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Visual Novel / Machi

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For you it was just another citizen passing by.
But that person had their own life and their own story.
Why were they at that place in that moment?
What were they doing?
Description on the back of the case

Machi (City, originally for the Sega Saturn, renamed in the PlayStation and Playstation Portable ports as Machi: Unmei no Kousaten lit. City: The Crossing Of Fate) was the third major visual novel by Chunsoft. After the success of Kamaitachi no Yoru and its multi-routes system, the company decided to make a far higher budget game with not just a hundred bad endings, but even multiple characters whose routes must all progress simultaneously.

In the city of Shibuya, countless people live their ordinary, strange, impossible lives. For five days, we are given a glimpse of eight of these lives. Amemiya Keima, a gamer junior detective, tries to solve a bombing case. Umabe Kintaro is a small time actor hoping for a lucky break, who instead gets into a bad situation with Ushio Masami, an ex-yakuza accidentally involved in a robbery. Ichikawa Fumiyasu is a successful writer who desperately wants to break free of the trite world of TV dramas. Hosoi Yoshiko is dared by her boyfriend to lose 17 kilos in five days, lest he dumps her. Takamine Ryuji returns to his hometown after running away three years earlier to join the Foreign Legion. Tobisawa Yohei discovers that two of his old flings have unfinished business with him. Shinoda Masashi is blackmailed by a mysterious beauty into entering a strange organization.

Throughout the course of five days, the player will need to guide these stories to their conclusion. To make things more difficult, choices made with one character will often influence other characters' stories, and rarely the effects will be immediately apparent. There's no central plot, and the different routes won't ever tangle outside of tangential moments, but the player has to complete each day with every character before they can move on to the next day, and sometimes a story will be interrupted with a "to be continued" screen that forces you to play as another character until you find a "zap point" back to where the interruption was.

The same template would be later used in its spiritual successor 428: Shibuya Scramble.

