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September 29, 2014

Bonus Review: Drawn To Life: The Next Chapter (DS) - THE FINALE, Part 2

Drawn To Life Month
Drawn To Life - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
The Next Chapter (Wii) - Part 1 - Part 2
The Next Chapter (DS) - Part 1 - Part 2

Hello, and welcome back to the finale of Drawn To Life Month! Last time, I covered the plot in the first two worlds of The Next Chapter (DS). First was Watersong, and then there was Lavasteam. Now I'm trying to finish talking about this game - about this franchise - today. Let's not waste any time, then!

The crew goes towards the Galactic Jungle. *sigh*... With all the troubles in Lavasteam they still haven't found Mari...

And each time, the pendant owned by Heather carves
the path on a map. Kinda complicated if y6ou ask me...

Cricket, Unagi and Zazasazh... Zsashzzahsszhszazaaa... Ash appear there and are taken away, one by one, by robots claiming they broke the law in several ways; Unagi was talking in the public area, Ash was running, and Cricket... ATE A DONUT! How unlawful!

Well, at least our Raposa-Cop stays true to the stereotype.
(P.S. I,m kinda glad Zsasha doesn't have a bigger role here.
I was getting tired of making the "can't pronounce his
name right" joke.)

Jowee enters his room and sees Mari, who is searching for something. She takes the Book of Life from him and... begins ripping pages off! Mike enters, and Mari runs out. Cornered by the other villagers, she uses one of Wilfre's portals to escape. Whaaaaaaaa-???? Jowee has no idea what's going on... And neither do I. Thankfully, parts of the book are still there. After which we hear a voice, maybe the Creator, asking the same questions that were at the beginning of the game. It's my turn to be wondering what the Hell is going on... Later, Jowee has a dream where he finds Heather, but she turns to stone.

Democracy of the republic of the people of- Can you please
repeat that? ...Ah, screw it. I'll keep calling this place the
Galactic Jungle. Less complicated.
Th Galactic Jungle is a place that combines natural and futuristic elements. Kind of like the forest from the first game, except it goes beyond gears and mechanisms, it's literally a science-fiction city with plants scattered around. Jowee, Sock and the avatar get there, but the place follows strict rules and the person who welcomes them in doesn't let them speak to the city's council. Unless they bring back something that was lost in the first level of the game, of course. At the Hero's return, we get a look at that “Council”: Six shadowy Raposa figures who keep adding new rules to this society. What's the next rule? Sneezing is now illegal. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-????

Ahhhh-choo! Sorry, I'm allergic to bullcrap.

Welcome to 1984, I guess?

There has to be another way.
...That line comes by pretty damn often in this game...
We get some explanation from Click, who is Jowee, Sock and the Hero's guide through the city. The peacekeepers are robots, the S.P.U.D.s. Click gets the stuff he needs to use the elevator leading to the Council, and in the meantime the Creator's puppet is sent on a small mission to rescue a S.P.U.D. from another level. While going back to the elevator, they see a citizen taken away because she sneezed. Dammit! It's taking too long to enter the elevator, so Jowee suggests the Creator makes a spaceship they can then use to reach the Council. A-okay...

Stuck in a spaceship with two Rapo... "You're stepping on
my ear!" "I got your tail in my eye!" "I got the Hero's
sword too close to my head!"
You draw the ship, the bullets and the bombs to use in the next level, which is a horizontal shoot'em up. Jowee, Sock and the Hero enter, though there's little place for them in it. And of course, it wasn't going to be this easy going up towards the Council! With the spaceship, the heroes have to destroy over twenty Baki security cannons. Once they reach the higher region of the city, the Hero has to go through three more levels to get generators that can then be used to power up the second elevator leading to the Council. Oh, great... Now I'm getting flashbacks from the Wii game with its pointless missions made just to go through more levels.

Well, space sure seems... white around here.
I guess the designers were lazy and just left a... blank space.

Banished? What, he was running and sneezing while eating a
donut and screaming profanities?
After the generators have been found, Jowee, Sock and the Hero learn from a S.P.U.D. that Click has been banned from the city. They decide to break into the Council, but first they have to take down the main security system, a large spaceship, and they destroy it... with their own spaceship! They eventually defeat this opponent and go to meet the Council. They notice the bunch of S.P.U.D.s blocking the way are actually holograms. They enter... and find out that the Council was actually a bunch of dummies! The true creature guiding the Council is a large head inside a vertical tube.

Not a human head! A Raposa head! And then that one turns out to be fake as well.

