Dysfunctional Systems Review

The visual novel in episodic format released on Steam and elsewhere.

It has been a few months since I’ve read it but given that it has been released on Steam, I’d thought I’d provide an insertion point for those unfamiliar with the genre/theme.

Dysfunctional Systems is a science fiction short story with an introduction of the characters, a journey where they meet challenges, and a satisfying ending. Like Brandon Sanderson’s novels, the short term goals will be finished up, even though the long term goals are still long term (it’s Episode 1, with possibilities for further episodes). Other episodic VNs are うみねこのなく頃に – Umineko no Naku Koro ni – When the Seagulls Cry and Gun Rose Days (by same authors).

The theme and environment setting is very easy for Westerners to understand once you start reading. The main protagonist is essentially on an apprenticeship to a job, overseen by a superior. Similar to those paid internships college students go through. However, her job is to go to different alternative realities and ensure that no threat manifests that can harm their Origin universe.

Unlike a longer visual novel or Western novel, there’s not any filler. There’s no time or room for filler. Everything is vital and critical to the task at hand or the short term goal the characters have set for themselves.

The gameplay itself is only “role playing” in the original meaning, where you ‘play’ a ‘role’ that someone else has given you. In this short (kinetic) VN, you play the role of the main protagonist, but the setting, her emotions, and her goals are set by the dungeon master, or in this case the writer and programmers. You have a few limited choices, but only when programmers (or DM) lets you make a decision. Most of the time you’ll just be clicking along, like moving pages in a book or watching a movie. So first of all, don’t expect a VN to be like a number crunching RPG simulation of fantasy or sci fi weapons.

As for what about the novel I liked and why I liked it; to put it into a fundamental level, I liked it because it dealt with a high level analysis of cultural imperatives and cultural changes due to technology and external influences. If you ever got excited with First Contact, where you have a superior or different level of technology and thinking but come into contact with a whole new civilization on a planet no human has ever visited, then you will come to understand the feeling that Dysfunctional Systems give off. For instead of studying aliens or civilization, it studies the dysfunctional systems inherent in other cultures. Things that don’t function right, in our judgment, but still exists as a “system” that is maintained or expanded by human hands. Examples might be North Korea, Jim Jones’ death/suicide cult, and so forth. Unlike Western science fiction shows, the main protagonist and her allies aren’t reliant on their technology to accomplish things: their primary role is as an observer, not a fixer or ruler. This novel feels more like a survivalist story or about an individual being a stranger in a strange land, than as the normal sci fi alien invasion story or the sci fi Cool Gadgets theme found oftentimes in stories like Star Wars 1-3.

It didn’t take me more than say 20 hours to read the story. So for those that want to have a easy to read entry on visual novels, I would say this product is a good option.

P.S.

For those that want to read more about VNs, check out my archives here.

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One Comment on “Dysfunctional Systems Review”


  1. […] wrote about this game some time ago, and from the lack of news on its sequel I thought the first episode had not yet achieved enough […]


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