A Visual Novel by Christine Love, creator of Digital: A Love Story and don't take it personally babe, it just ain't your story.In 2390, a generation ship called the Mugunghwa departed from Earth with the aim of establishing the first interstellar colony, only to disappear having never reached its destination. Thousands of years later, the derelict ship has been located, adrift in space, and your goal is to access the ship's computer logs and discover exactly what happened.With the aid of *Hyun-ae, an AI aboard the Mugunghwa (the * is silent and merely an indicator that she is an AI), you dig into the layers of a society that had degenerated into an antiquated patriarchy, and the plight of a young girl called the "Pale Bride" who seems to be at the centre of events. Things get even more complicated when the ship's security AI, *Mute, enters the fray and brings a whole new perspective on the events that unfolded.The player lacks the ability to directly interact with the logs of the Mugunghwa (due to the system being unable to parse their text input) and must rely on their AI partner for exposition and searching functions. By presenting important logs to your partner, you can convey the information you wish to find out more about. In the grand tradition of Visual Novels you can also build up a relationship with your AI partner, which leads to one of the five Multiple Endings.It's currently available on its official site and Steam for $10. On June 29th, 2012, it got a free update that made the Steam version compatible with Steam Cloud (thus allowing achievements) and added two new costumes for *Hyun-ae. In September 26th, 2012, a Korean translation of the game was made available. Love has also released a sequel called Hate Plus on August 19th, 2013, after some Development Hell and unpredicted, unfortunate events like her apartment burning down. At first it was meant to be a paid Downloadable Content package for Analogue, but it ultimately became a full-fledged sequel of its own, with the story involving the investigator uncovering hidden files that detail what caused the societal degeneration of the ship.Character page is in the works.
Abusive Parents: The Pale Bride sees her adoptive parents as this. They did chop her tongue off, after all.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Inverted. Hyun-ae shut off the life support to kill everyone aboard before she started the upload process. *Hyun-ae is much more rational, since she's had six hundred years to calm down.
All-Loving Hero: The protagonist shows signs of it in Hyun-ae's endings when s\he chooses to trust her after learning she's a mass murderer.
All Women Are Prudes: The expected behavior of a proper woman. The Pale Bride in particular enjoys sex, and suffers being sent back to her family when she got insistent while the Emperor was in mourning for his late Queen. Not that Hyun-ae was being callous; she was in mourning as well, and was seeking the only thing left that gave her any enjoyment as a way to cope.
The Aloner: *Hyun-ae, especially at the conclusion of the plot, having only made a relatively brief contact with someone to fully hear her story after over 600 years in isolation. Strongly hinted with *Mute as well, since with the inactivation/deletion of *Hyun-ae and revelation of all the relevant logs, there would be nothing left to watch save for the empty ship.
The AIs become this once again should the player fail to download them along with the logs. In a variant of Mute's ending, she asks that the player send the coordinates to whoever's in charge back on Earth, or at least anyone who'll listen, to save her, as she can't just leave the ship.
And I Must Scream: The Pale Bride's adoptive parents cut out her tongue to finally break her. As she can't write the Chinese characters used on the Mugunghwa and everyone treats her as simple-minded due to her status as a woman, the Pale Bride had no method of effective communication left.
Art Shift: The graphic on the computer in the Harem ending is a lot more cartoony than the others, as it's intended to be a "gag" ending.
Artistic License - Nuclear Physics: During the reactor meltdown event, it is said that the ship is gonna explode. In reality, nuclear meltdowns usually result in radioactive leaks rather than explosions, though certain reactor models under certain circumstances can cause hydrogen detonations, which can result in pretty big kabooms. Additionally, after shutting down the reactor, there is still a lot of residual heat that must be heatsinked in order to completely stop the meltdown, very much like meltdowns in Real Life.
Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Kim Yeong-seok is nice to his wife, lets her learn (in a society where an educated woman was unspeakable), and beats a courtesan, simply for trying to relay a message to him from the Smiths.
