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Visual Novel / Fleuret Blanc

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"Mightier than the sharpest pen. Tool and temptress. A fleuret blanc is both possession and owner."

Fleuret Blanc is a Visual Novel made in RPG Maker XP by Merlandese. Originally made in 2012, it gained another surge of popularity when posted to two years later.

23-year-old Florentine Blanc is a college graduate who has dedicated her life to travel. Without having a career to fall back on, she takes up menial jobs whenever her pockets become empty. She seems to strike gold when she gets accepted into FOIL, a private fencing organization looking for members interested in a "new breed" of the sport.

The rules? Members of FOIL must wager their most prized possession in the world. This object acts as a trophy winnable by other members of the group. After seven days of bouts, the judges decide who Florentine replaces as the new member. In the meantime, Florentine decides to investigate FOIL's mysterious and secluded base of operations. As her experiences become more menacing, she encounters troubling questions and begins to discover what evolves into a mysterious and ugly truth.

Notable for its discussion of many heavy themes such as materialism and obsession, Fleuret Blanc has gained popularity as a literary and story-heavy experience, albeit not without some engaging gameplay elements. It can be downloaded here.

Examples of tropes appearing in Fleuret Blanc:

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Judge Aunty, who constantly flirts with the much younger Roland despite it creeping him out.
  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: Actually pretty tame by the standards of the trope, but wagering your most prized possession in world is still pretty extreme.
  • Action Girl: Florentine and Amara.
  • The Alcoholic: Odon. He tries to be secretive about it, but you can usually find him hanging around the bar, and other characters will confirm that he has a major drinking problem. This is unusual, as he's a laid-back monk who frequently preaches the importance of freeing oneself from material possessions and influences. It's one of the hints that his past is more complex than it appears: he used to be a delinquent drug addict, and though he tried to turn his life around, he's been through a lot, and can't kick his alcohol dependence.
  • Always Accurate Attack: Feint, unless it comes up against Parry.
  • Arc Words: "We are, each of us, a collection of mistakes."
  • Back for the Finale: Kant, though in this case he never actually left in the first place.
  • Boss Banter: Part of the Voice Grunting — duelists have a stock pool of lines they'll draw from occasionally, usually taunts relating to their dodges or techniques.
  • Bring It: Junior's battle pose features this.
  • Central Theme:
    • Materialism and collection; the role of objects in our lives and the meanings we attribute to them.
    • Relating to others seems to be a secondary theme. Much of the gameplay revolves around getting to know the other members and understanding their experiences; all of them are much more than they first seem.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Giving orders to King Vasha, which is the key to the Lounge. It's in plain sight and definitely implies something has to happen there, but it's so silly and weird that most players will probably forget it by the time of the payoff, or at least assume it's for something much more minor.
    • The placard Roland gives you at the beginning seems pointless at first, but it's actually a smoking gun for the judges' true plans, and what led to the lockdown and Kant's imprisonment.
    • Averted with the hacked application wizard, which is hinted to be an important mystery throughout the story and many optional events, but is ultimately a minor subplot unrelated to the main story.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Pennington, who appears briefly in the intro scene and during an optional event many players may not see due to its rarity and stringent precondition. Turns out he's not only Junior's father but a Professional Killer who eliminates FOIL's departing members.
  • Climax Boss: All of the trophy bouts. Both Florentine and her opponent have twice as many Hit Points, and it's also almost always the first time you get to bout a member. (In the case of Masque, it's also their first appearance.)
  • Degraded Boss: After their trophy bout, you can duel members any time at half Hit Points.
  • Disc-One Nuke: The first two techniques Roland gives you, Salute and Trompement, are also among the most useful. Salute extends a bout (and gives you all-important style points) while Trompement shortens it (and produces a guaranteed win if the opponent has less than 3 Hit Points left). Together they give you an unrivaled amount of control over the flow of battle and can really throw a wrench into some members' strategies.
  • Disposable Woman: Odon's wife Karen, also a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, whose tragic death influenced much of his outlook and life direction.
  • Early-Bird Boss:
    • Averted with Roland. Unlike every other member, he starts with only one technique, and it's the exact same one as yours. This doesn't prevent him from being a Wake-Up Call Boss for a lot of people, though.
    • Played straight with Le Neuvieme. There are a number of good techniques to use against him, but you don't get access to them until after his trophy bout.
  • Empathic Environment: A torrential thunderstorm occurs during Kant's dismissal and the final evening, both of which are climactic and dramatic points in the story.
