at the brink of a world she doesn't quite understand, delivers her most heartfelt feelings — a moment that could easily reek of cheese — a hopeful yet somehow sorrowful melody imparts a feeling of realism, a feeling of genuineness, to the words. I desperately want to help this girl. I'm impressed that Eve could achieve such a degree of emotional involvement.
Meanwhile, the serenity of Kojiroh's "evening" music makes my heart yearn to wander the midnight streets. If the poetic narrative or sublime visuals don't speak to your soul, then surely the music will.
With its brilliance, Eve Burst Error is a success that can never be duplicated. Even though developer C's Ware has tried again and again with sequels and prequels, and produced some very fine games as a result, none has garnered the undying attention and adoration of fans. And the reason is quite simple. Those other games feature the same characters, but not at the most important moments of their lives. Only by moving on and reinventing themselves can C's Ware ever hope to transcend the bounds of Eve and become an eternal star.
In the meantime, they've left us a great game that won't soon be forgotten.
Staff review by Zigfried (February 28, 2004)
Zigfried likes writing about whales and angry seamen, and often does so at the local pub.
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