The Closer: Game of the Year Edition (or The Closer for short) is an RPG developed in RPG Maker XP by Redbird Menace and published by Thesis Games in 2015. It weaves an absurdist and existential narrative around a major sport, not unlike The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles or 17776. Yet the sport that serves as the backbone of the game's plot is not gridiron football but baseball.
It's Game 6 of the 2015 World Series, and the New York Yankees are leading 3-2 against the St. Louis Cardinals. You play the role of the Closer, an ace reliever of New York, who's just been called to the mound to finish off the championship despite still being a young rookie. However, this soon proves not to be the case as St. Louis's power hitter Carlos "The Machine" Rodriguez arrives at bat and completely smashes the ball out of the park.
Crushed by this slip-up and the ensuing loss that extends the series to a Game 7, the Closer soon finds out that everyone's figured out his slider, rendering it nothing more than a weak, predictable meatball throw. Thus, his pitching coach Moose drops a bombshell on him: in order to win Game 7 the following day, he will have to remake himself as a pitcher. And that means learning a new pitch or two. All pretty normal stuff...until Moose suggests the optimal way to learn new pitches in such a short time is to do pencil-and-paper crossword puzzles.
And then a Slovenian philosopher gets involved.
And then a hentai game.
And then personified social media. And that's not even halfway through the rabbit hole!
Currently Needs More Love due to being a rather obscure title.
This game contains the following tropes:
- Anthropomorphic Personification: @twitter, of the social media platform of the same name. Though in its case it's more aviomorphic.
- Arc Words: "Fuck that." Not only is that phrase a good response to most things (e.g. deconstructing poorly-thought-out trivia questions, rejecting learning the spitball because the Closer's not going to stoop that low even in the direst of times), it also embodies the general concept of not sitting there and letting destiny, or what others expect of you, have its way with you.
- Baleful Polymorph: In the Gritty Reboot world, @twitter is distraught to find itself turned into a blue but otherwise realistic chicken.
- Break Them by Talking: Zizek's "fighting style" has him use philosophy against his opponents, until they concede defeat/do what he wants so he'll shut up.
- Chain of Deals: Throughout the game, you'll find various NPCs who've gotten a soda they don't like and wish they had a different one. By exchanging sodas (starting with a Tab soda found in Zizek's apartment for a Dr. Pepper), you eventually get the grand payoff of...an Xbox achievement. That calls the player out for completing a meaningless sidequest.
- Darker and Edgier: Satirized heavily in the Gritty Reboot world, which features all the overdone "mature" themes one would expect in grimdark media. Gratuitous zombies, unnecessary swears, overly realistic proportions for the characters, melodramatic takes on social issues and past tragedies, and nihilism of the sort that would make Nietzsche cringe.
- Discriminate and Switch: An NPC at The Machine's mansion offers to pay the Closer $20 to steal a baseball bat from the mansion's bedroom chambers. While the Closer balks at first because he thinks the NPC is racist* , they save face by clarifying that he looks like a main character of a story—one who takes the time to help out random people in exchange for minor rewards while pursuing their major quest. That leaves the Closer slightly less hesitant to agree to the job.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: When the manager of the New York Yankees decides the Closer can't finish off Game 7—because his media reputation has tanked in response the Game 6 disaster—the Closer does not take it well. He leaves the party immediately, and they soon find out he's locked himself up in an abandoned PEZ factory so he could consume the candy and learn new pitches that way. Now, in the context of baseball, what hot acronym does PEZ sound like?
- Downer Beginning: Losing a critical game in the World Series is not exactly a happy start to a story, but things soon get better (and stranger) as the Closer starts rebuilding his pitching repretoire in time for the final game.
- Eskimos Aren't Real: Carl Everett's disbelief in dinosaurs is treated as a Running Gag, culminating in him fighting you in the West Coast Dinosaur Forest should you have a translated copy of the first-edition Final Fantasy VI startegy guide. All because he wants to prove that dinosaurs aren't real.
