Gacha Hell: SINoALICE – 1

Folks… it’s finally time. I’ve mentioned it several times in past gacha posts, but after some localization troubles, SINoALICE is finally here.

SINoALICE is a game by Pokelabo, published by Square-Enix. It is notably directed by Yoko Taro, the strange and blunt director behind the Drakengard and Nier games. Now, SINoALICE was originally supposed to be localized in 2019, under the publishing arm of Nexon. However, mere days before the intended global launch, it was suddenly indefinitely delayed. There have been no official reasons for why, but thankfully, Pokelabo announced that it was picking up the job of localization for itself months ago. And so, SINoALICE finally got a worldwide release weeks ago.

You enter the world of the Library, a world between stories and reality. It’s under the care of Parrah and Noya, two creepy living dolls that urge story characters to fight and kill for the sake of their ultimate dreams: to revive their authors.

You are given the choice of picking a character when you start, after a tone-setting installation scene where Parrah and Noya tell stories. The character you choose first isn’t a big deal, since you can pick up a character just from playing their first chapter. Now, to go along with my 2020 brand of craving violence, I went with Red Riding Hood, the representation of brutality.

The story of the game is… something. The main story of SINoALICE is told through piecemeal vignettes before each fight. You don’t get long visual novel-esque conversations like you would with Granblue or Fate Grand Order. From what I’ve seen from a few people, this can be a turn off from people expecting something more substantial.

I think that it works within the context of the setting because it feels like small bits of a fairy tale. The longer bits of narration, I feel, also sets a good tone for the game. That said, the fact that they’re split between so so so many chapters makes for an extremely sluggish pace that I really hate.

And the thing is, the game’s clearly capable of doing more with regards to narrative. There are a few fights where characters actually do get to talk to each other outside of the narrative framing. And hey guess what, Yoko Taro weapon stories are back, and they honestly feel more substantial than what’s going on so far.

At the very least though, summarizing the narration is easy for me. Now, let’s follow the story of dear Red Riding Hood.

Her first chapter acts as an introduction to who she is. And who she is is somebody that really loves to commit murder. The big bad wolf, her dear grandmother and the heroic huntsman were mere targets for her and, stepping into the Library, she aims for higher. Besides finding joy in the killing game presented by the Library, she wishes to revive her author for the sake of killing him. She saw that news report that said “attack and dethrone god” and said, “yes, that would be cool to do, thank you.”

So, let’s finally talk about gameplay, which is a bit different from what I’m accustomed to. Instead of forming a team of characters, you pick one character and assemble a deck of weapons. The deck of weapons to draw from depends on the character’s class; Red Riding Hood’s default class is “Crusher,” which means that she can use swords, hammers (the class’ specialty weapon, which deals more damage), bows and spears. You are also accompanied by CPU versions of other player characters, though if you’re lucky, an actual player could pop into your game to help out.

You got your deck of weapons at the bottom of the screen and you spend SP to play them, which slowly regenerates over time. You can’t use a weapon again until you completely exhaust your deck, which can lead into the annoying situation of having to use weapons you don’t want to use for the sake of using ones you do want to use. It’s an okay system? I don’t find it as engaging as Opera Omnia‘s, but it works. I will say though, you shouldn’t use AUTO unless you feel safe in doing so because it’s kinda useless. It will hit enemies with elements they’re strong against. It will be absolutely sluggish in pulling out weapons. It’s kinda bad.

During Red’s travels, she runs into Sleeping Beauty in a crossover chapter, who’s just kinda sleeping on the road. Beauty just wants to take a nap and is kinda mad that Red – who’s insisting that being dead and going to sleep are the same thing – is trying to kill her. Eventually, Beauty manages does manage to escape her, which makes my murder daughter upset.

She wanders a bit, yearning for a good fight, praying to kill the big bad wolf and her creator. Parrah and Noya realize that they might have recruited an actual freak in this killing game after she attempts to harass them, so they summon a big wolf monster to sate her bloodlust.

Soon after, Red finds her fellow Library wanderers, and thankfully for them she’s now more focused on killing the monsters. Unlike her though, they’re kinda pissed about being part of Parrah and Noya’s game, but they’re willing to put up with it for the sake of the wish they could grant them.

And… I actually haven’t finished Chapter 5 because it’s where the game part of SINoALICE takes a big difficulty spike. The bosses in this chapter is actually pretty hardy in that they will debuff the shit out of you. Because of this, you’ll need to get accustomed to magic using classes, since the “magic” attuned weaponry (tomes, orbs, etc) carry buffs and debuffs as opposed to the physical weaponry. Which kinda leads into a balancing problem because unless you have a bunch of offensive magic skills, you’ll have to be more dependent on your allies to get through encounters.

During this first foray into SINoALICE, I did a bit of the first collection event, where you play as Alice. Alice represents the theme of bondage, finding herself fiercely devoted to her author and will stop at nothing to bring him to her. During this event, Parrah and Noya order her to clear out a troublesome bunch of rabbit nightmares, who all turn out to be sentient beings trying to band together for safety. Alas, Alice had a duty to uphold, and if it takes a mountain of bunny corpses, so be it.

There’s also a Colliseum PVP type thing where you form guilds with other players to fight other guilds. I haven’t really touched it though, because I kinda want to do it with people I’m vaguely acquainted with. So hey, here’s my guild:

So far, I’m kinda wishy washy on SINoALICE. I like the tone, and I certainly like it more than Pokemon Masters, but it feels very lacking with regards to a cohesive narrative.

And also are you fucking kidding me? Why are the events where you gather upgrade materials limited time events instead of something that rotates in like the evolution stuff? I hate that.

But uh yeah, I guess I’ll continue giving this a chance and see where things go. Hey, there’s a Nier Automata event, I’d like to go through that.

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