Bi the Way: In other logs, Smith Sang-min is mainly known for womanizing. His brother Sang-jung recounts asking him after he gets into more sex-related trouble, "Was it at least a female this time?"
Mute, despite being a misogynist tomboy who vehemently denies being bi.
Brother-Sister Incest: The Emperor-Captain and the Queen are secretly brother and sister, and he manages to pass her off as his cousin (acceptable in most Asian countries), in order to maintain a royal bloodline. While logs from both state that they don't love each other like that, the Queen does wonder if her brother did push for this relationship first.note It's stated that birth rates all across the ship have been slowing down, for some reason.. The reason why they can't produce a child becomes more obvious...
Bullying a Dragon: In retrospect, Hyun-ae is right about the "modern" Kims being deeply stupid. Let's treat the girl from the technological past badly, torture her and break her spirit! She certainly has no ancient-to-us knowledge of how the ship's systems work and isn't at all capable of killing the entire ship!
That's the thing: it never occurred to them, because Hyun-ae was a girl, and their culture taught that girls were stupid, subservient, second-class citizens.
Brain Uploading: How Hyun-ae became *Hyun-ae. In a variant, it only took a copy of her brain and used *Mute's files to write the resulting copy onto disk - the real Hyun-ae died..
Casual Interstellar Travel: Not the Mugunghwa itself, obviously, but the fact that a historical society can hire a Private Investigator to pop over and find out what happened to it. Plugging in the fact the introduction says the Mugunghwa is orbiting Antares Bnote ~550ly from earth with the fact that the trip in Hate Plus takes only three days means that the Investigator's one-man scout ship can zip along at seven and a half light years an hour or ~65000c despite being on emergency power.note The HUD in Hate Plus says 29000 light years, but that can't be the course distance since a STL ship couldn't get that far in only 2 millennia. Maybe it's the odometer.
Unless the player character mentions that he or she is from a colony, which could very well be close by.
During a more casual conversation with *Hyun-ae, you can tell her that you regularly travel through space as if it's an everyday hobby.
Chekhov's Gun: The root password to the ship's mainframe was changed to "Hyun-ae" upon her marriage to the Emperor. The Emperor allowed the Pale Bride to know it.
Chivalrous Pervert: Smith Sang-jung, according to *Mute, who calls him "the best damn gentleman around" (even though she knows he's being sarcastic). He's also kind to his long-suffering sister-in-law.
Could Say It But: In *Mute's ending, she can't directly allow herself to be downloaded by the Player Character because she's programmed to stay with the Mugunghwa and protect it. She can, however, decompile herself and (loudly) hope that no-one "kidnaps" her while her program is vulnerable.
Covert Pervert: Apparently, the Pale Bride losing her virginity was one of the best things that happened to her on the ship. Bet you didn't expect that from emotionally-vulnerable, demure Hyun-ae, did you?
One of the first things misogynist and homophobe *Mute asks of a female investigator is how old you are. You normally don't do this, unless you're... interested in a woman, although asking most women their age will get you slapped. The more obvious sign is her giving you a block of logs that has nothing to do with the Pale Bride - it's about a prostitute and the wife of a nobleman falling in love and rutting a lot, under the guise of 'juicy gossip'. And since the AI have to specifically set out questions by hand, one of the possible reactions to the entire subplot is "that's hot". For a supposed misogynist and homophobe, "that's hot" should be the last thing crossing her mind!
Cryptic Background Reference: At some point between the present and the time the Mugunghwa left, Korea was reunited (though by which side isn't specified), and P'yongyang was rebuilt into a beautiful modern city. The questions *Hyun-ae has for you might seem like Schrödinger's Gun, but in fact count as references to this, since the introductory and ending texts establish some as canonnote Namely, FTL travel has been established, leading to other interstellar colonies..