- Game-Breaking Bug: While the game is good about averting this for the most part, there are a couple glaring exceptions when you return to Jake Arrieta after rescuing Moose. The first has your party unable to break out of an auto-run event because they've been placed in a part of the map for Jake's house that leaves them stuck against a wall trying to walk upwards to another part to continue the dialogue. The other is when the game goes into an endless loop of repeating Moose's dialogue because the event page for talking to him was set to auto-run instead of activating on the action button (and there was no built-in variable switch to turn it off). While they're easy fixes to do in RPG Maker XP and only cost you if you forgot to save beforehand, anyone without a copy of the program will have to avoid revisiting the place at that point in the game.
- Game of the Year Edition: Referenced as a pun in the title but otherwise averted due to being a self-contained indie game with no DLC.
- Genius Bonus: Weaponized by Moose and later Kami when the party participates in trivia night. The questions look sound on the surface, but he and she knows a few things that expose just how poorly worded the questions were. For example, the first question Moose tackles is "What artist is best known for 'The Night Watch'?" The answer is, of course, Rembrandt...except it's more complicated than that. Moose points out that while Rembrandt did paint that piece and it was his best-known painting, the real title is the longer-winded "The Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq and Lieutenant Willem van Ruytenburch Preparing to March Out".
- Greater-Scope Villain: The Illuminati are what truly drive the plot, creating Rodriguez so he can constantly antagonize the Closer and his friends and prod him into fulfilling his part of their apocalyptic prophecy. You only find this out late in the game, after stealing the very ball Rodriguez sent flying out of the park in Game 6.
- Grew Beyond Their Programming: Kaminari (and later the other Rockford Peaches) starts to think beyond her original programmed restraints, thanks in part to Closer, Moose and Zizek intervening at a critical point in the eroge. This leads to her eventually seeing Dugan as the manipulative empty shell he was and reacting as someone in the actual situation would; with disgust and horror.
- #HashtagForLaughs: Much of @twitter's banter is filled with dialogue that contains at least one #hashtag, and a good number of those are often snarky or otherwise humorous. For instance:@twitter (in response to the Closer getting a trivia question regarding marsupials "right"): I know that #kangaroos would have been trending during the 1980s, thanks to the hard work of Paul Hogan and Mel Gibson to bring the #Outback to the USA. And think of all the hilarious Crocodile Dundee #parody accounts that we missed out on. I am LOLing and SMDHing at the same time. If only I had been created 30 years earlier #ImproveTheWorldIn9Words
- Hello, [Insert Name Here]: While it's a standard for JRPGs to add a name input field at the very beginning, The Closer adds a few twists to the trope. You can rename yourself by visiting the Weed Mouse in a secret room in the All Night Bookstore. And there's two special outcomes for certain names:
- "ZELDA" turns the Closer's sprite into Link's.
- The other, "Erdrick", opens up a staircase in an otherwise empty building in the northwest of Plano. That's the entrance to the Dragon Slayer sidequest.
- Hopeless Boss Fight: Every match against "The Machine" until Game 7.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Downplayed. While the other characters come to see @twitter as a fellow companion, they still refer to it as "it" because it's still a living website, albeit a personified one.
- Jekyll & Hyde: @twitter often has this problem due to the massive amounts of trolls infesting it.Mitsuki: And what is that...um...strange blue thing walking around with you?
@twitter: I'm @twitter! I'm a #SocialMedia platform for connecting with your #friends and keeping up with your favorite #brands.
Mitsuki: I don't know what any of that means.
@twitter: WELL YOU ARE A BITCH WHO HAS NO TASTE AND SHOULD BE DELETED FROM THIS AWFUL GAME BECAUSE THAT'S THE ONLY WAY TO IMPROVE IT. #DELETEMITSUKI
Mitsuki: Ahhh! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!
@twitter: Oh dear oh dear oh dear... I didn't mean any of that. That was just the #trolls that happen to inhabit the #WorldWideWeb
Mitsuki: I'm— I'm scared!
- Living Motion Detector: Some of Twitter HQ's employees in the Stealth-Based Mission cannot detect people standing still.
- Morton's Fork: Invoked by the Illuminati, who have put into motion a prophecy concerning the Closer meeting Rodriguez for a showdown in the last moments of the final game of the World Series. It doesn't actually matter whether or not you win against The Machine at that point, because all the Illuminati care about is the two players fulfilling their destiny and playing the game to completion. Naturally, the only way to defy the ensuing apocalypse is to "fuck that" and smack Rodriguez with the ball, forcing a walk and extending the game beyond the showdown in the process.
