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After finishing the first Sunrider game, I couldn't WAIT to start the sequel. I was hooked hard and just HAD to know what happened next. Sunrider: Mask of Arcadius was awesome, so surely Sunrider: Liberation Day would be even better, right? Yeah, not so much.
Liberation Day picks up right where Mask of Arcadius left off - the preparation period before the Combined Fleet was set to liberate Cera from PACT control. The gameplay is pretty much identical to that in Mark of Arcadius, although there's a distinct drop in the stability of the game. I had multiple crashes and near-crashes where the game would abruptly stop and take 20 or 30 seconds reloading the scripts before letting me continue. One of these instances was particularly irritating as I had just tried to use the Vanguard cannon when it crashed. Upon reloading, it has deducted my command points but done no damage to any of the enemy ships. Not only that but the animation of the cannon's attack would flash on screen in an endless loop every three seconds no matter what I did. Other times, the available movements would fail to show on screen. Sometimes it would render duplicates of every enemy on the map but without any stats or hitboxes; essentially empty sprites that can't move or be attacked but still show on screen. That's basically how the whole game felt - the same as the original but less refined and a bit broken.
One thing that did definitely improve since Mask of Arcadius was the art. The characters have a much less amateur feel to them and generally look better all around. The option to switch between Japanese and English dialogue in battles was a nice touch as well. It's a shame, however, that the for all the improvement in the art quality, the writing quality saw an equal decline, especially at about the halfway point. Maybe the plethora of bugs had made me a bit jaded about the game in general by that point, but the writing started to feel a bit uninspired and drab after a while as if the writers had lost inspiration and just kept writing to finish for the sake of a deadline. Given how much the story sucked me into the first game, that was a supremely upsetting shift in quality. Not only did the writing cease to be nearly as engaging as it was previously, but in the epilogue of sorts, they completely start contradicting things previously established. I won't give anything away in case anyone decides to play through this, but suffice it to say that time travel is involved, and the rules of temporal mechanics that the game establishes for its universe are promptly disregarded like an hour later; not only are those rules disregarded, but they're explicitly contradicted more than once. That's a more minor sci-fi nerd nit pick, I know, but as some of my friends can attest, that stuff REALLY irks me.
I know I mentioned the various crashes and bugs earlier, but those more specific things aren't the only performance issues I encountered. There was significant and general system slowdown when I launched the game - slowdown on a system with no other applications running except the general background stuff, a GTX 980 card, and a quad core processor running 4 GHz per core. Under no circumstances should a damn visual novel cause major slowdown and sluggish performance. Everything just gave the impression that the game wasn't as well optimized as the first one and hadn't been put through nearly enough testing and QA before release or after release.
All in all, Sunrider: Liberation Day isn't a bad VN, and assume one could play it without being horribly confused by missing the context from the first game, it would probably come off as a perfectly acceptable low budget game. The problem is that with only a couple exceptions, the overall quality takes a hit from the first game. The presentation is better, but that presentation very quickly gives way to the plethora of flaws lying underneath. Between that quality decline and the huge parts of the plot left completely unresolved by the end of the game, it just leave a lot to be desired. If you've gone through the first game and see this one on sale, I'd still recommend it, but it's not one that I'd go out of my way to play.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.