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Now This Is A Love Story

  • Addit
  • 11/15/2013 11:15 PM

A Game Made By: calunio
Created Using: RPG Maker 2003
That Roughly Takes Around: 1 Hour To Complete

I can’t believe this is the third straight scary themed game that I’ve reviewed in only a matter of weeks. It just goes to show you how much I do around here (which actually isn’t a whole lot).

*sigh* Let’s talk about All Hallows’ Eve 2013 again…for the umpteenth time.

For those of you who are reading this review from the far distant future where the Cleveland Browns have FINALLY returned to the promise land (ie, actually manage to win more than four games in a season) – there was a time – a certain time, where when the spooks and the creepy crawlies are all out and about and the zombie apocalypse is at hand, a bunch of poor, misguided suckers spent the whole duration of an entire month to create something that would scare the pants off your Grandma. A bunch of people participated – and fun times were had. Of course, like most contests yours truly decided to sit this one out and focus on eating a big jar of honey roasted peanuts instead. But not calunio – oh noes! He was busy embarking on creating something even higher than himself! And unlike the rest of you, calunio actually put a lot of thought into this “new project” of his. Instead of trying to create something that many people have done countless times before, calunio decided to use his brain for once on retelling a tale about an actual crime in an actual city, not some made up Final Fantasy garbage. For you see, calunio decided to base his game’s story on actual true events, something that wasn’t tackled that much in this year’s event. And for that, I applaud him for trying something different.

…Now let’s see if it worked out okay.

The Story

When Suzy met Dan.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood, as Mister Rogers would say. High in the sky as the sun beams down below, Dan Cravinhos is shining up his newest toy model airplane, making sure that the finish is tight and that the wheels don’t fall off during midflight (hey, that rhymed). While tinkering around with his work, Dan’s older brother, Cris, comes along to pay him a brief, but friendly visit. The two exchange pleasantries while “lighting” it up at the exact same time (figures). Just as the pair begin to zone out, a beautiful, young woman named Suzy along with her younger brother happen to notice the pair and the model airplane. While Cris decides to show Suzy’s brother how the plane works and all, Dan soon introduces himself to the lovely lady and the two seem to hit it off “quite well”. (Seriously, it’s like they just met for a second and she’s already madly in love with him and kisses him within the first thirty seconds. Even Cris managed to joke around about that ingame it’s so hilarious.)

Dan soon decides to invite Suzy out to a happin’ party to get to know her better, and Suzy agrees to go out with him. The day of the party, Suzy’s parents, Alfred and Marianne receive an acceptance letter for Suzy to attend one of the finest law schools in all of Germany, making both of her parents very happy about the accomplishment. While celebrations are in order, Suzy decides that she wants to go out for the evening with Dan. But her father has other plans for her, making her stay at home while she works on her admissions paper (boring).

Minute by minute, hour by hour, Suzy begins to write away, trying her best to concentrate but knowing that she can’t quite do so with her mind wandering and constantly thinking about Dan. She wants to see him, but she can’t while her father is watching her every move. But, as time goes on her father falls asleep and she decides to make a break for it. It appears that Dan has been waiting for her this whole entire time (poor Dan)! Suzy apologizes and Dan decides to just play it cool. Before the pair head out, Dan offers her a spliff and Suzy decides to take the next train into magic land. As Dan and Suzy begin to fantasize, Suzy parents find them both outside, not doing what she’s supposed to do and that makes Suzy’s father, Alfred, very angry. What almost ends up in a violent confrontation is soon stopped as Suzy decides to keep the peace between Dan and her dad. Dan manages to slink away while Alfred is fuming for her daughter’s childish actions. In the midst of all that shouting, Alfred strikes Suzy hard in the face, causing her to scream off in a handful of rage.

The next day, Suzy is at the park listening to some music, trying to do her best to calm herself down just as Dan approaches her from behind. As the pair begins to chit-chat and apologizes for last night, Suzy wants to be with Dan but can’t see him as long as her parents are around to tell her that she can’t do so. Dan understands but seriously wants to stay together with her no matter what anybody says.

And then, Suzy came up with an idea.

I’m just going to leave it at that.

The story behind Suzy And Freedom is one of suspense, drama, love and some incredible dark twists making all for one engaging tale. From the beginning, you’re thinking that you just stumbled upon one of those innocent chic flicks about a guy and a girl falling deeply in love. And then you turn around to go some popcorn only to come back and go like, “WTF JUST HAPPENED HERE!?” I’m not going to spoil most of it, but definitely the latter half of the game is what truly shines. All the stuff in-between is all great, but it’s the last portion of the game that truly does it for me. Calunio managed to take a murder mystery story of something that being a Canadian and not truly understanding it made me want to understand it more. I think this is something along the lines what most movie producers seem to do when tackling something like this. Sure a lot of the elements based on the true story have been altered a little bit (like how Suzy actually met Dan, and what not) but it all comes together very, very well.

The Gameplay

*Oof!* “Get off me!”

