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Visual Novel / Tears of Themis

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A Visual Novel otome game by Chinese game developer miHoYo of Genshin Impact and Honkai Impact 3rd fame. It was initially released in Chinese only in 2020, but has since been greenlit for an international release. The game has officially launched on July 29, 2021. Its original name is 未定事件簿 (wèidìng shìjiàn bù/mitei jiken-bo, lit. 'Undecided case files' - the same name for X-Note in-game).

Taking place in the city of Stellis, you are a junior attorney-at-law at the Themis Law Firm. After your first few cases, your skill in the courtroom eventually leads you to join an investigative unit known as NXX.

The game combines mystery visual novel with point-and-click adventure and RPG elements. Each chapter, you'll gather evidence to defend your client, whether it's through investigation, questioning witnesses, or making connections with important details and testimonies. Sometimes, you'll need to refute arguments in Debates, utilizing cards obtained through Visions to make your statements. At the end of each episode is a Trial, where you'll need to present your evidence to defend your client in the courtroom.

You can visit the official website here.

Compare and contrast with Mr. Love: Queen's Choice, another Otome Game from a Chinese company featuring a brown-haired protagonist and four main love interests solving a mystery. Also see Ace Attorney and Tsumugu Logic for the problem-solving, law aspect of the game.

This game provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The game takes place in 2030, and the most major hints towards that are the speed certain things are obtained and the holographic screens on tables. The in-game smartphone interface shows a 6G network. It should also be noted that the car used doesn't seem to have a steering wheel, which seems to hint at the invention of self-driving cars. The story in the 'Near and Far' card confirms this to be the case, as it was implemented in order to prevent drunk driving accidents. One of the materials needed for the skills of Artem cards mentions that it's a paperless era. This can also be seen in the library looking more like a data center than anything.
  • Absurdly High Level Cap: Don't let the numbers fool you: R cards can be evolved once they've hit their respective level cap of 40, which confers beneficial stat upgrades, allowing one to continue feeding them up to level 70. An SR and an SSR card clock in at 100 levels in total. And good luck raising them that high!
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts: The money farming in this game is pretty exhausting, yet everything that impacts your power level in a meaningful way costs Stellin to acquire. Spending Non-Combat EXP to level up your cards? Stellin. Evolving a SR or SSR card for the second time? You can bet it's Stellin. One must really wonder why it costs money to feed cards chips.
  • Aerith and Bob: Invoked case. Among the four love interests, we have Luke Pearce, Marius von Hagen, Artem Wing and Vyn Richter. It should be noted that all names have gone through a Dub Name Change - not only those of the aforementioned for, but everyone has (all of the names were originally Chinese). It is said that they did this so that they could have more variety as per name origins (i.e 'Artem' is a name of Slavic origin)...or perhaps to mirror another game known for their Dub Name Change.
  • Alliterative Title: Tears of Themis
  • Animal Motifs: Snakes for Marius, due to the logo of his company. Specifically, an Ouroboros forming the infinity sign. The elaborate version of his symbol puts it in front of a cross, making it resemble Nehushtan. On the cards used for Old Maid, he's symbolized with a dragon-like snake with a single horn on its head. If you look very closely at his token, the 'snakes' are actually two of these creatures.
    • Raven for Luke, considering his codename. However, on the cards used to play Old Maid with, he's represented with a German Shepherd dog.
    • Furthermore, on those cards, Artem is represented as a lion and Vyn as a snow owl, respectively.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: Answers and previously presented evidence you've already gone through and that have been proved to be wrong are marked to prevent going through the same mistake twice.
    • Unlike other gacha games, this game treat duplicates in a similar way to Arknights, in that every duplicate card you get is automatically converted into shards, which can be spent to improve your initial card's potentials. If said potentials are maxed out, those tokens are automatically converted into gifts, which can be spent in the shop to buy generic tokens you can use to raise the potentials of the cards depending on the token. And weirdly, this process is more or less the exact same as in aforementioned game, down to the amount of 4 generic tokens to upgrade it once. 1 generic token costs 1000 gifts of the lowest rarity meaning that getting 4 tokens needs 4000 gifts and thus 40 duplicate cards. Getting duplicates of SR or SSR cards and having their original form all maxed out grants rarer generic tokens, but if you've managed to get that many of them in the first place then there's something wrong with either the game or with you.
    • Quitting a level manually gives you back all the energy you spent for it.