Damn You, Muscle Memory: In some visual novels going to the menu and clicking a save file loads that save after a "you will lose your progress" warning. Here doing overwrites your save after a "are you sure you want to overwrite?" warning. You do not want to lose all your progress because of this.
Despair Event Horizon: Twice for the Pale Bride: First when she got her tongue cut out, breaking her ability and will to resist. Second when her only friend died of unknown causes, which — combined with being sent home to receive some ill-advised comments from her adoptive parents — became the final straw to a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
The Dev Team Thinks of Everything: Multiple examples of this. Characters acknowledge when you've done a bit of Sequence Breaking. You can never access admin privileges (even with the right password) until *Hyun-ae lets you. If you access one ending by pulling up a specific log, via its ID number, that is otherwise inacessible because of the route you are on, *Hyun-ae wonders how you accessed it and asks if you cheated the system.
Diegetic Interface: The game interface is actually the ship's communication system, and restricting player input to multiple choice questions is justified through a glitch in the system that prevents the player's messages from going through.
Dramatically Missing The Point: *Mute is convinced that Hyun-ae was irredeemably insane because she believes that if she really had a problem instead of a persecution complex all she needed to do was ask *Mute for help. You can then break the fourth wall and show her the log explaining why Hyun-ae physically couldn't ask.
The Dung Ages: Life expectancy was about in the 50s. Arthritis set in in their 30s. The Emperor's wife dies from "wood built up in the spleen caused by stress".
Dystopia: In the Pale Bride's view, the state of society that she lives in.
Featureless Protagonist: Played with. No details about the investigator are revealed in the backstory, but you can tell *Hyun-ae and *Mute things like your gender and where are you from when they ask you about them.
Girl on Girl Is Hot: Played with. It's totally unacceptable behavior for women of the era, though Smith Sang-min found it amusing when he caught his wife and one of his female servants going at it. One entire log block, given to you by *Mute, should you be a gossip hen like her, is about a sixteen-year-old courtesean and a 26-year-old wife of a Smith falling in love and making out. *Mute's reactions heavily imply she's not as offended as she claims to be when she gives them to you, especially if you're a male and tell her the logs were, in *Mute's words, "hot".
Gossipy Hens: *Mute, which is ironic considering her name. (She protests this description.)
*Mute: I wasn't a gossip! Look, yeah, I'm a social creature, of course. That's my job!
Grey and Gray Morality: *Mute is a gossipy, hypocritical, misogynist, homophobic, self-serving, selectively aware, short-tempered, slanderous, brusque, rude, crude piece of work, who, while acknowledging the shortcomings of the people she worked for, still found positives (if there were any) in them and was very loyal, if unable to stop spreading rumors. *Hyun-ae is an unrepentant mass murderer who snapped after years of oppression, mutilation, and slavery.
The Smiths are made of thuggish, whoring, boozing, sexist, chauvinistic pigs. The Kims are elitist, and mutilated Hyun-ae to ensure she never talked back to any man, ever again.
Human Popsicle: The Pale Bride, who was put into cryo during a time of crisis (she has a compromised immune system, and there was no medicine - it's implied a lot of people were dying). The Kims think her cryo pod is an egg of some sort, to be used in a time of need.
Husband Right Next To Me: A female Player Character can tell *Mute that she's married and her husband is in the (teeny tiny) spacecraft with her—and since all communication is text-based, *Mute has no way of verifying this. And when the reactor starts melting down, *Mute assumes the husband is more technologically competent and asks to have him put on, whereupon you can pretend you did.
Ill Girl: Hyun-ae suffered from a "compromised immune system", and was placed into stasis to await a future that hopefully had a cure. In the future, however, medical knowledge has regressed and they think the symptoms (pale skin and weight loss) are just signs of beauty.
Karmic Death: If you attempt to abandon the AIs to their fate during the meltdown by downloading the logs (thus severing the connection and dooming both cores), the download time is three days. You've got twenty minutes. Have fun being a supernova, jackass.