  • Evil Old Folks: The judges, who murder FOIL's members after their tenure is finished to collect their prized possessions.
  • Funny Animal: Squeaker, who acts exactly like a human except for the occasional bark. Le Neuvieme even says he is a "perfect French gentleman".
  • Game Over: Averted. Losing trophy bouts only results in losing Florentine's lunch box, which must be reclaimed before you can proceed with the next trophy bout. Even losing to the Final Boss has absolutely no consequences.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • Completing the confrontation associated with a character will let you see their part of the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue. Normally, this makes sense, as the subplot and confrontation typically revolves around learning more about them and turning their life in a new direction. However, Masque's confrontation has almost nothing to do with him personally, as it's only the first half of Le Neuvieme's subplot, so it's possible to see his epilogue without understanding any of its significance.
    • When fighting Kant, his stock of quips have the same confident, cocky tone as the other members', despite the fact that he's a terrified, traumatized wreck at that point.
  • Gamer Girl: Augustine.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All:
    • Played with. The gameplay mechanics encourage this behavior, even while the story points out its pitfalls and creepy facets.
    • Deconstructed with the judges, who have gone insane trying to amass the most unique collection possible to the point that they will kill for it.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language:
    • French. Justified as the game is set in France and many of the characters are bilingual. This is lampshaded by Le Neuvieme — to him, English is the gratuitous foreign language.
      "I could not understand a word of that meeting. Why wouldn't they speak in French? We are in France, for God's sake!"
    • Many of the game's music tracks have French titles as well.
  • Hidden Depths: All the characters are much deeper than the quirky stereotypes they appear to be at first; getting to know them and all their traits is even one of the gameplay mechanics.
  • Hitman with a Heart: Pennington. After he grew to love his daughter and family life, he decided to retire. He also spares Florentine in the ending because she reminds him of his daughter and helped him come to that realization.
  • Hot-Blooded: Anastasia.
  • Interface Spoiler: Amara will give you bout tips against Kant without fanfare, betraying the fact that you do have to bout him eventually, spoiling that he comes Back for the Finale.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: Each day is divided into three parts (morning, afternoon, and evening), and in each part you can interact with a maximum of three optional events before you have to move on.
  • Item Get!: Every item you receive is accompanied by an image, message, and cheerful jingle. Losing an item produces the same result, though with a sad trombone sound instead of the jingle.
  • Jerkass / Grumpy Old Woman: Judge Grams, who constantly insults everyone around her and has a massively overinflated ego. She particularly delights in torturing Roland.
  • Jump Scare: The judges barging in on the Lounge.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Junior's "gamer talk" chats are very obviously tongue-in-cheek hints on obscure gameplay mechanics (such as the Scoring Points), even if they're ostensibly about a different game.
  • Leet Lingo: Junior uses chatspeak when talking through the e-Virtuelle.
  • Lethal Chef: Judge Grams, who is also the members' only source of food unless they go out to town. Le Neuvieme is particularly bothered by her bizarre cuisine.
  • Magical Realism: Squeaker is a Funny Animal who can rotate his head 360 degrees. No one finds this odd except for Kant.
  • Magikarp Power: Salute gets a better rate of success the more you use it. Eventually you can weasel 3 points out of the judges pretty consistently.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Odon's wife Karen, whose peaceful and spiritual outlook influenced his current beliefs and decision to become a monk. She also died tragically.
  • May–December Romance: Defied; Aunty might see her crush this way, but Roland considers her an Abhorrent Admirer precisely because of the age difference.
  • Mini-Game: Bouts could be considered this, despite being practically the only gameplay mechanic.
  • My Greatest Failure: Many of the prized possessions are, in fact, reminders of these.
    • Le Neuvieme's grimoire is a reminder of how he disappointed his family by straying from the family profession, and the obligations he still holds.
    • Amara's metronome is a reminder of a time she failed to uphold her ideal of perfection, damaging the metronome with a misjudged thrust.
    • Junior's stuffed animal is a reminder of a childhood embarrassment in which she discovered that for all her technical prowess and determination, there are some skills she is not capable of.
  • New Game Plus: Techniques, items, and character bios are preserved. Points of interest are not, but the game will sometimes fudge things in your favor, allowing you to access pertinent events and conclusions sooner than you're supposed to. It also gives you the opportunity to fight the Final Boss as a normal member if you like.
  • Non-Action Guy: Judge Nickel, the male judge.
