My 2 cents:
I'm a big time fan of the first Date Ariane game. It was involving, just challenging enough to make it interesting, immersive, contained plenty of storylines, allowed quite a bit of player choice, had a high-quality feel, and wrapped up with a satisfyingly erotic payoff (I just wish I could have actually had a 3-way!). So naturally for some time now I’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of SITA. I’ve been following the developments on Ariane’s blog, intrigued by the idea of her take on the graphic novel idea. So what did I think when it finally came out?
It was well-polished, graphically impressive, and....somehow disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thoroughly impressed with the quality of the finished product, and I couldn’t be more appreciative of the amount of time and effort that must have gone into its creation. But this is Ariane’s difficult second album; sequels are always challenging for bands and directors alike, especially when they try to challenge the boundaries of their original work. Perhaps this is the curse of the creators of enduring franchises, and unfortunately many times the results of their hard work must be met with greater criticism as they are inevitably compared with the original installments. I’m afraid SITA is no exception.
The visuals are great in their quality. Adding sounds helped add to the atmosphere in some cases, though in others they proved to be more of a distraction. And while the download size is large (I have read Ariane’s explanation for this and I can fully appreciate the challenges she was facing there), performance while playing the game is certainly fine (this isn’t Crysis 3 after all).
But there were some issues. First, the dinosaurs. I’ve never managed to actually see more than about two of these things, and it’s maddeningly frustrating to try clicking every pixel in sight to slowly unearth each of the pesky lizards. Second, endings frequently come all too abruptly, and the results are extremely annoying. The prime example (spoiler alert) involves a person, some lightning, and a striking pose with a metallic object. Why?! I was having fun with this girl! She was naked, painted, and holding a sword! And then right when I think things are going to go my way (or not), game over?! I’m sure there must have been some sort of logic there somewhere, but it just felt like a way to quickly truncate a storyline, create fewer images and shrink the download size. Just sort of “I have a deadline, so that’s good enough.”
Third, a profound lack of choice. I know SITA is not of the same genre as most dating sims, and it’s supposed to be more like a novel. This approach may work for some, but I have to say it’s just not my bag. I don’t want to read somebody else’s story, clicking along for each and every sentence and getting to a bad ending much more often that a good one. I want to be part of the story. In Date Ariane, I felt like I was talking with her, like I was actually trying to impress her. In SITA, I felt so completely detached that it didn’t even feel like I was in the same building as Ariane. And any time I made one of the very few choices available to me, I had absolutely no indication of what the girl was going to want. Nor did I receive much in the way of feedback afterwards – just a good ending or bad ending, disappointing either way. Personally, I say if you must then give us fewer girls, fewer endings, and more ways to get there. Remember that the journey can be just as interesting as the destination if not better.
Fourth, just getting into conversations with girls can be annoying. I can’t even count the number of times I went through the same couple of opening options over and over again. It took me forever to figure out how to get to Rachel, for example. I think SITA would be well-served by some modifications to make paths easier to find and follow.
Fifth, and this is a big one for a guy like me: the lack of real sex scenes. With Ariane, by the time I got to a sex scene it really didn’t make much difference because I felt so completely separated from her anyway. And to be fair, there were a couple of fun moments in the SUV during the thunderstorm. And the idea of an anal ending in “In Through the Out Door” is simply great. But the pictures aren’t just less explicit, they’re really out-sexed by even mid-range HBO movies. In Date Ariane, it was all there. Not ridiculously graphic, but sex was sex and it was celebrated. It was a reward. In SITA it seems that that reward is to be denied. Here’s my synopsis: “Let’s f@%$” “Duh, ok!” (Bouncy bouncy bouncy, the end). I’m begging you, if I’m going in through the out door, let me in! It’s Ariane for Pete’s sake! She’s got the best back door in the dating sim world!
I fear I may be coming off as too aggressive here, so let me renew my disclaimer: I only intend to give an honest opinion. I’m not trying to bash someone’s work, but I can’t help looking at SITA through the lens of my own past experiences with the utterly fantastic Date Ariane, and to my mind this sequel has fallen victim to the difficult-second-album syndrome. I hope these criticisms can lead to some fixes for ArianeB’s latest work, or even to a better third installment.