Kill 'em All: Hyun-ae murdered the entire ship after snapping. Even the diary entry in which she describes her plan is titled "I'll kill them all!"
Language Barrier: A variant; the Pale Bride can speak to others, but she is unable to use written communication because while she exclusively knows hangul (the Korean language's own writing system), everyone else exclusively uses hanja (Korean using Chinese characters). Because her adoptive family can't read hangul, they dismiss her as illiterate. It's the reason her adoptive family calls her the "Pale Bride". They can't read her real name, Hyun-ae, because it's written in hangul; all they have to go off of is the decorative inscription in hanja on her cryogenic sleep capsule, which they read as "Pale Bride"... and was meant to read as "Sick Daughter".
Artistic License - Linguistics: It's still kind of amazing that Hyun-ae has no apparent trouble with the spoken language, given that it's implied she was asleep for well over a millenium. Even in a closed society that began with at most two languages (Korean + English), one would expect, at a minimum, substantial drift in vocabulary in that time.
Last-Second Word Swap: Hyun-ae does this a lot. Pay close attention to her text, and you'll see that she tends to edit her sentences in real time to make her dialogue seem less affectionate/desperate/emotionally vulnerable. If you manage to swing yourself onto Ending 2, she attempts it several times in succession while trying to compliment you, only to give up and bluntly admit that she's deeply in love with you.
*Mute also does this if you deny you're hitting on her.
*Mute: What? Oh... so you think I'm not good eno [Previous text is removed.] What? Oh... fine, good!
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: If the player accesses one ending by looking up the ID of a log they should have no knowledge of, or otherwise should have no access to, the game slyly acknowledges that the only way to access it is to "cheat the system".
Little Bit Beastly: *Mute has some aspects, such as her bow resembling fox ears and her teeth being slightly fanged. As noted on the page, a gumiho - fox magicians who used to be depicted as either benevolent or amoral - is frequently associated with becoming human. Thus, the opposite of Hyun-ae, who became an AI.
Low Culture, High Tech: The culture of the Mugunghwa is based on Joseon dynasty Korea, despite the fact that its people are living in a starship. None of the recorded messages suggest that anyone, save *Mute and the Pale Bride, has any understanding of how the ship's systems work, or even a rudimentary understanding of astronomy, and in their daily lives the people seem to live by feudal Korean principles. It's an open question as to how they kept the ship running for 300 years in deep space (although some of the "recent" log entries hint that "keeping the ship functional" was becoming a real problem itself).
Madonna-Whore Complex: Heo Min-Jung strongly believes that all women desire to get married and be good, obedient wives. She equates any woman wanting otherwise and be "independent" to being a "whore".
*Hyun-ae offers this trope as one of her alternate outfit options.
Melting Pot Nomenclature; Families aboard the Mugunghwa include the Kims, the Hans, the Parks, the Ohs... and the Smiths.
Mind Rape: Implied in the case of *Mute, of all people. *Mute is perfectly accepting of the "Neo-Joseon" culture you encounter in the logs, but given Hyun-ae's testimony, it SHOULD have been absolutely contrary to her original programming from the democratic, open Terran-Korean society the ship originated from. But she also can't remember anything before "Year Zero" on the Neo-Joseon calendar... meaning the "Captain-Emperor" who founded the dynasty, or someone with similar technical knowledge, mind-wiped *Mute and then forcefully rewired her personality to accept the new culture as natural! EUGH.
Even worse, *Mute never makes this connection, and there's no real way to point it out to her given your limited interface.
Which effectively gives her name a whole new meaning, and makes it no longer so ironic after all.
Hate Plus elaborates on this further. The events, and the effect it has on both past and present Mutes, is not pretty.
Murder Is the Best Solution: Hyun-ae's attitude towards the world after living in it for three years. Note that her "world" consisted of only her adoptive family's house of abuse, and the Emperor's house of despair.note As a woman, especially one of nobility and surrounded by servants, she was not allowed to leave the premises, lest it get her — and thus her family — into disadvantageous trouble.
