EVE: Burst Error (EVE) is what many call a Digital Comic, and for good reason. Unlike proverbial RPGs, which strike a nice balance between story and gameplay, EVE is pretty much all story with (mostly) still pictures. And unlike Western style adventure games like Monkey Island or The Longest Journey, EVE doesn’t have any wonky logic puzzles, an active inventory, or highly interactive environments.
But to have such a heavy emphasis on story could either make or break a digital comic. An RPG with a sub-par plot can be saved by awesome gameplay (such as Phantasy Star Online), but EVE hasn’t much gameplay, per se, to fall back on. Thankfully, the plot is excellent; dare I say the best storyline I’ve encountered in a video game? There’s action, romance, humor, sexual tension, mystery, suspense, deep character development…in short, it has everything you could ever want in a story. The characters are very human and easy to relate to. Both the main and supporting characters have complex personalities and go through a variety of emotions in myriad situations. This makes them all the more three-dimensional and very lifelike.
All the dialogue is voiced very well, and in its original Japanese form to boot. I recognized some of the seiyuu from various popular anime, such as Junko Iwao who’s had major roles in X, Key the Metal Idol, and a long list of other anime and games to her credit. Even though my understanding of Japanese is somewhat limited, the emotions and tensions conveyed by the characters throughout the story were wonderfully portrayed. No matter what the language, you can tell if the actor/actress is conveying the proper emotions appropriate to his/her character and situation. I give kudos to C’s Ware for hiring such stellar voice talent. I also liked having the original Japanese voices, because the game takes place in Japan and it sounds odd to hear perfect English coming from a native Japanese person. (Yes, this is one reason I dislike dubs.)
EVE uses a dual protagonist system. The two protagonists are Kojiroh Amagi and Marina Hojo. The former is a down-and-out private eye who accepts a questionable case involving a missing painting for a large sum of money. The latter is a top-notch Special Forces agent who has been handed the seemingly routine assignment of body guarding a diplomat’s daughter under the guise of a school tutor. Both Kojiroh and Marina are quickly thrust into a complex web of intrigue and conspiracy that neither of them expected. They also find themselves and their supposedly diverse scenarios strongly linked. Also, late in the story, many character revelations are brought into the spotlight thus making an already tight community of characters even tighter. It was amazing going through the story and seeing how these seemingly disjointed events and characters all came together like pieces in a puzzle.
I would have given the story 100%, but there were a couple of minor flaws that knocked it down. One is that a particular line of text made a scene at the very end seem a bit far-fetched to me. The game worked so well in the confines of its and our reality that this particular text snippet came way out of left field and shattered any semblance of reality there. The other flaw is in the translation as a whole. The dialogue flows well in a conversational style, but is rife with spelling and grammatical errors. Also, there are times when characters say a mouthful and the subtitle says one or two words. There were also some names that were mistranslated (such as Big being called Pat, and Shiria being called Natasha). I will admit, though, that despite my nitpickiness (hey, I worked a stint as a proofreader), the rough translation didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the game any.
Two things I’ve found in a noticeable portion of RPGs are references to pop culture, and reminders that you’re playing a game. While I’m generally opposed to having pop culture references in my RPGs (they just seem so silly and out of place in a fantasy world, plus they’ll soon be out of style), they are welcome in EVE since it takes place in contemporary 1990s Japan. I would have preferred more Japanese pop culture references as opposed to American ones, but they still worked well to show the sign of the times. But, as usual, the lines of dialogue that remind you that you’re playing a video game are annoying and unwelcome. It’s like being really into a song only to have the record get scratched and hit a jarring note.
But story alone does not a comic make. A comic also requires pictures. And the pictures that accompany EVE’s story are quite good. Admittedly the backgrounds are a mite bland, but the character portraits that occupy the backgrounds during conversational scenes look really sharp. The women are among the most stunning anime women I’ve ever laid eyes on (mmm…Kyoko), and have such strong personalities. Everyone will easily find a favorite (my friend still can’t get over Natasha). Every so often, the still scenes seamlessly shift to an FMV anime scene. These scenes run at a smooth frame rate and look just as crisp as the still scenes.
Being that this is a digital comic, and most digital media devices like computers, Game Boys, TVs, etc have speakers, sound is one way a digital comic can one-up a paper comic. The sound in EVE is a mixed bag, though. I mentioned the wonderful voice acting before. What I didn’t mention is that the music is horrible. Music consists of a few short looping MIDIs that sound more simplistic than a first generation Sega Genesis game. But their soft volume and understated-ness doesn’t detract from the game any, and you can turn them off.
Gameplay (and I use the term loosely here) consists of moving the arrow keys to highlight various dialogue and/or action choices from the bottom of the screen and confirming them with the space bar. As I mentioned before, there is no inventory and no interactive point-and-click puzzles. You also never have to worry about making the wrong choice since the story follows a linear course, with one exception.
Oh yeah, and every once in a while you need to save and switch characters. This is key to the game. For example, an event from Kojiroh’s path can only be accessed after completing up to a certain point in Marina’s path, and vice versa. There is also a scene where the two have to work symbiotically, with tons of back-and-forth switching. I would have liked more of these types of scenes in the game. I also would have liked to have more choices that influenced the storyline and/or changed it up in a Choose Your Own Adventure style. As it stands, only a bunch of choices towards the end determine how much of the ending you get to see. That part was extremely well done though, I must say.
But when all is said and done, I really enjoyed this piece of software. I’m always up for a good story, be it in the form of a book, movie, game, animated, live-action, whatever. EVE: Burst Error, with its incredibly involving story, characters that were both strong and great looking, and wonderful voices was a real treat for me. Heck, I played this game once for eight hours straight. I’ve never played a video game for that long a stretch before, and that’s saying something. I thank Himeya for translating this wonderful game into English.