This game provides examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality: To keep the game from becoming impossible to manage, your choices will only ever affect the current day. You can start each new day without having to worry about keeping track of your earlier actions.
  • Acting for Two: Umabe and Ushio are obviously played by the same actor. In-universe as well: both Umabe and Ushio have to keep up the pretense of being the other person, but at points will encounter some acquintances and have to temporarily return to their old selves. Bonus points since Umabe is an actor and Ushio has to learn to become one.
  • Auto-Save: the Saturn version is doing it all the time, at ten in-game minutes intervals, and a developer note gloats about it too. When the game was later ported to the Playstation, since that console can't save without accessing the memory card first, a manual save is required before you can quit the game safely, and the note was changed.
  • Bat Deduction: Keima's leaps of logic border on this at times. It can make the story difficult to follow.
  • Big Bad: More than one, given the multiple routes. On the other hand, not every character has one.
  • Big Eater: Given her eating habits, it's a wonder Yoshiko doesn't get any fatter. At one point she enters a restaurant and orders everything.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ichikawa's story could be either this or an outright Downer Ending, depending on how you interpret the last couple lines.
  • "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Averted. Sunday believes that blackmailing makes people happier, both the victim and the blackmailer, since these are thrills one wouldn't normally experience in life. It's just an excuse, of course.
  • Blatant Lies: As each girl accidentally finds him walking around with another of his flings, Yohei has to make up increasingly implausible reasons as to why he would associate with other girls.
  • Book Dumb: Masashi in high school failed his maths exam, and his reparation exam, and the reparation of the reparation. Eventually he only passed because his professor gave up and decided to let the next professor deal with the problem. Yoshiko qualifies too, as she hated pretty much every subject at school.
  • Butterfly of Doom: the main gimmick of the game. Seemingly inconsequential actions taken by one character will often have a big impact in another character's story, and send it to an abrupt conclusion.
  • Cassandra Truth: Keima in the final day fails to convince his superiors that Geronimo has prepared some kind of biological explosive. From their point of view, there's no way a high schooler could get his hands on that sort of device. They are both mistaken, as the "virus bomb" is actually a computer virus.
  • The Chew Toy: Sagiyama is constantly berated by the movie director for his inexperience, or for occasionally following Ushio's ridiculous advice.
  • Clear My Name: Ushio must find a way to prove to the police that he was not involved in the jewelry store robbery.
  • Cliffhanger: Whenever a continue point appears, it's usually during one of these.
  • Cowboy Cop: Detective Gonda was somewhat overzealous when he first joined the police force, with incidents or injuries often occurring during training, and caused the death of Numata's son with a stray bullet during a shootout against some bank robbers.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The ditzy police cosplayer, whom the developer notes reveal to be a martial arts expert, casually floors a drunken Ryuji. Probably.
  • Curbstomp Battle: other than that specific time above, anyone attempting to fight Ryuji had no hope from the start.
  • Demonization: justified. After Ryuji delivers a swift beating to the manga artist Norio, the latter starts drawing him as the villain of his story, complete with vampire teeth and demonic blank eyes.
  • Desperately Craves Affection: The stoic Ichikawa eventually resorts to begging Shoko to let him sleep on her lap.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Happens most often to Masashi, but Keima is not exempt either, and it can lead to a couple bad endings.
  • Downer Ending: Ryuji is shot through the heart right when he is about to leave the country.
  • Dropping the Bombshell: Poor Yohei gets hit hard by this several times, courtesy of his ex-conquests.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Most of the characters have to suffer quite a lot before they finally get a chance to enjoy life again.
  • Face of a Thug: downplayed. Ryuji's rugged looks don't inspire confidence, and he does have a bad habit of kicking your stomach at the drop of a hat, but those who don't provoke him (such as Ami) will sometimes see a nicer side of his personality.
  • Fake Action Prologue: Umabe's story begins with one, complete with Proscenium Reveal.
  • Fission Mailed: When Geronimo is captured at 2pm of the last day, you get a proper ending screen and the story seems to be over. More abstute players will notice that the endings counter hasn't increased, and everyone else's story ends at 8pm instead. If you select Keima's scenario again after completing more routes, he'll discover that Geronimo was merely an agent and the real mastermind is still out there. Later ports removed the fake ending screen in exchange for a less deceiving continue point instead.
  • Foreshadowing: We get a hint that Minako has had a child already in her very first appearance, when the narrator says she was absent from school for a whole year "to recuperate from some illness".
  • Freudian Excuse: many characters will use it to justify some despicable acts. One example is Yoichi, who berates Yoshiko for her physical appearance and demands she perform a high-speed diet, all because of the trauma brought upon by his overweight mother dying when he was little.
  • The Gambling Addict: Masashi loves to play pachinko when he has some free time, and even gains his own Worthy Opponent throughout the story.
  • Genre Roulette: The eight routes have wildly different flavors, and since you need to jump between them all the time, the whole picture will come across as this.
  • Get-Rich-Quick Scheme: How Sunday depicts the Seven Days Organization to others. Masashi is easily fooled.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Kaizuka, one of Masashi's blackmail victims. Turns out he was just lonely.
  • Hidden Depths: after shedding his naivety, Masashi is revealed to be a fast learner at everything he tries his hands on. He still keeps one weakness though.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Shiramine says this to Yohei, regarding his niece Minako. No empty threat, considering he's a yakuza boss who already "took care" of a previous, unworthy suitor.
  • Ironic Name: "Hosoi Yoshiko" literally means "slender beautiful girl". Her boyfriend Yoichi finds this laughable.
  • It's a Small World, After All: Among the roughly 200 thousands inhabitants in the large area of Shibuya, these eight strangers just happen to meet each other constantly in the course of five days. Partially justified because, while the protagonists are strangers to each other, the secondary characters tend to be related to more than one of them: for example, Shiramine is at once Ushio's previous boss, a relative of Yohei's girlfriend, and one of Masashi's blackmail victims.