My Biological Clock Is Ticking: In this case, a woman is considered "old" after 18. Twenty-six year olds are considered elderly, and in one of the Sang sisters' cases, she's already in her thirties/forties and already has arthritis. If you talk to *Mute as a woman, she asks you about her age. The choices are "I'm under 18", or "I'm an old lady".
No Backwards Compatibility In The Future: Averted. The player can remote into and control the mainframe of the Mugunghwa just fine, despite hundreds of years separating the Mugunghwa's technology and that of the player. Since the player's job was to investigate the old ship, they may have been prepared for it.
Confirmed in Hate Plus, wherein one of the AI mentions that the main character is running a strange virtual machine.
No Name Given: Kim Yeong-seok's wife. According to the Kim family tree, her surname is Han.
No Pronunciation Guide: Averted. *Hyun-ae provides you with a pronunciation guide when it becomes apparent that the character doesn't seem to speak Korean.
Precision F-Strike: *Mute, as a rule, won't swear too badly. So you know she's upset about something when she uses the F word.
Press X to Die: The reactor meltdown. Looking back, it's quite clear what's going to happen, but that doesn't stop it from being incredibly tempting.
Point of No Return: The reactor meltdown. You only have enough power to save one of the AIs, locking you into that AI's ending(s). If you do manage to have enough power, however, the other AI won't respond to you. Even if the player copies the core of one AI into the other, technically saving both, the AI transferred will no longer be active - and will decay after 24 hours.
Posthumous Character: It would be easier to count which characters aren't. Every human on the Mugunghwa died six centuries prior to the beginning of the game. Hyun-ae is a possible exception, as she uploaded her mind to escape death.
Real Women Never Wear Dresses: Invoked by *Hyun-ae. If you use the command to change outfits to put her in a hanbok, she looks genuinely sad and asks you why did you do it. Then again, considering what it represents... And for those wondering why it's there at all if she didn't want to wear it, it's what she was wearing when she uploaded herself and died.
Red Oni, Blue Oni: *Mute and *Hyun-ae. It's played with a bit, though. While *Mute is usually more brash, she is generally more methodical than *Hyun-ae. And while *Hyun-ae has a calm and friendly personality, she can get very emotional in the later stages of the game, and was noted to be very hard-headed prior to becoming an AI.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Having lost all hope in the limited world of her future, Hyun-ae hacks into the ship's mainframe and disables the life support systems, while creating an AI using a scan of her own brain to effectively become the only survivor.
Robosexual: Strongly implied to have been the case between *Mute and Sang-jung. It's incredibly obvious on *Mute's side, it's just a matter of whether or not this was why Sang-jung never married.. Also very likely between the character and the AIs depending on the endings.
Say My Name: The Pale Bride, who insisted to be called by her real name, Hyun-ae, which she screams after she's awoken from cryostasis.note In the future she wakes up to, nobody knows the Hangeul alphabet anymore. They resorted to calling her by the only Chinese characters found on her stasis pod, originally written on there by her real father as a decoration.
Schrödinger's Gun: Done by the player, oddly enough. You can say that Earth never established any colonies (despite the intro explicitly referring to the employer(s) as being from one), that you're from Earth or from a colony, that you've visited Pyongyang (where the Pale Bride's father and mother met)...
Send In The Search Team: You as the player. You're a little late to actually save any survivors, though. Save for one, after a fashion.
Sequence Breaking: Searching for the "Forever Silenced" document before the reactor sequence will immediately prompt *Hyun-ae's endgame dialogue as soon as the reactor sequence ends if you locked into her route.
It's also possible to get admin access and switch to *Mute immediately after meeting *Hyun-ae. Her dialog is slightly different.
Searching for the "I'll kill them all!" document with *Mute as the active AI will immediately initiate her endgame sequence. If this is done before the reactor sequence, it's possible to get *Mute's ending or the harem ending and skip over the reactor sequence entirely.