- My Greatest Failure: How the game starts out. The Closer gives up a stunning home run that turns what should've been a clincher for the Yankees into a big upset in favor of the Cardinals. This, of course, haunts him deeply and propels him towards improving himself as a pitcher.
- My Nayme Is:
- @twitter's name is always spelled lowercase and with a preceding '@' like a normal Twitter username. This helps to distinguish the character from the social media platform it embodies.
- Zizek is an example on a deeper level: While the actual philosopher's last name is supposed to be spelled iek (with carons over the Zs), the characters simply refer to him as Zizek (without the carons) and that is that.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- The Closer is inspired by Brad Lidge, a modestly successful MLB player who played for the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies but also suffered a humiliating gaffe against St. Louis power hitter Albert Pujols in a 2005 game. Meanwhile, Carlos Rodriguez is fittingly a dead ringer for Pujols, right down to his nickname "The Machine". That said, the stakes in-game are higher than they were in real life (the incident happened in the playoffs instead of the World Series, the game was ultimately salvaged by Lidge's fellow Astros, and of course there was no prophesy having the fate of the world rest on the two of them).
- Zizek is based on the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj iek, which pretty much explains his character as a philosopher who cares little about the bounds of society.
- Noodle Incident: While the manager of the New York Yankees is fine with the Closer going on an epic journey to remake himself as a pitcher (and believes the personal re-examination that may occur along the way would be beneficial), he makes it clear the Closer's contract forbids any attempt to get in touch with existential mystery. We're not given any meaningful backstory to this clause, only that it came into effect weeks after Alex Rodriguez began reading Nietzsche while drinking mescal. And the manager got a tattoo of Ganesh in that timeframe; he still hasn't found it by the beginning of the story.
- Off the Rails: This trope happens so often it may just be the Central Theme of the game. Several characters find that, in order to become better people, they'll have to break out of the rules and norms that they've been accustomed to (e.g. Kami going from a Flat Character in a hentai VN to a powerful sabermagician who calls the eroge's protagonist out for considering it to be all about him and his desires, Zizek coming to accept that a Darker and Edgier world would still be as dense and wacky as one where he could give life and sapience to a website, no matter how well it disguises that). This culminates in the Closer saving the world by refusing to play the final moments of the game normally, since doing so was exactly what the Illuminati prophesied would happen to end the world and remake it in their image.
- One-Winged Angel: After getting beanballed by the Closer, Rodriguez completely loses it and transforms into a sort of "baseball demon" called Safer Carlos Rodriguez. Essentially, he turns into a red-eyed wraith with baseball wings.
- The Philosopher: Zizek definitely fits, being based on the real-life example of Slavoj iek. His combat mechanics boil down to holding debates against other people, with him applying Kantian and Marxist (and later on Feminist) critiques which amount to picking the appropriate response to a philosophical dilemma. Even his dedicated tutorial has him tackling the Concept of Irony as an enemy!
- Politically Correct History:
Moose: Hmph, an Austrian company *would* skip right over World War II, wouldn't it? Right, Zizek?
- Subverted; The hentai adaptation of A League of Their Own changes the third member of the Axis powers from Japan to Korea so that it could cater to the originally-intended Japanese audience.
- A straighter example happens later on, when the party goes into the abandoned PEZ factory to bail out the Closer* . The voice-over tour therein casually skips over World War II when describing the history of PEZ.
- Red Baron: "The Machine" for Carlos Rodriguez.
- Rule 34: Zizek owns a copy of an obscure hentai game called Shoujo Yakyuu yo, Eien ni!* , which also happens to be an adult-oriented adaptation of A League of Their Own.
- Shout-Out: As The Closer is a game about baseball, there are (naturally) copious amounts of shout-outs to other baseball players and minutiae. It does not stop there, though.
- After binging on expired PEZ candy in a desperate bid to improve his pitching game, the Closer blacks out and has a dream that acts like a textual adventure game, with the first area bearing a suspicious resemblance to the original Zork.