Which horrible consequences? You'll strike us down with bad CGI?
Sharknado tried that already, and it just made us laugh.

Obviously, there's got to be someone behind all this!
I just expected Wilfre. Because only he is nasty enough...
And guess who was controlling everything? Wilfre? Nope. Actually, it was Click. The old Rapo explains that the Mayor of the city passed away without an heir, so there was no Mayor to govern. To keep the place in order, he created the Council, the holograms, the security systems, the other things that made the citizens' lives complicated due to all these nonsensical rules. He was also the one to make all these stupid rules. But guess who gave that idea to Click? If your answer is not Wilfre, clearly you haven't been paying attention. Haven't you understood by now that he's the cause of everything that is going wrong? Jowee, Sock and the Hero decide to expose Click's treachery to the people, but take his side as he didn't do any of this out of malice, and by the end, Click is selected as the new Mayor of the futuristic city. Just don't let him near any universal remote.

Yeah, and he screwd up. Everyone makes mistakes. Look, I made one
when writing the word "screwed"!

Time to head out to the next island! Sadly, the pendant isn't working this time, so the heroes have no idea where to go next. Sock asks to see the pendant, and while Jowee tries to talk with Piratebeard to think up a plan, Sock runs away. When the villagers find him, the young sock-hat-wearing Rapo throws the pendant overboard. Sock takes his disguise off, revealing... Wilfre. Damn! Now certain of his own victory, Wilfre escapes through a portal.

Thanks to this, at least now the Raposa know Wilfre can transform, so Jowee theorizes Wilfre must be the “Mari” who ripped the pages out of the Book of Life. All the villagers decide on going home and giving up... and once everyone has left to their rooms on the Turtle Town Ship, Crazy Barks finds Wilfre's big sock, the one he used as a hat under his “Sock” alias.

They must be looking at one Hell of a trainwreck.

In a dream brought by the Creator, Jowee sees Mari and Heather looking at the picture you've drawn at the beginning. Only they can see it. The Creator tells Jowee about the sock. After his dream, Jowee goes outside and sees Crazy Barks using the sock as a sail leading towards Wilfre's castle!

Currently, Wilfre realizes he left his sock hat behind and says, "This blows."

This final world seems to be made of bits and pieces of the last three worlds, plus the large castle owned by Wilfre. It's a mashup! Upon their arrival, they see the real Mari, but Jowee refuses to believe it and turns around... until Wilfre shows up. He says Mari went to him willingly. Whaaaaaaaa-??? Mari tells Wilfre she needs to explain everything to him. But Jowee refuses to hear anything, so Wilfre kidnaps him... and then leaves with Mari.

God this is depressing. And it's not even over yet.

"Avatar... Avataaaaarrrr... You must travel now to the
Dagobah system- Wait, that's not what I wanted to say."
The old Mayor's spirit comes and tells the avatar what to do. He must enter one level in each of these bits from the other villages. And in each level, he must build a pedestal and find an orb. These objects will weaken the barrier put around Wilfre's castle, which will let the Hero enter to "save everyone".

He makes the altar and orb for Watersong, then does the same for the section based on Lavasteam, and finally goes through more levels based on the Galactic Jungle. The three orbs instalkled unlock the section of Wilfre's castle. They see Mari and Jowee, and it seems Jowee has, too, joined Wilfre. He even says that Mike is a lot more involved in this whole thing than he thinks. Mike? The human within the Raposa world? Involved in anything? Even though it's obvious he shouldn't be there and thus he probably has plot relevance? Him, more involved? Hah! Yeah, sure. And I'm the Bonhomme Carnaval!

You have no idea how hot it is inside that suit.

Bigger than your world? Bigger than anything you've ever
seen? A... Raposa version of Galactus???
But, surprise! Jowee actually rallies to the other Raposa again! Even though he knows the deep disturbing truth that made Mari join Wilfre, he still rallies with the Raposa. He asks Mari to do the right thing, so Mari looks at the past. She thinks about her father, the wise old Mayor. Finally, Mari decides to go back with the Raposa to stop Wilfre, once and for all! Great! Still, we have a feeling Wilfre, and now Mari and Jowee, know something we should know, and for some damn reason, we still don't. We will... by the end. Meanwhile, Wilfre knew the Creator would still send a Hero, and thus has prepared for any avatar who would come to fight him.

Except this one, maybe.

Time to smash down Wilfre's castle! The Hero assembles a team by picking among his friends the Raposa, and- What? It doesn't happen that way? Aw, crud. By this point I was expecting the entire cast to follow the Hero to collectively kick Wilfre's ass. That would have been pretty awesome if you ask me.