Shout-Out: Some Steam achievements are references to popular Internet memes, such as "Mai Waifu", "Forever Alone", and "Two Girls, One Core".
The art for the "Friendzone" achievement is a reference to Nyoron Churuya-san. It should be noted in regards to the achievement's requirement that in Nyoron Churuya-san, the depicted expression in the icon occurs when things don't quite go Churuya's way...
One achievement, "Rainbow Connection", is a reference to The Muppet Movie. Though the name alludes to the LGBT rainbow flag as it is related to the yuri logs, the fact that it is obtained by going completely against *Mute's beliefs on the subject by insistently telling her that Girl on Girl Is Hot implies a subtle nod to the Muppets song's lyrics: "So we've been told and some choose to believe it / I know they're wrong, wait and see."
Stepford Smiler: *Hyun-ae is a very definite Type A, and during her homicidal phase, she was a combination of Type A and Type C.
Suddenly Always Knew That: Hyun-ae was the daughter of a former head engineer, wanted to also become one, and may have learned how to lock accounts, write root-level scripts, and upload brain scans before her stasis, or at least remembered enough to figure out how to program it as she was asphyxiating the entire ship. It helped that she was also given the superuser password.
The comment on the log when she uploaded herself (which appears to be from her father) implies that he set up the brain uploading system specifically for her, as a last resort in case she couldn't be cured even in the future.
Technology Marches On: The Mugunghwa was a massive multi-generational STL starship sent to colonize a distant solar system. The player makes it out there in a relatively tiny single-seat FTL scout vessel (though you can say that you're not alone on the vessel). This fact is commented on by the AIs.
Tsundere: Both AIs have elements of this, but more prominent in *Mute, especially if you're female. The achievement for her ending is even called "TsunderAI". It's namedropped in the Harem ending, after Hyun-Ae desperately tries to convince you that they don't really want to be your wives or anything... after she screamed that she and Mute want to be your wives.
Too Dumb to Live: If, during the reactor meltdown segment, you have the audacity to refuse helping *Hyun-Ae by selecting the option of "I'm a horrible monster who'll let you die" (yes, that is a verbatim quote), you have either no heart or no brain, possibly both, and you thoroughly deserve the reprimand you get when you do that.
Unknown Rival: The Pale Bride grows to loathe her adoptive brother Yeong-seok's wife. After reading the latter's letters to her mother, *Hyun-ae is startled that someone who made her life miserable doesn't seem to consider her nearly as significant.
Unreliable Narrator: Not so much "unreliable" as each AI having their own perspective on the events that happened. Though *Hyun-ae also lies about being the ship's archive management AInote Which, to be fair, she reveals to be a falsehood fairly early on., and obscures her role in the ship's demise.
Unusual Euphemism: "Independent woman" for prostitute. When someone asks Hyun-ae what her birth parents taught her, she horrifies them by saying they wanted her to be an independent woman, which she means in the "modern" sense.
What Happened to the Mouse?: Ultimately, the mystery of what disaster befell the Mugunghwa that led to it becoming an outdated patriarchy is never solved. *Hyun-ae acknowledges that the answer may be lost forever, considering that any computer records from before the incident have been wiped. Similarly, there's an offhanded comment by the Captain's wife about mysteriously declining birth rates. Both questions get answered in the prequel.
Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: A while after getting her tongue cut off by her adoptive parents, Hyun-ae decides to upload her brain onto the Mugunghwa's computers and turn off life support, killing everyone, herself included. The Hyun-ae you talk to is a simple copy.
Yuri Genre: Not the story in particular, but rather, a set of logs talking about the romance between a noble woman and a courtesan girl hired by her husband. The AIs also don't particularly care about the investigator's gender in their endings, although *Mute, in both a demonstration of her Tsundere nature and the prejudices which were baked into her by her culture, dismisses the possibility of falling in love with a girl quite insistently.