  • No-Sell: Parry is a guaranteed block against any attack — except Feint, which can still succeed depending on a Quick Time Event.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Used to solve a mystery. One subplot involves everyone coming down with food poisoning after eating Grams' cooking, including Le Neuvieme... except that he previously did nothing but express ire and disgust at Grams' concoctions, to the point that he goes out to town to buy all his food. If Grams' food was unhealthy, he should be the last person to display any symptoms. Of course, he's faking it, and he poisoned the food himself to make Grams look irresponsible, in the hopes that she would be removed from cooking duty.
  • The Perfectionist: Amara is actually fairly successful at this, to the point that she's comfortable being a Snark Knight. Tying into the Central Theme of materialism, she tries to surround herself with only the most expensive and high-quality of items.
    • Interestingly, her prized possession is a reminder of an instance where she slipped up: she used the metronome to maintain her rhythm during fencing practice, but accidentally damaged it with a botched thrust.
  • Perspective Flip / Twice-Told Tale: Most of Squeaker's stories are warped versions of fairy tales, often told from a different perspective or a different angle.
    • A particular example of this: gaining an item results in a cheerful Item Get! jingle, while losing one results in a dispiriting sound effect, even when it's part of a scripted sequence. This makes many players have a kneejerk negative reaction to losing items, even when it makes perfect sense and is in fact the smarter option.
  • Press X to Not Die: Every action in bouts, particularly techniques, involves using one quick time event to get a bonus. They sometimes pop up in cutscenes as well.
  • Production Foreshadowing:
    • Squeaker's tale about a stone that confers the power to kill someone with a word will sound eerily familiar to anyone who has played Merlandese's later game Last Word.
    • According to Word of God, the hungry caterpillar tale was also intended to be Production Foreshadowing for another story, but said story was canned, leaving it as something of a loose end.
  • The Quiet One: Masque, who communicates mostly in grunts and Visible Silences. Subverted in that he can be quite the chatterbox when talking about a subject that interests him; it's just that he's rarely interested in talking about anything except masks.
  • Red Herring:
    • Anastasia's bus accident is suspicious as all get-out and Florentine spends most of the story assuming it has a connection to the central mystery, a paranoia that only gets more justified when she finds evidence that FOIL kills its former members. In the ending, however, the event is revealed to have been a legitimate coincidence, with no relation to the conspiracy.
    • There's also one in-universe for another character: Kant assumed the judges were gunning for him because he hacked their computer, when in actuality they never figured this out and were motivated by something else he thought was irrelevant.
  • Revealing Cover-Up: When Junior tries to deflect an investigation into the anonymous text messages, she does so by pinning it on Le Neuvieme — but the messages are in English, and Le Neuvieme only speaks French. When Florentine figures out the fabrication, she realizes Junior must have been the real culprit — why frame someone else, otherwise?
  • Rule of Cool: The bout system runs on this. If your technique is stylish enough, it doesn't matter if you technically lose the match; the judges will still name you the victor.
  • Running Gag: Grams mispronouncing Florentine's name in increasingly creative ways. It's implied she may be doing it on purpose; if she makes eggs for Florentine's special luncheon, she claims that she was suddenly inspired to make eggs Florentine that day and doesn't know where she could have gotten the idea.
  • Samus Is a Girl: "Junior", the Chateau's mechanic, only interacts with Florentine through a remote speaker for most of the story. Both the name and profession are coded male and so Florentine assumes she is male, leading to shock when Augustine shows up in person.
    • Deconstructed a little. Her father wanted a son, not a daughter, and named her "Junior" before she was even born in the hopes she would continue the family line. When he discovered his offspring was a girl, he was livid. The resulting neglect and disappointment likely skewed her psychological development and perception of gender roles in an unhealthy way, and may have influenced her decision to enter such a male-coded field in the first place. However, this is also Reconstruction in that her father learned to love her anyway.
  • Schrödinger's Gun:
    • There is one branch point (Tuesday afternoon) where both options have to merge afterwards, thus forcing both to be consistent with the overall storyline despite involving very different events. The result of this is that the two branches apparently occur in two slightly different universes, where prior events were different. If Florentine attends the meeting, the stated reason for Kant's dismissal is that Roland kept his prized possession for over a week, which is corroborated by Roland giving you said prized possession after the meeting. However, if she follows Kant, it will turn out that he has his prized possession on him, contradicting the historical events stated in the other branch.
    • Subverted in one conclusion. When Florentine confronts Aunty about the nature of FOIL, she will say something different depending on the personality traits you picked in the initial questionnaire. Aunty will confirm either, but both are lies, and the true purpose of FOIL remains constant regardless of Florentine's assertion.
