Editor’s Note: Since this is Volume 3 of a trilogy, there will be some minor spoilers from Exodus Guilty Volume 1: Present and Volume 2: Past in this review.
This is it; the conclusion I’ve been waiting for. As you may well be aware, I have been captivated by Exodus Guilty’s story for a while now, and now the trilogy is complete. I loved Vol. 1: Present’s tale about young treasure hunter Kasumi Shindo and Vol. 2: Past’s tale about the young swordsman Ales. The dramatic and shocking endings of those two installments had me amped for the conclusion, and now said conclusion is here! Vol. 3: Future takes us on a trip to 13,800 A.D.; a post-apocalyptic future where science and technology are prohibited to all but a chosen few, and draconian rule reigns supreme. The royalty live in comfort at Gina Ii castle, while down below, the townspeople are barely scraping by to make ends meet, surviving on any table scraps the royal palace may throw down.
You take the point of view of Sui, a somewhat trusting and very emotional girl on the cusp of her 18th birthday. She lives with a kindly flower shop owner named Nene and Nene’s daughter Lalaila, who Sui affectionately calls Laily. Laily, whose flat emotions and skepticism are the polar opposite of Sui, ardently protects Sui with her life, and for good reason. See, Sui doesn’t know this but she’s really the last true princess of the royal family, and on her 18th birthday she is to ascend to the throne. Laily and Nene both know this, but have been keeping it a secret from Sui. The two have been taking care of Sui ever since her parents died, and Sui’s only reminder of her heritage is a pendant called “Key of Will” that she takes special care of. Nene promises that the importance of the pendant will be revealed on Sui’s 18th birthday. It is to be a joyous celebration and a new hope for the people once Sui ascends to the throne.
Of course, in the realm of video game storylines, things never go according to plan. During a seemingly routine flower delivery to the Sage Uu at the castle, Sui and Laily are witness to a coup d’etat. A masked overlord named Zazan has overthrown the royalty and set things spiraling into further chaos. The castle guards have become bloodthirsty butchers and everyone fears for their lives more than they did before. Sui and Laily hurry back to the flower shop, but Nene is missing. After much fretting and anxious waiting, a bloody, bruised, beaten, and near-dead Nene returns. It is then that she reveals the secret of Sui’s lineage, the dire threat that Lord Zazan poses, and that Laily has been groomed to be Sui’s royal bodyguard. This is all too much for the young girl to swallow so suddenly, but there is much danger in town and cool-headed Laily must get Sui to safety; especially since a young man who Sui thought was a friend has actually been a castle spy and is ready to turn the young princess in to Lord Zazan. Laily quickly knocks out the stooge and escapes with Sui through an underground passageway in the flower shop. Once they’re on the other side and out of harm’s way, Sui accepts her destiny to find Sage Uu to learn the secret of her “Key of Will,” defeat Lord Zazan, ascend to her proper place on the throne, and do what she can to heal this ailing land.
This beginning may seem like another typical RPG style story, but as usual, Exodus Guilty makes it shine due to the excellent writing and wonderful characters (I especially liked the streetwise kid Tatsuta.) If you’ve paid close attention in Volumes 1 and 2, you will easily see how the three stories and their respective protagonists intertwine into an incredible time-spanning epic. This installment of the story is excellent, chock full of twists, turns, drama, action, comic relief, everything. This installment is noticeably gloomier than the previous two installments, hence the more overt comic relief in places.
The entire Exodus Guilty saga is chock full of dramatic moments, but finding out the truth about Lord Zazan is one of the most dramatic in the series. My personal favorite Exodus Guilty dramatic moment was the final chapter in Vol. 1: Present, but the Lord Zazan revelation in Vol. 3: Future is easily a close second. At 15 chapters, Sui’s tale is the longest of the three tales and has the most deliberate pacing. The way everything comes together in the last few chapters is mindblowing. The only flaw with Vol. 3 is that sometimes transitions between events seem abrupt or disjointed.
As usual, Vol. 3 has the Exodus Guilty hallmarks of eschatology, philosophy of morality, semi-forbidden love, and sometimes questionable familial bonds. The overall Exodus Guilty storyline is definitely not one for the kids, because not only is there deep philosophical content, exposition, and plenty of questionable morality, but there are also adult situations and adult dialogue. There is nothing wanton or gratuitous and everything truly is handled with maturity and finesse; but, yes, there are incidents of violence, and characters who are aware of their own sexuality (some of whom are even sexually active and/or have been involved in sexual relationships before.) It’s nothing to go “ooh” and “aah” about; it just makes the characters and their lives more genuine to me.
In Japan, Exodus Guilty was originally released as one game and it was more interactive. You were able to choose what locations you wanted to go to and could switch between eras at will, since there are hints in one era that can shed insight into puzzles in another era, thus intertwining every era’s tale. For example, there are discoveries in Ales’ tale that can help unravel mysteries in Kasumi’s tale, and there’s even a discovery in Sui’s tale that’s key to solving a puzzle in Ales’ tale. The way it is in these US releases, each volume of Exodus Guilty is a chapter from the same book, and you’re pretty much led around by the neck until you come to the occasional puzzle. What this all means is that the graphics, music, and gameplay are exactly the same as those in the other installments. In other words, the graphics are great, the music is good, and the gameplay is almost nil.
The graphics are great. The character portraits are among the crispest I’ve seen in the genre and have that lovely anime sheen. In addition, the artists got to flex a lot of creative muscle with the character designs. The environments look fine and use interesting colors to display the gloomy faithlessness that is the draconian future. There are also occasional anime cutscenes, which are rather nice.
Music’s pretty much the same solid, varied, synthesized fare as the other two installments but there are themes that are exclusive to Sui’s tale that aren’t in the other tales. The exclusive themes to Sui’s tale vary from the slower, more melancholy pieces to very silly themes that play during comic relief scenes. The Japanese voice acting is great as usual and all the actors sounded like they were having fun with their roles. The sound effects are not very genuine or crisp, but they get the job done.
Gameplay, as usual, is minimal. You’re basically spoon-fed the story and led around by the neck until you are occasionally presented an easy multiple-choice puzzle that you get hints or do-overs for if you get it wrong. The game is super linear so there is no save feature. It’s almost like reading a book rather than playing a game. You just select whatever chapter you want to “read” and go. You never know when one chapter ends and the next begins, unless you check the display on your DVD player. In short, it’s exactly the same as the other Hirameki-released Exodus Guilty installments. I will say, though, that of all the Exodus Guilty installments, Vol. 3: Future has the most interactive puzzle elements.
Vol. 3: Future is a wonderful final installment to one of the most incredible epic storylines I’ve ever experienced in a video game. Vol. 1: Present was my personal favorite of the three, but this one is a close second. Vol. 2: Past didn’t have quite as dynamic a story as the other two installments, but it’s a necessary piece to understanding the whole picture and does shine when looked at within the context of the entire Exodus Guilty saga. The Exodus Guilty saga is one that needs to be witnessed in full to get the entire experience. Given the complexity of the overall storyline, one would need a lot more than elemantary Japanese to get through the import. But thanks to Hirameki, US audiences have the opportunity to witness the Exodus Guilty saga too, and I will certainly look back on Exodus Guilty’s era-spanning tale with fondness.