  • Last Wish Marriage: Umabe pulls this as a final, desperate attempt to avoid execution by the Shiramine yakuza. He claims to have come all the way to their hideout, ready to accept death, just for a chance to ask for the hand of the boss' daughter Ruiko in marriage (having previously realized that Ruiko is in love with him, or rather, with Ushio). When she hears this, she begs her father to spare him. It actually works... sort of.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to Chunsoft's previous output (and retroactively, to its later output as well). The mystery and horror elements are toned down, almost every route is humorous in nature, and even the serious ones still contains several funny scenes.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Very few people can stand up to Ryuji in a fight. Even having the advantage in numbers won't help them. He'll close the distance in a flash, shrug off knife wounds, and roundhouse your face effortlessly.
  • Looks Like Cesare: Geronimo in his first appearance.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In Keima's story the player is led to believe that Geronimo is the Big Bad, but he's actually being maneuvered by The real mastermind, Numata.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Sunday appears as this throughout the entirety of Masashi's story, always seemingly in control of the situation, holding enough data to blackmail some of the most powerful people in Shibuya, and even being the unseen leader of her own religion. She eventually loses her cool in the final confrontation with Masashi.
  • The Many Deaths Of Them: With over a hundred bad endings, almost all with their own accompanying pictures, it's to be expected. Although some of the bad endings are actually quite happy by any other standards.
  • Marry Them All: Admittedly, it was the only possible conclusion for Yohei.
  • Mr. Vice Guy: Detective Kujii is affable, popular with juniors, a good thinker, and a strong fighter... but whenever he sees a movie star, he'll drop any investigations, no matter how urgent, to follow them around.
  • Nintendo Hard: the original Saturn version has no flow chart, forcing the player to fill their own spreadsheet if they hope to have a chance of even getting past the first day, and no specific hints are given for the bad endings other than what you can gleam from the story. Later ports added both of those things.
  • Not with Them for the Money: Yohei opportunistically pulls this card on Minako when he notices that she is holding the reins of their relationship. He guilt-trips her into believing that she was unconsciously using her vast family money to win a trophy husband... and then, when she's almost reduced to tears, smoothly claims that he doesn't care about all that since he loves her.
  • Old Master: Parodied with Thursday. His old age and zen-like mottos command respect, but in truth he's just as crazy as every other member of the organization.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Umabe is quite fond of sweets. Ushio is not. If Sanji notices, that's a bad ending for you.
    • On the opposite side of the coin, Umabe can't handle alcohol at all, while Ushio isn't even fazed. That's how Michiru understands they are not the same person.
  • Parody Religion: The Cabbage Cult is played for laughs, but it's later revealed to be part of Sunday's plan to enslave everyone.
  • Police Are Useless: zig-zagged. Keima's superiors believe the bomber is nothing more than a prankster. However, Keima and Shiori are police too, and they manage to solve the case on their own.
  • Ponzi: Hoshiko thinks the Seven Days Organization is this. She's not wrong, but the full picture is more complicated.
  • Post-End Game Content: Some of the bad endings are only available after you complete the eight routes and watch the credits.
  • Production Throwback: One bad ending has Umabe becoming a successful businessman in Osaka, a reference to the character Kayama from Kamaitachi no Yoru, complete with the same music theme.
  • Revenge: Numata's motive for the bombing plot. The police ruined his life in the past, and now he wants to get back at them.
  • Roundhouse Kick: Ryuji's signature move. He acknowledges its shortcomings, yet is skilled enough to always use it with the proper timing.
  • Show Within a Show: Umabe and the other members of the crew are in the midst of shooting The Great Running Wars, a popular crime drama. Ichikawa writes the script under a pen name (he's too ashamed to use his real name).
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Ami and Yuki definitely have reason to object. Minako doesn't take it well.
  • Staged Shooting: A variation. Ushio pretends to shoot Detective Kujii dead (which is grounds for capital punishment) to scare Sanji into confessing that they are not accomplices... which is just what Ushio needed the police to hear..
  • Stalker with a Crush: Monday doesn't miss a chance to meet his goddess Yoshiko, and if you choose to let Masashi help him, it will always lead to a bad ending.
  • The Starscream: Yamabuki involuntarily kicks off Ushio and Umabe's stories in his plan to take Shiramine's place as the local yakuza boss.
  • Take Over the World: Sunday's master plan involves this, starting with Japan.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Near the end of Ichikawa's story, the pictures and even the music start to become distorted as he finally loses his grip on sanity. We never find out if the five little men living in Ichikawa's fingers are real or not.
  • Time Bomb: used multiple times in Keima's route. Depending on the player's actions, either Shibuya blows up in a fiery storm, or the bombs were duds in the first place.
  • Tomboy: Ruiko, whose music theme is even called Tomboy Samba. Being the daughter of a yakuza boss, she also behaves as a Mafia Princess to her subordinates, but not so much to Ushio-Umabe.
  • True Art Is Angsty: in-universe. Ichikawa is tired of writing banal scripts for TV dramas, and would much rather create a literary masterpiece. The title of the draft is "Shout".
  • Unknown Character: some very minor characters throughout the story are hinted to have had their own adventures, which you can only read about in the developer notes sprinkled throughout the game.
  • Unstoppable Rage: Getting Ushio angry at you is not a good idea. In his Yakuza days, he was known as the Mad Bull.
    • The normally meek Umabe will enter this state after drinking too much alcohol, as Yamabuki's goons painfully discover.
  • Walking The City: Ryuji spends most of his route on the streets, walking around aimlessly and sleeping on benches, even though he would have the money for a hotel (and later decides to stay in one).
  • We Can Rule Together: Sunday makes this offer to Masashi, believing them to be worthy of aiding in the plan for world domination. Masashi is not impressed.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Even the developers point out that Yoshiko only ever seems to attract strange men.
  • Who's Laughing Now?: taken almost verbatim from Evil Dead 2 when Ichikawa grabs a machete and, amidst maniacal laughter, chops off his own left hand.
  • Yakuza: A big part of the story. Because the character perspective changes depending on the route, they can sometimes be portrayed as reasonable and honorable, or sometimes not quite as romanticized as in other media.