    • Even though several of the consumables for AP expire, the icon on the inventory displays a timer on the top left that refers to the item(s) closest to their expiration date, as a form of a quick notification and to save the players from the hassle of checking every consumable one-by-one.
    • In Investigation chapters, there's a Search button that can be pressed to highlight any important items on the screen to help players that are feeling stuck trying to find the last piece of evidence.
  • Anti-Hoarding: The energy potions are all dated, making it so that you cannot save them up forever.
  • Anti Poop-Socking: The game runs on a stamina system, which regenerates at 1 per 6 minutes. Considering that daily grinding stages use up to 20 of it per run (if one takes all of the stages at their most high difficulty), expect a lot of waiting if you don't use S-Chips or restoring drinks. The only other option is to somehow gain a new level, which is a Level-Up Fill-Up.
  • Cap: Quite a lot.
    • The maximum card level is tied to its rarity. R cards have the lowest level cap of 70, while fully-raised SSR cards have one so high that it qualifies as an Absurdly High Level Cap.
    • There is a maximum amount of friendship coins you can gain every day; after it is reached, you can still send them, but you won't gain any anymore.
    • Anomaly levels can only be played three times a day, which can be annoying if you need a certain node for the material it grants. Similarly, the currency and the EXP material stages have a maximum of 2, but Work Permits can be used to grant extra tries.
    • Every day grants a cap of 1000 affection you can gain through the visit mechanic. You can still interact with them as you wish although you cannot get any affection with it. However, gaining affection from outside sources such as reading card stories bypasses this cap, as the last chapter of an SSR card story will grant 1250 affection.
  • Character Select Forcing: In the respective side stories of the four, you can only use cards of that character. To compensate, the difficulty of these stages tend to be much lower than those of the main story.
  • Color-Coded Characters: It’s more subtle than other examples but if dialogue boxes are anything to go by it’s rose-red for the protagonist, orange for Luke, green for Vyn, red for Artem, and purple for Marius. NPCs are generally gray, and everyone’s dialogue boxes change to dark green during trials.
  • Company Cross References:
    • All the characters have pupils shaped like four-pointed stars, the defining physical trait of someone from Khaenri'ah and a certain most destructive Herrscher.
    • The food depicted in the "Gourment Gastronomy" MR event cards are references to the dishes made in sister game Genshin Impact. Vyn's dish is the Jade Parcels, Artem's dish is the Crab Roe Tofu, Luke's dish is Come and Get It, and Marius's dish is the Golden Shrimp Balls.
    • Artem's cardigan in the "Agelong Affection" event sports a small Geo Slime patch.
  • Dub Name Change: Each character has a different name in each language, with a list extensive enough to have its own page. For example, the main male leads are the following...
    • Artem Wing - Zuǒ Rán (CN), Sakyo Shizuma (JP), Baek Eunhu (KR)
    • Luke Pearce - Xià Yàn (CN), Minase Natsuhiko (JP), Gang Hyeok (KR)
    • Vyn Richter - Mò Yì (CN), Moritsuki Rei (JP), Yun Noa (KR)
    • Marius von Hagen - Lù Jǐng Hé (CN), Izumi Kei (JP), Yu Sinu (KR)
  • Early Game Hell: You'll be lacking on some necessary features early on, which forces you to proceed with the main story if you even want to unlock them. Leveling and evolving cards and obtaining higher skill levels also require certain materials, which are hard to come by if you haven't completed the anomaly levels yet.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: Whenever you have one of the four main love interests on your side during an investigation, he will usually spot contradictions or piece things together faster. He might give hints, but expect him to stay hush about it and wait for you to figure it out; all of them seem to believe that helping you doesn't mean they have to do everything for you, as they’re all convinced you’re capable of Spotting the Thread yourself.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: As the main story goes on, the main characters are starting to trend into questionable actions while some of the culprits are shown to have sympathetic motives. This puts the female lead's moral compass to the test.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: The Main Character has no canon name and must be given one in the prologue.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Vyn and the main character pull this on a 'pickup artist': the main character stages a breakup with Vyn, and then lures the pickup artist out, only to turn on him and confront him later on.
    • When interrogated, Ian Johnson refuses to dig into deeper stuff unless he can get Ingrid Rosworth on his side - Ingrid being the one who paid him to revoke his testimony. But Ingrid also wasn't born yesterday, having figured out the stuff Ian has done and refuses to show up.