Looking at the screenshot above, you may asking to yourself, “What the hell is this game even about?” Well, good question. Have any of you ever played “Catherine?” Well, consider this game to follow in similar taste to that. The gameplay of Suzy And Freedom is broken up into several different sections / minigames, similar to another review I’ve done (Spike Lee’s: The Twilight Zone) where the game is comprised of several minigames that manage to tie itself together with the main story.

Chase The Stars:
Kind of a cool way to introduce the game right off the bat, you basically fly Dan’s model airplane through the sky while collecting various star pieces while watching the credits go by. You can’t move the plane side-to-side but you can move up and down. Not much merit to this game, but it’s still not bad for an introduction sequence.

Clear Your Path:
Other than “Find Love,” this is probably the second best minigame in all Suzy And Freedom. When I first played this portion, it almost reminded me of playing some of the old “Streets Of Rage” games for the Genesis. Basically, you move to the right side while kicking some ass! The precision and hit detection isn’t too bad actually, and fighting these junkies are, actually, quite fun! The only problem I have with this game is repeatly pressing the “confirm key” started to hit my wrist it bit because of the game’s length and how many enemies you have to beat down. But all of it was worth it just to see Cris go into in “shirtless” mode.

This minigame blows! It’s the worse one of them all (well, can’t be too perfect, I guess). It’s kind of like how I hate that one minigame in Spike Lee too! Ugh.

Basically, you just push buttons to write your paper and wait until the old man falls asleep so you can make your escape. What a stupid minigame!

Find Love:
Yep, starting to remind of Catherine – all over again.

Okay, this game caught off guard a bit when I first played it – and man is it hard! This game may look easy but it can sure lead to a lot of frustration at times. Basically, you have to reach the top with both Suzy and Dan while creating blocks to make new platforms to jump on to get across. You can switch between the two at any time. Although it might take you some time to get used to the odd jumping mechanic and constantly falling down to your doom (arrrggggghhhhhh), once you get the hang of it this game can be quite fun. I actually kind of wish calunio made more levels of this than just the one (maybe a sequel idea).

Make Him Do It:
Once you get to this minigame, your mind won’t even be the same.

Basically, through a series of choices, you must get Dan to commit to Suzy’s crazy schemes. I’m not going to go into much fuller detail about this. Some of the responses can be pretty amusing at times (especially the CSI choice, lol).

Don’t Die:
I…I’m a bit lost on this one. No matter what I do or what button I press, I get the same outcome all the time. I will say one thing, though: “CAN THOSE PEOPLE BE ANY MORE SLOWER!?!?!? HOW MANY TIMES DOES IT TAKE TO KILL THESE GUYS!?”

Disguise Your Crime:
Doesn’t really matter what you do, as it just changes some of the dialogue that the detective says during the investigation. All I did in this minigame was take the money and sit on the coach for the whole period (it’s what the original source character would have done).

Stay Together Until The End:
Another find love puzzle! Yaaaaaaayyyyy…

(Why is this one so hard?)

Hide The Truth:
(This detective is a REALLY good detective.)

Annnnnnnndddddddd…that’s about it, I guess.

Basically, the minigames are a nice distraction and add a nice personal touch, but I can’t help feeling that a lot of them, except for the find love puzzles, aren’t really…necessary. The story is basically the meat behind the potatoes and I much preferred to follow it more than deviate from the actual narrative. By no means are these minigames “bad,” but they’re just really unnecessary. I feel like this is the type of the game that would have worked better as a visual novel more than this setup.

The Soundtrack


A small soundtrack but one that works quite well. Taking a look at the readme file that comes with the game, I was quite surprised to see that some of the songs were from “Altered Beast” and “Lennus” for the SNES. While nothing too great, there are two songs in the game that work really good in this instance: “Alone On Halloween” and the main title theme, “Nada Sei – Kid Abelha” (Abelha, which is actually “Honeybee” in Portuguese). Alone On Halloween’s creepy, and unsettling vibe truly shines at the right moment. The main title theme, at first, I couldn’t understand it being sung in Portuguese and played at a lower tempo. But if you look up the song on Youtube (or the video down below), this song is actually quite good.

Overall, the soundtrack works but it’s not utilized as good as it can be. Alone On Halloween is an awesome, unnerving track and I wished that calunio tried to get more of his OST from around that source.

Sound effects are good, a lot of nice ambiance and general effects used well for this game. I like the confirm option sound effect; it almost sounds familiar but it works.

The Aesthetics


For the small amount of time that this game had, graphically speaking this is a very well done put together game. Custom facesets look fantastic and maps look quite divine. The only real complaint I have with the graphics is the park panaroma in the first couple of scenes. Having real people in the background with the character sprites behind them kinda clash a bit, but it’s a small complaint at best. Everything else looks great, and I didn’t have much of a problem with it.

The End Result

“Um…help? Hello…???”
(...I shouldn't have hired that lawyer.)

