By Tyler Trosper / September 13th, 2017
|Title||Dysfunctional Systems Episode 0: Orientation
|Release Date||July 24th, 2017|
The original Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos was a short but intriguing visual novel. The game followed fledgling mediator Winter Harrison along with her mentor Cyrus as they tried to solve problems in another world. The whole concept set itself up well for a series, as Winter’s profession is to visit multiple alternate worlds and assist those in need. The creators, Dischan Media, even ran a successful Kickstarter to make more games in the series.
But then the project was abruptly cancelled. The proposed prequel (which was a Kickstarter stretch goal) and subsequent episodes were seemingly abandoned. To say I was disappointed would be a huge understatement. Years passed and everyone, including myself, assumed that the series was forever dead, another failed Kickstarter campaign.
However, a few months ago, something completely unexpected happened: Dischan Media tweeted that the prequel episode, Dysfunctional Systems Episode 0: Orientation, was heading to Steam. Not months or weeks away, but it released mere days after that Tweet. Not only that, Dischan confirmed that the series would continue. Talk about a rollercoaster of emotions!
And so, here we are at Dysfunctional Systems Episode 0: Orientation. The prequel follows Winter on her first week at Schola Mediatorum: Telos Chapter. Winter attends various classes preparing for the role of Mediator. Since the world she inhabits is a peaceful utopia, learning about war and murder turns out to be a foreign concept. The naivety factor is even more on display than the first game, seeing as how Winter hasn’t experienced any alternate worlds firsthand yet. It’s kind of endearing. The story serves as a slice-of-life drama that doesn’t really pick up and hint of a darker future until the end.
As a prequel, Orientation focuses on building the world as well as introducing new characters. Winter makes several friends in her first week, most of which did make an appearance in the first game. Her mentor from the first episode, Cyrus, only makes a brief cameo. Most of the time, Winter has to cope with the awkward relationship between her and her roommate, Waverly, who made her own minor cameo in the original game. The other new characters were amusing, though with the game’s less than two hour run time, not everyone gets as fleshed out as you would like.
And that’s the problem I had with Dysfunctional Systems Orientation: it was over before I even realized it. With the structure of the main episodes being Winter visiting and helping other worlds, I’m uncertain if and when we’ll see a lot of the students and teachers of Schola Mediatorum: Telos Chapter again. Even if several of the characters did not get as fleshed out as I wanted, I hope they won’t completely disappear from the story. However, with the second episode of the game in production, we will just have to wait and find out.
The most fleshed out character in the whole game though is the world itself. Taking place far into the future of a different Earth than ours, the world of Dysfunctional Systems is a utopia free of murder and war. At her orientation, Winter receives an Interplanar Communication Device (ICD), which she uses to interact with all of her classes. For the player, this device works as an encyclopedia of terms that crop up throughout the game. You aren’t assaulted with a ton of terms to look up, and the database supplements the story well enough that you don’t have to overly rely on it. Still, the entries on the definition of “Human” and “NEET” in the context of the game’s world are thought provoking and amusing. Not much is revealed about other worlds, but the point of the first week of school is to prepare for the impending culture shock the students will eventually face in said worlds, which is truly fascinating. Even if you have not played the first episode, Orientation introduces the world, its laws, and the setup for the rest of the series smoothly and with great detail.
If you’ve played the original Dysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaos, you may notice a change in the artwork of the prequel. The new art does follow the same soft color palettes of the original, but the bigger eyes give the game a more cartoonish look. However, since Orientation reads more like a slice-of-life drama with bits of humor, the art style isn’t too jarring. Future episodes are said to go back to the original artist, which I think better fits the darker tone of the main chapters anyway.
Unlike the art, the soundtrack of the game maintains the same composer as the first episode. The music this go around is mostly calm, fluffy tracks, which makes sense for the more relaxed tone of the story. There are a few exciting tracks, such as the techno-blaring “I’ll Handle It,” which pops up during an intense game of air hockey. One of the vocal tracks, “Regarding Life,” signals the end out of nowhere, but the repetition of lyrics and tranquil beat eased my mind. Overall, I really enjoyed the soundtrack, and it fit the tone of the game very well. Dysfunctional Systems, both the original episode and Orientation, do not have voice acting at all, which isn’t a terrible thing. No voice acting means you don’t have to worry about bad voice acting.
Dysfunctional Systems Episode 0: Orientation is a solid kinetic visual novel. The game introduces the world and cast of the original game, allowing easy access for new and old players alike. Winter’s ICD especially helps the player by fleshing out key details about the world of Dysfunctional Systems. The art and music go hand-in-hand, providing a calming and bright atmosphere. Though the game is very short and doesn’t offer any choices like the first game, the $5 price on Steam more than justifies a purchase. Dysfunctional Systems Episode 0: Orientation reminded me how interesting the series is, and I look forward to the next instalment.
A copy of the game was purchased by the reviewer.
Dischan MediaDysfunctional SystemsDysfunctional Systems Episode 0: OrientationDysfunctional Systems: Learning to Manage Chaoskinetc novelPCReviewSteamvisual novel