Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos Review
If you had the opportunity to prevent illness and end chaos, would you do it? Even if the methods for doing so went against your morals? Welcome to Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1: Learning to Manage Chaos. Written and developed by Dischan, it is the first in what is to become a series of visual novels. Dischan has already built a solid reputation with the release of their free VN, Juniper’s Knot (which I urge everyone to read), so I went into Dysfunctional Systems with high hopes for a fun read. I was not disappointed.
In Dysfunctional Systems, you assume the role of Winter Harrison, a 14-year-old girl who lives on a Utopian Earth. She one day, learns of other worlds, and is chosen to become a mediator, a person who travels to these other worlds to resolve chaotic situations. Before she can become a full fledged mediator, she must first undergo training. Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1 follows her second mission, to the world of Sule, in the small nation of Brighton. Her mentor for this mission is Cyrus, a notorious mediator known for his philosophy of “the ends justify the means.” Together, Winter and Cyrus must learn about Sule, Brighton, and the reason behind the chaos on the planet.
From the get-go, the reader gets a good gauge on Winter’s personality. She still has trouble believing that other worlds exist, and is also surprised by their variety. Sule mirrors her Earth in certain ways, yet the existence of poverty is in stark contrast with the utopian society in which she was raised. This makes her uncomfortable and unsure in certain situations. Her relationship with Cyrus is something of a test for Winter as well. As I said earlier, Cyrus will take the easiest route to ending the chaos of his mission, regardless of the morality of the method. Winter on the other hand has a very strong set of morals (even arguing with Cyrus over drinking beer). The two stand in opposite of each other, frustrating Winter, who is supposed to be learning from Cyrus.
The dynamic between Winter and Cyrus is very well done, as is the dynamic between Winter and the world of Sule. Sadly, not many other characters are in this particular chapter of the VN for them to interact with. Winter’s roommate at the school gets some screen time towards the end, but her appearance and actions act more as an introduction to her character more than anything. This leads into one of the flaws for Dysfunctional Systems.
It’s short. Very very short. In total, it’s maybe 2 hours long (longer if you go for all the Steam Achievements), but completing all the endings only takes about 2 hours’ time. Then again, for $5, I felt it was worth it. It will, however, leave you wanting for more in a good way. Hopefully Episode 2 is longer and filled with more detail about this universe and the reason chaos affects Earth.
If you’ve ever read a Dischan novel, you know that the art in their novels is great. Doomfest heads up the art, and it is very pleasing to the eye. All of the character designs and backgrounds have their own unique feel, avoiding a mistake found in many English-developed visual novels. Rather than trying to imitate Japan, Doomfest uses his own style to benefit the feel and atmosphere of the novel. The music, from CombatPlayer also works to perfection with well composed mood-setting pieces.
The story of Dysfunctional Systems is decently written. Winter and Cyrus travel to a small nation on the world of Sule called Brighton. Brighton has recently gained its independence from the large, powerful nation of Gabrea. While still a colony of Gabrea, Brighton was the subject of many wars between Gabrea and the nation of Fehrdia. Gabrea still maintains a strong grip over Brighton and its people causing the people of Brighton to think of themselves as little worker ants. When Winter and Cyrus visit, the President of Brighton is working hard to establish more freedoms for his country, and is growing increasingly frustrated with Gabrea.
I loved the setting of this story for the same reason I loved novels and games like Analogue: A Hate Story and Bioshock Infinite. It’s historical fiction meshed with sci-fi elements. You learn of the history of Sule through various futuristic technologies. I felt like a student all over again, learning the culture and ways of a newly discovered nation, just like what Winter has to go through. That said, there isn’t much mystery, or detective work, in Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1, as the developments of the novel are kind of thrown into your lap. But then again, that is not the focus of the novel. How Winter and Cyrus react differently to situations seems to be the novel’s main subject. Again, this is something I look forward to seeing more of in Episode 2, especially since your choices this episode change the way Winter will see Cyrus in Episode 2.
Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1 is a very good visual novel. The character interactions are very well written, the story engaging & well paced, and the audio/visual aspect is top notch. If you don’t want to pay $5 for such a short visual novel, then wait for the full set of episodes to be released (no word on when that will be). Dysfunctional systems Episode 1 is a great read, and I highly recommend it.