I came in into this game with a slight mix of intrigue and confusion upon start up. After never playing a calunio based game and only hearing of much acclaim about some of his earlier works, I didn’t seriously know what to think before playing this game. And after investing a good solid hour into playing Suzy And Freedom, it has gotten me more curious about the man. Taking something like this and turning into a worthwhile experience while following the source material as best as possible takes someone who knows what they’re doing behind the wheel. Suzy And Freedom not just provided a good experience but made me more curious about the actual story that it’s based on. As a game, Suzy And Freedom just doesn’t mesh well; but as a strong narrative, it works extremely well. Still, I have to give calunio mad props for trying to turn this into something worthwhile.

And that something turned out worthwhile.

4.5 / 5 - B+ ~ Oustanding. Truly Outstanding.


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Thanks for this incredible elaborate review!

My research on the story was very thorough, and along that, I worked my mind hard to try and imagine the character's personalities and motivations, picture what they must have felt, and how they must have behaved at certain points. In truth, I tried to be faithful to details. The differences come from two major points:

1 - I had to make a much smaller version of the story. Suzane and Daniel dated for years before they were forbidden to date, and they secretly dated for a long time before the murder. I made a story that's not very precise in terms of chronology, cause it looks like they meet - fall in love - are forbidden to date - plan murder - kill in very little time. That forced me to do some adaptations. Sometimes I merged too scenes in one... for instance, in the real story, while doing the crime reconstitution, when Suzane's brother saw Cristian, he ran and hugged him (which was pretty bizarre to the police, seeing Cristian had killed his parents). In the real story, Cristian wasn't even at the crime scene when the police got there, just Suzane, her brother, and Daniel. But since I thought that hugging moment was very powerful, I found a way to put it there. Just an example, there are lots of bits like that. Another one is the "CSI" dialog piece you mentioned. It was truth: the murder plan was based on what Suzane had learned from the series.

2 - I ended up making Suzy more human than Suzane (I know, right!?). Suzane Von Richthofen is a complete psychopath. As soon as she learned she would be arrested, she decided to take a nap... that's how emotionless she is. She laughed a few times during her trial. If I tried to be faithful to that, Suzy could come out too unrelatable. I tried to make a character that was evil, was a psychopath, but to a degree... because, besides everything, it's still possible to empathize with Suzy. She just wanted to be herself, she wanted to be free. I'm pretty sure Suzane is not such a monster either, as the media paints it, but I didn't get enough info to support that. So I had to create some of my own.

Anyways, I'm glad you enjoyed the game! If you ever get to play something else I made, let me know what you think!
Btw, Apneia is Portuguese for Apnea. Abelha is Portuguese for Honeybee. :D
Very well-written review, I like how you concisely and very clearly make all your points. You summed up the story extremely well, I was very impressed.

It's funny to think that most of the minigames you disliked I liked, and most of the minigames you liked I disliked. I can see why you would like the Beat'Em'Up and Love minigames, but I guess I only focussed on their weaknesses like unreliable hit detection repetitive gameplay and unfairly punishing falls. But in essence they are pretty good ideas.

But I'd like to tell you that the reason the minigames you disliked were enjoyable and even essentially awesome to me was the way that they used interactivity to portray the feelings and emotions of the character. For example, it would be easy to make a cutscene where Suzy types a report and escapes while her Dad is sleeping, but I found it extremely clever and rewarding that calunio tuned the minigames so that we feel more deeper emotions. We actually feel Suzy's boredom while we are typing the report. We feel the need to escape quick, because this is getting boring, and we want to see Suzy's boyfriend.

Another example is the death scene. I think it was one of the crowning moments of the game, because you actually felt what it was like to be murdered, and it strengthened the empathy you felt for the mother and father. That empathy wasn't as present before, but calunio masterfully integrated gameplay mechanics into the story so that you can *feel* the characters' emotions even more.

It's part of the reason why I wasn't entirely satisfied with the minigames that had more "gameplay", because I felt they didn't portray the feeling that each character felt more powerfully than the others. But I've iterated this to calunio too much that it might be besides the point; they are small nitpicks in what is otherwise a fantastic game.

Anyway, nice review Addit!
@ calunio – Ah, I see, interesting… I suppose you had to trim and adjust a lot of the story elements to fit it in for the required time limit for the contest, and what not. Although the scene when Suzy met Dan and they instantly “hit it off” made me chuckle and wasn’t very convincing, I suppose it works for a more lighthearted approach to the story. I dunno, after reading the actual story a little more and watching the odd video clip about the whole thing, I actually prefer your interpretation more.

Btw, Apneia is Portuguese for Apnea. Abelha is Portuguese for Honeybee. :D

Well, I dun goofed. (I guess I’ll have to quickly edit that part while no one’s looking.)

@ thatbennyguy – Different strokes for different folks, eh? Even though I don’t really like the escape minigame that much, looking back on it, it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, all the minigames did their job very well.

You know, thinking about it some more, I’m surprised I never heard about this story on the local news up here before. I watch the morning news all the time before going to work and I never heard about this story before. You would think that I would, but no.
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