- One late-game sidequest is to play through an abridged version of Dragon Quest up to slaying a dragon and rescuing Princess Gwaelin.
- The NPC that lets you change your name is none other than the Weed Mouse, the avatar of a Something Awful goon who created and led a movement to popularize Mike Trout's moniker "The Minnieville Meteor".
- Stealth-Based Mission: In order to salvage the Closer's media reputation after Game 6, the other party members must infiltrate Twitter HQ. To do so, they must sneak around the employees and generally stay out of their sight. On top of that, a few of the employees are Living Motion Detectors.
- Take That!: The game is as good at getting some potshots in at certain things as it is at giving Shout Outs. For example, the characters constantly deride the Gritty Reboot world for being too edgy for its own good. And just before that, there's Sonic the Hedgehog (who's become overcome with nihilism) and Goku (who's pretty much Flanderized into spouting shounen-isms that don't actually help the characters.)
- Take That, Audience!: The Chain of Deals sidequest described above ultimately ends in the last person in the chain calling out the player character for expecting something in return.
- This Is a Work of Fiction: "All characters and events depicted in The Closer: Game of the Year Edition are fictional. Completely fictional. Except for Margaret Thatcher. If you think a character is based on Margaret Thatcher, that character is absolutely supposed to be Margaret Thatcher." What makes this doubly funny is that nowhere in the game does anyone resembling the Iron Lady appear, but several big (and not-so-big) names in American baseball make an appearance instead.
- Unexpected Shmup Level: @twitter's combat sections are essentially the platform shooting at enemies and picking up powerups until the numbers eventually overwhelm it.
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: After the final boss battle, there are a few snippets of what several major characters are doing now that the main plot has been resolved, with the outcomes depending on Relationship Values with the other party members and other minutiae:
- @twitter: If you score under 50 points in its Shoot 'em Up segments, it focuses on ways to monetize its services. On the other hand, 50 points or more means it instead resolves to clean its servers of the trolls plaguing it.
- Zizek: If your relationship with Zizek is not strong enough, he continues to have an existential crisis and tries to resolve it with a Groundhog Day-themed eroge VN. Otherwise, he helps Sonic and Goku get themselves acclimated to existing in the real world.
- Kami: Like with Zizek, her epilogue depends on how strong a relationship you have with her. A weak relationship means she becomes the Philadelphia Phillies' sabermetric analyst, though her struggles with having to work with an eMachines computer implies she's not enjoying her job as much as she could. A strong relationship, though, convinces her to stay with the Yankees as their sabermetric analyst.
- Moose and Dugan's scenes only appear if you rescue the former from the Gritty Reboot world using FFVI's resurrection trick for General Leo at Dinosaur Forest and spare the latter after Kami defeats him with sabermagics respectively. Moose continues coaching the Yankees pitchers through the tried-and-true method of pencil-and-paper crossword puzzles. Dugan, meanwhile, becomes a Fox News celebrity. Additionally, it's implied he would become eligible to run for president despite being born in a Japanese video game.
- Finally, the Closer's post-Series reputation depends on how many pitches you've learned, whether or not you rescued Moose from the Gritty Reboot world, and whether or not you slew Safer Carlos Rodriguez with Josh Fogg's Dragon Slayer pitch.
- Only two pitches: The Closer gets demoted to setup man after a lackluster career and eventually leaves to become a free agent, hoping to sign on with another team as their closer.
- Three pitches: He keeps his pitching role as closer and wins the Yankees two more World Series.
- Four pitches: The Yankees nearly promote him into the starting rotation but decide his closing skill is too valuable for that.
- Five pitches, no Moose or Dragon Slayer: He makes the starting rotation and performs decently.
- Five pitches, Moose rescued but no Dragon Slayer: He becomes a reliable, competent starter.
- Five pitches, Dragon Slayer successfully used but no Moose: He gets put on the ballot for the Baseball Hall of Fame for his excellent skill as a starter.
- Five pitches, Moose rescued and Dragon Slayer successfully used: The Closer's Golden Ending. He gets into the Hall of Fame, wins multiple Cy Young awards, leads the Yankees to even more World Series Championships, and becomes one of the greatest pitchers in the modern era of baseball.