Sunday, August 27, 2017

1bitHeart Review



Platform: PC / Steam
Developer: Miwashiba
Publisher: AGM Playism
Price: 2.99


1bitHeart is a 2D side scrolling RPG developed in Wolf RPG Editor by Miwashiba. It involves a agoraphobic shut in named Nanashi who suddenly finds a mysterious girl sleeping in his bed. The girl remembers her name is Misane, but nothing else. Instead of focusing on her amnesia, she convinces Nanashi to go out and make friends. Their journey for friendship quickly becomes entangled in a conspiracy to hack and take over The Master Program which connects to all of mankind.

Nanashi is a complex character study who is whisked away on an adventure that involves time travel, a mad scientist, body switching, a talking dog, androids, and a bit of Japanese style horror. All of this is set to a trendy pop soundtrack. The art style is very dynamic. Miwashiba utilizes vibrant colors and details mixed with silhouettes to create depth in urban landscapes, back alleys with concrete walls and graffiti. There's also a pet cafe on the beach and traditional Japanese style town complete with a Shinto shrine and a Dagashi shop.




The game takes place in a future where everyone is connected by Bitphones. These devices work by utilizing a user's brainwaves. The Master Program controls the network, but it is being hacked by an group with an unknown agenda. The collective has created a constantly changing virus that allows them to take control of people through their Bitphones. After the victims are done being controlled, they have no memory of their acts. While the hacker plot is essential to the story as a whole, the entire game is actually propelled by Nanashi’s attempts to befriend and interact with other people. Nanashi has the unique ability to see everything around him as a series of numbers. He can also read the numbers emitted by their brainwave data and effectively read people’s minds.


Sometimes, when talking to someone, certain text is highlighted in pink. This information is converted into memos that can be accessed through the game’s menu. These memos will guide future conversations. When talking to characters who are key to the chapter’s plot, the game will shift into a conversational mode called “Talking Time.” During Talking Time, the character will make a statement and Nanashi will have the choice to allow them to continue, ask them to elaborate on the statement or present a new topic relevant to the statement. He can also call them out if they contradict themselves. Whenever he wants to change the topic or present evidence, the memo menu opens and you need to select the right piece of information that fits in with the conversation. In some chapters, Nanashi and Misane have a Discussion time, where Misane recounts facts she knows so far, and Nanashi is expected to fill in the gaps with his own information.




If you select the wrong item, Nanashi will lose a hit point. These mechanics are the heart of the game. The conversations can get pretty detailed and require your full attention. Sometimes the situations can only be advanced by realizing a small contradiction, or realizing the exact moment to present a new topic. At first, I found it a bit difficult to master, but the process became more fluid as time went on and I became better at understanding the characters. The entire system feels very organic and skillfully connects gameplay with story.


Each chapter contains a central mystery and a string of sequences where Nanashi must gather information and interrogate characters. At certain points in the story, Nanashi and his group of friends get attacked by the virus. The virus is countered by entering a string of button sequences. These sequences add some variety to the gameplay and happen enough times for them to still be a staple mechanic. After a chapter’s conflict is resolved, you’re dropped into “Free Time,” where Nanashi is allowed to roam around the city and make friends.

Making friends is essential to your success in the game. Every friend you make increases your HP by one, allowing you to be more effective during Talking Time and Discussion time. The way Nanashi makes friends is by learning about the person and then buying gifts for them. Gifts increase their fondness for Nanashi. Items can be acquired through the computer in Nanashi’s room and are purchased with Bits. Whenever Nanashi logs into his computer, he is transported to a virtual room called BitWorld. The area very reminiscent of the main character’s bedroom in the first generation Pokemon games.


Nanashi earns Bits by playing BiTetris and PuyoBits, which are cute, alternate versions of their namesakes. To be honest, grinding for Bits and buying gifts is probably the only tedious part of the game. There is a variety of gifts to buy, from candy and food to CDs from fictional J-Rock bands and Manga. Each NPC has a preferred gift which will raise their fondness points faster. For example, a street punk who lives in an alleyway is fond of leather fighting gloves and a professional fighting game player who hangs out in the arcade likes to receive victory tokens. Characters will accept any gift, but giving them their favorite gifts will grow their fondness faster and unlock unique thank you responses. What surprised me was how complete each NPC’s story was. Growing their fondness rating to a certain point will unlock a scene. Each character has four scenes altogether. Some backstories are very quirky and entertaining, while some are actually downright heartbreaking. A few of them interweave with each other, further strengthening the fabric of the world and creating a richer, more complete experience.    



There is voice acting as well, but it is used sparsely, as if to punctuate certain events, like when a character introduces themselves, or during a dramatic scene. This makes the voice acting seem more effective and the scenes more important. Even though the gameplay was satisfying and unique, it was the story and the character of Nanashi that will leave a lasting impression on me.


The very first thing you notice is that Nanashi has no shame in insulting himself. He calls himself trash and is frequently apologizing for his actions. He wants world peace and enthusiastically treasures everyone he meets. Essentially, he has love for everything but himself. This self loathing mixed with an insatiable need to be kind to everyone creates a complex character who is at the same time a complete cipher. His full name is Yoshi Nanase, but calls himself Nanashi. "Nana" and "Shi" are Japanese for the numbers 7 and 4. Essentially he sees himself as a series as numbers as well. I mentioned earlier that he can use number data to read minds, but that’s what they remain to him, just numbers; sometimes feelings are just outside his understanding.





I think, while sometimes tedious, having to buy gifts to make friends is a good comment on how his mind works. He thinks so little of himself that he won’t allow himself to have another person’s friendship until he’s bought them gifts and done favors for them. I really don’t want to spoil anything, but this game actually does have a good message. There are plenty of games, especially RPGs, that focus on a message of friendship, but this game creates a whole new dynamic with the character of Nanashi.


The storyline, completely intertwined with the gameplay, creates a wonderful experience that has an important message. The well written characters will leave an impression on the player, as the game explores the downside of unconditional kindness and selflessness. Eventually, it will make you think about what makes us all human and complete individuals.


+Wonderful storyline with an important message
+Gameplay and narrative effectively complement each other
+Well written characters
+Great artwork

-Bit grinding can be tedious at times

9/10

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