...And that's it, all finished. Collected missed endings amongst the other three paths, then ran through the Top path from the start, making a point of building trust with both Randy and Lucy. Not very hard, once you know what you're doing. Of this last collection of endings and outcomes, most were pretty good. Having seen pretty much all of the plot now, I can venture the opinion that it's pretty damn good- as noted before, the many different paths complement each other nicely, so that they all contribute to the overall story. The continuity, however, is not perfect.
One notable problem is that things tend to drop out of the plot without warning. The cellphones are a prominent example- we never find out exactly what was up with them. Another one is Elizabeth, who Papillon tries to develop as a character but who ultimately turns out being little more then a plot device with a pulse. Some of the endings are abrupt, too- the game generally closes up and goes to epilogue after the main conflict is resolved. Most of the time, that's no problem, but a few of the endings- most prominently "Judas Kiss"- demand a bit more. Others just come out of nowhere. "Sacrifice" and "Childhood" are the most egregious offenders- the former just blokes the heroine for no real reason, Whereas the latter is thematically justifiable but massively anticlimactic. And "Fresh start", though consistent with at least Lucy's character, seems thrown in just because it could be.
On the subject of coming out of nowhere, I have to say Katie is another problem. I liked that revelation at first because it revitalized the story- after several playthroughs- by upending the entire basis of it. But in retrospect, that's not necessarily a good thing. For one, by giving the player four major paths, and putting a plot twist of that magnitude along only one of them, you're naturally making each of the other three plotlines sub-optimal. You can work that to your artistic advantage in several ways. The standard is to anoint the path with the twist the "true ending". Another might be to do something like put an equally major but entirely different rug-pull along the other paths, thus ensuring that the hero NEVER knows entirely what's going on. But Papillon didn't really do either, and so it sticks there laughing at the thirteen other variants of Christina for having no clue what the truth is. And it leaves the player wondering how Christina got involved in this anyway- just blind chance?
(It also makes the bad guys look like putzes- they're so convinced that Lucy is the one they're searching for, and then when Bastian tells them no, they kill people to work a major divination with black magic and STILL get the wrong girl...)
I've registered a lot of complaints about the plot, but that's not at all to say I didn't like it- it's just that I frequently find the bad more productive to discuss then the good. Simple ego-stroking is for seducers and fanboys. ^_^ In fact the plot is very well organized- each path plays up a different aspect of the story, yet at the same time they all fit together (with the exception noted above). There are decision points that do nothing or little of significance, but help contribute to the definition of Christina's character. Some people don't like this- they want a more streamlined tale- but I prefer to be made to consider what kind of a person this is that I'm guiding. It's not perfect, but I'm well satisfied.
The puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag. Most are enjoyable, though I stand firm on my complaints against research puzzles and clues that you have to reload to find again. However, a few are embarrassingly easy, especially near the beginning, and a few others suffer from finicky controls- especially the car chase and the cooking puzzle. Some seem integrated with the story via paper clips- cleaning house, for example, is a fun puzzle but completely irrelevant. Ditto playing Joust with Lucy. The cooking puzzle is not as misplaced as I first thought, but it's tedious and obnoxious. (Also- I've cooked dried pasta, dudette. Many times. It's not that hard. It's actually quite easy. ^_^ )
The graphics are generally good, but as noted previously not all of them fit together just right. Dan River's work is excellent but a little "off"- It has more of a Superhero-comic vibe then the animesque style the other artists were shooting for, and so it doesn't really gel with the others- look at ending 14, "Crossfire", and compare with the similar ending 13, "Judas Kiss", and you'll see exactly what I mean. Yuna Kamizuki's paintings clash even more severely- though gorgeously human and emotive, stylistically they seem to be from an entirely different game. But being as so many would-be VN tycoons have trouble finding ONE good artist, I suppose it can't really be helped.
(Though with that in mind we might, as a community, want to try and develop techniques to get different artists on the same page artistically- maybe ask them all to draw in a style reminiscent of some popular anime or somesuch?)
One other problem that I haven't mentioned is some bugs. There's nothing major- they're rare and the worst that happens is a game crash, but they can get annoying. In particular, the music tends to get screwed up randomly when playing on fast skip- and even after reloading the game, you'll be playing the rest of that particular save in silence. The game also will occasionally freeze when loading a savegame, and will have to be killed from the Task Manager- fortunately this is a random occurence, rather then a corrupted save.
So in short, a fun and enjoyable effort that shows the author to have a lot of potential as a designer. I'd give it a very high B+. Looking forward to Hanako Games' next work. ^_^