  • Hotter and Sexier: The anniversary cards became more risque as time goes by. In the 2nd anniversary, you got the protagonist doing intimate moments with each of the male leads in the bedroom. Then on the 3rd anniversary, you get to see the male leads with their shirts open, exposing their abs.
  • Immunity Attrition: The cards you're dealt every time are in a random order, making it so that you could eventually be left with, for example, only Logic cards if your opponent's last argument's type is Intuition. In those cases, you can't do anything except trying to pick at it with your Logic cards until you run out of cards. Only after you do this, you can replenish all your cards at the cost of one turn. If the gacha is particularly skewed in your case, you may get a lot of cards of one type, making such moments much more common.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Since not everyone has equal screentime in the main story, the individual backstories of each character are scattered in several areas such as card stories and their personal side-story that's accessed in the Visit mechanic, requiring players to connect the pieces to understand their plotlines. Further information is given through the NXX-OS, which contains comments of the four as to their thoughts on the case.
    • The information in the Big Data archive serves as their basic biodata, while their personal side-story is more detailed, and is unlocked once certain affection levels are reached for that character. The materials needed for upgrading skills and card stories tend to drop world-building references that often aren't immediately visible, until later events put them under the spotlight.
  • Level Cap: If they're regularly fed with EXP chips, all cards will soon hit a soft level cap of 40, at which point they can no longer be improved unless evolved. Doing so further increases the level cap to 70, while retaining their current stats in addition to another skill. Evolving twice increases the cap to 100, at which the card cannot be leveled further anymore. Cards of SR and SSR rarity can be evolved twice, while R cards can only be evolved once, making it so that these cards are stuck at level 70 at maximum.
  • Level Grinding: Made possible with the Operational Assessments that reward EXP chips. These stages are open everyday, and the only limitations that would prevent, or slow you down from endlessly grinding levels are its limit of 2 per day (barring Work Permits) and AP Costs.
  • Level-Up Fill-Up: Your AP is fully restored every time your level increases, as well as its cap.
  • Loony Fan: Janus certainly seems to have several. This is actually a relevant plot point, as the silk gloves that prove that he was the one who handled the wine had been stolen by one of them.
  • Love Chart: Downplayed. While there is an official relationship chart that has been posted on the game's official Twitter, it graphs who among the four main love interests and NPCs are acquaintances with one another.
  • Marathon Level: The Trials of Themis levels are filled with 30 waves, in which buffs and rewards can be gotten. Regularly, you can choose to face an enemy in order to earn more. However, the stage always ends with one, and so you can choose to buff yourself to high heaven and then face the boss.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Several times almost. If the main character wasn't there, Vernon, Marius, Harry and Lawrence would all be convicted for a crime they did not commit.
  • Money Grinding: The Business Consult stages provide thousands of Stellin (a successful Business Consult 5 nets 10,000 Stellin). Each stage gives Stellin as part of its drops, but farming these are nowhere as effective as farming the Business Consult. So woe be to the player who decided to evolve a card, or feed a lot of EXP to their cards when this process already used up all of the Stellin earned in the Business Consult tries and lack any Work Permits.
  • Money Sink: Aside from the stuff needed for the skills, evolving a card typically costs exorbitant amounts of money, and that's not getting into the Stellin investment to bring them up to the necessary levels in the first place. R cards don't usually cost too much to evolve, but for those higher up the rarity chart, around twice or even thrice as much money is usually required to evolve them once. SSR cards in particular demand a huge amount of Stellin (to be exact, 22500 Stellin) for their second evolution, and that's still not touching upon the level up fee they would need to meet the criteria in the first place. This makes it so that SR and SSR cards ones demand an investment of time, AP, materials, money, and then some in order to max them out.
  • Motif: Greek Mythology is one, since Themis is the Greek goddess of law and the namesake of the law firm the MC and Artem work at.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: The 'battles' in this game are debates. As in that you're trying to override someone else's statement with yours. It's represented as using cards to make an argument, which then hurts the opponent's argument or even outright breaks it.
  • Non-Combat EXP: Downplayed somewhat. While cards do receive EXP from stages, that amount tends to be forgettable. To level up cards in the most efficient way, you need to use chips. In gameplay terms, 'Oracles of Justice' are consumable items that you give to cards, and you also need to pay some Stellin to have the cards earn EXP and level up.
  • Relationship Values: As this is one part Otome Game, you can bond with the main male leads to raise their affection levels. You're given an allowance of 1000 affection a day to share as you see fit through interaction and mini games. The higher their affection level, the more of their side story is unlocked to learn more about them outside of work. Affection can also be obtained through reading stories from SR and SSR cards, which are unlocked as the card is levelled up. It should be noted that the obtaining Affection from outside sources like this is not held back by the daily Cap.
