Code: Realize ~Bouquet of Rainbows~ compiles the original Code: Realize ~Guardians of Rebirth~ along with its pseudo-sequel, Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ for the PlayStation 4. While both games can be bought separately on the PlayStation Vita, this Bouquet of Rainbows package is console exclusive. How does the otome collection fare?
Code: Realize ~Guardians of Rebirth~
Guardians of Rebirth is Cardia Beckford’s story. Locked in a mansion for most of her life, the denizens of this 19th-century steampunk inspired England fear Cardia. The poison running through her veins can destroy anything or anyone that makes contact with her skin. This innate defect as a result of the Horologium, a gem embedded in her chest, leads to her public excommunication.
Guardians of Rebirth begins with Arsène Lupin and Impey Barbicane thwarting the British Imperial Army, who were entrusted with kidnapping Cardia by the orders of Queen Victoria. Due to Cardia’s potency, the country aims to use her poison as a chemical weapon against other countries, supplanting England’s dominance.
The eclectic duo responsible for saving Cardia take her in as part of their team. They hope to help her find Isaac Beckford, her father, who also happens to be one of England’s most influential scientific minds. As the narrative develops, Cardia, Impey, and Lupin befriend and make enemies of several characters. Within hours, the cast grows to a sizable chunk, each with their own motivations for either finding Isaac or kidnapping Cardia.
What The Game Does Right
Code: Realize ~Guardians of Rebirth~ nails the craft of making a familiar setting feel distinct through unique deviations from real-world history. It also exhibits beautiful character artwork on occasion, though beyond these triumphs, Guardians of Rebirth falters as a compelling narrative with interesting characters. Each of the characters embodies some sort of trope.
Lupin is the smooth-talking criminal that rarely breaks his composure. Impey is the clumsy genius. Van Helsing is the aloof bad-ass. Saint-Germain is the androgynous and seemingly emotionless voice of reason. Victor Frankenstein is the baby-faced glasses-wearing sweetheart. To its credit, some of the characters have interesting backstories, but the game tends to handle exposition in a ham-fisted manner. An interesting character’s history means little if the story thrusts it all out at once in a wall of text with little to no relevant background art to set a scene before returning to the present. Such heavy-handed exposition fails to characterize what could have been otherwise interesting individuals.
Outside of meaningless exposition dumps, each of the main characters fits within their stereotype to a “T”. Rarely ever showing bouts of true humanity, this cast of pretty boy cardboard cutouts exists just to swoon over Cardia. As a dumb romantic visual novel, it doesn’t need to have the deepest characters. People playing this just want to romance some pretty boys, after all, but that doesn’t excuse its lack of confidence.
Guardians of Rebirth shows signs of light-hearted humor among the melodrama. If it really wanted to succeed, it could have owned the character archetypes. Rather than attempting to provide players with dark, brooding melodrama from boring characters, it could have provided relentless humor through ridiculously over the top portrayals of each archetype. When you have a not so subtle character named Herlock Sholmes, how much more beneficial would it have been for his character to be pushed to the utmost extremities?
Code: Realize ~Guardians of Rebirth~ is a painfully dull visual novel. It offers an interesting world, but more time seems to have been spent fleshing out the world than the characters you’ll spend roughly twenty hours communicating with. The pacing is all over the place. Overly extended character monologues are paired with brisk scenes that accomplish nothing. Guardians of Rebirth is not much of a compelling ride unless you really get hot and heavy for the cast.
Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~
Future Blessings makes some strides, but it’s largely only slightly less painful than Guardians of Rebirth because of its length. Code: Realize ~Future Blessings~ isn’t a sequel in the traditional sense. Rather than one large 20+ hour narrative, Future Blessings is split into four different sections.
Some hit harder than others. The mini-stories involving “events only hinted at in Guardians of Rebirth” and Herlock Sholmes are the weakest of the bunch. They exhibit some of the weakest writing and most mindlessly droning scenes of the franchise. Much like the first game, Future Blessings has a habit of spending too much time on a single scene. Exposition dumps are the worst offender, though. While Guardians of Rebirth had its share of obtrusive exposition dumps here and there, Future Blessings loves its character monologues.
We as readers don’t learn much about characters through little nuggets of info here and there. We learn about them all at once in a single dedicated chunk. I have never seen such laziness. There is a time and a place for an exposition dump, but Code: Realize hinges on them religiously.
The Side Story
The side-story following events through Finis’ perspective was the most interesting the franchise ever got. It was the first time the writing managed to make me care about anything beyond the world’s backdrop or general plot synopsis. Finis remained one of Guardians of Rebirth‘s most mysterious antagonists. His side-story effectively humanizes his modus operandi. It also sheds more light on a plot twist revealed near the end of the last game. Unfortunately, it too loves to derail into overly long scenes with characters that open their mouths so much more than they need to. Luckily, due to Future Blessings‘ structure, side stories are much shorter, making each individual narrative less grating than its predecessor.
Aside from those three side-stories from different characters’ perspectives, Future Blessings also features after stories following the continuity of events after whatever character’s true ending players may have received in the last game. While you are open to following anyone’s after story, it will assume you have reached that character’s true ending. Unless you’ve played through Guardians of Rebirth multiple times, you’ll likely stick to the one person’s after story.
I ended up with Victor Frankenstein in my playthrough, which according to trophy stats was the most common Guardians of Rebirth ending. Victor Frankenstein’s route begins innocently enough with cutesy affectionate scenes between Cardia and Victor. That said, they are soon approached by Idea, an organization briefly mentioned in the first game. Victor Frankenstein’s after story isn’t as nail-biting as learning about Finis, but the franchise has seen worse. If nothing else, it further fleshes out the Code: Realize universe at the expense of the narrative.
That seems to be the ultimate issue. The Code: Realize games are best at world-building, but anything beyond that is weak and uninspired. Characterization, writing, and pacing all plays second fiddle to the world. Unfortunately, there’s only so much an interesting world can do for such vapid storytelling.
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.