First the Hero finds a key in the first level of Wilfre's castle, then enters the second level and comes back with more color. Wilfre appears and says that all of the Raposas' lives are at stake here. If they restore all the color to the world of the Raposa, they will all die. Yeah, sure, Wilfre. Like we'd trust you. But then Mari and Jowee back up Wilfre's argument. If all of the color comes back, everyone will die. They say that they will carry through with this color plan as it's the right thing to do, basically dooming everyone willingly because of something we still don't know about. Things are suddenly taking a grim turn... Okay, it has been pretty damn dark through this entire freaking game, but now we're getting in the meat of it. Wilfre is trying to keep the Raposa world alive... by preventing the heroes from getting all the color. Okay... But does that excuse in any way the things he did before in the game? NO! Heck, the sole reason he caused so much chaos in the other villages is because he was trying to prove a cheap point: The Raposa are all too eager to follow their leaders (the Mayors), because said leaders follow the Creator, who “doesn't care for them”. Then again, this is Wilfre speaking, how much of this can be trusted?

Um... Good question. Can you answer to this, smartass?

The evil darkness creature using color to attack.
Really didn't see that one coming.
The Hero reaches Wilfre and the final battle begins. Wilfre uses color rays to attack... and kills the Hero! Holy crap! Wilfre makes a monologue about the Raposa having to live without the Creator, for the Raposa should be the ones to create around their own world. Meanwhile, the villagers outside of Wilfre's castle ask for help from the Creator once again, as its avatar alone will not be able to defeat Wilfre. But this time, all the villagers present pray for help. And all the Raposa from the other villages do the same. Oh, Mother, I have a feeling I've heard of prayer saving everyone in an adventure before, I just can't quite put my finger on it... The prayer ultimately revives the Hero, who battles Wilfre, for real this time. The evil Raposa reveals his ultimate creation, a throne flying over a cloud. It uses lightning to attack and can turn into a tornado. Wow?

It looks pretty damn cool. A chair mighty enough for Zeus
himself! Or maybe Thor!

Heather! Phew, talk about a last-minute rescue.
The battle is difficult – but from what I see, it actually looks easier than the one at the end of the first Drawn To Life game, as this time there's only one phase and you don't have to kill a giant scorpion before battling Wilfre. When defeated, Wilfre sheds his darkness and turns into Sock, then Salem, and finally into his old Raposa self, before vanishing once and for all, revealing Heather. And by the way, Heather's face is normal now; no dark half! That's amazing!

The Hero returns to the villagers outside of Wilfre's castle, and Heather is so happy to see Jowee again. Jowee, Mari, Heather, the Hero, Mike, Piratebeard, Isaac, Crazy Barks, and all the others I might have forgotten return to their original village, which has retrieved all of its color. Sadly, this story comes to an end. In order to “do what's right”... The Creator taps the Eternal Fire a final time... Before it all ends, Mari explains what she saw. She saw Mike... Mike the human. But before she can say anything else, all the Raposa in the village disappear, and so does the Hero.

Everyone's disappearing! Isaac, no! Where will I buy
all of my useless decals for the Hero??

Mike finds himself in a white void, where we hear the ominous question again. “What do you remember about that day?” Heather appears and repeats the answers you've given at the start. She then vanishes, and the white void turns to black. Heather's incomprehensible sentences are now made perfectly clear: “God, just bring back my little brother to me.”


This pixel art is... impressive. Beautiful. Extremely detailed
and realistic. Marvelous.
Then the entire backstory is revealed. Mike and Heather were siblings in the real world. They were coming back from an amusement park. Their parents were driving through the forest. Suddenly, a car coming in the opposite direction. A crash. A tree. Heather holds Mike close. The car, slipped over, on the side of the road. The parents are found dead. Later, Heather seen with bandages covering the left side of her face. Mike, in bed, in a comatose state, with Heather looking over him. Mike finally opens the eyes. Heather hugs him. On the bedside table, two dolls, who look a lot like Mari and Jowee, possibly won at the amusement park.

If you don't feel anything with this ending, then you've got no heart. And I hate you. Then again, I can understand if you do not cry to my short description of the events. It's too quick, and you cannot feel the actual weight of the scenes. Wait till you've played through the series, after which this ending makes perfect sense. And you'll feel all of the emotional weight of this ending. It hits. It hurts. It works. Call me emotional. But when I learned about the ending, and heard this song... Even today, I can't listen to this video without feeling deeply sad. It's a very bittersweet ending: All the characters you've learn to like had to vanish so that a real boy could get out of a coma and live again.