  • Rock–Paper–Scissors: You can play this game with each of the four. Notably, the amount of Affection granted is different per character - Luke will grant 100 Affection for a win or a draw and 50 Affection for a loss, but Marius will grant the exact opposite - 100 Affection for a loss and 50 for a win or draw, making the way to maxing out his Affection or reaching the daily Affection Cap with solely him much longer than it is with Luke. This is arguably Story And Gameplay Integration, but Vyn seems to be the zenith as you have to win against him to get 100 Affection - and Marius may give 100 Affection if you manage to beat him even though he tried to trick you.
  • Scissors Cuts Rock: If you're against an opponent with a higher power than you (in which case your power number will be highlighted in red), you can still beat the crap out of them if they happen to be of an element you have a lot of cards against, or if the opponent is of a neutral element. May still be tight, though.
    • That said, if your power is roughly the double of your enemy's, then you may still be able to One-Hit Kill, for example, an Empathy argument with an Intuition card during the first wave. This becomes a tall order during the second (and an eventual third, if the enemy has it) wave however, since those tend to hold more of the enemy's HP.
  • Shown Their Work: If you look closely at the two British Shorthair kittens in Chapter 5.3, you'll see that their eyes are yellow. This means that they're old enough to go to a different home - if they were still blue, that would indicate that they're too young.
  • Spell Levels: All Skills have numerical values representing their upgrade levels, which range from 1-10.
    • When comparing cards' similarly-named skills, there's actually a distinction on whose skill is stronger than the other. This is made possible using the skills' names having Greek letters as their suffix. For example in descending order, "Layer by Layer α", "Layer by Layer β", "Layer by Layer γ". The further one goes down the list, the skills typically have lower percentages but last more turns.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: In chapter 3, it is pointed out that, due to the constantly switching beliefs of Fanny and the reason why she and Joanne planned to kill Gordon, no one is directly convicted, but they are both implied to serve time anyway.
    • Ingrid refusing to support Ian also counts as this. Having someone giving you money to help you may have helped you back then, but if you're in illegal business, the chances that such a person will help you again (even if she's technically an antagonist) are extremely slim - especially since prosecutors often do research themselves.
  • Tactical Rock–Paper–Scissors: The entire battle system relies on this. Empathy beats Intuition, Intuition beats Logic and Logic beats Empathy. Each will do 1.5x the amount of original damage to the opponent - in its bare base. note . It can be reminded by linking Empathy's pink color to fire, Intuition's green color to earth, and Logic's blue color to water.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: A shockingly common trope. Four of the first nine chapters include something edible being tampered with, and three more chapters involve the sister trope Medication Tampering.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: As seen in Chapter 9, the four male leads aren't exactly friends to begin with and all of them have different motives for joining NXX with hidden agendas. It's evident in the earlier chapters that there is some animosity among the members such as Artem and Marius disagreeing with each other on Neil's and Giann's whereabouts while Vyn and Luke never tell anyone about their secrets. Then, after the Heirson case, the four members begin to splinter away, which is something that the protagonist notices.
  • Try Everything: The game sometimes requires this when an answer is not something that is outright said, only implied, in which case you need to present all the evidence note  until you have tried everything and can continue the story. If you're not able to divine some of the less obvious hints, you'll be doing this during every trial. Thankfully, the game doesn’t make note of multiple tries and treats it as though you presented the correct evidence from the start.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Not in the main story, but in the event 'Lost Gold'. The fourth 'Mediation' features a boss that has roughly 94,000 power. Since it debuted a month after the game was globally released, most players had not hit 100,000 power themselves yet - and the boss in the latest chapter released as of then has around 50,000 power.
  • We Will Not Use Photoshop in the Future: Subverted, the game mainly relies on written files and recorded things when it comes to evidence.
  • Wham Episode: Chapter 3-1 from Luke's Lost Gold route. Luke finds Joshua, and sends MC away. After which he breaks out a face that he has not even shown before, light completely gone from his eyes and a blank expression, and starts to verbally threaten Joshua. He even dons a Slasher Smile when showing him a syringe, saying that he could use a muscle relaxant to leave Joshua paralyzed for Jack, who wants to kill Joshua. Safe to say, it is enough to scare the cunning criminal shitless...and the audience along with him.
    Luke: Don't get in my way, you bastard.