  • Schrödinger's Question: There is one subplot (Nickel's) where answering the conclusion questions differently will still produce a correct answer but cause the nature of the mystery to change: it is possible for Nickel to be either gambling or investing depending on what you think the number slips mean.
  • Scoring Points: Used as an instance of What the Hell, Player?. The points are worthless and you only even see them at the end of the day, yet upon seeing the obvious gameplay mechanic many players feel an irrational urge to make the numbers go up regardless. Combined with the Central Theme of obsession and hoarding, this can lead to some uncomfortable self-reflection.
  • Signature Instrument: Florentine Blanc's prized possession is her flute.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Masque at first appears to be taciturn Dumb Muscle, but his text messages reveal that he is actually quite well-spoken when he has to be, and he is also skilled at investigation. He also has an academic interest in masks and cultural history, probably enough to catapult him into full Genius Bruiser territory.
  • Snark Knight: Amara, who strives for perfection with every action and belittles those who don't live up to her standards.
  • Something They Would Never Say: Or rather, literally can't say. Junior tries to deflect blame for the anonymous text messages by pinning it on Le Neuvieme — but the messages are in English, and Le Neuvieme only speaks French. This allows Florentine to figure out the real culprit.
  • Soul Jar: The judges believe prized possessions to be this if the attachment is great enough, which is why they kill members.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Some of the music tracks' names differ between the game's BGM folder and the Bandcamp OST.
  • Stealth Pun: Grams' Trademark Favorite Food is ginger root. She also has a soft spot for redheads — also known as "gingers".
  • Talk to Everyone: Multiple times. And examine everything too, while you're at it. This is a mystery game, after all; you're not going to get very far without gossip.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The Château de l'Hiver, FOIL's base of operations. From the bizarre decorations to the even more bizarre inhabitants, it quickly becomes clear that something's up, and Florentine endeavors to find out what.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Grams really likes ginger, and by God so will you.
  • Trickster Game: The Central Theme is materialism and obsession — two things that video games, by their nature, tend to encourage. This makes for a very interesting choice of medium, and the dissonance is played up for all it's worth. The mechanics encourage you to reduce your co-workers to Relationship Values and hoard their prized possessions — which don't even have any meaning to you! — all while characters wax philosophical about the meaning of objects in our lives and if we can really gain happiness just through having enough possessions. One of the characters is an avid gamer obsessed with virtual achievements and the like. Gaining an item results in a cheerful Item Get! jingle, while losing one results in a sad trombone noise, even when it's part of a scripted sequence. This makes many players have a kneejerk negative reaction to losing items, even when it makes perfect sense and is the smarter option. The gold placard is a particular Troll in this regard; it's only ever added to the inventory in cutscenes, because Florentine always discards it again by the end of the scene. You never keep it permanently, even though it looks like a legitimate item. The game also dramatically tallies up Scoring Points at the end of every day over a background that says "Everything is collectible"; these points do absolutely nothing. While there is never any explicit betrayal of the player on the level of some other examples here, the game is carefully crafted to make the player uncomfortable and reevaluate their behavior.
  • Video Games and Fate: A video game is an interesting choice of medium for discussing the Central Theme of materialism, since most games condition players to collect everything. The gameplay elements play up this cognitive dissonance for all it's worth.
  • Voice Grunting: Characters have a variety of short lines and exclamations that they say at certain points, sometimes directly quoting the actual text and sometimes not.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss:
    • Roland tends to give players a lot of grief due to his unpredictable nature and weird techniques. You're supposed to beat him at his own game by racking up style points with Salute (Grams will help you out there), but as this is the player's first real foray into the combat system and most players will be used to a strategy of "hit it until it dies", most players don't grasp this in time.
    • The developer also describes Le Neuvieme, the next boss, as "the bane of [his] existence", likely for similar reasons — he's even more style-focused than Roland, and his dodging patterns are even more unpredictable.
    • Weirdly inverted by Masque, the next boss. You may have thought Le Neuvieme was preparing you for a difficult style-off, but Masque is actually not a style fighter, making him refreshingly straightforward and predictable.
  • Wham Line: "Etzer: Deceased"
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: It's modular, though; you only see the snippets for individual characters if you've completed their subplot.

"We are, each of us, a collection of mistakes."