Also, before you ask: Yes, you can keep playing after the game has been completed. But Mike is asleep, and talking to him erases the save file. The ending basically states that the Raposa world was a part of Mike's subconscious, a cute world he created for himself, with characters referring to all the things he liked: Pirates, vampires, Indiana Jones, and so on and so forth... Now all these weird characters make perfect sense. The feeling that “this game was made with young boys in mind” makes perfect sense. It IS a young boy's mind, and we didn't know at first.

As a side-note, I was rather annoyed when I heard that the ending had been changed for the compilation re-release of the two Drawn To Life DS games. Instead of a car crash, Mike just falls off from a tree and hits his head. He's still in a coma, but this new version makes less sense in my opinion: What about Heather, the Raposa with the half-dark face? In the first story, there was a reason: The real Heather's face was covered in bandages. With the new ending, there's no such reason as to why Raposa-Heather has this condition. I'm kind of angry that 5th Cell changed it, but they probably did after receiving a few complaints that the original ending was "too dark". I'm sorry, but: the harsh reality? Too dark? Sigh. Moral guardians will get offended at anything these days.

And besides, it doesn't end in a completely horrible way. It's
very sad, as they are orphans now, but at least they have each
other. Brother and sister, still a family. Heck, Mike gets out of
his coma! Life will be hard for them, but they will always be
able to count on each other.

Now that I've discussed the ending, let's see how The Next Chapter's story is, as an overall plot. Well, it's great. Flawed, but great. The story keeps you on your toes as it seems Wilfre always remains close to victory. By the way, some people theorize that Wilfre represents death, and the reason he was almost winning at the beginning of the first game is because Mike was about to die, but then the darkness was repelled and Mike's state went from “critical” to just “in a coma, but out of danger”. Sadly, his subconscious Raposa world is what keeps him in that state, and Wilfre's plans at first in the second game is to remove all the color of the world, which makes it impossible for Mike to awake. Wilfre is even shown as a well-intentioned extremist who wants the Raposa world to keep on living, even if that means a boy has to spend his entire life in a coma. His plans in the second game further bring him to corrupt or cause troubles to the Mayors of the other towns, but this is not made perfectly clear. It's barely discussed near the end of the game, and that's the flaw. Through the whole game, you help three villages against Wilfre, but when he explains himself, it's only a mention, and an unclear one at that. Plus, if he wants the Raposa world to keep on existing, why does he cause all this trouble?

Aside from that, The Next Chapter (DS) contains plot twist after plot twist. Mari is gone! No wait, she's back... she rips apart the Book of Life! It's Wilfre in disguise! No, wait, it's really Mari??? She has joined Wilfre? But she betrays him before the end and goes back to help her village? Then there's also Salem and Sock – instead of using only one fake identity, Wilfre used two. One of them was traveling around with the heroes, and Wilfre played that role so well that nobody suspected a darn thing! One of the very subtle hints is that Salem and Sock are never seen on-screen both at the same time. Likewise, in the second half of the game, some comments are made about Mike, implying that he's more important than he appears. Sadly, him showing up late in the first game and contributing very little to the second has not helped much for the people who claim that this ending is a cheap cop-out relying on a character we've barely seen.

Also, the big reveal is hinted at, but kept hidden through the whole game. I pointed out most of the hints through the seven posts made for Drawn To Life Month. Some were very well-hidden. I think 5th Cell had planned this ending from the very beginning and gave just enough hints that it would make sense by the end, but not too many as to avoid spoiling it early. As a result, it's a justified ending, but it could have been something else too.

I doubt I need to repeat that the art and the music are both incredible. Even Wilfre's revised theme is good... though it's just a different instrumentation.

*between sobs* I knew it! Raposa dolls are adorable!
I want one to hug while I weep because of this story!

To me, Drawn To Life remains an incredible series, and I loved playing the first DS game. I loved watching the Let's Play of the second DS game. I kind of appreciated the Wii game, though its flaws greatly diminished my enjoyment. That's all I can say. Drawn To Life Month is over now. It's still, in my opinion, a great video game series, and it deserves all the recognition it got. I hope you enjoyed this month, and if you want, I can make more themed months in the future. A Sonic Month, a Mario Month, a Raving Rabbids Month, an Ace Attorney Month...

On this, I tell you all Rapo-Goodbye! Tune in this Friday, possibly, for Part 1 of my second VGFlicks review! (Why "possibly"? I'll explain tomorrow.)